Slab serifs in general may remind readers of older poster fonts and Western movie paraphernalia. Early slab serif fonts were created in the nineteenth century, usually from wood, which was notoriously hard to carve into the small details required for intricate type. Slab serif lettering rapidly became very popular in any areas in which wooden faces were commonly used. Later, smaller versions were deliberately cut in metal as an alternative to the regular serif and sans serif fonts available at the time. One of the earliest manufacturers of such type was the Inland Type Foundry, founded in 1892 by the three Schraubstadter brothers.
In January, 1910, ITF released a face known as Litho Antique™, created by William Schraubstadter. Later that decade, the font and several other similar types became popular around greater Europe, so American Type Founders decided to reissue the font. Morris Fuller Benton added a number of new characters to the original Litho Antique face and the modified result, named Rockwell Antique™, was published by ATF in 1931. Later the same year, Benton redrew the font in a heavier style, naming it Stymie™ Bold.
When Frank Hinman Pierpont, in collaboration with Monotype, decided to create and release the Rockwell typeface family in 1934, several unique characteristics, including differences in spacing, letter weight and subtle changes in glyph formation, were included.
Even so, the Stymie Bold and Rockwell designs are often confused for one another, not only because of their similarities but because of the fact that in an early Monotype document, the Rockwell font was accidentally referred to as Stymie™ Bold. While there are subtle differences between the two faces, this mistake continues to cause confusion today.
The fy(t)i Guide Slab Serifs
Slab serif fonts are versatile, as their often mono-weighted tendencies render them perfectly suitable for headlining and other applications requiring a steady, bold typeface.
Notable recent users of the Rockwell design include the Guinness Book of Records and the Docklands Light Railway.
Rockwell is available in nine different variations which include italics, different weights and condensed versions of the font, suitable for anything from light print design to very bold type well proportioned for logo development.