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Author Topic: The LeHay font  (Read 2152 times)


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The LeHay font
« on: September 23, 2021, 01:56:27 PM »

The LeHay font that Maine used is something of a novelty.

Is there any history available of its origin? Google is not much help. Mostly pictures of signs with the font, and an offer to redirect to the Leahy font which is the official font of Notre Dame athletics.

I'm a bit surprised some amateur fontographer hasn't created a replica the way they have for the FHWA font or Clearview.

2021 Western road trip Day 6 - 047 by H.B. Elkins, on Flickr

I shot this in West Yellowstone. It looks an awful lot like LeHay to me.

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Re: The LeHay font
« Reply #1 on: September 23, 2021, 02:02:32 PM »

I'm a bit surprised some amateur fontographer hasn't created a replica the way they have for the FHWA font or Clearview.

I'm assuming the reason behind that is that there are too many small variations, or that it wasn't very well documented, or a combination of both.


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Re: The LeHay font
« Reply #2 on: September 23, 2021, 02:17:13 PM »

Massachusetts used to use it as well but it has gone extinct on state route shields.

MA 113 in West Newbury, replaced in 2015, https://goo.gl/maps/1VYPWvxhK2ivR8Qe8
MA 150 in Amesbury had one that may still exist, but the GSV is from 2008 and predictably is so bad you can't even make out the shield on it.
MA 38 in Tewksbury had one into the late 90's as well that I remember as a kid.

The city of Gloucester has a copious amount of signs still using it, especially along MA 127 in the Lanesville and Annisquam sections of the city. An example, https://goo.gl/maps/EEx4gpFKftorjx1U9

To answer your question HB, I have no idea about the history of it, nor have I ever been able to find anything about it.


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Re: The LeHay font
« Reply #3 on: September 23, 2021, 02:26:23 PM »

I think Massachusetts's variant is almost the same but not quite.

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Re: The LeHay font
« Reply #4 on: September 23, 2021, 06:15:07 PM »

Each of these are custom fonts, unique to each state, that promulgated due to difficulties in reproducing the FHWA Series fonts. During the embossed era, it was pretty simple to replicate the square fonts—you just ordered dies from a supplier that made them to BPR spec. Later on, with button copy, you ordered button copy in the appropriate size, and it came in the correct font. Later still, you had computerized font files.

It was in that squishy middle time period, from 1948 to the 1980s or so, where states basically were on their own. The "correct" way to do it was to cut a stencil using photographs of the 1948 MUTCD as a template to trace over the standard letterforms. Otherwise, you could use the metrics in the MUTCD to construct the letters by hand and cut the stencil that way. But those methods were kind of tedious and expensive, so some states just made up their own stencils with characters that were the same dimensions as the MUTCD and were "close enough".

Just think of it as a bunch of states pulling an Oklahoma. Following the standard is hard, so we're going to invent our own standard on the fly. (And indeed, judging by old photos, Oklahoma used to invent a new font for every sign panel it posted, because of course it did.)

They're not all the LeHay font. The only one of them that the name "LeHay" belongs to is the Maine one. All of the others are completely separate fonts, most of which probably have no official name because they were masquerading as "Series D" or whatever. Plans say Series D, so they get "Series D", which happens to be the Montana implementation of Series D, not the real thing, but who cares! It's not like anyone from another state is going to drive by and take a picture of it to compare to back home...

The reason why nobody has made an implementation of LeHay (or any of the other custom fonts) is because, by their very nature, there is no standard available for them. Having made an implementation of Trafikkalfabetet... it's annoying enough to make a font when you have the spec there in front of you. Doing it from photographs is even harder, especially when most of the existing photos were shot on film, and the entire character set is probably no longer available because the signs have been replaced so you can't go take new photos.
« Last Edit: September 23, 2021, 06:22:11 PM by Scott5114 »


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