M & H Type Foundry

History of M & H Type

The foundry that today bears the name of M & H Type had its origin as a business established by George W. Mackenzie in San Francisco in 1915. A printer and Monotype operator by trade, Mackenzie came to San Francisco from Massachusetts to demonstrate Monotype equipment at the Panama Pacific International Exposition. After the fair was over, he acquired the machines he had exhibited and set up a trade composition plant, the Monotype Composition Company, the first in San Francisco to use Monotype.

Lewis Mitchell operating a Monotype casterUnder the ownership of George Mackenzie, the Monotype Composition Company was a solid concern for almost a decade, producing mainly tabular work: rate books, railroad tariff lists, etc. Then in 1924 Mackenzie took an imaginative, younger partner, Carroll Harris, and the business was eventually incorporated as Mackenzie & Harris.

No history of fine printing in California would be complete unless the name of Carroll T. Harris (1891-1975) figured prominently in it. Harris was convinced that the Monotype system was capable of much higher quality work than it was being used for. Gradually he changed the direction of the firm, first by conquering the advertising field, then by catering to the needs of the fine-printing community already established on the West Coast. The fame of Mackenzie & Harris spread far beyond California, with printers across the continent taking advantage of the quality of workmanship it offered and its large inventory of typefaces.

Harris became acquainted with type designers, typographers, printers, and bookbinders all over America and Europe. Soon he was providing much of the type for the great San Francisco printers of the day: John Henry Nash, Taylor & Taylor, the Grabhorn brothers, Lawton Kennedy, and others. Anticipating the needs of these customers, Harris began to collect the wide range of faces (with accented matrices in Romance and Germanic languages) that are part of M & H's holdings today. He was the first to bring to the United States the matrices for Bruce Rogers' Centaur and Frederick Warde's Arrighi, as well as the recut version of seventeenth-century Van Dijck. He established a close relationship with Frederic Goudy, America's most prolific type designer. Throughout his stewardship of the foundry, Harris enthusiastically added to his collection of typefaces. As late as 1963 he acquired the full range of matrices for Adrian Frutiger's Univers sans serif type, a daring investment.

With the onset of World War II, Carroll Harris was recalled to active duty in the United States Army (he had been commissioned second lieutenant in World War I). He served for the duration, mostly in San Francisco, and left the military with the rank of colonel, a title he retained for the rest of his life. George Mackenzie died in 1944, and Harris purchased his shares in the company. Illness forced Colonel Harris to retire shortly before his death in 1975. For over fifty years he had served the world of the book arts by maintaining the high standards he had set for his firm.

In 1975 Mackenzie & Harris was acquired by Othmar Peters and in the process it became the Mackenzie-Harris Corporation. Peters added computer typesetting to the services offered by the company. For more than a decade the foundry continued to operate as before, but in a diminished capacity. In 1988 Othmar Peters sold Mackenzie-Harris to Chang Park, a midwestern businessman who was not interested in the hot-metal division. For a time it appeared that the foundry would not survive the changing technology of the late twentieth century.

In March 1989 Andrew Hoyem, director of the Arion Press, bought the foundry, assuring the continuation of its services to the public. The experienced staff of craftsmen was retained and the operation given the name of M & H Type. Mackenzie-Harris Corporation went on with photo-composition until June 1994, when the balance of its assets was purchased by Andrew Hoyem for M & H Type, rejoining the equipment and personnel of the original company under one roof, along with Arion Press. New and old typefaces for handsetting, Monotype composition, and computer-generated composition have been acquired since 1989. Some additions to the Monotype library have been the magnificent families of Bell, Ehrhardt, Perpetua, and Romulus. In 2001, M & H Type moved into the Presidio.

In 2014 M & H Type came under the umbrella of the non-profit Grabhorn Institute, which conducts public tours of the foundry, pressroom and bookbindery and sponsors the apprecticeship program.