Tribute to Alf Becker From Signs of the Times magazine

February, 1959

In the January, 1932, issue of Signs of the Times, 27 years ago, a Roman alphabet by Alf R. Becker was presented as the first of a series. It was also the first appearance of the Art and Design Section of the magazine, which ultimately became the Display Art Section. When the late E. Thomas Kelley, at the time editor of ST, contacted Mr. Becker in St. Louis about doing the alphabets, he had estimated that a series of 24, running through two years, should serve the purpose.


Last month the January, 1959, issue presented the 320th alphabet of the series. How great a help Mr. Becker’s alphabets have been to signmen across the country was evidenced several years ago when it was stated that a particular alphabet was “the last of a series” (of that particular type). This was misinterpreted by some readers to mean that Mr. Becker was discontinuing his alphabets. The magazine received a large number of letters and comments urging that somehow he be induced to continue.
This is the first issue in many years without an Alf Becker alphabet. For the past several years, Mr. Becker has been continuing the series under serious handicap of ill health. In November it became necessary for him to be hospitalized, and he is most grateful for many friends in the industry who sent him cards and letters as a result of notice in Signs of the Times. It is hoped that he is now back at his home at 7983 S. Causeway boulevard, St. Petersburg, FL, and that he will soon be back in good health and can resume with all the vigor and skill that have characterized his work through the years.

Death Notice: Alf R. Becker From Signs of the Times magazine; April, 1959 issue
A chapter of almost 27 years of extensive influence upon the development if sign and outdoor advertising lettering came to a close March 10 in the passing of Alf R. Becker, whose alphabets had been presented consistently in Signs of the Times since January, 1932. Death came in St. Petersburg,. FL, where he had been hospitalized since last November. The funeral services were in St. Louis, March 16.

Mr. Becker had operated a commercial sign business in East St. Louis, IL., and was widely known for his lettering ability when requested 27 years ago by the late E. Thomas Kelley, then editor of Signs of the Times, to do a series of alphabets for the magazine. They had estimated that 24 alphabets which would be presented in a period of two years would serve the purpose. The series was so enthusiastically received and so many readers urged continuation that it was projected indefinitely to eventually each a total of 320 before failing health of Mr. Becker forced him to give up that creative work. His last alphabet for ST appeared in the January issue this year.

Countless are the signmen and women who broadened the horizons of their lettering ability by thorough study of Mr. Becker’s alphabet. In 1941, his book, “100 Alphabets” was published by Signs of the Times, and all 3,000 copies that were printed were sold out long ago. Numerous requests have been received for a reprinting, but in view of the changes of time in lettering styles, it has not been considered advisable.

Mr. Becker’s failing health in 1957 influenced him and Mrs. Becker moving to St. Petersburg, where they bought a home, and where he went into semi-retirement. His love of the sign business was such that he continued his alphabets in spite of the problems of his illness.

News of the passing of Alf R. Becker (ST, April, 1959, issue, page 114) has brought requests for reprinting a selection of his alphabets, especially some which are no longer available in sign company and personal files. There is a growing number of lettering men and women in the business who have never had an opportunity to study and practice some of his best creations, which were published long before they took up brush and pen. Stub Script was presented in two installments. The capitals appeared in the September, 1932, issue, and the lower case are round cornered, while flat edges with spurs on top are presented in the last two lines to provide a variation for bolder expression. ST would like top know how many readers would be interested in seeing some more reprintings of Mr. Becker’s alphabets and what general styles might be especially desired.

From Signs of the Times magazine; January, 1932 issue Other letter styles may come and go,
but the undeniable grace and beauty of the Roman alphabet from the appreciative eye.
This is the first in a series of alphabet interpretations by Artist Alf R. Becker.