The Rchive no. 7—the Industrial R (Sans serif division)

Hercules Seating Company, 25–45 Park Place, Manhattan, New York. Photographed 15 February 2013.

The Hercules Seating Company appears to be closed. That does not bode well for its lovely mid-century sans serif sign. The letters are typical of the interwar sans that inspired Hoefler & Frere-Jones’ wildly popular Gotham typeface. What is different about the Hercules Seating Company letters from the many other examples of “Gotham” sans serifs found throughout the five boroughs is the rounded faceting that is more typical of 19th c. letters. This rounding gives the letters an added heft and presence.

The R has a typical industrial proportion. In order to match the widths of M, O and other letters it is wider than a classical R. But, unlike 19th c. industrial Rs that follow the Didone model, this one has a classical diagonal leg rather than a curled one. Its overly large bowl also sets it apart from 19th c. Grot predecessors and dictates the position of the leg. A line drawn through the leg no longer meets the upper intersection of stem and bowl as in a classical R. This particular R looks luscious due to its weathering. It has the Japanese quality of wabi-sabi.