Monday, July 10, 2023

Alphabets: Dan X. Solo, Man of a Thousand Faces

Dan X. Solo was born Daniel Xavier Killen on April 29, 1928, in Alameda, California, according to the California Birth Index at The transcribed birth information included his mother’s maiden name, Bernier. 

The 1930 United States Census recorded Solo and his mother, Evelyn, in the household of his maternal grandparents. They were Oakland, California residents at 2491 Kingsland Avenue. The name and status of Solo’s father is not known.

In the 1940 census they were at the same address. 

Solo was mentioned in the Oakland Tribune, July 26, 1940. 
Children Give Penny Show, Sell Lemonade to Help War Victims
A small boy walked into the Oakland Red Cross headquarters today, placed 73 cents on the counter and asked that it be sent to the war refugees in Europe.

He said his name was Dan Killen, and explained he had raised the money by giving a show for his neighborhood playmates in the basement of his home. ...
Solo attended Fremont High School. His talent show act was reported in the Oakland Tribune, April 17, 1944. 
... In the Scene of India, Dan Killen, attired in the costume of a magician of the Far East, presented an act designed to gain him the honor of representing his school. ...
On May 2, 1946, Solo signed his military service draft card. His address was 209 Van Ness Avenue in Watsonville, California. Solo’s description was six feet five inches, 132 pounds, with brown eyes and hair. He was employed at radio station KHUB. At some point his mother changed her name to Dale Orinda. Screenland, July 1941, published a contest entry from “Mrs. Dale Orinda, Oakland, Calif.” 

By 1949 Solo had changed his surname from Killen to Solo according to the 1949 Oakland city directory. Directories for 1947 and 1948 were not available at

The 1950 census said Solo and his mother were back in Oakland with his grandparents. His occupation was printer at a rubber stamp factory. 

The Oakland Tribune, June 12, 1951, listed marriage licenses issued. 
SOLO-BOSTICK—Daniel Xavier Solo, 23, Vallejo, and Beverly Clarinda Bostick, 21, Oakland.
The California Marriage Index, at, said they married on June 17, 1951. 

Oakland city directories, from 1953 to 1956, listed Solo at 3444 Joaquin Miller Road. In 1957 his address was 3400 Crane Way.

Solo contributed to Graphic Arts Monthly
May 1955: Offer New “Antiques”
November 1955: Hundred-Tear-Old Process 
December 1955: Anyone for 18-point Chess? 
January 1956: Cross-Stitch Patterns 
February 1956: Edison, the Printer 
August 1956: Whatever Happened to All Those Maidens? 
September 1956: Franklin’s Five-day Week 
October 1956: Pay No More! 
December 1956: Those Crazy Comps! 
June 1958: Removing Stuck Mats 
December 1959: Automation vs. Employment 
April 1960: Impression on Glass 
May 1960: Engravings While You Wait 
July 1960: What’s in a Name? 
October 1960: Roofreader Wanted 
January 1961: Typographic Rogues Gallery 
July 1961: Chinese—The Hard Way 
January 1964, Hot Lead in the Old West
May 1981, Boston’s “Period Piece Printer” Maintains Collection of Old Fonts

During the 1960s, Solo worked at AM radio station KSAY. He had a 12:30 afternoon show. 

Solo’s mother, Dale Orinda, was promotional manager and commercial manager at KSFM in Sacramento. 

1960 Broadcast Yearbook

Gene Gable wrote about Solo at Gable said Solo, in 1962, sent thousands of catalogs of his type collection to advertising agencies around the country. In 1974, Solo began a long association with book publisher Dover Publications. (In some circumstances, Dover books were difficult to photostat or photocopy. I cut off the spines of the books and put the covers and pages in binders.)

On May 1, 1982, Solo married Diane Haffner. 

Solo filed a trademark application for “Solotype” which was recorded in the Official Gazette of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, November 15, 1988. 

Solo was profiled by Josh Sens in the East Bay section of the San Francisco Chronicle, December 27, 2002, and concluded with the following.
… Unwanted Font: If Solo were forced to pick [a] favorite from his catalog of fonts, he’d probably go with Phidian, an ornate typeface from the Victorian era. But for a font that blends high form with function, Solo’s first choice is Palatino, which was created by the German designer Herman [sic] Zapf and isn’t loved by everyone. 

Solo once did work for well-known Berkeley poster artist David Goines, who insisted on steering clear of the even better-known font. 

“He told me, ‘There are only two things that I can’t stand,’” Solo says, “Goat cheese and Palatino.” 

Goat cheese and Palatino. Sounds a bit like a kinky East Bay Club. 
Solo passed away on May 15, 2012, in Oakland, California. An obituary appeared in the June 2012 newsletter of the Oakland Magic Circle.
President’s Message
Aloha, Dan X. Solo.
April 29, 1928 – May 15, 2012

The month of May made a great change for our club. Dan Solo passed away on May 15, 2012. If you have been coming around to the Oakland Magic Circle you would know Dan X. Solo. Dan and Diane joined the OMC due to their friendship with Fred and Manya Casto.

As Manya told me, Diane was a customer of Manya’s clothing store on Piedmont Ave and as they were talking, Diane mentioned that Dan performed Spook Shows and did Mind Reading. When Dan did a lecture for our club, he also stated that his mother was a Fortune Teller and that is where Dan learned his craft. Dan was also the proprietor of a typography shop in Oakland dedicated to unusual typography and special effects. He also has published numerous books on typeface design. Dan was the one responsible for the OMC membership cards every year, too.

Dan and Diane were inseparable. They traveled on cruse ships giving lectures, they went on adventures all around the world, performing, lecturing about the days of the carnival and mind reading, the spook shows of the ’40s and ’50s and, Dan’s love for collecting type faces.

Unfortunately, I did not know Dan all that well, but when we did have the chance to chat, his comments and observations opened up a whole new window to my magical knowledge.

Aloha, Dan.

Magically, Scott Alcalay

Further Reading and Viewing
Print, Dan X. Solo, Type Revivalist, Dies
Luc Devroye, Solotype
MyFonts, Dan X. Solo

(Next post on Monday: A Few New Details About Publisher M.C. Gaines and His Wife Jessie Kathryn Postlethwaite)

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