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Douglas C. McMurtrie papers

Identifier: Wing-Modern-MS-McMu

Scope and Content of the Collection

Professional files of designer and printing historian Douglas C. McMurtrie active in Chicago from 1925 until his death in 1944.

The collection includes extensive correspondence concerning McMurtrie’s professional roles at Cuneo Press, Ludlow Typograph Co., the International Association of Printing House Craftsmen, the Historical Records Survey undertaken by the WPA, and the American Imprints Inventory, also a WPA project. There are extensive files concerning his many writings on printing history and design. A few files concern his original design work, including the type face Ultramodern, his work with disabled veterans, his authorship of articles on sexual deviance, his writings and activities around the Gutenberg centennial in 1940, and his role as publisher of a lesbian autobiographical novel, Mary Casal’s The Stone Wall, and other titles through his personal imprint, Eyncourt Press. There are also some files concerning personal and family matters, and a few photographs, mostly portraits of McMurtrie. The most extensive correspondence files concern Frederick V. Carpenter, Luther H. Evans and others at the WPA, Aloys Ruppel, Leslie E. Sprunger of Ludlow Typograph Co., and Norman Forgue of Black Cat Press. McMurtrie also did design work for such publishers as the Caxton Club, Pascal Covici, and Covici-Friede, Inc.

For the most part, the files are in sequences devised by McMurtrie and his various collaborators between 1925 and 1944. The principal exceptions concern biographical information (Series 7), written works (Series 4), design work (Series 5), and printed ephemera (Series 8), which were created during processing. Series 1 is a standard business file containing outgoing and incoming correspondence carefully alphabetized by a secretary or secretaries, apparently at the Ludlow Typograph Co. offices. It was partly rehoused at Michigan State in the 1960s and fully rehoused again at the Newberry in 1998. Series 2 apparently represents materials more haphazardly filed at McMurtrie's home and private offices by a variety of assistants over the years. The most important was Maj. A. H. Allen, who was also McMurtrie's ghost writer on some projects; some of Allen’s personal correspondence is also embedded here. Extensive files on McMurtrie’s work for the Ludlow Typograph Co. (Series 3) and the International Association of Printing House Craftsmen (Series 6) were extracted from Series 1 and 2, which were parallel (and largely duplicative) for these subjects.


  • Creation: 1850-1944
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1925 - 1944



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Douglas C. McMurtrie papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Douglas C. McMurtrie 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 Douglas C. McMurtrie

Probably best known today as a printing historian and bibliographer, McMurtrie was for much of his lifetime even better recognized as a typographer and specialist in advertising typography.

Born in Belmar, New Jersey in 1888, McMurtrie attended the Hill School (Pottstown, PA) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Starting in 1909 he worked with the Pittsburgh Typhoid Fever Commission and other relief agencies, including the Red Cross Institute for Disabled and Crippled Men, primarily directing printing and publicity operations, though he also authored a number of articles on social issues relating to the disabled, on prostitution, and on sexuality. He remained active with the Shriners Hospitals for the rest of his life. McMurtrie subsequently worked for Cheltenham Press, the Columbia University Printing Office, Arbor Press, and Condé Nast Press. He came to Chicago in 1925 to work for Cuneo Press, one of the largest printers in the city, as director of typography. A year later, he moved to the Ludlow Typograph Co., a manufacturer of type setting machinery, also as director of typography. He retained that title until his death in 1944, although from the early 1930s he worked only part-time for Ludlow and concentrated instead on bibliographical projects and writing about the history of printing. For this work he regularly collaborated with Major A. H. Allen. For some works, like his Modern Typography and Layout (1929), McMurtrie used a private imprint, Eyncourt Press. He also used this imprint for a few pieces of erotica, most notably the early lesbian novel, Mary Casal’s The Stone Wall. McMurtrie’s The Golden Book, a popular, general history of printing, was first issued in 1927 by the Chicago publisher Pascal Covici, and re-issued in 1937 by a successor firm in New York, Covici-Friede. A third edition, entitled The Book, was published in 1943 by Oxford University Press, New York and remained in print until 1972. McMurtrie planned a multi-volume History of Printing in the United States; but only Volume II, concerning the Middle Atlantic States, ever appeared (1936). Also in 1936, his idea for a systematic American Imprints Inventory was adopted by the federal Works Project Administration. He directed that project until his death in 1944.


78 Linear Feet (132 boxes, 8 oversize boxes, and 23 index card file boxes)


Chicago designer, publisher and printing historian. Includes extensive correspondence concerning his professional roles at Cuneo Press, Ludlow Typograph Co., the International Association of Printing House Craftsmen, and various WPA projects, as well as files of material for his many writings on printing history and design. A few files concern his early design work, work with disabled veterans, and his role as publisher of works on typography, printing and of the early lesbian novel, Mary Casal’s The Stone Wall.


Papers are organized in the following series

Series 1: Correspondence, 1930-1944
Boxes 1-16
Series 2: Subjects, 1927-1944
Boxes 16-47
Series 3: Ludlow Typograph Company, 1924-1944
Boxes 47-52
Series 4: Written Works, 1912-1944
Boxes 53-83
Series 5: Design Works, 1923-1944
Boxes 83-88
Series 6: International Association of Printing House Craftsmen, 1914-1944
Boxes 89-110
Series 7: Biographical Files, 1850-1944, bulk 1920-1944
Boxes 111-115
Series 8: Ephemera, 1909-1942
Boxes 116-120
Series 9: Oversize materials, 1906-1940
Box 121
Series 10: American Imprints Inventory files, n.d.
Boxes 122-163

Collection Stack Location

3a 60 1-5


Purchased from Michigan State University, 1995; additions by gift from Kent State University, 2005. MSU’s portion was purchased from California dealer William Wredon in 1957, KSU’s from Chiswick Bookshop in 1975.

Processed by

Adrian Alexander, Paul F. Gehl, and Mette Shayne, 1998-2014.

Inventory of the Douglas C. McMurtrie papers, 1850-1944, bulk 1925-1944
Finding aid prepared by Adrian Alexander, Paul F. Gehl, and Mette Shayne.
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2016-08-16: Revisions, additions, and updates were made.

Repository Details

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

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States