Steve L. Watts

image link-topic-sf0.jpg

1. Biographical Info

Printer, typographer, typefounder (certainly in management, though I've found no indication that he was a casterman), and scholar in the history of type. Worked at ATF from 1919 to 1955. {Lawson 1961} Without his sometimes subversive efforts at ATF, much of what has been preserved of the early work of that firm and the work of its constituent foundries would have been lost.

Born 1895. {Hopkins 2014} Apprenticed as a printer. Served as a Chief Printer in the US Navy in World War I. Served as a Major in the US Army in World War II. Died by 1968.

[click image to view larger]

image link-to-steve-watts-001-sf0.jpg

(The photograph above was sent by Watts to Richard L. Hopkins, and is reproduced here with Rich's kind permission.)

Lawson writes of him as "a former type foundry supervisor" {Lawson 1961} and as "manager of the type foundry at ATF". Lawson also says that at ATF "he worked in various capacities, getting his hands into everything but a type case, to which he had been apprenticed." {Lawson 1968} The notice of his retirement from ATF (in 1954, not 1955) in The American Printer and Lithographer gives his position at ATF at that time as "director of typographic merchandising." Butler and Likeness in 1959 called him a "former typographic consultant at ATF". {Butler 1959}

Watts refers to himself as having been the "type merchandising manager" at ATF responsible for the introduction of Repro Script in 1954 ( Pastime Printer, No. 11 (July 1959) . He also writes of his earlier experiences as a type and press salesman in the west for ATF in "Type and Press and Tuberous Begonias", which may have appeared in Pastime Printer, No. 5 (June 1957) .

Note on name: The "prop card" of Watts' Privateer Press (a copy of which is reprinted in Bob Mullen's article "Kittypot Revivals" ) confirms that his full name was Stevens Lewis Watts.

In a LETPRESS mailing list posting on 1998-08-10, Stan Nelson, then at the Smithsonian, described him as "one of the few [at ATF] who really loved type and cared about the history of the company." Nelson also says that "He was responsible for saving many of the old matrices from the scrap drives of the Second World War."

In a 1968 article, Lawson refers to him as "the late" Steve Watts. { Lawson 1968}

His papers are at the University of Virginia (according to Worldcat).

[click image to go to page]

image link-to-lawson-1961-sf0.jpg

"Happiest Retired Printer" (1961)

[anon. but probably by] Lawson, Alexander. "Steve Watts, Happiest Retired Printer." Printer and Lithographer [sic] [volume, number, and page unknown] (March 1961).

Reprinted at [TO DO: find and scan original and reprint here; for now the icon at left links to a copy reprinted from the Alexander S. Lawson Archive.]

2. Watts on Type

Lawson says that "While the late Steve Watts was manager of the type foundry at ATF, he was fond of saying that 'types come and go, Franklin Gothic goes on forever." { Lawson 1968}

In an earlier article, Lawson said that "everybody knows [Watts] ... as the champion of Cheltenham, in speeches and writing." { Lawson 1961}

Butler and Likeness in 1959 note that his Kittypot Casting series "has been utilized primarily for restoration of body faces ... although at least one display face ... has been returned to life." {Butler 1959}

3. The Pastime Printer

In his retirement in (well, near, and with a P.O. box in) Front Royal, VA, he published on an occasional basis The Pastime Printer at his private press, "The Privateer Press." It is a charming series which was well-received by a number of people now legendary (e.g., Paul Bennett, Alexander Lawson, Rollo Silver, Lucien Bernhard, etc.). Save for No. 9, the issues reprinted here make no reference to his Kittypot Castings.

One of the difficulties of unpaginated and unbound publications is that you have no way of knowing whether or not you really have all of the pages. In the first lot of Pastime Printers I acquired, there were three loose folded sheets. These included: "A Latter-Day Cadmus," "Type and Press and Tuberous Begonias," [fragment; Scuttlebut; Fisher article]. These were probably internal sheets from various issues (several of which might plausibly be seen as missing these), but it is also possible that they were independent publications. They were acquired with the set of Nos. 1-5, 7, 9, 10. I have placed them below alongside the numbers that I think they came from, but I am just guessing.

[click image to read]

image link-to-watts-pastime-printer-no-01-sf0.jpg

The Pastime Printer, No. 1 (July 1956)

With an article by Watts on kerned type; its history and issues.

4pp and probably complete.

[click image to read]

image link-to-watts-pastime-printer-no-02-sf0.jpg

The Pastime Printer, No. 2 (Sept. 1956)

4pp, possibly incomplete.

[click image to read]

image link-to-watts-pastime-printer-no-03-sf0.jpg

The Pastime Printer, No. 3 (Dec. 1956)

4pp, possibly incomplete.

[click image to read]

image link-to-watts-latter-day-cadmus-eckman-sf0.jpg

"A Latter-Day Cadmus"

A very nice biographical sketch of Dr. James Eckman (the Doomsday Press, and a noted scholar of the history of type and printing).

4pp; a fragment? This probably belongs with No. 3 (based on paper size).

[click image to read]

image link-to-watts-pastime-printer-no-04-sf0.jpg

The Pastime Printer, No. 4 (March 1957)

Includes his "An Old Fogy's Lament," which he also printed as the Typophiles Monograph No. 51. Also two small engravings by John de Pol and a study of the periodicity of typeface popularity.

8pp, probably complete.

[click image to read]

image link-to-watts-pastime-printer-no-05-sf0.jpg

The Pastime Printer, No. 5 (June 1957)

Alphabetic sentences (abecedefs) from the collection of George F. Trenholm. Tracing "pack my bx" back to at least Goudy in 1904.

4pp, possibly incomplete.

The complete version of this probably contained "Type and Press and Tuberous Begonias" (for which see below).

[click image to read]

image link-to-watts-tuberous-begonias-sf0.jpg

Type and Press and Tuberous Begonias

Unexpected events while selling printing presses into a pansy ranch in the West.

4pp; a fragment? This probably belongs to No. 5 (based on weight of paper and on an old fold lining up).

[click image to go to page]

image link-to-watts-pastime-printer-no-06-photocopy-sf0.jpg

The Pastime Printer, No. 6 (Sept. 1957)

Thanks to Bob and Carole Mullen (Xanadu Press) for this number.

[click image to read]

image link-to-watts-pastime-printer-no-07-sf0.jpg

The Pastime Printer, No. 7 (Dec. 1957)

8pp, probably complete.

[click image to go to page]

image link-to-watts-pastime-printer-no-08-sf0.jpg

The Pastime Printer, No. 8 (March 1958)

Most of the numbers of The Pastime Printer were simply gathered without binding (Watts complains in No. 6 of the lack of an economical hand wire stitcher). The imposition of this number, however, is even more complex than usual. It has been reprinted in the PDF as successive pages, as if it were stitched, but really it doesn't work that way. The outermost two sheets, on green paper, constitute a booklet in their own right, with a "centerfold" of linoleum cuts. Inserted into this is an essentially independent sheet, "Getting Underway at the Privateer Press," which when considered separately has two facing showings of "Some Type Styles at the Privateer Press." It was printed for separate submission to the long-running " It's A Small World" serial. Inserted within that, and interrupting the type showing, is the final sheet, printed on only one side, which contains a note on home news and "Skyline Bend Scuttlebut." This "Scuttlebut" column is one of two contained in this number, as the green section has one as well - though of course it is possible that this final sheet is here in this copy by mistake.

Thanks to Bob and Carole Mullen (Xanadu Press) for this number.

[click image to read]

image link-to-watts-pastime-printer-no-09-sf0.jpg

The Pastime Printer, No. 9 (July 1958)

Kittypot Casting No. 3, 11-on-12 point Wayside Roman and Italic. Note Intermediate Capitals in addition to Small Capitals.

4pp, possibly incomplete.

[click image to read]

image link-to-watts-pastime-printer-no-10-sf0.jpg

The Pastime Printer, No. 10 (Dec. 1958)

4pp, possibly incomplete.

[click image to read]

image link-to-watts-skyline-scuttlebut-fischer-sf0.jpg

[fragment; Scuttlebut / Fisher article]

4pp; a fragment? This is probably from No. 9 or No. 10.

[click image to read]

image link-to-watts-pastime-printer-no-11-sf0.jpg

The Pastime Printer, No. 11 (July 1959)

Watts' recollections of the design and introduction of ATF Repro Script in 1954. Also, two words ("More than", on the first page) printed from type from an experimental casting by ATF of News Gothic Condensed in zinc.

Thanks to Bob and Carole Mullen (Xanadu Press) for this number.

[click image to read]

image link-to-watts-pastime-printer-no-13-sf0.jpg

The Pastime Printer, No. 13 (April 1961)

8pp, certainly complete (page numbers!) One headline set in 18 point Pacific (9th Kittypot Revival).

Thanks to Bob and Carole Mullen (Xanadu Press) for this number.

4. Other Printing

Perhaps the most significant printing Watts did other than The Pastime Printer was the collection of advertisements and specimens for his Kittypot Castings series (q.v.)

At the time he offered Kittypot Casting No. 4 (Pekin), he printed a short flyer with, I am sure, no intention at all to perplex a future bibliographer. Under the title "Delightes for Typewranglers and Bookwormes," it simultaneously is or contains a prospectus for Kittypot No. 2, a study in the unusual qualities of Pekin (Dormer) which permit its use both as a typeface of letters and of ornaments, a definition and history of "kittypot casting," and a listing of type (not all kittypot) and books (from his library) for sale. So where should such a document be filed?

Here is a PDF of the document as it was imposed. (But shown unfolded. It was given a double-perpendicular fold to turn it into an 8-page brochure.) To complicate matters, Watts printed it on a 9 1/2 by 11 inch sheet, which is larger than my scanner. Here, I've pieced it back together from multiple scans.

[click image to view larger]

image link-to-watts-typewranglers-kittypot-04-pekin-sf0.jpg

Typographers should note that this is a fairly sophisticated use of a double-perpendicular fold, with the color bar of "With a little Something For the Birds [who feed on bookwormes, no doubt]" carried over from the front page to the final page giving the price of that "little something," a font of 18 point Pekin for $7.70.

(When you click on the image above, you should get a PDF of the entire document as two imposed but not folded sheets.)

I'll reprint the Pekin showing by itself (and at a higher-resolution) in the Kittypot Casting No. 4 (Pekin) Notebook. I'll reprint the "Here is What is Meant by 'Kittypot Casting'" in the Kittypot Castings Notebook.

For now, here is lower-resolution image of the verso of the imposed sheet, followed by an order card. Curiously, these two came from different sources and have only now been re-united in the course of this research.

image link-to-watts-typewranglers-kittypot-04-pekin-0600rgb-verso-composite-sf0.jpg

[click image to read]

image link-to-watts-probably-a-kittypot-casting-order-card-through-13-sf0.jpg

The sheet, fortunately, explains the codes on the card: Nos, 1, 2, 3, and 6 are Kittypot Castings in various fontings. Nos. 4 and 5 are fonts of BB&S Modern Roman No. 64 and Italic. Nos. 7 - 13 are books from his library.

My thanks to Bob and Carole Mullen (Xanadu Press) for the "Delightes for Typewranglers..."

5. Kittypot Castings

Watts retired from ATF in 1954, and in 1957 began a series of subscription castings under the name Kittypot Castings. These continued through the early 1960s.

Lawson writes that "he started the scheme of 'Kitty Pot Casting,' in which he interests his friends in acquiring some of the unique types of the past. When he has enough orders, he inveigles ATF into dragging the mats out of the dungeon and recasting a few pot-fulls." {Lawson 1961} This is confirmed by Stephen O. Saxe and by Stan Nelson in postings to the LETPRESS mailing list on 1998-08-10.

Butler and Likeness say that "Nicknamed 'kittypot casting', the system calls for a printer or typesetter interested in a specific antique face to try to round up some friends and associates interested in the same font. IF sufficent number can be found, Watts will make arrangements with ATF for a special casting." {Butler 1959}

As of January 1959, he was said to have revived "half a dozen interesting faces" { The Publisher's Weekly }

Since I gathered the third-hand notes above, Bob Mullen (Xanadu Press) has written a lovely and informative article on Watts' "Kittypot Revivals". In it he reprints not only Watts' own explanation of the "kittypot" castings but also the specimens used to advertise them. Mullen's article is now the best reference available on Watts' Kittypot Castings.

See the Kittypot Castings Notebook for further notes.

6. Bibliography

[author unknown] "Steve Watts Retires from ATF After 35 Years." American Printer and Lithographer. Vol. 135, [number unknown] ([month unknown, 1954): 33.

Google Books snippet: "Box 226, front royal, Virginia is the new address of Steve Watts, recently retired director of topographic merchandising for American Type Founders. Steve's retirement is qualified by the ...

[author unknown] [article title unknown] The Publishers Weekly, Vol. 176, No. [unknown] ([date unknown]): [may be p. xxxix] [location unknown [Philadelphia?]: R. R. Bowker Company, Publishers' Board of Trade (U.S.), Book Trade Association of Philadelphia, 1959

Right now all I have is a Google Books snippet, which says: "presses he is carrying on his Kittypot Type Casting plan, under which he arranges for the casting of interesting but discontinued typefaces. As of last June he had made available — in limited quantities only — half a dozen interesting faces: ..."

Butler, Kenneth B. and George C. Likeness. Practical Handbook on Display Typefaces for Publication Layout. Mendota, IL: Butler Typo-Design Research Center, 1959.

{Hopkins 2014} E-mail from Richard L. Hopkins to DMM, 2014-11-26.

Hopkins cites an issue of Watts' Pastime Printer for the birth date of 1895.

[anon. but probably by] Lawson, Alexander. "Steve Watts, Happiest Retired Printer." Printer and Lithographer [sic] [volume, number, and page unknown] (March 1961).

Reprinted at Also reprinted in this present Notebook.

Lawson, Alexander. "Anatomy of a Type - Franklin Gothic." Printing Impressions. ["Typographically Speaking" column] (December 1968).

Online at

Watts, Steve L. Cool and Collected: The Pastime Printer / The Pastime Printer, in Song and Story, Published According to the True Original Copies. Front Royal, VA: The Privateer Press, 1960.

Woodcuts by John DePol. 1000 cpies. 12mo, 64 pages.

Watts, Stevens Lewis / Watts, Steve L. "Do You Want to Get In on this Kittypot Casting?: 18 point Original ..." 1957.

1 broadside, 28 x 22 cm, "accompanied by proof copies."; from the University of Virginia catalog. This would appear to be a prospectus for an 18 point casting in the Kittypot Castings series (perhaps 18 point Farmer Original Old Style or 18 point Pekin? I've seen it only via a Google Books citation and Worldcat listing with no snippet/preview available.

Note: The University of Virginia catalog entry for their copy lists him as "Steve L. Watts". The Google scan and citation list him as "Stevens Lewis Watts."

Watts, Steve L. For sale or swap! The undersigned takes this means of informing readers of our occasional intelligencer, The Pastime printer ... that our wholly owned subsidiary, the Privateer press ... offers for sale or trade, certain gear pertaining to the practice of printing ... (Front Royal, VA: The Privateer Press, 1956).

2 pp., dated "This the 8th day, September, 1956" Citation here from the University of Virginia catalog.

Watts, Stevens Lewis. Henry Lewis Bullen, Printer. Front Royal, VA: Privateer Press, 1960.

16 pp. "Also printed in The Pastime Printer in Song and Story (Front Royal, VA: Privateer Press, 1960): 46-58. This is cited by George Thomas Tanselle Guide to the Study of United States Imprints, Volume 1 (Harvard University Press / Belknap Press, 1971).

Watts, Steve L. The Pastime Printer [journal]

About the images

Select Resolution: 0 [other resolutions temporarily disabled due to lack of disk space]