Monday, November 21, 2016

Lettering: Charles J. Strong and the Detroit School of Lettering






















The Detroit School of Lettering was founded by Charles Jay Strong who was born September 28, 1866 in Huntsville, Illinois. Strong’s birth date was recorded on his death certificate. However, a 1907 Catalogue of Copyright Entries had his birth year as 1865. Strong’s birthplace was based on the 1860 and 1870 census records.

1860 United States Federal Census
Huntsville, Illinois
Household Members:
Name / Age / Occupation
M D Strong, 54, Doctor (Strong’s paternal grandfather)
Laura Strong, 56,  (Strong’s paternal grandmother)
Daniel W Strong, 22, Printer (Strong’s paternal uncle)
M D Strong, 15, Farmer (Strong’s father)


1870 United States Federal Census
Huntsville, Illinois
Name / Age
Laura Strong, 56 (Strong’s paternal grandmother, a widow)
Marcus D Strong, 25 (Strong’s father)
Jennie Strong, 27 (Strong’s mother)
Charles Strong, 4
Hattie Strong, 2 (Strong’s sister)
















The Milwaukee Sign Works timeline said Strong apprenticed, in 1879, at Frank R. Grout Signs of Chicago.

1880 United States Federal Census
118 Sixth Street, Peoria, Illinois 
Name / Age / Occupation
MD Strong, 32, Wholesale Grocer
Jennie Strong, 38
Charles Strong, 14
Hattie Strong, 13
Willie Strong, 9
Fred Strong, 7
Walter Strong, 4
Joahana Dillon, 19
(Farther down is a short article about M.D. Strong in the 
Journal of the American Bankers Association, October 1910.)








1881 Peoria, Illinois, City Directory
Charles J Strong, Salesman M.D. Strong & Co., 118 Sixth








1885 Chicago, Illinois, City Directory
Charles J Strong, Sign Painter, 796 Fulton










1887 Chicago, Illinois, City Directory
Charles J Strong, Painter, 19 Walnut









1888 Chicago, Illinois, City Directory
no listing

1889 Chicago, Illinois, City Directory
Charles J Strong, Portraits, 38, 113 Adams (Art listing)
Charles J Strong, 38, 113 Adams, home at 796 Fulton











The Milwaukee Sign Works timeline said Strong’s new employer, in 1895, was P. Pause & Company in Chicago.

The Detroit Free Press, September 25, 1916, said the Detroit School of Lettering was founded in 1898. Descriptions in the American College and Private School Directory (1915) and Patterson’s American Educational Directory (1920) said the school was established in 1899. 

1900 United States Federal Census
90 North Sacramento, Chicago, Illinois
Household Members:
Name / Age / Occupation
C J Strong, 33, Sign Painter
Ida Strong, 32
Lawrence Strong, 12
Chas Strong, 10
















Strong’s father, a widower and commercial traveler, resided in Canton, Illinois at 30 West Pine Street. 

The Morning Herald
(Lexington, Kentucky)
June 2, 1901
A New Sign Painter
Louis H. Ramsey & Co. Have Secured the Service of an Expert from Chicago.
Messrs. Louis H. Ramsey & Co. have secured the services of Mr. Charles J. Strong, of Chicago, Ill., one of the best, if not the best, sign painter in that city—and Chicago is noted for its artistic sign painters—to take charge of their sign department. He will arrive Monday, bringing with him all the latest ideas in sign painting and designing. Mr. Strong was formerly foreman of the famous sign firm of F. R. Grout & Co., Chicago.

















The Morning Herald
(Lexington, Kentucky)
June 7, 1901
Expert Sign Painter
Charles J. Strong, the well-known sign writer, has arrived from Chicago, and is now connected with the firm of L. H. Ramsey & Co. Mr. Strong is said to be one of the best sign painters in the country, having been for many years foreman of the shop of F. R. Grout & Co., of the Windy City. His family will arrive next week.












The Morning Herald
(Lexington, Kentucky)
October 19, 1901
Election of N. U. Officers.
A new council of the National Union was instituted in the city last night. The following officers were installed: 
Vice President—Charles J. Strong





















1903 Detroit, Michigan, City Directory
Charles J Strong, Artist, 327 Hendrie av



September 16, 1903
Drummond Island Lumber Co., $25,000, and the Detroit School of Lettering, $5,000, filed articles of incorporation with the secretary of state here to day.

September 21, 1903
New Michigan Corporations
…Detroit School of Lettering, 

(Michigan)
September 25, 1903
With the Corporations
New Concerns Which Filed Articles During Past Week
Lansing, Mich., Sept. 21.—The following corporations filed article of association with the secretary of state during the past week: …Detroit School of Lettering, Detroit, $5,000…

September 30, 1903
Business in Brief
Articles of association of the Detroit School of Lettering were filed in the county clerk's office yesterday. There is a capital of $5,000, of which $3,303 has been...

Lettering plate; Egyptian. ump. 4. 71647
Detroit school of lettering, Detroit, Mich. A 71118, Oct. 24, 1903; 2 c. Oct. 24, 1903.

—Full block. ump. ills. 4. 71648
Detroit school of lettering, Detroit, Mich. A 69085, Sept. 25, 1903; 2 c. Sept. 25, 1903.

—Half block. ump. ills. 4. 71649
Detroit school of lettering, Detroit, Mich. A 69084, Sept. 25, 1903; 2 c. Sept. 25, 1903.

—Round full block. ump. ills. 4. 71650
Detroit school of lettering, Detroit, Mich. A 71117, Oct. 24, 1903; 2 c. Oct. 24, 1903.

1904 Detroit, Michigan, City Directory
Charles J Strong, President, 327 Hendrie av

The Book-Keeper and Business Man Magazine
December 1904































1905 Detroit, Michigan, City Directory
Detroit, School of Lettering The, C J Strong Pres, F H Farnsworth Sec and Treas, Lettering and Designing Taught by Correspondence, 17–18 Peninsular Bldg.



January 1905
Detroit School of Lettering advertisement

May 1905
Detroit School of Lettering advertisement

1906 Detroit, Michigan, City Directory
Detroit, School of Lettering The, Charles J Strong Pres, Frank H Farnsworth Sec and Treas, Lettering and Designing Taught by Correspondence, Butler Bldg, 82–84 Griswold. Tel



November 1906
Detroit School of Lettering advertisement

1907 Detroit, Michigan, City Directory
Detroit, School of Lettering The, Charles J Strong Pres, Frank H Farnsworth Sec and Treas, Lettering and Designing Taught by Correspondence, Dealers in Sign Writers Supplies, Butler Bldg, 82–84 Griswold. Tel Main 6350

Strong, Charles Jay, 1865–
The art of show card writing; a modern treatise on show card writing, designed as an educator in all branches of the art … With two hundred and fifty-six illustrations and thirty-two lettering plates, comprising all the standard ancient and modern styles. By Charles J. Strong … Detroit, The Detroit school of lettering, 1907.

2 p. 1., 7–209 p. illus. 23 1/2 cm.     7-21287
Copyright by Detroit school of lettering. Detroit, Mich. Class A, XXc, no. 178153, May 31, 1907. 2 copies rec'd May 31, 1907.     9404

(New York),
November 10, 1907
Detroit School of Lettering advertisement

(Washington, D.C.)
November 24, 1907
Detroit School of Lettering advertisement

The Cumulative Book Index
Marion E. Potter, Editor
H. W. Wilson Company, 1908
Strong, C: J. Art of show card writing. $2.50. ’07. Detroit school of lettering, Detroit, Mich.
Art of show card writing. Strong. C: J. $2.50. Detroit school of lettering, Detroit, Mich.
Strong, C: J. Art of show card writing. $2.50. ’07. Detroit school of lettering, Detroit, Mich.

1908 Detroit, Michigan, City Directory
Detroit, School of Lettering The, Charles J Strong Pres, Frank H Farnsworth Sec and Treas, Lettering and Designing Taught by Correspondence, Dealers in Sign Writers’ Supplies, 5–6 Butler Bldg, 82–84 Griswold. Tel Mich Main 6350.



July 8, 1908
Tuesday, August 4
Demonstration of card writing and lettering by Charles J. Strong, of the Detroit School of Lettering, Detroit, Mich. 

1909 Detroit, Michigan, City Directory
Charles J Strong, President, Detroit School of Lettering, 50 Holbrook









Michigan Death Certificate
Name: Charles J Strong
Birth Date: September 28, 1866
Birthplace: Illinois
Occupation: Sign Instructor
Death Age: 44 years, 8 months, 18 days
Death Date and Place: April 15, 1910, Detroit, Michigan
Cause of Death: Apoplexy
Name of Father: M D Strong
Maiden Name of Mother: Ida Crane [sic; maiden name of wife]
Burial: Woodlawn
Witness: Lawrence Strong




















1910 United States Federal Census
50 Holbrook Avenue, Detroit, Michigan
Household Members:
Name / Age / Occupation
Charles J Strong, 44, Sign Writer/Teacher
Ida Strong, 42
Lawrence S Strong, 22, Artist/School of Lettering
Charles J Strong, 10
Isabell Strong, 8
Dorothy Strong, 5
George C Strong, 5 months
Mary Kurth, 19
(Census was enumerated April 25, ten days after Strong’s death.)






1910 Detroit, Michigan, City Directory
Charles J Strong (aged 45) died April 15, 1910
Ida Strong  (Widow Charles J Strong), 50 Holbrook av









* * * * * 


After Strong’s death, his oldest son, Lawrence Stuart Strong, carried on the business. Lawrence was born in Chicago, Illinois, on May 1, 1888, according to his birth certificate, World War I and II draft cards. He married Amanda Duffy on September 8, 1910, in Detroit. When Lawrence signed his World War I draft card, he was president of the Detroit School of Lettering. The 1920 and 1930 censuses recorded his occupation as commercial artist. According to Lawrence’s World War II draft card, he was employed at Nelson Associates, 1959 East Jefferson, Detroit. Lawrence passed away May 10, 1977 in Livonia, Michigan.

Strong (Charles J.) Strong's book of designs…by Chas. J. Strong and L.S. Strong. Detroit, Michigan, The Detroit school of lettering, 1910. [90] sheets. plates (part. col.) obi. 12mo. $5.00. [14924
© June 15, 1910; 2 c. June 24, 1910; A 268165; Detroit school of lettering. Detroit, Mich.

Detroit School of Lettering, 1910

October 1910
“Until January 1st, 1910, the Detroit School of Lettering had in its employ a traveling representative named M.D. Strong. On the date mentioned Strong's services were dispensed with, but he has never surrendered his samples, literature, etc. We are advised that Strong is now visiting a number of his former customers and has succeeded in getting them to cash checks purporting to be signed by the Detroit School of Lettering and drawn on a Detroit bank (M). Warrants have been sworn out for his arrest in Greensboro, N.C.; Little Rock, Ark.; San Diego, Cal.; Baltimore, Md., and Detroit, Mich. Strong is described as 68 years of age, medium height, slender build, long gray mustache and is said to be a smooth, convincing talker.”

For many years, advertisements for the Detroit School of Lettering and Strong’s books appeared in numerous publications.

February 1911

July 20 1912
(Scroll down to pages 36 and 37.)
































Merchants Record and Show Window
January 1913

February 1913
Brush Lettering.
“I am desirous of taking a course in brush lettering, including a thorough study of letters. Can you refer me to a course of this kind?
Answer. — Charles J. Strong, Detroit School of Lettering, Detroit, Michigan.

Merchants Record and Show Window
July 1913



(Washington, D.C.)
September 21, 1913

November 1913

January 1914

Detroit School of Lettering-82-84 Griswold. L. S. Strong. Pres.

Educational Aid Society, 1915
Detroit, Mich.; sign-painting and designing; est. 1899; Chas. J. Strong, Pres.

July 1915

August 1915



January 1916

January 29, 1916

May 1916



L.S. Strong, President of the Detroit School of Lettering writes as follows: ...

August 1916

Detroit School of Lettering, 1917

January 15, 1917
Largest School for Lettering
Practical Educational Institute Equips Students to Earn Good Wages.

Cartoons Magazine
July 1917































STRONG (Charles J.) Strong’s book of designs, by Chas. J. Strong and L. S. Strong. New and enl. ed. Chicago, F. J. Drake & company, 1917. 92 l. ills. (part col.) obi. 8vo. [1081
© Dec. 28, 1917; 2 c. Jan. 4, 1918; aff. Jan. 14, 1918; A 490370; Frederick J. Drake & co., Chicago.

May 1918

E.C. Matthews
J.S. Ogilvie Publishing Company, 1920
The back of the book carried several pages of lettering books including Strong’s Art of Show Card Writing (New Edition) by Chas. J. and L.S. Strong and Wm. Hough [sic] Gordon.

American Educational Co., 1920
Detroit School of Lettering; sign-painting and show card writing; corr.; est. 1899; Lawrence S. Strong, President.

A Collection of Drawings and Description of Store Window Backgrounds
George John Cowan
The Dry Goods Reporter, 1912 (revised 1920)

May 1921
The style of the accompanying alphabet (capitals and lower case) is known as modern italic and is a practical and artistic letter. It was designed by Mr. Chas. J. Strong, of Detroit, Mich., and it constitutes a practical, 

November 1929


Related Posts
Lettering: Modern and Foreign
Samuel Welo

(Next post on Thursday: Happy Thanksgiving, 1918)

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