Type Legacy Spotlight: By Women About Women

The Type Legacy Project at the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum is one of the ways that we preserve history for creative use today. Women’s History Month is a fitting time to highlight three Type Legacy Project initiatives that are “by women, about women”: contemporary women designers created new typefaces and borders honoring historic women who made an impact on Hamilton at different times and in different ways.  

Bernice Schwahert was the first woman hired by the Hamilton Manufacturing Co. to work in the type shop. Her time as a type trimmer at Hamilton began in 1962 and spanned for more than two decades; she retired in 1983.


L: Marian Bantjes; R: Bernice Schwahert.

Bernice has been commemorated with a border designed by Vancouver-based designer, typographer, writer, and illustrator Marian Bantjes. When designing the ornate borders, Bantjes was inspired by Hamilton’s border stamping machine. The six ornamental shapes can be rotated, combined and flipped to allow for endless creative works. Chapbooks featuring the Bernice border design are available in our store and online.


The second “lady of Hamilton” honored with a typeface is Mardell Doubek, a longtime Hamilton employee. Mardell worked for the company from 1968 until 1995, first as an upholsterer and then as a type cutter. Despite already having spent nearly three decades working at Hamilton Manufacturing, Mardell was one of the Hamilton museum’s first volunteers when it opened in 1999, demonstrating to visitors how Hamilton’s original pantographs were operated. With little written records of pantograph usage and training, Mardell was vital in passing this knowledge to Hamilton museum staff.  


L: Designer Louise Fili; R: Pantographer Mardell Doubek. 

New York-based designer Louise Fili used her love of Futuristic typography when creating the Mardell typeface. She says, “this was a wonderful opportunity to celebrate two of my favorite subjects: women and Italy.” Fili is celebrated worldwide as a creative director, graphic designer, typographer and author. Type specimen posters for the Mardell typeface are available in our store and online.


The Etta typefaces honor a woman from the earliest days of Hamilton: Etta Shove. Born in Manitowoc in 1859, Etta attended Lawrence College and was a schoolteacher. Her path intersects with Hamilton’s in 1880 when she married J. E. Hamilton, who founded his manufacturing company that same year with Etta as Hamilton Manufacturing’s first bookkeeper. Even after leaving the company formally, Etta remained “Mr. Hamilton’s business counselor in all his wide affairs.”


L: Designer Lynne Yun; R: Etta Shove Hamilton.

Etta Shove Hamilton’s obituary in the Manitowoc Herald Times described her as a “colorful” figure beloved to the community. She was “a friend and confidant of three generations of local people”. Through the Etta typefaces, she will continue to touch lives for many generations to come. 


Etta’s typeface was designed by Lynne Yun. Its two variations-East and West-can be combined or used as a chromatic font. The typeface harkens back to experimental design happening in the mid-19th century and filtered through a mid-1900s lens. 

Hamilton’s Type Legacy typefaces are available in digitized format as part of the Hamilton Wood Type Collection at Adobe Fonts, ensuring that the stories about these women reach a wide audience and have continued life. Some Type Legacy typefaces have been used in commercial products, including a Nike T-shirt featuring the Etta East typeface. 


A Nike T-shirt using the Etta East type face, displayed in the "Old Type, New Ways" exhibit.

Type Legacy typefaces are also cut as sets of wood type for use in educational and private letterpress studios (contact info [at] woodtype.org with inquiries). 

Etta West and East 'O' patterns with sorts cut in 2024 at the museum.

Women continue to be an important part of the museum’s type cutting program today: Hamilton’s Master Typecutter Georgianne Liesch apprenticed with Mardell to learn type cutting. Georgie has overseen the successful function of the Wood Shop, documenting much of the legacy employees’ knowledge for the museum’s archives and training, and kept the art and craft of wood type production alive at the museum. After conducting a type cutting apprenticeship with Jen Anne, Georgie continues to serve as Hamilton’s Master Typecutter. 

L-R: Mardell Doubek, Jen Anne, and Georgie Liesch in the Hamilton Wood Shop.

The Bernice, Mardell, and Etta designs—created by trailblazing women artists to honor women from decades past—are all testament to the power of women and their innumerable contributions to art, society, business, and culture. There could be no better legacy than that. 

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