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Friday, 31 January 2020

The Royal Empress Standard Manual Typewriter and its Beautiful Franz Halm Font

Patents for the Royal Empress, which I fully restored late last year.
The Royal Empress standard manual typewriter typeface was created by an Austrian-born restaurant waiter, Franz Joseph Halm, of Farmington, Connecticut, in 1960. Halm, born in Salzburg on August 3, 1916, was issued with patent Des[ign] 191,073 five days after his 45th birthday. It was assigned to the Royal McBee Corporation of Port Chester, Westchester, New York. Halm, the son of a machinist at the Royal typewriter factory in Hartford, Connecticut, arrived in the US with his family in 1923, and by the age of 14 was already a noted artist. Apart from his work as a waiter at the Marble Pillar Restaurant in Hartford, Halm continued to paint portraits and was also an instructor in the sport of fencing at the Greater Hartford YMCA. He died on October 30, 1991, aged 76.
Franz Halm, above, painting in his studio surrounded by fencing gear in 1954,
and below, the noted young artist in 1931, aged 14.
       Halm’s patent was for a term of 14 years, and had well and truly lapsed before a range of lookalike fonts began to appear for digital use. Initially I thought the closest to come to it was F25 Executive, created by Volker Busse in Düsseldolf in 2008, 33 years after Halm’s patent had expired. It apparently is based on the IBM Executive Modern font, which is also the basis for the Testimonial font available for free download on Richard Polt’s The Classic Typewriter Page. Richard attributes Testimonial to the late journalist Jack Knarr, and it dates to 2009. A more recent font (2012) is the Cutive, created by the late Englishman Vernon Adams and also based on the IBM Executive. But Adams doffed his cap to the Smith Premier as well.
       Halms outlined what influenced his font design. He referenced a 1881 movable type patent (D12520) from another Englishman, James Andrew St James, then manager of the Central Type Foundry on Jefferson Avenue, St Louis, Missouri. This was a greater lateral proportion (to its height) extended version of Old Style. Other references came from The Encyclopedia of Type Faces, by Berry, Johnson & Jaspert, 1958, and were the Ehrhardt, Imprint, Old Style and Kumlien. The same edition included the Carolus type.
James St John's 1881 Greater Proportioned Old Style Extended
Old Style
       Halm’s font is one of the nicest I have ever seen on a manual typewriter, and I lean toward the opinion that at least some of the later online typewriter-style fonts – such those from by Busse and Adams - were influenced by it. But, then, I'm not much of an expert on fonts, and Tracey Ullman's BBC TV skit sums up my usual attitude:


Bill M said...

Beautiful font. I wonder how many typewriters have it, and how often it was misidentified as F25, or if many other typewriters even had it since there is no reference to it.

Richard P said...

Wow, that really is a gorgeous style. I believe Royal called it Windsor: see Someone (maybe me) ought to make a font from it. I'd be very pleased to have a typewriter with it. Good job tracking down the patent!

To be clear, Testimonial wasn't designed by Jack Knarr; it's an IBM proportional style. Jack sent me the typing sample from which I created the font.

Robert Messenger said...

Very pleased you like it Bill and Richard.
Richard, I'd be super delighted if you did make a font from it - do I need to follow any particular instructions to get you a decent, workable scan?
BTW, there is a website which lists you and Jack among font designers etc.

Sunnyjim333 said...

Hi, This is a beautiful font, but looking at the Typewriter Data base, none of those have this font. Might this be a special order? or a different factory? I have 2 Royal Empresses (still in the shipping box) waiting to be cleaned and released back onto the wild. I am courious now about their fonts. Be well, great story.