Douglas Crawford McMurtrie

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Douglas Crawford McMurtrie
Born20 July 1888 Edit this on Wikidata
Died29 September 1944 Edit this on Wikidata (aged 56)
Alma mater
OccupationGraphic designer, bibliographer Edit this on Wikidata

Douglas Crawford McMurtrie (July 20, 1888 – September 29, 1944) was an American typeface designer, graphic designer, historian, author and bibliographer of printing.

Early career[edit]

McMurtrie was born in Belmar, New Jersey and attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After leaving school without a degree, he worked as a newspaper reporter, statistician, free-lance designer, and printing broker.[1] After several years, his design work came to the attention of Ingalls Kimball, who appointed McMurtrie general manager of the Cheltenham Press. He subsequently served as printing manager of the Columbia University Printing Office, the Arbor Press, and Condé Nast Press.

Involvement with design and typography[edit]

During this period McMurtrie designed two type faces and helped design the format of the New Yorker magazine. He was instrumental in forming the Continental Type Founders Association, which imported types from Europe, serving as the company’s first vice-president. He also imported several faces from Europe on his own, including Cochin and Didot. During 1925/26, he succeeded Frederic Goudy as editor of the prestigious Ars Typographica magazine.

Later career[edit]

After another period of free-lancing, McMurtrie moved to Chicago, where he spent a year as typographic director of the Cuneo Press before leaving to become director of advertising and typography at Ludlow Typograph Company. Though he designed one typeface for Ludlow, his duties there primarily consisted of writing advertising copy. He held this position until the end of his life.

Over the course of his career, he modernized the typography of over one hundred newspapers.[2]

Scholarly work[edit]

His scholarship focused on the development of print culture and the spread of print technologies in North America.[3] Much of his work is concerned with the first established presses or newspapers, as well as the printing of "pioneers."

While at Ludlow, McMurtrie was allowed much time for research, resulting in many books, including one volume (of a planned four) of A History of Printing in the United States, and later The Book: the Story of Printing & Bookmaking, both of which won much acclaim. Having established himself as one of the most important bibliographers of printing, McMurtrie was appointed to head up the Works Progress Administration’s American Imprints Inventory, a position he held until 1941.[4][5] This project resulted in thirty-five publications as well as more than fifteen million documents being deposited in the Library of Congress.

Personal life[edit]

McMurtrie was a large man, weighing over 300 pounds, and was known for his engaging personality. He was much involved in charities for the disabled, in particular disabled soldiers and children.[6][7] He married Adele Kohler in 1915 and they had three children. He died suddenly of a heart attack in Evanston, Illinois in 1944 at age 55.



  • The History of Typefounding in the United States, privately printed, N.Y.C., 1925.
  • The Golden Book; the story of fine books and bookmaking Pascal Covici Publishing Inc, N.Y.C., 1927.
  • Type Design, Bridgeman Publishers, Pelham, New York, 1927.
  • The Fichet Letter: the earliest document ascribing to Gutenberg the invention of printing, Press of Ars Typographica, N.Y.C., 1927.
  • Modern Typography & Layout, Eyncourt Press, Chicago, 1929.
  • Active-age Typography, Chicago, 1930.
  • Concerning Quotations, New York, 1934
  • A History of Printing in the United States: The Story of the Introduction of the Press and of Its History and Influence during the Pioneer Period in Each State of the Union,, in collaboration with Albert H. Allen, R.R. Bowker, N.Y.C., 1936.
  • The Book: the Story of Printing & Bookmaking, Oxford University Press, N.Y.C., 1943.


  1. ^ "Douglas C. McMurtrie, Manager of Tech Track Team, Elected Editor-in-Chief". Boston Daily Globe. May 27, 1908. Retrieved 2012-09-12. Douglas Crawford McMurtrie of New York was yesterday elected editor-in-chief of Technique, the junior year book at the Massachusetts institute of Technology. ...
  2. ^ "Douglas C. McMurtrie". State and Local History News. 2 (9): 7. 1944. ISSN 0364-3042.
  3. ^ McKee, Stuart (2010). "How print culture came to be indigenous". Visible Language. 44 (2): 166. ISSN 0022-2224 – via Ebsco.
  4. ^ Kraig, Beth (1986). "Douglas McMurtrie and the American Imprints Inventory, 1937-1942". The Library Quarterly: Information, Community, Policy. 56 (1): 17–30. ISSN 0024-2519.
  5. ^ Wilson, Joseph (1986). "The American Imprints Inventory in Illinois". The Library Quarterly: Information, Community, Policy. 56 (3): 303. ISSN 0024-2519.
  6. ^ Carden-Coyne, Ana (2007). "Ungrateful Bodies: Rehabilitation, Resistance and Disabled American Veterans of the First World War". European Review of History: Revue europeenne d'histoire. 14 (4): 543–565. doi:10.1080/13507480701752185. ISSN 1350-7486.
  7. ^ Lansing, Michael J. (2009-01-01). "'Salvaging the Man Power of America': Conservation, Manhood, and Disabled Veterans during World War I". Environmental History. 14 (1): 32–57. doi:10.1093/envhis/14.1.32. ISSN 1084-5453.

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