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Ernst F. Detterer papers

Identifier: Wing-Modern-MS-Dett

Scope and Content of the Collection

Largely materials that derive from Ernst Detterer’s career as a teacher at the Chicago Normal School and at the School of the Art Institute before he came to work at the Newberry Library in 1931.

These include course notes, and handouts, sketches and drawings, preliminaries for calligraphic pieces, and finished work by students. There are also notes and sketches from his travels in Great Britain and Europe, and a few pieces from his student days at the Philadelphia School of Industrial Art. A few correspondence files concern the assembly of materials by gifts from former students James Hayes and Robert Hunter Middleton. There is also a roll of rubbings of Trajan’s Column in Rome made by Detterer in the 1920s.


  • Creation: 1897-1968
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1917 - 1931



Materials are mostly in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Ernst F. Detterer papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Ernst F. Detterer papers are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections.

Biography of Ernst F. Detterer

Chicago designer, lettering artist, teacher and curator.

Ernst Frederick Detterer was born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in 1888, son of a Moravian Church minister. He was educated at the Chautauqua Institution and the Philadelphia School of Industrial Art. He took a few transformative lessons in handwriting from English calligrapher Edward Johnston in 1913, and became one of the principal proponents of Johnstonian handwriting instruction in the United States. As professor of handwriting at the Chicago Normal School from 1912 to 1918 and head of the Department of Printing Arts at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (1918-1931), he mentored an entire generation of lettering artists and printers in the Midwest. From 1931 until his death in 1947, he served as the second Custodian of the John M. Wing Foundation on the History of Printing at the Newberry Library. In this role he extended the Wing collection to include many calligraphic manuscripts and books (most importantly through the acquisition of parts of the Coella Lindsay Ricketts collection). He was a founding member of the Society of Typographic arts and instituted an STA Calligraphy Study Group at the Newberry, which continued after his death under the leadership of his SAIC student James Hayes. Together with another of his SAIC students, R. Hunter Middleton, he designed the Eusebius typeface marketed by the Ludlow Typograph Co. of Chicago


16.3 Linear Feet (7 boxes, 3 oversize boxes, 1 framed item, and 1 roll)


Chicago designer and calligrapher, founding head of the Department of Printing Arts of the School of the Art Institute, and Custodian of the John M. Wing Foundation on the History of Printing at the Newberry Library, 1931-1947. Collection focuses on Detterer's career before he came to the Newberry Library, and includes notes, memorabilia, correspondence, drawings, sketches, rubbings, and a few finished art works, including many by his Art Institute students.


Papers are organized in the following series

Series 1: Biographical information, 1942-1968
Box 1
Series 2: Philadelphia School of Industrial Art, approximately 1910
Box 1
Series 3: Chicago Normal School, 1912-1918
Box 1
Series 4: School of the Art Institute, 1918-1931
Boxes 2-3
Series 5: Miscellaneous, undated, 1897-1932
Boxes 4-7
Series 6: Oversize materials, 1914-1947
Boxes 8-10; framed and rolled items

Collection Stack Location

4a 28 10, 4a 29 7


Bequest of R. Hunter Middleton, 1985; gifts of James Hayes and Donald Anderson, 1988-1993.

Related Material

Materials relating to the Newberry career of Ernst Detterer may also be found in the Newberry Library Archives, Series 08/04/03.

Processed by

Barbara Lanctot and Paul Gehl, 1993; Mette Shayne, 2015.

Inventory of the Ernst F. Detterer papers, 1897-1968, bulk 1917-1931
Mette Shayne
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States