Collectible Stocks and Bonds from North American Railroads     by Terry Cox

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A curiosity

A curious note about the text on bonds

Artisans engraved text on steel plates with the same precision they dedicated to vignettes. In fact, many engravers specialized exclusively in lettering. Their engraving was almost flawless. However, you will notice that almost all engraved bonds are hard to read.

There are two reasons for this difficulty. First, most text was engraved in script style. Script is substantially harder to read than ordinary 'Roman' or 'block' letters.

Secondly, look closely and you will notice that engravers almost never crossed their lower case 't's. This is especially true with bonds engraved by the American Bank Note Company.

A reason for this strange tradition does not seem to have appeared in print. A cynic, however, might think that companies actually wanted to make their bonds hard to read.

Please contact me if you can suggest a good reason for this strange habit.

Note: - A correspondent suggested that the engraved script may have purposely imitated concurrent handwriting styles. He may be correct, although I don't have the research resources to confirm. Perhaps some paleography expert can confirm.

In replying to my correspondent, I searched my records and images more fully. It appears that American Bank Note Company was the main proponent of this style of engraved script. My earliest high-resolution image proves that ABN was using this style as early as 1860. However, I was unable to confirm that the style evolved from earlier predecessor companies.

I did find sparse examples of this practice among certificates engraved by Snyder, but the use of non-crossed Ts seems inconsistent. For example, initial Ts were often crossed, while Ts embedded elsewhere in words ("interest" for example) were uncrossed. (Oct 3, 2007)

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(Last updated Feb 14, 2010)


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