Signa-Craft Metal Monogram
Elvis with his personalized D18 and an insert of Bill's
Photo © EPE, and courtesy Steve Bonner
Elvis personalized his first two Martin guitars (000-18
and D18), as did Bill with his Kay
bass, with monogram letters spelling their names. Sid Lapworth said he used to sell them at
O.K. Houck's in Memphis and would also give them out free to people buying guitars and other instruments, usually in a choice of those or extra strings. He said people often applied them to the cases instead of the instruments themselves.
The remaining Autograms spelling "ELVI" on Elvis'
original 1942 Martin D18
Photo © Guitar World
They were a common item at the time, supplied to music stores by the David Wexler Company in Chicago but in reality they were far from exclusive to that industry. The letters were
first offered as early as June 1950.1
They were designed and manufactured in New York City by Norman J. Stupell and the
Signa-Craft company on 5th Avenue with the auto industry, luggage and other
items in mind. The letters, or “Autograms” as they were called, were unique in that they were probably the first of their kind to be self-adhesive.
Examples of model specific decorative car keys offered by
Photos courtesy ebay
Norman was a graduate of St. John’s University and went to work for Signa-Craft, Inc. in 1937. Signa-Craft was a manufacturer of automotive accessories, like model specific signet keys,
key chains and creative metal specialties for advertising campaigns. Within a decade he became the company’s
diagrams for Norman J. Stupell's patents for ornamental
devices (monograms) and the Alphabetic font - P.A.F. 1950
Photos courtesy Google Patents
Recognizing the market potential for a form of monogram personalization
that was quick to apply and did not require the use of rivets or messy glues or adhesives
and could be done personally by nonprofessionals, Norman developed
these and then applied for a patent for the monograms in September of 1950. The concept was that the devices would contain a thin like fabric with an adhesive on the backside and
a thin protective gauze that could be peeled away for application. The
following November he patented
the font for the alphabet used on the monograms.
Firestone ad in Life magazine for available products
LIFE Magazine ad - June 16, 1952 courtesy Google
The monograms themselves were offered in two sizes,
½” by 1
½”, as offered by Houck’s and used by Elvis and Bill, and also a smaller version at
5/16” by ¾” in either chrome or 18kt gold plated
stainless steel. They could be applied directly in any combination or in groups of
two or three on small
self-adhering frames designed for such.
½" by 1 ½" 'S' Signa-Craft Autogram in 18kt
Gold finish, and a smaller 5/16” by ¾” in chrome
Photos © James V. Roy, © Vintage
the smaller Signa-Craft Autograms display box
Photos courtesy ebay
Signa-Craft Metal Monogram Initials display box and
letters spelling "ELVIS" and "BILL"
Photo © James V Roy
In 1954 Norman patented similar monograms applied to decorative plates in the form of keys and by the late 1950s Signa-Craft was merged into the
Cole National Corporation (of key manufacturing fame) and Norman became a vice president, leaving in 1961 to
start Stupell Industries, Inc.2 One of his last patents,
applied for with his father Leo in 1961, was for a magnetic key holder. It was granted after Norman’s death in 1963 at the age of 42.
An old '50s Fender P-Bass and
a Fender Tweed amp with
remnants of Signa-Craft Autogram personalization
Photos courtesy web, and © Jeff Baker
Stupell Industries, still a family business, today is located in Johnston, Rhode Island and owned and operated by Norman’s son Robert and grandson Todd. Though no longer making or involved with the Autograms, the company provides “quality wall art and decorative accessories to a wide range of customers.”3
"ELVIS" spelled out in the same type of
Autograms as used by him on his first two Martins
Photo © Noel Thibault
enough, Signa-Craft at some point changed the font type face of some of
the letters, in actuality they reversed the weighted portion of several
of the characters. It is noticeable in the 'V' especially used on Elvis'
000-18 which is mirrored when compared to the
one used on his D-18.
Note that the weighted font type 'V' is mirrored on
Elvis' D-18 compared to his previous guitar, the patent and samples of other (earlier)
Photos © James V Roy and C.F. Martin Co.
May 14, 2015
1 according to Billboard Magazine June
2 according to obituary for Norman J. Stupell, New York Times - July 15, 1963
3 according to Robert Stupell and Stupell