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Alf R. Becker



Written by Luc Devroye
McGill University
Montreal, Canada
lucdevroye@gmail.com
http://luc.devroye.org
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Alf Becker (b. St. Louis, MO) was a sign artist in the 1930's and 40's. Beginning in January 1932, at the request of editor E. Thomas Kelly, Becker supplied the Signs of the Times (The National Journal of Display Advertising) magazine's new Art and Design section with an alphabet a month, a project initially predicted to last only two years. Misjudging the popularity of the series, it instead ran for 27 years, ending finally two months before Becker's death in 1959, for a total of 320 alphabets. In late 1941, just ten years after the first alphabet was published, 100 of those alphabets were compiled and published in book form under the title 100 Alphabets, by Alf R. Becker.

The American Sign Museum shows the following death notice, taken from the April 1959 issue of Signs of the Times: A chapter of almost 27 years of extensive influence upon the development if sign and outdoor advertising lettering came to a close March 10 in the passing of Alf R. Becker, whose alphabets had been presented consistently in Signs of the Times since January, 1932. Death came in St. Petersburg,. FL, where he had been hospitalized since last November. The funeral services were in St. Louis, March 16. Mr. Becker had operated a commercial sign business in East St. Louis, IL., and was widely known for his lettering ability when requested 27 years ago by the late E. Thomas Kelley, then editor of Signs of the Times, to do a series of alphabets for the magazine. They had estimated that 24 alphabets which would be presented in a period of two years would serve the purpose. The series was so enthusiastically received and so many readers urged continuation that it was projected indefinitely to eventually each a total of 320 before failing health of Mr. Becker forced him to give up that creative work. His last alphabet for ST appeared in the January issue this year. Countless are the signmen and women who broadened the horizons of their lettering ability by thorough study of Mr. Becker's alphabet. In 1941, his book, "100 Alphabets" was published by Signs of the Times, and all 3,000 copies that were printed were sold out long ago. Numerous requests have been received for a reprinting, but in view of the changes of time in lettering styles, it has not been considered advisable. Mr. Becker's failing health in 1957 influenced him and Mrs. Becker moving to St. Petersburg, where they bought a home, and where he went into semi-retirement. His love of the sign business was such that he continued his alphabets in spite of the problems of his illness.

Many of his faces have art deco influences. LHF Monogram at Letterhead is a digital version of one of his fonts. Other digitizations include Whomp (2006) and Buffet Script (2006) by Alejandro Paul (Sudtipos) and Daffadowndilly (2007) and Stony Island NF (after Becker's art deco typeface Chicago Modern) and Shaq Attack NF (2011, a wood plank font) by Nick Curtis.

The Fontry (James Stirling and/or Adkins) is undertaking a grand digitization project, and releases free and pay fonts with names that start with ARB, followed by the font number, the font name, and the month and year of issue. In The Fontry's ARB series, we find ARB-187 Moderne Caps AUG-47 (2013, didone), ARB-85 Poster Script (2011, after a 1939 typeface by Becker), ARB 70 Modern Poster, ARB 93 Steel Moderne, ARB 44 Chicago Modern, ARB 66 Neon (2010, after a 1937 font, +Block, +Line), ARB 85 Modern Poster JAN-39 (2011, after Modern Poster Script, 1939), and ARB 67 Modern Roman, and ARB08ExtremeRomanAUG-32CASNormal (2009; the original is from 1932).

Jeff Levine created a number of typefaces based on Becker's work as well: Kanona JNL (2010), Karaoke JNL (2010), Mocombo JNL (2010). John Davis created LHF Pipeline (2012) based on Becker's designs.

FontShop link.

Catalog of some of his digitized faces. View the digital typefaces that are based on Becker's work. Showcase of Alf R. Becker's fonts.

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Alf R. Becker
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INTERNAL LINKS
Type designers ⦿ Type designers ⦿ Type scene in Missouri ⦿ Nick Curtis ⦿ Art deco typefaces ⦿ Jeff Levine's typefaces ⦿ Neon tube or faux neon typefaces ⦿ Type scene in Illinois ⦿ Type scene in Florida ⦿ Modern style [Bodoni, Didot, Walbaum, Thorowgood, Computer Modern, etc.] ⦿ Wood plank typefaces ⦿








file name: Nick Curtis Shaq Attack N F 2011


file name: Nick Curtis Stony Island N F 2011 after Alf R Becker Chicago Modern Thick And Thin 1935


file name: Nick Curtis Stony Island N F


file name: Michael Adkins A R B66 Neonline Block 2011 after Alf Becker 1937


file name: The Fontry A R B66 Neon 2010 after Alf R Becker 1937


file name: The Fontry A R B187 Moderne Caps A U G47


file name: Michael Gene Adkins A R B 187 Moderne Caps A U G 47 2013


file name: Michael Gene Adkins A R B 187 Moderne Caps A U G 47 2013b


file name: The Fontry A R B85 Poster Script C A S 2011 after Alf R Becker 1939


file name: Gene Adkins A R B85 Poster Script 2011


file name: Alf R Becker Pic



Luc Devroye ⦿ School of Computer Science ⦿ McGill University Montreal, Canada H3A 2K6 ⦿ lucdevroye@gmail.com ⦿ http://luc.devroye.org ⦿ http://luc.devroye.org/fonts.html