Louis Madarasz

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Louis Madarasz

Louis Madarasz (January 20, 1859 – December 23, 1910) was an American calligrapher, born in San Antonio, Texas, regarded as one of the most highly skilled ornamental penmen of all time.


Early life[edit]

Louis has Hungarian parents. Obtained a copy of Gaskell's Compendium of Penmanship when he was in his teens. Studying the text by himself, he achieved a degree of skill in ornamental writing that was remarkable for one so young. Such self-discipline and persistence were instrumental in Madarasz's desire to master the art of penmanship.

In the late 1870s he enrolled as a student at the Rochester Business University in Rochester, New York. While attending this institution, his facility with the pen earned him a reputation throughout the state. During the years that followed, Madarasz took on penmanship positions at a number of institutions. His wanderings eventually led him to Manchester, New Hampshire, the location of Gaskell's penmanship school. Besides being an accomplished master penman, Gaskell was also a businessman who recognized advertising opportunities. Madarasz, whose fame as a penman was fairly widespread by this time, also recognized the opportunity to further his own skills by being associated with Gaskell. It was a good association for both men, and soon the famous signature of Madarasz appeared on the advertisements for Gaskell's Compendium. Madarasz stayed with Gaskell for several years, learning much about advertising and the business of mail order.

Professional career[edit]

Louis Madarasz's signature.

As time went by, Madarasz again moved from one institution and town to another. He seemed to have a restless spirit in this regard, and seldom stayed anywhere longer than a few years. He worked in Sterling, Illinois; Jersey City, New Jersey; and Poughkeepsie, New York. Regarding his social interests, he enjoyed chess and other board games, and was quite skilled at playing them. He also enjoyed the theater, not only as a spectator, but as an actor. He once studied under a professional thespian and even had a part in a stage performance. This interest was, however, only temporary in the penman's life, and he soon went back to his love and profession of penmanship with greater zeal than ever before.

Over the years, Madarasz never tired of traveling, working and teaching. He had incredible energy to devote to penmanship, and the quality of his work never faltered. His speed of execution was reputed to be faster than any penman, before or since. His style was unique, a dramatic, rather heavily shaded variety of ornamental writing. It has been said that Madarasz's penmanship style was copied by more penmen than that of any other. In 1908-1909, Madarasz involved himself in a most ambitious project to earn money. He purchased large, new scrapbooks of two hundred pages each. He then filled each page of the books with his own penmanship. To do this he copied his own business letters, correspondence, writing lessons and display writing and pasted them, one by one, upon each page. He advertised them as the Madarasz Scrapbooks, and sold them for $45; $25 to be paid as a deposit, and then $5 per month on the balance. In all he sold perhaps a dozen such books. There are two of the original scrapbooks in existence today. The largest scrapbook, 175 pages, is currently owned by the International Association of Master Penman, Engrossers, and Teachers of Handwriting (IAMPETH). The other scrapbook is rarely seen and currently is maintained in the archives of the Newberry Library in Chicago, Illinois, and is available only through specified request of the curator, Paul Gahl, George Amos Poole III Curator of Rare Books, and Custodian,John M. Wing Foundation on the History of Printing, gehlp@newberry.org, (312) 255-3645. Its covers match the exact covers of the previous scrapbook owned by IAMPETH. The largest scrapbook was originally owned by a master penman, Warner C. Brownfield, (Kentucky), and then given to Del Tysdal. Mr. Brownfield was the last student of Madarasz. In turn, Tysdal was the last student of Brownfield. In turn, Tate (below) received personalized instruction from Tysdal. The latter book was not seen by the general public for many years. The owner just prior to IAMPETH's acquisition of the largest scrapbook was Don Tate (Draper, Utah) who owned it for more than a dozen years and sold it to IAMPETH. He was the last person to see the scrapbook at the Newberry Library to confirm its existence and the fact it was an original Madarasz scrapbook in behalf of the Newberry Library. Three of Madarasz's oblique pens are still in existence. One is owned by IAMPETH and two are owned by Tate.

Later life[edit]

The last few years of Madarasz's life were spent in a business association in Goldfield, Nevada. It was there that health problems began to plague the penman. After a severe bout with pneumonia, Madarasz became diabetic and never regained his formally healthy physique. Quoting from The Secret of the Skill of Madarasz, a book published by the Zaner-Bloser Company in 1911 as a tribute to the great penman: "He passed away quietly on December 23, 1910, having on the day he was stricken written a Christmas greeting in that beautiful clean cut style of penmanship which has been copied by so many thousand aspirants during the past thirty years." At his request his body was cremated. His ashes rest in the beautiful columbarium at Fresh Pond, Long Island. "The urn of Louis Madarasz is oxidized and not easy to read, no less in a photo. epitaph reads: (top) Dum Taget Clarat, (middle) In Memory of a Brave & Gentle Man Louis Madarasz January 20, 1860 - December 23, 1910...He put his house in order His Work was Done, (bottom) Here Rests a Woodman of the World" Also in the niche behind Louis's urn is his wife Clara Kinstler and her husband Aaron A. Kinstler. The letter citing these facts is from the United States Columbarium, Fresh Pond Crematory 6140 Mount Olivet Crescent, Middle Village, NY 11379 dated February 9, 2010 addressed to Donald M. Tate 13528 S. Bella Monte Drive Draper, UT 84020. He is buried in Niche #1103 M.F.R. The last paragraph reads "I hope that this answers your questions and clears up some of the difference's in your correspondence." (Signed) James Wetterer.

These corrections have been provided by Donald M. Tate with original letter on February 13, 2010 and modify the information previously cited.

External links[edit]

Contributor Don Tate, Draper, UT, 2008