i need help from fellow fontaholics

i’m planning a layout for my site (that is waiting to be uploaded). it’s going to center around an old photograph of my grandmother in her first flat in detroit. this was in 1955, but at a glance, the photo looks like it can be dated anywhere from 1940 - 1955.

i don’t want to use arial or (shudder) times new roman. besides the fact i hate those fonts, they don’t seem like they would match well with the image. so can anyone recommend some fonts (preferably free for downloading) that would have been commonly used for body text in the 40s to mid 50s?

General Questions is for questions that have factual answers. IMHO is for polls and opinions.

I’ll move this to IMHO for you.

DrMatrix - General Questions Moderator

I think I found just the site. If this doesn’t suffice I would suggest as far as 1950s go…maybe something that looks “space age” or maybe like a diner font?


If you’re talking about the actual font and not font that will be over an image, I suggest a small Verdana. It seems to be the industry standard right now… and its not annoying.
:wink: I also hate Times New Roman and I’m SOO tired of Arial. I kind of like courier but its a little… eh… it wouldnt look right, I dont think.

Try a smallish Verdana. Maybe even bolded. Are we gonna get to see the finished product?

oh yeah, i’ll post the site eventually (there’s this darn thing called “content” that it’s lacking right now :D).

i love the fonts that ** trishdish ** linked to, but i’m not looking for neato, retro diner-like fonts (i have tons of those). if you opened a magazine or newspaper in the 40s-early 50s, what body text would you see? what was the paragraph text set in?

it’s one of those subtle, nitpicky details i obsess over. if i used, for example, arial, on top of an old, grainy, another-era photograph, it would not match at all.

i’ll try a verdana and see how it looks, but it’d be awesome if someone happened to read this question and say, “why, the popular body font in this time period was (blah) and was seen in adverts and magazines all over!”

y’know, the fonts that look oh-so-plain, but ever so subtly date that publication to whatever time it was made.

One very important consideration:

Is the font in question going to be used in the actual body of your html page, or are you simply going to put the text on the photo via an image editor?

If it’s the former, stick with Verdana, because chances are visitors to your site won’t have whatever esoteric font you use installed and will therefore be unable to view it. They’ll get something awful - like Times or Arial - instead.

If you’re just going to use it on the image itself, a google search for “free retro fonts” returns 8,000 hits. You might want to try one of them.

I noticed that sans-serif fonts were pretty popular in old advertisements. Stuff like Janson*, ACaslon Regular (not free; an Adobe font), Acanthus, and Kuriakos. (Kuriakos is especially cool).

*URLs: http://www.myfonts.com/FontFamily108.html to see Janson, http://erbatlas.virtualave.net/fontpage.shtml to download it. Unfortunately I can’t find URLs to the other fonts, but I know Acanthus and Kuriakos should be free.

I’ve seen a lot of the eye-catching parts - titles and such - in old car ads, at least, done in an italic font that looks something like Comic Sans. However, to modern eyes it’ll look too corny.

But, echoing what others have said, sans-serifs seemed to be in use, and Verdana wouldn’t be inappropriate.

Most of the “ghost ads” I’ve seen downtown were done in faces fairly similar to Comic Sans and Verdana.

If you want a font to use with the image and not just text, the font Americana Dreams works well. Has a look that was modern in the 50’s. I recently used it for a similiar project and thought it turned out pretty nice.

actually, i’m looking for a more classy and timeless font instead of modern or futuristic. and this is for the body text.

i use css, and will specify the font that i want, then have a few alternatives (like my last layout plan had trebuchet ms, verdana, sans-serif) in case they didn’t have it, and in the version info i’d have the font available to download if they so chose.

i tried the verdana, and it didn’t look right. i know that sans-serif fonts usually look better on monitors, but i think the only thing that’ll look right is a serif font. sigh.

FWIW, the first thing that popped into my mind was New Century Schoolbook. I’m not too familiar with CSS, but my impression is that it doesn’t guarantee that your readers will see your pages in the same fonts that you used to create them, so using a standard font may still be a good idea.

“Ding Ding Ding – we have a winner”.

Any Century-style face would work (and I’ve used New Century Schoolbook myself for this effect). Other options, given the criteria that it should be a sort of “timeless” classic that nevertheless conjures up a 40s/50s magazine page, would include Bell (not Bell Gothic), Bodoni, New Caledonia, Bulmer, New Baskerville, Scotch Roman – all classic Didone or Transitional faces, to use Adobe’s classifications. That’s for serif faces. Sans serif possibilities would include Century Gothic, Futura Condensed or Futura Light Condensed, News Gothic, maybe Gill Sans Roman or Gill Sans Condensed (more likely the latter).

I’m too lazy to link to all of those, much less to track down free versions of each. Start with Adobe’s site to get a look at the faces listed, then start looking for knockoffs – they shouldn’t be too hard to find.