Skip to main content

Oswald Bruce Cooper Papers

Identifier: Wing-Modern-MS-Cooper

Scope and Content of the Collection

Art work for Cooper’s type designs; art work, proofs, and tear sheets for advertisements; correspondence with a few clients, most importantly Richard N. McArthur of Barnhart Brothers & Spindler.

Limited amounts of biographical information and printed ephemera by other designers are present. There is also a file on the 1926-1928 copyright lawsuit and Cooper’s testimony before Congress on the originality of typefaces.


  • Creation: 1903-1953
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1919 - 1939



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Oswald Bruce Cooper Papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Oswald Bruce Cooper Papers are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections.

Biography of Oswald Bruce Cooper

Chicago lettering artist, advertising and type designer.

Oswald Bruce Cooper (1879-1940) was one of the leading figures in American type design in the first half of the twentieth century. Born in Mount Gilead, Ohio and raised in Coffeyville, Kansas, Cooper left high school to work as a printer’s apprentice and took correspondence courses in art. He came to Chicago in 1899 and studied at the Frank Holme School, where he also taught. Upon Holme’s death in 1903, Cooper took over the affairs of the school, personally fulfilling the terms of its outstanding tuition contracts. In 1904, he partnered with Fred S. Bertsch in a lettering studio which, under the name Bertsch & Cooper, continued in business into the 1950s. In 1914 they added typesetting to their business. Their advertisements for clients like Marshall Field & Co. appeared widely in local print media, including the Chicago Daily News; the firm also had wider exposure through Chicago-based clients who advertised nationally. Oswald Cooper’s greatest influence was as the designer of a series of types for Barnhart Brothers & Spindler (the Chicago affiliate of the American Type Founders Co.). Those evidenced in the surviving papers are: Cooper Old Style (released 1919-1924); Cooper Black (1921); Cooper Black Italic (1922); Cooper Highlight (1922); Cooper Old Style Italic (1924); Cooper Black Condensed (1926); Dietz Text (ca. 1927); Pompeian Cursive (1927); Boul Mich (1928-1929?); Cooper Fullface/Modern (1928-1929); and Cooper Fullface/Modern Italic (1928-1929). Cooper also designed an undated (and unreleased) sans serif; and in 1926-1927 Barnhart Bros. issued a series of “Ornaments, borders and screamers,” a set of Christmas ornaments, and some ornamental initials by Cooper. Cooper Black became the largest selling single type face in the late 1920s and 1930s; it was the subject of a precedent-setting copyright lawsuit in 1926-1928. Cooper was a founding member of the 27 Chicago Designers and the Society of Typographic Arts, which produced a retrospective tribute to him, The Book of Oz Cooper, in 1949. Cooper died on December 17, 1940.


11 Linear Feet (7 boxes and 5 oversize boxes)


Papers of Oswald Cooper, Chicago lettering artist, advertising designer and type designer best known for his Cooper Black and Cooper Bold typefaces. Includes art work for type designs; art boards, proofs and finished advertising pieces; and limited correspondence. There is also a file on patent cases of 1926-1928, and Cooper's testimony before Congress on the originality of typefaces, and ephemera from other artists.


Papers are organized in the following series

Series 1: Type Designs, 1919-1953
Boxes 1-2, 6-8
Series 2: Design Work, 1908-1938
Boxes 2-4, 8-9, 11-12
Series 3: Bertsch & Cooper, 1916-1949
Boxes 4-5, 9-12
Series 4: Biographical Materials, 1919-1936
Boxes 5, 9, 11
Series 5: Ephemera, 1903-1934
Boxes 5, 8-9, 12
Appendix: Materials removed from the Raymond F. DaBoll Papers, 1930-1949
Boxes 10-12

Collection Stack Location

4a 29 11


1946 gift of Bertsch & Cooper; some supplementary materials by 1987 gift of R. Lloyd Smith and by 2006 gift of the Briggs and Marian DaBoll Family Trust.

Processed by

James M. Wells, 1955; Barbara Modisett, 1988; Robert Williams, 2011-2012.

Inventory of the Oswald Bruce Cooper Papers, 1903-1953, bulk 1919-1939
Robert Williams
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States