The Solotype Archive was begun in 1942 when I was 14. I was a kid printer for several years before that. At 16, after a quick three months of training, I dropped out of school and went to work full time as a radio actor and announcer in San Francisco. (Easy to get jobs in those days, due to the war-induced manpower shortage.) In 1949 and 1950, I created a magic show which played West Coast theatres with some success. After that, back to broadcasting.
By 1962, I was completely burned out on radio, so I decided to see if I could make a living with my collection of antique types, which numbered about a thousand fonts at that time. In 1962, I sent out 4,000 catalogs showing the type to ad agencies all over the U.S. The timing was perfect (no thanks to me) because there was developing at that time a renewed interest in the old types. Business took off immediately.
The Solotype collection was one of four commercial collections at the time, but I seemed to have been more aggressive in marketing than the other chaps. (Well, Morgan Press certainly knew how to market.)
Two years into the business, I began to collect alphabets on paper for conversion to photo lettering, which was just becoming mainstream in the type business. We closed the shop for a month every year and went on a type hunt, mostly in Europe where there didn’t seem to be much competition among collectors. Other typographers couldn’t understand how we could do this, but I believe it made people appreciate the resource we offered even more. Over the years, the collection became quite large. When I closed Solotype a couple of years ago, I got rid of about half the archive (because the fonts were dull, or already digitized, or for a variety of other reasons) leaving me with about 6,000 fonts on paper or film.
In 1974, I began to supply Dover Publications with mechanicals for books of 100 alphabets on a particular theme. I did 30 of these books over the years, and 30 more of printers’ ornaments, borders, and so forth. Sometime in the 1990s, Dover asked me to digitize books of 24 fonts each, to be sold with a disk in the back. I did 12 of these. The Dover relationship came to an end when Haywood Cirker, the owner and my special friend, died and the company was sold to another publisher. Dover felt that they had covered the type field thoroughly.
Now in my old age, my wife and I have a mindreading act that is great fun and good for the ego. Even so, when not traveling, I digitize type for relaxation and enjoyment, but have made no effort to sell it. Until now.