Kansas Gravestone Lettering

Some gravestone lettering from the 1870s and '80s is as complex as the "artistic" print design of the same time, which I have written about with Angela Voulangas (our book website). Letters curve, fit in containers, stretch and grow, and mix with a variety of ornaments, like artistic letterpress printing. The best examples of this kind of inscriptional lettering that I have found so far are in and around Wichita, Kansas. Where did these letterforms come from? How widespread was this kind of labor-intensive, intricate stone cutting? I can't wait to find out; research is ongoing. Here are some good finds. (all photos copyright Doug Clouse)


















The Wurst is Yet to Come

Recently-acquired type and lettering that appeals to me now: purchases from the annual ephemera fair in Old Greenwich, CT; selections from the book Alphabets for Graphic Designers and Architects (Reinhold, 1965); a catalog of Hamilton wood type.















A Sturdy Son

In an earlier post about the book Time's Shadow, I noted the similarities between the author's family and my father's family in Kansas. It seems that the closer American generations were to their European homelands, the more cultured and lively they were. Why? What happened to their children?
     While doing research about gravestone lettering in Wichita, I came across the book The Arts and Architecture of German Settlements in Missouri: A Survey of a Vanishing Culture, by Charles van Ravenswaay. It is a thorough and informative book and van Ravenswaay's warm, clear writing reveals his close personal connections to the areas of Missouri settled by Germans.

Charles van Ravenswaay
In a paragraph that suggests why the children of immigrants became harder and less cultured, Ravenswaay writes about German emigration societies that drew educated Germans to parts of Missouri. These Germans hoped to maintain German intellectual life in America. However, "Missouri was too heavily settled when the immigrants began arriving. Even more important, most of the theorists were incapable of becoming pioneer farmers. Those who came into the area and managed to survive generally did so by raising a crop of sturdy sons, as Richard O'Connor points out in The German-Americans, 'and seeing that they kept their noses out of books.' Otherwise the young men drifted away to the cities to become doctors, lawyers, bankers, and professors. The second generation who remained on the farms replaced the German obsession with Kultur 'with a fixation on hard work and success. The learned German father was a figure of respect, but not of emulation.'"

My father was one of the "crop of sturdy sons," kept from education by his father. Thankfully, as a younger son he had little to stay in Kansas for, and left to build a life away from the family farm.

See Kansas

The starkness of Kansas winter landscapes, both rural and urban, 
challenges anyone looking for detail. Here is relief, found in two interiors: 
The Kingman County Museum and the Wichita Art Museum. 


Kingman County Museum, Kingman, Kansas.


Telephone switchboard, Kingman County Museum.


Happy nurse, Kingman County Museum.


Scary taxidermy and engraved skull, Kingman County Museum.



Fossil, Kingman County Museum.


A tooth mold? Kingman County Museum. (Below: more taxidermy)





Ornament on a Singer sewing machine, Kingman County Museum. 


The surprisingly Art Deco deer prints by Native American artist Woody Crumbo at the Wichita Art Museum were oddly appealing. 


"American Farmer" by Carl Wuermer is the kind of regional painting I was hoping to see at the Wichita Art Museum.

Thanksgiving Souvenirs

My father wears comfortable shoes.

He used to work with NASA and has trouble telling time. 

This was the Piggly Wiggly in Pittsboro and then the PTA thrift store. Now the building is empty.

Some of the lights in the sign on the new Piggly Wiggly have been out for a while. 

Dorothea Lange photographed downtown Pittsboro in 1939. 
A shop in town put a large print of one of her photos in its window. 

Mom at the Episcopalian church.  I was distracted by the gravestones. 






Mom didn't understand why I wanted to photograph this Hardee's cup.

My parents saved all their receipts since 1977.

This is how many checks they wrote in 1980.

 What was my family paid for farm eggs in September, 1982? 
$509.58 for 2,682 dozen eggs.