The Definitive Dwiggins

The Definitive Dwiggins is devoted to surveying the life and work of W.A. Dwiggins (1880–1956), an American graphic designer, illustrator, type designer, calligrapher and letterer, marionette maker, and author. It is born of admiration often bordering on astonishment, but it is emphatically not hagiographic. Instead, it seeks to understand not only Dwiggins and his work, but to place both in historical context. It aims to discover his influences and sources of inspiration, to uncover the stories behind his designs, to try to discern his thinking about each aspect and element. The Definitive Dwiggins promises to correct existing scholarship on Dwiggins; challenge the myths that have built up around him; and, in doing so, create a fuller, more complex, and ultimately more authentic portrait of a fascinating figure in the history of graphic design.

The Definitive Dwiggins no. 82—The Colophon (Part V)

In the fall of 1928 W.A. Dwiggins was completing work on the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson for Random House. The printer of the book was Pynson Printers, headed by Elmer Adler (1884–1962). [1] The two men had previously worked together on Nobodaddy: A Play by Archibald MacLeish (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Dunster House, 1926) and two editions of My Mortal Enemy by Willa Cather (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1926). [2] Their professional friendship …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 30—The Architect and the Industrial Arts

Entrance to The Architect and the Industrial Arts exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (1929). Design by Joseph Urban. Note the poster by W.A. Dwiggins at right. Image source: Digital Collections, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Richard F. Bach (1887–1968) organized fifteen annual exhibitions of contemporary industrial art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art between 1917 and 1940. [1] With them he attempted to promote good design and good taste in manufactured goods. The annuals displayed examples of good design …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 32—The Architect and the Industrial Arts, continued

There are eighteen stencil ornaments in total by W.A. Dwiggins in the exhibition catalogue for The Architect and the Industrial Arts. [1] However, only eight are original designs. The other ten are either repeats or flopped copies. Six designs are botanical in nature and two are geometrical. All are printed in black, though several have hatched elements to create tone. Printed by letterpress on soft paper, Dwiggins’ original crisp edges have unfortunately been dulled. Here they are, in the order …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 105—Addendum to W.A. Dwiggins’ Ancestry, Part III: Moses and Eva Dwiggins

Five artifacts associated with Moses and Eva Dwiggins survive in the W.A. Dwiggins Collections at the Boston Public Library: two programs for theatrical events, one each involving Moses and Eva, their marriage license, a certificate for Moses as a medical examiner for an insurance company, and a book entitled Living Poems. [1] All are of interest beyond their use as documentation of W.A. Dwiggins’ parents’ lives. [2] They are fascinating for their design and typography which is typical of the …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 108—James Ferguson, the Photograph Swindler

 This post is an addendum to The Definitive Dwiggins no. 97—W.A. Dwiggins’ Childhood (1880–1889) continued.
W.A. Dwiggins as a child (1886). Photograph by James Ferguson (Richmond, Indiana). Courtesy Special Collections, Boston Public Library.
In The Definitive Dwiggins no. 97, I included two photographs of W.A. Dwiggins as a child, both taken by well-respected Richmond photographic studios. The earliest one was by Jacob Harry Swaine (1838–1917) whose studio at the time was located at the corner of Eighth Street and Main …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 97—W.A. Dwiggins’ Childhood (1880–1889) continued

The text for this post on W.A. Dwiggins’ childhood in Richmond, Indiana was originally written in 2007. It overlaps The Definitive Dwiggins no. 94 (Dwiggins’ birth and childhood), The Definitive Dwiggins no. 95 (some of Dwiggins’ childhood drawings), The Definitive Dwiggins no. 106 (Richmond, Indiana businesses), The Definitive Dwiggins no. 107 (Dwiggins’ homes in Richmond, Indiana), and The Definitive Dwiggins no. 92 (Clare V. Dwiggins, known as Dwig). Although ostensibly about Dwiggins’ childhood in Richmond, The Definitive Dwiggins no. …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 92—Dwig

W.A. Dwiggins is familiarly known today as WAD, but occasionally in the past he was referred to by colleagues as Dwig. This nickname can be confusing since it was the professional name of his first cousin Clare V. Dwiggins (1874–1958), an illustrator and cartoonist. [1]
A young Clare Victor Dwiggins (n.d.). Courtesy Special Collections, Boston Public Library.
“The cartoonist.” From School Days by Clare Victor Dwiggins (New York and London: Harper & Brothers, 1919).
Clarence Victor Dwiggins was born …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 106—Richmond, Indiana, Part I: Businesses

This post accompanies The Definitive Dwiggins no. 94 and The Definitive Dwiggins no. 107 as part of my attempt to establish the context and environment in which W.A. Dwiggins grew up.
Map of The City of RIchmond, Indiana 1884 (Boston: C.H. Bailey & Co., 1884).
Richmond, Indiana was the city where Dwiggins spent his childhood. [1] When he arrived there, as a six months-old infant, the city had a population of 12,742; by 1890 when he left, following the death …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 107—Richmond, Indiana, Part II: Residences

In December 1880, when he was six months old, W.A. Dwiggins moved from the hamlet of Martinsville, Ohio (population 355) to the thriving industrial city of Richmond, Indiana (population 12,742). From that moment until the fall of 1904, when he moved east to Hingham, Massachusetts, he always lived in an urban setting. A sense of the size of Richmond during Dwiggins’ childhood can be gained from seeing the “bird’s eye” map of the city made by C.H. Bailey in …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 98—S.S. McClure Co.

In the span of less than two weeks—between the end of December 1907 and the middle of January 1908—W.A. Dwiggins was commissioned by the S.S. McClure Co. to design six book covers. A month later he was asked to design a seventh cover. That same day he also received four assignments for McClure’s Magazine. [1] The books were, in order, Through the Magic Door by Arthur Conan Doyle and Piano Playing: A Little Book of Simple Suggestions by …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 95—Childhood Drawings: Locomotives, Fire Engines, Tractors, and Skeletons

A small number of childhood drawings by W.A. Dwiggins have survived. [1] They were made either using druggist’s prescription sheets or pages from a ledger which his father, Dr. Moses F. Dwiggins, owned. The ledger pages are lined and some are tabbed (with letters such as CD). All have the names of patients written on the upper lines and one also says “Cash Act. 181” at the top. Below the patient entries, in dark pencil, are various phrases such as …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 94—W.A. Dwiggins’ Birth and Childhood (1880–1889)

Map of The City of Richmond, Indiana 1884 (Boston: C.H. Bailey & Co., 1884).
Moses and Eva Dwiggins were from differing religious faiths and, even after their marriage, continued to worship separately. Moses was a Quaker in good standing at the time of his death, which was recorded in the archives of the Whitewater Monthly Meeting. [1]  Typically, the entry makes no mention of his non-Quaker wife and child. Their respective families—including Rev. Siegfried—seemed to have accepted their interfaith marriage. Eva’s father, contrary …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 91—W.A. Dwiggins’ Ancestry, Part V: Aunts and Uncles on the Siegfried Side

Rev. B.Y. Siegfried and his wife Sarah had eleven children, which was not an uncommon number in the 19th century. With the exception of Eva and Sarah Ella, they all died before their parents. The children were, in order of their birth: Addison, Emma, Laura, Samuel, Louisa, Sarah Ella, Eva, Benjamin, Edward, Carrie and an unnamed infant. [1]
“Family Record” (n.d.) of Benjamin Y. Siegfried, his wife and their children. Courtesy Special Collections, Boston Public Library.
Page of obituaries from scrapbook compiled …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 84—W.A. Dwiggins’ Ancestry, Part IV: Aunts and Uncles on the Dwiggins Side

W.A. Dwiggins had two uncles and one aunt on his father’s side: Charles, James, and Elizabeth (known as Lizzie).
Charles B. Dwiggins
Charles B. Dwiggins was born April 3, 1850. [1] He married Mary Shepherd on February 13, 1873. [2] They had three children: Clarence Victor (b. 1874), Claudia (b. 1877), and Vern (b. 1879). [3] Charles was as active locally as his father Zimri. He was a member of the Clinton County Grange, Patrons of Husbandry, Wilmington Lodge no. 52 of the Masons …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 103—An Undated Photograph of Eva Siegfried

Miss Mary Fisher and students (c.1867–1868). Photographer unknown. Courtesy Special Collections, Boston Public Library.
This photograph (which I have cropped from its frame) of a group of young women is in the 2001 W.A. Dwiggins Collection at the Boston Public Library. [1] Someone—most likely Eva S. Dwiggins, WAD’s mother—has written below it: “Della Vandam, Della Strickle (two visitors), Fannie Diboll, Katie Hibben, Miss Mary Fisher—teacher—Eva Siegfried, Nettie Harlen, Lucy Harlen, Emma Taylor, Katie Marble, Ella Siegfried, Eva Eldridge, & Ollie Welch.” …
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The Definitive Dwiggins no. 111—Chronology 1880–1890

For over twenty years I have been building a detailed chronology of the life and work of W.A. Dwiggins. It includes not only information about his ancestry, immediate family, life and career, but also about his contemporaries in the design world. This post is the second installment of a distilled version of it.
January 7 1880 Carl Purington Rollins born in West Newbury, Massachusetts.

January 26 1880 Thomas Wood Stevens born in Daysville, Illinois.
May 24 1880 John W. Reed born in Chicago.
June 1 1880 …
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