Spurius Press

Chicago Ephemera

Robert Wiebking

John Calhoun

Letter G

Robert Wiebking 1870-1927

Robert Wiebking was born in Schwelm, Germany in 1870, the oldest son of Herman Wiebking, an engraver. In 1881 the family came to Chicago and Herman began doing engraving for several companies. He had been using engraving machines as early as 1875 and brought all of his equipment and tools with him from Germany. Matrice engraving for typefaces was part of his work and he cut matrices for the Marder & Luse type foundry as early as 1882.

Shortly after arriving in Chicago Robert got a job as a basket weaver, but in 1884, when he was 14 years old, he went to work for C. H. Hanson, an engraving company. By 1893 he had set up his own engraving business and was cutting matrices for both the Crescent and Independent Type Foundries. In 1900 he formed the Advance Type Foundry with H. H. Hardinge, whose job was to make the type manufacturing process more efficient. Together the two men designed various pieces of machinery including precision tools for matrice fitting, an air driven automatic tool to break the casting sprues or jets off type bodies, and an automatic casting and finishing machine for type. The improvements allowed Wiebking to cut the matrices for the 14 point size of Frederick Goudy’s Kennerley type, then cast and finish 400 lbs. of the type in 41 hours. Robert’s abilities to work on the machines came from his father who had improved some of the machines he used, and had designed an engraving machine of his own, manufactured and sold it.

Hardinge left the partnership in 1914 when Wiebking merged Advance with the Western Type Foundry (not the Great Western Type Foundry which later became Barnhart Brothers & Spindler). Five years later the Western Foundry merged into Barnhart Brothers & Spindler (BB & S). Several years later, Wiebking went independent again and set up a small shop where he cut several matrices for F. W. Goudy, the original Centaur matrices for Bruce Roger’ as well as matrices for the Barnhart Brothers & Spindler foundry, the American, Inland and Keystone Type Foundries, and for John Haddon and Co. and Stephenson & Blake in England. Later he cut matrices for Ludlow Typograph and built several matrice cutters for them as well as trained their staff to use them. Among the people he trained to cut matrices were Frederick W. Goudy and Robert Hunter Middleton.

Wiebking passed away in 1927. One of the reasons for the lack of recognition for his achievements, despite Nicholas J. Woerner calling him the finest engraver in the world, was his shyness. Wiebking was an intensely retiring person who avoided the limelight.

One of the supreme examples of Wiebking’s work is the original matrices for Bruce Rogers' Centaur typeface. The drawings Rogers created are not the fine crafted forms one would expect, but more a record of intent. Rogers, like Goudy, trusted Wiebking to craft the forms as Rogers wished without needing the exacting drawings a lesser craftsman would require. Rogers original drawings for Centaur, along with Frederick Warde’'s drawings for the Arrighi typeface, are in the Wing Collection of the Newberry Library in Chicago, Illinois.

Wiebking’s typefaces:

• Artcraft & Bold & Italic, 1911-13
(BB & S, Ludlow) Robert Wiebking's house face
• Caslon Clearface & Italic, 1913 (BB & S)
• Engraver's Litho Bold & Condensed, 1914
(BB & S)
• Advertiser's Gothic & Condensed , 1917
(Western Typefoundry)
• Bodoni Light & Italic (Ludlow)
• Caslon Catalog, 1925 (BB & S)
• Collier Old Style
• Engraver's Roman
• Munder Venezian [Laclede Oldstyle], 1924-7
(BB & S)
• Steelplate Gothic Shaded (BB & S)

Matrices cut by Wiebking:

• Centaur (Bruce Rogers)
• Pabst & Pabst Italic (ATF)
• Village type (F. W. Goudy)
• Boston News Letter type (Barron's )
• Norman capitals (N. T. A. Munder)
• Kennerley & Italic (F. W. Goudy)
• Sherman (F. F. Sherman)
• Goudy Lanston (F. W. Goudy)
• Goudy Roman (F. W. Goudy)
• Klaxon (Lovell & McConnell)
• Hadriano (F. W. Goudy)
• Goudy Open (F. W. Goudy)
• Goudy Modern & Italic (F. W. Goudy)
• Collier Old Style (Procter & Collier)
• Nabisco (National Biscuit Co.)
• Goudy Newstyle (F. W. Goudy)
• Marlboro (F. W. Goudy)