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The text face used here (as well as elsewhere) is Broadsheet™. The home page letters are set in Emily Austin™ & Lamar Pen™. All typefaces referenced on this website—Abigail Adams™, American Scribe™, Antiquarian™, Antiquarian Scribe™, Attic Antique™, Austin Pen™, Bonhomme Richard™, Bonsai™, Botanical Scribe™, Broadsheet™, Castine™, Douglass Pen™, Emily Austin™, Geographica™, Geographica Hand™, Geographica Script™, Houston Pen™, Lamar Pen™, Military Scribe™, Old Man Eloquent™, Remsen Script™, Schooner Script™, Terra Ignota™ & Texas Hero™ (as well as all other fonts in the Handwritten History™ Bundle)—are the intellectual property of Three Islands Press (copyright ©1994–2015). For site licensing contact:

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Posts Tagged ‘Texas history’
Sam Houston Talks
Wednesday, August 27th, 2014
Sam Houston by Mathew Brady

Senator Sam Houston (photo circa 1861 by Mathew Brady).

Note: From time to time I’ll be introducing you to a particular historical letter or letters that I’ve used as source materials for our old penmanship fonts. Up first, the inspiration for Houston Pen.

* * *

If you got together in a room a group of historic Americans who might described as “larger than life,” Sam Houston would stand tall. Citizen of the Cherokee Nation, veteran of the War of 1812. political protégé of Andrew Jackson, hero of the Battle of San Jacinto, twice President of Texas, U.S. Senator, opponent of Confederate secession—he happens also to have been the only person elected governor of two U.S. states (Tennessee and Texas).

Houston was a skillful politician and statesman—and he wrote a lot of letters.

It’s a little-known fact* that many of those letters were to Native Americans. Unlike some of his contemporaries (ahem, Texas President Mirabeau B. Lamar), he sought peace, friendship, and cooperation with the native tribes of Texas. He called these letters “talks,” since they usually had to be read to their recipients. But in them he used language as flowery as the flourish of his penmanship, which no doubt helped him get his point across.

Sam Houston letter to the Chiefs of the Border Tribes

First page of an 1843 letter by Texas President Sam Houston to the Chiefs o the Border Tribes.

I have before me a copy of a draft of a letter Houston sent to the Chiefs of the Border Tribes on 13 February 1843, during his second term as President of the Republic of Texas—a letter urging peace after a time of conflict and suffering during the intervening term of President Lamar.

From the evenness of his script, to his careful choice of words, to several corrections on the pages, you can tell Houston was eager to get the message just right. He changed the first few lines, in fact, from these…

Brothers, The great rains have passed by, and the earth is not now hin [sic] from us by the waters. The sun is again sun [sic], and…

…to these:

Brothers, The great rains like your sorrows, I hope have passed off, and the sun is again shining upon us. When we all make peace it will be to the heart like the sun-shine is to our eyes. We will feel joy and gladness. Sorrow will no longer fill our hearts. The noise of an enemy will not be near us, and there will be none to make us affraid [sic]. The voices of our women and children will see gladness. They will be heard cheerful as the song of Birds which sing in the green woods of summer.

Sam Houston "Talk" to Chief Linney

An 1838 “Talk” by Texas President Sam Houston to the Cherokee Chief John Linney.

Here’s the text of an earlier letter, written to Shawnee Chief John Linney on 28 September 1838 (toward the close of Houston’s first term as President), in its entirety:

My Brother

I send you the Agent who will read to you my Talk and you may Know that it is true. My words shall not sink in the earth but must stand. If you know of trouble or any that is at any time coming, you must as my brother let me hear of it by a Talk.

Your brother
Sam Houston

The words are writ large and seem mildly condescending, but such was the nature of the times. Then again, Houston’s own script was large and legible, with occasional showy flourishes, much as the man himself came across in dress and actions.

You need look no further than the famous Matthew Brady photo of him—or his famous signature.

Sam Houston’s Signature

Sam Houston’s famous signature

* * *

*A few other little-known facts about Sam Houston:

• He ran away from home as a teenager and joined a Cherokee settlement, where he was adopted by the tribe and given the name “The Raven.” He didn’t return home to his family for a few years.

• In 1827, he became the seventh governor of the Tennessee, a position he resigned a couple years later when his new wife (of two months) left him and made embarrassing public statements about his manhood.

• As a U.S. Senator in the years leading up to the Civil War, Houston opposed division of the Union, a stance whose unpopularity back in Texas likely ruined his consideration as a candidate for President of the United States. In an 1850 address, he paraphrased the Bible with the words “A nation divided against itself cannot stand”—eight years before Abraham Lincoln’s House Divided speech.

For more information about Sam Houston (or any other famous Texan), consult The Handbook of Texas—or consider reading his definitive biography, The Raven.

The Curse of the Keyboard
Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

We’re all familiar with internal conflict. We want to move, we want to stay put. We wish to explore the new, we wish to stick with the familiar. We’d like to have the candy bar, we’d like to eat the candy bar. It’s a wonder we can function at all amid such inner turmoil.

First page of a letter written in 1825 by Samual Clarke

First page of a letter written in 1825 by Samual Clarke

But inside of me, for as long as I can remember, one conflict has overshadowed the rest: a battle between my love of Nature and my fascination with Technology.

As a kid, I went outside to play. I fished for crawdads in the neighborhood creek, pulled toads from storm drains, explored the woods out back of our house for long hours by myself. At night I succumbed to the allure of the miraculous firefly. But I also succumbed to the allure of the “real” world—a world of radio and television, rock-n-roll and fast cars, space flights and assassinations and crazy foreign wars. The “real” world was full of interesting people (e.g., girls). And the “real” world had a summer school typing class.

Little did I know it then—I truly dreaded going—but that typing class proved more useful than any other I took in high school.

Before long I had my own electric typewriter, was cruising along at sixty words a minute, then eighty, then a hundred. After college I moved to Maine—a place of woods and shores and birds and seasons—where I ended up a radio journalist, then a newspaper man, then a magazine editor wrangling a silent computer keyboard. Somewhere along the way, I lost my knack for writing by hand.

I recall spending long hours as a youth perfecting my penmanship. Eschewing the boring cursive I’d learned in school, I began to print my words in small, neat letters. I changed my “e” to look like a backwards “3” and gave my lowercase “a” a second story. And I wrote a lot—lists and journals and school papers and drafts of college essays. I wrote all my personal letters by hand. Occasionally I’d write so long and hard that I’d end up with a wicked case of writer’s cramp, a pain I well remember to this day.

Then the Apple Macintosh came along, and all that changed.

I just couldn’t quit that little Mac. I learned word-processing software, utility software, fancy page-layout software, even a few programming applications. And, OK, yeah, I played computer games. Of course I interspersed these computer sessions with outdoor hikes or birding excursions, or I’d go swimming or skating down at the quarry pond. (I have an inner battle raging, after all.) But invariably I’d return to the keyboard, whose magic connected me to a new kind of “real” world, a world offering fresh puzzles, instant telecommunication, and digital imaging powers I had no idea existed.

And that’s how—through what now seems an implausible series of events—I became a type designer.

Working on Emily Austin.

At work on Emily Austin.

In retrospect, it seems both the height of irony and perfectly appropriate that my specialty would be handwriting fonts, with a particular focus on historical penmanship. Because in the twenty years since, technology has streamlined written communication in such a way that we no longer have to hunt around for a pencil or pen. Cursive handwriting is rarely taught in schools anymore—heck, a lot of young people have plenty of trouble even reading it. New generations will become more proficient at thumbing the tiny screens of smart devices than writing a simple thank-you note by hand.

In those same twenty years, I’ve read countless letters and journals from the 1700s and 1800s. Much of the time I have handwriting on the brain. And I think a lot about what we’re losing as our ability to wield a pen fades slowly away.

First, there’s the guilt of hardly ever writing by hand myself anymore. (Hand-cramp seems to come in a matter of seconds these days.) Worse, I worry that my type designs might somehow be contributing to the loss of pen and ink. That’s silly, of course, because that loss is likely inevitable no matter what I do—but it’s also more significant than most people realize.

For one thing, recent studies suggest that learning to write in loops and curves is beneficial to our brains. But from where I sit, our greatest loss might be a certain miraculous insight the handwritten page gives us into the characters and personalities of the people who put those words there in the first place.

Detail of Col. William B. Travis’s letter from the Alamo.

Detail of Col. William B. Travis’s letter from the Alamo.

As graphologists will attest, a lot more gets communicated from a handwritten page than just thoughts put into sentences. In a flash we can recognize the hand of friends and loved ones—the little quirks and peculiarities of their scribbles. But beyond even these, if you look closely enough at the pressure and slant and size and flourish, you can see inside the minds and hearts and histories of the ones who wielded the pens. You can tell if they were angry or sad, determined or resigned, courageous or desperate or ill.

I think, for instance, of Col. William B. Travis’s famous letter from the Alamo, whose closing phrase “Victory or Death” he’d so deliberately underscored three times.

Alas, it seems that—barring an apocalypse—we’ll have only the past few short centuries of this intimate phenomenon to wonder at and admire.

Abigail Adams American Scribe Austin Pen Bonhomme Richard Botanical Scribe Douglass Pen

Emily Austin Houston Pen Lamar Pen Military Scribe Old Man Eloquent

Remsen Script Schooner Script Texas Hero Antiquarian Antiquarian Scribe Bonnycastle Geographica

Geographica Hand Terra Ignota Attic Antique Bonsai Broadsheet Castine

Historical Pens Old Map Fonts Texas Heroes Set Geographica Set Antique Texts Modern Hands

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