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Boston College collection of George F. Trenholm

Collection MS-1994-038: Boston College collection of George F. Trenholm


  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1886 - 1958
  • Creation: 1787 - 1958

Scope and Contents

The Boston College collection of George F. Trenholm consists of a wide range of materials relating to graphic design and typography in the first half of the twentieth century, including both the creative works of Trenholm and materials acquired by him in the course of his design career.

Trenholm’s creative work is represented by samples of his graphic designs, typefaces, advertising work, greeting cards and calligraphy. Materials document every phase of the design process, from early mock-ups to final proofs and their printing plates. His design work is further documented in his own words through correspondence, notes, talks, and published articles. Trenholm’s writings are complemented by articles published about him in trade publications during his lifetime.

The collection also comprises materials used by Trenholm in the process of his creative work. Of note are materials relating to his fellow designers F. W. Goudy, W. A. Dwiggins, Theodore B. Hapgood, and Beatrice Warde. Trenholm collected numerous keepsakes--hand lettered mementos of professional meetings and gatherings, often autographed--which together provide an informal history of the typographic industry. His collected materials further document the breadth of the design industry of his era through specimen advertising pages and paper samples.


Restrictions on access

Collection is open for research.

Restrictions on use

These materials are made available for use in research, teaching and private study, pursuant to U.S. Copyright Law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source. The original authors may retain copyright to the materials.

Biographical Note

George Francis Trenholm, typographer and graphic artist, was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts on October 23, 1886. After graduation from Somerville High School in 1905, he studied with painter Charles E. Heil at the Norman Art School, with graphic artist Vojetch Preissig at the Wentworth Institute, and at the Massachusetts Normal Art School. While studying, he worked in advertising for Boston jewelers Bigelow, Kennard Company, then in the art department for a color printer, and finally in sales for an engraver.

By 1917 Trenholm had established his own design studio in Boston. He gained prominence in the field of graphic design through his innovative advertisements, demonstration books for paper companies, and hand lettered designs for keepsakes. He also designed typefaces, starting in 1927 with his eponymous Trenholm Old Style, Trenholm Cursive, and Trenholm Bold, all of which became standards in the industry. He also created Georgian Cursive (1934) for the Machine Composition Company, followed by a book face, Cornell (1936). In 1940 he became a consultant for the Intertype Corporation, designing Egmont Initials and Nova Script, as well as others for the company. His distinctive "GFT" trademark was widely known in graphic design and typography over a forty-year career.

Trenholm served as President of the Boston Society of Printers and was one of the organizers of the Book Builders Society (later Bookbuilders of Boston). He also taught book design for the Massachusetts Department of Education Vocational Division in Norwood, Massachusetts. He was a member of numerous professional organizations including the American Institute of Graphic Arts, the Boston Club of Printing House Craftsmen, the Typophiles, and the Stowaways. For many of these organizations he also designed keepsakes, newsletters, and pamphlets. In both 1941 and 1942 he was chosen as reviewer of the Tileston and Hollingsworth paper company’s design calendar, an annual event hosted by the Printing House Craftsmen. Trenholm's chief accomplishments were listed in both Who's Who in Art and Who's Who in Printing in the United States and Canada.

Trenholm died December 21, 1958.


Falk, Peter H. Who Was Who in American Art 1564-1975: 400 Years of Artists in America. Madison, CT: Sound View Press, 1999.

Falk, Peter H. Who Was Who in American Art: Compiled from the Original Thirty-four Volumes of American Art Annual--Who's Who in Art, Biographies of American Artists Active from 1898-1947. Madison, CT: Sound View Press, 1985.

Jacobsen, Anita. Jacobsen's Biographical Index of American Artists: Artists Native to the United States or Working in the United States from 1606 to 2002. Carrollton, TX: A.J. Publications, 2002.


21.5 Linear Feet (24 containers)

Language of Materials



The work of early-twentieth-century Boston-area typographer and graphic designer George F. Trenholm is documented through this collection of samples of his designs, as well as articles about his work. A limited amount of his design correspondence, talks, and engagement with professional organizations such as the Society of Printers and the Boston Club of Printing House Craftsmen is included. The collection also contains Trenholm's reference materials on design and designers, including W. A. Dwiggins, Frederic Goudy, Theodore Hapgood, and Beactrice Warde.


Organized in two series: I. Created By Trenholm, and II. Collected graphic design resources.

Series I is further divied into five subseries: A. Correspondence, B. Designs, C. Ephemera and artifacts, D. Professional organizations, and E. Writings.

Series II is further divided into two subseries: A. About designers, and B. About graphic design and typography.


Because the current accessioning system was not used until January 1986, it is not possible to know exactly the dates of acquisition of materials received before that time. However, correspondence on file indicates that portions of the Trenholm materials were gifts of Intertype Company, a Division of Harris-Intertype Corporation; S. D. Warren Company; and Irving Hoffman, in 1964-1965. Some of Trenholm's library of books and pamphlets in the fields of typography and calligraphy were a gift of Mrs. Winfred Doyle, 1964.

Related Materials

Bookbuilders of Boston, MS.1988.012, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Boston College collection of David Jones, MS.1986.001, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Boston College collection of Eric Gill, MS.1986.139, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Separated Materials

Published works associated with this collection have been transferred within the Burns Library and can be found in the Boston College Library catalog.

Numerous published articles by and about Trenholm are found in the cataloged serials New England Editor and Printer and Who's Who in the Composing Room.

Boston College Collection of George F. Trenholm
1787-1958 (bulk 1886-1958)
David Kern, 1995; reprocessing by Lynn Moulton
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the John J. Burns Library Repository

John J. Burns Library
Boston College
140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill MA 02467 United States