Morris Fuller Benton

Nov. 20, 1872–June 30, 1948

Morris Fuller Benton was the son of Linn Boyd Benton, 1844 -1932. Both worked for American Type Founders, a consortium of typefounders formed in 1892 to compete with Mergenthaler Linotype. In the 1880s, the elder Benton’s invention of the pantographic punchcutter altered forever the design of fonts. Conventional hand hand filing of steel punches could not provide the series of identical replacements required for volume manufacture of matrices. Filing each letter in steel at actual size was replaced by preparation of a scaled engineering drawing for each character. With his son as assistant, Linn Boyd Benton set up the first such drawing office shortly after the founding of ATF. In 1895, working with Theodore Lowe De Vinne, Lynn Boyd designed the typeface Century Expanded for Century magazine. In 1896 Morris Fuller took over. Facing the welter of typefaces available from the resources of the combined companies, Benton chose to originate his own new designs. He completed at least twenty-three series, approaching a design a year, the heart of American type design for the first half of the twentieth century. A close pair, the two Bentons shared a house in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and used to walk to and from work together. Font Bureau offers ten designs based on their work.

Benton Modern was originally undertaken by Tobias Frere-Jones in 1997 to improve text at The Boston Globe. Widening this text face for the Detroit Free Press, he returned Century’s proportions to Linn Boyd Benton’s turn-of-the-twentieth-century ATF Century Expanded, successfully reviving the great news text type. The italic, based on Century Schoolbook Italic, was designed by Richard Lipton and Christian Schwartz, who added the Bold in 2002.

In 1902 American Type Founders’ release of Franklin Gothic introduced the young Morris Fuller Benton. In 1979 Victor Caruso at International Typeface Corporation increased the series to four photocomp weights, Light, Medium, Bold and Black, all with italics. In 1991 David Berlow added four widths, making up a complete new series released in 2007.

Design of Cheltenham, believed to be the first original type contracted to Linotype, began in Boston in 1900. Ingalls Kimball sketched the basic weight while architect Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue completed drawings in 1901. Morris Fuller Benton finished the ATF version in 1902, beating Mergenthaler by two years. In 1906 he drew the Bold Extra Condensed, which David Berlow adapted for the San Francisco Examiner, which Font Bureau released as Cheltenham FB in 1992.

Century Bold Condensed was designed for ATF by the young Morris Fuller Benton in 1906, and soon became one of the most popular headline faces of all time. Packing plenty of text into each line, this cutting was initially prepared by Greg Thompson for Road & Track magazine, and then adapted as Century FB for general release by the Font Bureau in 1992.

Benton Sans has a long history. In 1908, faced with the welter of sanserifs offered by ATF, Morris Fuller Benton designed News Gothic, a 20th century standard. In 1995 Tobias Frere-Jones studied the original drawings, which survive in the Smithsonian, and advanced the design. Cyrus Highsmith reviewed News Gothic. With the Font Bureau studio, he expanded it into Benton Sans by 2003, a far-reaching new series, with matched weights and widths which advanced the performance beyond the limits of the original. Benton Sans is particularly recommended for Newspaper and Magazine use.

Bureau Roman was first commissioned by The Washington Post in 1997, revisiting Morris Fuller Benton’s 1909 Century Oldstyle, a popular descendant of Miller & Richard’s Oldstyle cut by Alexander Phemister in Edinburgh in 1860. Working to preserve copyfit on the ever-shrinking newspaper page, David Berlow, assisted by Cyrus Highsmith, expanded this family by 2000 into Font Bureau’s second readability series, offering choices between five closely spaced grades to compensate for distortion caused by over or under inking.

ATF Agency Gothic was designed by Morris Fuller Benton in 1932 as a lone titling. In 1990, David Berlow saw potential in the squared forms of the narrow, monotone capitals. He designed a lowercase and added a bold to produce Font Bureau Agency, an immediately popular hit. Sensing strengths that surpassed those of a useful condensed, Font Bureau developed Agency into a major series, offering five weights in five widths.

The straight-sided form of condensed Geometric slab-serif, Font Bureau Constructa, provides a stronger and more geometric form than the customary designs. This crisp series is based on Morris Fuller Benton’s lone font Tower, released by ATF in 1934 as an alternative to the soft curves in Stymie Condensed. The six weights of Constructa provide a truly useful series, projected from Tower by Elizabeth Cory Holzman from 1994 to 2007.


Related Fonts
· Agency FB
· Benton Gothic
· Benton Modern
· Benton Modern (Readability)
· Benton Modern Display
· Benton Sans
· Benton Sans 2012
· Bodoni FB
· Bureau Roman
· Century FB
· Cheltenham FB
· Constructa
· Detroit Bodoni
· Eagle
· Empire
· Fuller Modern
· Poynter Agate
· Poynter Gothic Text
· Poynter Gothic Text