Looking at the dedication plaque on the Salt Lake Temple, I was moved to wonder: What's the deal with this stereotypically "American Old West" style of lettering, where almost every letter has sort of "serifs" sticking out of the middle of each stroke?

Is there an accepted name for these seriffy-looking things?

What is the history of this style of lettering? Was it actually common in the Old West? Do the little seriffy things skeuomorphically imitate some inherent quirk of old wood-block type, or have they always been purely decorative?

Seriffy thing in red circle Seriffy things Seriffy thing in red circle

2 Answers 2


About the style,

Tuscan Fonts

Tuscans can be described as decorative display faces with characteristics that usually include one or more of the following: bi- or trifurcated (branched) serifs or mannered stroke terminations (pointed, rounded, concaved, chiseled, wedged…); an active, energetic contour; and medial decoration. Tuscans can also be additively ornamented (shades, shadows, fills, patterned interiors…).

The whole history at the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum

... The concave slab serif of the American Tuscan was further modified with notches added to the capline and baseline to produce bifurcations with a symmetrical spur (typically referred to as medial spurs) was added to the middle of the letterforms.

The origin dates from the nineteenth century when the typography leaves the printed paper to move to large posters with giant letters made in wood types simulating the store signs. The short reading allows more attention to the ornamented strokes than readability, therefore, the most ornate were the most popular.

the old reader

Source typekit.com

There are more examples in this answer

There's also a "median spurs" tag at myfonts.com advanced search

  • 7
    I would further quote that excellent article: "The concave slab serif of the American Tuscan was further modified, with notches added to the capline and baseline to produce bifurcations and with symmetrical spurs (typically referred to as medial spurs) added to the middle of the letterforms." Dec 4, 2018 at 22:04
  • It's in the answer, second link.
    – user120647
    Dec 4, 2018 at 22:37
  • 6
    A link to the whole article is in the answer. That key quotation, containing the key phrase "medial spurs," is not in the answer (currently). Dec 5, 2018 at 1:42
  • 1
    I see, answer updated
    – user120647
    Dec 5, 2018 at 17:50


A small projection off of a main stroke.

See #15 here.

Although most explanations will use an uppercase G to show a sample, they are still spurs when protruding from a primary stroke of any glyph.

  • 5
    I thought you were right until I opened the link you provided. Based on it I thought you were wrong (because it's pointing out seemingly a completely different feature). But then I googled the term "spurs hand lettering" and realized you're right (again). Dec 4, 2018 at 21:34
  • It's probably also related to spurs (which are cliché in ol' Western movies).
    – Welz
    Dec 4, 2018 at 21:40
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    @ZachSaucier the article in the link would have been better off without the pictures, which vary from confusing to just plain wrong.
    – Mr Lister
    Dec 5, 2018 at 12:46
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    Kind of mystified by the chosen answer -- like asking what a serif is.... and being told they are Humanist fonts. While true, it doesn't actually answer the question. Oh well :)
    – Scott
    Dec 5, 2018 at 18:59

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