Monday, March 27, 2023

Lettering: Victor Caruso, Photo-Lettering Inc. and ITC

Victor Andrew Caruso was born on December 17, 1919, in Tufo Di Minturno, Italy, according to his World War II draft card. On May 12, 1921, “Vittorio Caruso”, his mother and brother arrived in the port of New York. They traveled on the steamship Regina D Italia from Napoli. 

In the 1925 New York state census, Caruso was the second of four children born to Gervasio and Maria. His father was a coal man. The family resided in Manhattan at 401 East 121st Street.

The 1930 United States Census recorded Caruso, his parents, older brother, Ralph, two younger sisters, Letizia and Rose, and brother, Albert, at 451 East 116th Street in Manhattan. 

Caruso graduated from the High School of Commerce in 1937. 

According to the 1940 census, the Caruso family had grown to nine people. Their home was in the Bronx at 480 East 179th Street. Caruso was a checker at a department store. He earned $888 in 1939. His highest level of education was the fourth year of high school. 

On July 1, 1941, Caruso signed his World War II draft card. He lived with his parents at 450 East 175th Street in the Bronx. His employer was R. H. Macy & Co. Caruso was described as five feet nine inches, 170 pounds with brown hair, blue eyes and he wore glasses.

In Life with Letters—as They Turned Photogenic (1981), Edward Rondthaler wrote 
… in Victor Caruso we found a talented letterer whose early introduction to artistic pursuits dated back to his days as a member of the Boy’s Club of America. In depression years the membership fee was thoughtfully matched to a boy’s depressed pocketbook: 10¢ for six months. As fortune would have it, the club’s perceptive librarian sensed Vic’s talent and steered him into high school art courses, then to Pratt Institute and the National Academy of Art. In 1945 after V-E Day his buddies in arms rushed to get the first boat home, but Vic wisely resisted the temptation, remained in Paris, and studied at the Sorbonne’s Ecole de Beaux Arts. This prepared him for a ten year stint with the accomplished letterer Paul Beers in New York, following which he came to Photo-Lettering and mastered the exacting art of alphabet design. Vic is responsible for more than a thousand faces in Photo-Lettering’s library—a prodigious number; probably more than anyone in the world has ever drawn, and many of them among our best.
A marriage record at said Caruso married Ila M. Tullis on June 24, 1946 in Miller County, Arkansas. 

The 1950 census said Caruso was a commercial artist at a studio. He, his wife and two sons, Victor and John, lived in Waldwick, New Jersey at 16 Stuart Street. 

Caruso joined Photo-Lettering Inc. in the mid-1950s. The May-June 1958 issue of Print magazine featured an advertisement for Photo-Lettering’s Baskervale typeface which was designed by Caruso. 

1974, Friz Quadrata specimen book
… The bold weight adaptation of Friz Quadrata was executed by Victor Caruso, designer with Photo-Lettering Inc.

1976, ITC Korinna specimen book
… Enriching of the flavor and augmenting the letter into a useful series of four weights and an outline is the work of Ed Benguiat, Vic Caruso and the staff of Photo-Lettering, Inc. …

1976, ITC Bauhaus specimen book
ITC Bauhaus was inspired by the Universal typeface designed by Herbert Bayer. The prototypes for the face were created by him while he was a professor at the famed Bauhaus in Dessau, Germany. This distinctive sans serif family was rendered for ITC by Ed Benguiat and Vic Caruso of Photo-Lettering, Inc. …

1976, ITC Clearface specimen book
... In 1978, under license from American Type Founders Company to adapt the original designs for use in contemporary typography, ITC undertook to devote the care and in-depth study that the letterforms of this beautiful typeface truly deserve. To achieve this, ITC commissioned Victor Caruso, Alphabet Designer with Photo-Lettering, inc., to develop a full family of four weights with vigorous italics. ...

1976, ITC Kabel specimen book
... In 1975, under special license from D. Stempel AG, present owners of Kabel, ITC redesigned the original typeface as Rudolph Koch might have chosen to create his Kabel letterforms if the technology of film and phototypesetting had existed in his era. ...
U&lc., March 1978, published a chart of ITC Type Families including ITC Kabel which was designed by Photo-Lettering, Inc. ITC Kabel has been credited to Caruso.

1980, ITC Franklin Gothic specimen book
... In 1979, under license from American Type Founders, ITC undertook to fill this void by creating four new weights in roman and italic (Book, Medium, Demi and Heavy). ITC commissioned Victor Caruso to design these styles with instructions to match as closely as possible the pure characteristics of the original ATF Franklin Gothic. …

U&lc., March 1978

Caruso passed away on February 28, 2016, in New Jersey, according to the New Jersey Death Index at

Further Reading
Luc Devroye, Victor Caruso 

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