Monday, April 1, 2024

Lettering: Peter Dom, Cartoonist, Lettering Artist and Type Designer

Cover courtesy of Jon B. Cooke

Peter Dom was born Peter Domboorajian on October 18, 1897, in Tehran, Persia, now known as Iran. His parents were Rev. Mihran Domboorajian and Shushan VartanArticles and photographs of his parents are at the Ann Arbor District Library

Bible Society Record, February 1911

Several books, as early as 1990, said Dom’s birth surname was Dombrezian. The Dombrezian name has not been found during Dom’s lifetime or on any government documents. It’s not known who or what was the source of the misspelling. Some of the books using Dombrezian are The LaserJet Font Book (1990), Typographic Milestones (1992), American Metal Typefaces of the Twentieth Century (1993), and American Type: Design & Designers (2004). 

A passenger list, at, said “ten-year-old” Dom (line 5) was aboard the steamship Caronia when it departed Liverpool, England on May 31, 1910. He was accompanied by an uncle (line 3). Dom arrived in the port of New York on June 7, 1910. His destination was Petoskey, Michigan. 

Dom was in the class of 1917 at Ann Arbor High School in Michigan. He was listed in the Catalogue of the Ann Arbor High School for the Academic Year 1914–1915 and 1915–1916. Dom contributed illustrations and cartoons to the school’s yearbook, The Omega. The art was signed “Peter Dom”. 

The 1916 yearbook said 
Prizes were offered in the early part of the season for Drawings, Stories, Poems, Snapshots and Jokes, and the Editors were rewarded with an abundance of good material from which to make their selections. Of the three prizes for Drawings, Peter Domboorajian received first for his heading entitled Dramatics, ... 
The 1917 Ann Arbor, Michigan city directory listed Dom, a student, at 616 Church. 

On September 12, 1918, Dom signed his World War I draft card. His address was 163 East Ontario Street in Chicago, Illinois. He was described as slender build, medium height with gray eyes and black hair. Dom’s employer was Will Ransom. Print, October 1953, said Ransom “had a series of young apprentices, among the most promising of whom were Peter Dom and Edmond C. Hunt. …” 

The 1920 United States Census counted the Domboorajian family in Ann Arbor at 616 Church Street. Dom, line 26, was the fourth of seven siblings. He was an artist at Will Ransom’s studio. 

On July 12, 1923, Dom married Irma Haefeli in Cook County, Illinois, probably at Chicago. Sometime after the marriage Dom stopped using his birth surname, Domboorajian. 

Dom was the lettering and design instructor at the National Academy of Commercial Art. 

Chicago Daily News, August 27, 1924

Chicago Daily News, September 6, 1924

Chicago Daily News, September 17, 1924

Chicago Daily News, September 24, 1924

The Bulletin of the Art Institute of Chicago, January 1926, listed Dom’s wife as a new life member. 

Dom’s lettering credit was in the Chicago Chapter of the American Institute of Graphic Arts’ 1927 Exhibit of Fine Printing Produced in Chicago

Editor & Publisher, June 9, 1928, said 
Greene Studios Move
The Greene Studios have moved to 90 Carnegie Hall, Cleveland, O. Howard W. Strange, formerly with Burleigh Withers and Peter Dom, both of Chicago, have joined Greene and specializes in lettering and layout arrangements. 
The 1930 census listed Dom (line 86), his wife, son, Jay, and daughter, Ramona, in Chicago at 431 Oakdale Avenue. Dom was an artist in the advertising field.

In 1932 Dom moved to New York City. The New York Sun, October 5, 1932, said 
... E. R. Munn & Co., Inc., leased apartments in the Gilford, 140 East Forty-sixth street, to ... Peter Dom ...
Dom moved his family to Larchmont, New York. The New York Evening Post, September 15, 1933, said
The Houghton Company leased for Clement J. Todd his house at 39 Valley Road, in the Larchmont Woods section of Larchmont, to Peter Dom.
The Larchmont Times, June 27, 1935, said 
Mr. and Mrs. Peter Dom of Valley Road and their children have been spending the month of June at the Bevan and leave soon for their future home in Chicago, Ill.
The Larchmont Times, July 22, 1937, said
Mr. and Mrs. Peter Dom of 104 Edgewood Avenue, Town, returned last Wednesday with their children Jay and Ramona, from a stay of a week and a half in Chicago.
Dom (line 28), without his family, visited the Bahamas. He arrived in the port of New York on March 4, 1938. His address was 241 East 39th Street in Manhattan. 

Dom’s father passed away on June 9, 1939. 

The Daily Argus (Mount Vernon, New York) and Herald Statesman (Yonkers, New York), September 7, 1939, reported the following.
Woman Asks Alimony of $150 Weekly Until Divorce Suit Is Tried
White Plains—Asserting that her husband maintains an apartment in New York with another woman, Mrs. Irma Dom, of 1 Cedar Street, Bronxville has asked Supreme Court Justice Graham Witschief to award her temporary alimony of $150 weekly pending her divorce action from Peter Dom, nationally known commercial artist.

Mrs. Dom said five persons surprised her husband with the other woman at the apartment a short time ago. Mr. Dom asserts that the corespondent named is a business associate, and that they were preparing material for the publication of a magazine. Mrs. Dom places her husband’s income at more than $10,000 a year.

The couple were married in Chicago in 1923 and have two children, Ramona, who was graduated from Bronxville Junior High School last Spring, and a son who is a student in a North Carolina private school.
Dom has not yet been found in the 1940 census. The census said his former wife and two children resided in Bronxville, New York. Jay became a commercial artist while Ramona found work in comic books and the comic strip, Brenda Starr. In 1948 she married future New Yorker cartoonist Dana Fradon.

On February 16, 1942, Dom signed his World War II draft card. His address was Long Neck Road in Noroton, Connecticut. Dom was five feet seven inches, 155 pounds, with gray eyes and black hair. His second wife was Alice. Dom’s office, Peter Dom and Associates, was in Manhattan at 441 Lexington Avenue. One of the associates was his brother, Sam, who also shortened his surname to Dom.

Sam signed his card on October 16, 1940

Dom’s question (number three) was chosen for a Piel’s Beer advertisement printed in the Buffalo Evening News (New York), May 7, 1942.

According to John Lester’s Gas Light column, in the New Orleans Item (Louisiana), April 3, 1947, Dom was hospitalized in New Orleans.
... That Peter Dom, now re-cuping here in Baptist Hospital, is nephew to Vartan Dombourian and he came all the way from New York to be hospitalized because of the salesmanship job he got from certain Orleanians. Dom, by the way, is a big-time commercial artist in the Big Town ...
Dom’s mother passed away on October 9, 1947. 

According to the 1950 census, Dom (line 19) and Alice lived at 140 East 46th Street in Manhattan. He was a commercial artist working in advertising.

Dom’s first wife passed away on June 29, 1952. The Bronxville Review-Press (New York), July 2, 1952, said
Funeral services for Mrs. Irma Helen Dom, of 51 Parkway Road, who died Sunday in Lawrence Hospital after a short illness, were held Tuesday at the chapel of Ferncliff Cemetery. Mrs. Dom, who had made her home in Bronxville for the past fourteen years, was in her fifty-third year.

A native of Chicago, Ill., she was the daughter of Mrs. Louisa Haefeli and the late John Haefeli. 

In addition to her mother and a son, Jay R. Dom, both of Bronxville, she leaves a daughter, Mrs. Ramona Fradon of New York City.
Dom and his brother, Sam, created alphabets for Photo-Lettering, Inc. They were displayed in Photo-Lettering’s One Line Manual of Styles (1971).

Alphabets by Peter Dom

Pete Dom Twixt (Casual)
Pete Dom Sunny Light
Pete Dom Husky, Darky, Bias, Pisa, Tilt
Pete Dom Sunny Light Oblique
Pete Dom Grotesk Condensed 2
Pete Dom Grotesk Condensed 3
Pete Dom Grotesk Condensed 4
Pete Dom Grotesk Condensed 6
Pete Dom Grotesk Condensed 7
Pete Dom Grotesk Condensed 9, Grotesk Condensed 10
Pete Dom Franklin Gothic
Pete Dom Grotesia 2, Grotesk 2 (Sam Dom),
Grotesk 3, Grotesia 3, Grotesia 4, Grotesk 4
Pete Dom Grotesk 5, Grotesia 5
Pete Dom Grotesk 7, Grotesia 7, Grotesia 9,
Grotesk 9, Grotesia 10, Grotesk 10, Grotesk 11
Pete Dom Grotesk Italic 2, Grotesk Italic 3,
Grotesk Extra Bold Italic, Grotesk Italic 9
Pete Dom Duo 2
Pete Dom Duo 4, Duo 6, Duo 7
Pete Dom Gothic
Pete Dom Dominion 4, Dominion 6, Dominion 8,
Dominion 10
Pete Dom Grotesk Condensed Open A
Pete Dom Grotesk Shaded C, Grotesk Shaded A,
Grotesk Dropshadow B 
Pete Dom Grotesk Dropshadow D

Alphabets by Sam Dom

Sam Dom Opta Americana Condensed 5,
Opta Americana Condensed 6
Sam Dom Opta Americana Condensed 7
Sam Dom Opta Americana 3
Sam Dom Opta Americana 4, Opta Americana 5
Sam Dom Opta Americana 6, Opta Americana 7,
Opta Americana 8
Sam Dom Opta Americana 10
Sam Dom Opta Americana 11
Sam Dom Clarendon Condensed Italic 1, Clarendon
Condensed Italic 3, Clarendon Condensed Italic 5,
Clarendon Condensed Italic 7, Clarendon Condensed Italic 9 
Sam Dom Clarendon Italic 1, Clarendon Italic 3
Sam Dom Clarendon Italic 5, Clarendon Italic 7,
Clarendon Italic 9
Sam Dom Torino Italic 7, Milano Swash Italic 7,
Torino Swash Italic 7
Sam Dom Milano Italic 7
Sam Dom Torino Italic 7, Milano Italic 8, Torino Italic 8
Sam Dom Milano Swash 7, Torino Swash Italic 7,
Torino Swash Italic 9, Milano Swash Italic 9
Sam Dom Times-Opta 3, Times-Opta 4, Times-Opta 5
Sam Dom Times-Opta 6, Times-Opta 8, Times-Opta 10
Sam Dom Heritage Condensed 2, Heritage 2
Sam Dom Heritage Condensed 3, Heritage Condensed 7
Sam Dom Heritage 2, Heritage 3, Heritage 4
Sam Dom Heritage Classic Italic 2, Heritage Lining
Italic 2, Heritage Classic Italic 3, Heritage Lining Italic 3,
Heritage Classic Italic 4, Heritage Lining Italic 4
Sam Dom Grotesque Outline A

In Alter Ego #69, June 2007, Dom’s daughter, Ramona, was interviewed and answered a question about her father.
He was a freelance lettering man. He designed among other things, the Elizabeth Arden, Camel, and Lord and Taylor logos—ones you still see around. And what else did he do? He designed type faces: the Dom Casual font, among others.
In Comic Book Creator #13, Fall 2016, Ramona said in an interview:
My father was a commercial lettering man. He designed the Elizabeth Arden and Camel logos—some of the things that you still see around. I think Elizabeth Arden has a new one now, but they used my father’s version for years. He also lettered the Lord & Taylor logo ... lettering men like my father began to design fonts that were made into typefaces. So, instead of hiring a lettering man, they’d use these fonts, as they do today. My father designed the Dom Casual and other typefaces and everybody told him not to do it because it would put them all out of business. And it did.
Dom was featured on the cover of Good News!, October-November 1951, which said
A little more about Peter Dom, whose picture appears on the front cover. He was born of Armenian parentage in Tehran, Iran (Persia). He attended American missionary schools until the age of twelve, when he came to the United States. After graduating from the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, Mr. Dom became a cartoonist and a commercial artist. Later he served an apprenticeship in lettering under Will Ransom, type designer. 
Mr. Dom has been free-lancing since 1925. He has been located in New York since 1932. He lives in Manhattan. His hobbies are golf, fishing and bridge.

He served with the Tank Corps of the United States Army in World War I. He is married and has a son and a daughter, both of whom are artists.
Print, January 1952, described the creation of Dom Casual. 
Dom Casual is answer to a hunch that a good market awaited the production of a type face resembling freehand lettering, such as is now commonly used in advertising headlines.

Having come to this conclusion, Steve Watts of American Type Founders set out to find the man best qualified to design such a type face.

Peter Dom was chosen because his many years’ experience in working with advertising agencies had helped him develop a natural talent for a free and easy style of hand lettering. It has been used by numerous national advertisers.

A photo alphabet of some of Mr. Dom’s best free-hand letters was studied by members of the Advertising Typographers Association and also submitted to the National Board on Printing Type Faces. Both groups approved the letter designs. So Dom Casual was born.

It would have taken a minimum of two years to make the pattern plates and matrices for the six sizes of Dom Casual now available if the usual method had been employed. Walter Russ developed a new method of making pattern plates from which matrices are cut. This involves the use of well known etching techniques, which, have not heretofore been used in making pattern plates.

The method permits a far more faithful reproduction from the artist’s original drawings, and reduces the time required to make the plates and matrices from years to months. …
Print, June–July 1954, explained Photo-Lettering Inc.’s role in Dom Casual’s creation. 
... By photographing alphabets on glass plates, Photolettering has been able to accumulate more alphabet styles—some 3000 of them—than is available in so compact and small a space anywhere else in the world. The making of new plates, and testing commercial uses for given alphabet styles, has become a major facet of Photolettering’s day to day operations. One day in 1950, Photolettering got a call from the American Type Foundry concerning a new alphabet design by Peter Dom that had been in use for about a year in Photolettering projects. The type foundry wanted Photolettering to select a variation of this style (“Dom Twixt”) [below], which would have the best qualities for being cut into a standard type face. Prints of several letters so selected were sent to the type foundry, which cut metal type after the photolettered copies and decided to negotiate with the designer for permission to cut the entire alphabet. Satisfactory terms were arrived at (this letter is known as ATF’s “Dom Casual”) and today Photolettering, Inc., has become a testing ground for type foundries not only in the United States but in Europe as well. ...

Notice of Dom Casual’s availability was printed in Printing Equipment Engineer, September 1951; The Inland Printer, October 1951; The Photo-Lithographer, October 1951; and The Reporter of Direct Mail Advertising, October 1951.

The release of Dom Diagonal was announced in Graphic Arts Monthly, September 1952; The Inland Printer, September 1952; Advertising Age, September 1, 1952; and Printing Equipment Engineer, October 1952. 

Dom Bold was available in 1953 according to Advertising Requirements, October 1953; Art Director & Studio News, October 1953; and Printing Equipment Engineer, October 1953. 

The Official Gazette of the United States Patent Office, June 29, 1954, published patent applications for Dom Casual and Dom Diagonal.

The Inland Printer, February 1952, profiled Dom. Dom was a subject in American Printer, November 1952. The article said he had worked at J.M. Bundscho

Dom was mentioned in Art Director & Studio News, October 1955 (advertisement); The Inland Printer, August 1956; Art Direction, May 1957 (advertisement below included his son, Jay); Art Direction, January 1958; Art Direction, July 1959; and Art Direction, March 1960 (advertisement). 

Dom’s cover lettering credits were in the Catalog of Copyright Entries, Third Series, Volume 10, Part 1, Number 2, Books and Pamphlets, July–December 1956, and the Catalog of Copyright Entries, Third Series, Volume 12, Part 1, Number 1, Books and Pamphlets, January–June 1958 here (Rainy Day Fun below) and here.

Dom’s lettering for a Lipton Soup advertisement was featured in Letter Design in the Graphic Arts (1960). 

Dom was mentioned in the Official Gazette of the United States Patent Office, February 7, 1961.
List of Design Patentees
Dom, Peter, to F. P. Mitten. Font of three-dimensional display letters. 189,784. 2–7–61. Cl. D64—12. 
At some point, Dom was in Los Angeles, California, where his son lived. Dom passed away on April 19, 1962. He was laid to rest at the Los Angeles National Cemetery. Art Direction, July 1962, said 
Peter Dom, Lettering Artist/Type Designer, 65. Born in Tehran, Persia, he arrived here in 1912 [sic]. He designed alphabets and “Dom Grotesque” for Photo Lettering Inc., and “Dom Casual” for American Type Founders.

Dom’s brother passed away on July 30, 1994 and laid to rest at Washtenong Memorial Park and Mausoleum. The Miami Herald (Florida) August 3, 1994, said 
Dom, Samuel Paul born 1910 passed away July 30, 1994. Husband of the late Beverley; Uncle to Jay Dom, Richard Atamian of California; Rucha Robinson of Paris, France; Elizabeth Watson, Ramona Fradon of New York; Donald Ronald and Robert Haig as well as Robert Atamian of Michigan and to the many friends in the Miami area and Miami Beach area. God’s care and rest well friend.
Ann Arbor High School, 1927

Dom’s son passed away on October 4, 1997. The Statesman Journal (Salem, Oregon), October 7, 1997, said 
Silverton—Jay Dom, 72, died Saturday. The cause of death was unavailable. 

He was born in Chicago and served in the Army during World War II. He owned a commercial art business in California for 30 years, retiring in 1985. He was president of Western Advertising Golfers and enjoyed bowling, playing pool and his dog, Norman. His wife, Judy, whom he married in 1957, died in 1974. 

Survivors include his daughters, Andrea Ralston of Longmont, Colo., Heidi Dom of Ventura, Calif., Lucie Olson of Silverton; son, Peter; sister, Mony Fradon of New York; and many stepgrandchildren. Memorial services will be held later. Arrangements are by Unger Funeral Chapel in Silverton.
Bronxville High School, 1943

Dom’s daughter passed away on February 24, 2024. An obituary appeared in The New York Times, February 29, 2024. 

Bronxville High School, 1944

Further Reading and Viewing
Dom’s fonts are mentioned in the following pre-1990 books.
Pen & Brush Lettering & Alphabets: 50 Alphabets arranged in eight sections for students & designers (1970) 

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