Nancy M. Landis
Fraktur
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About my PA German Fraktur love affair
I live in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and have worked at a local history museum developing  education programs since 2001.  Through working with artifacts and creating public awareness of our early American art culture, I fell in love with "Fraktur," a very local traditional art of the Pennsylvania Germans. 


A Brief History of Fraktur

The Birth
In the 1740s, as new families began their lives in the frontier of Pennsylvania, there were no court houses to record things such as marriages, births, and baptisms.  Practical in nature, the German people settling in this area simply drew up their own certificates for these events.  A secondary problem was the low literacy rate among common people, hence these certificates were heavily ornamented, traditionally with birds, flowers and hearts, so those who could not read the document would have an impression of its importance.  

The Growth
As time went on, fraktur grew to serve many purposes for the Pennsylvania Germans.  The most common was as a school lesson for children to copy. Through a fraktur, a student learned penmanship, grammar, geometry, and art. As many frakturs quoted scripture, they also included a Bible lesson.  These "Vorschriften" (school lesson) frakturs are the most common of those left today.

The Demise
From the 1750s through the 1850s, fraktur held its place as a unique and wonderful colonial American art form.  However, as schools became public, lessons were subjected to restrictions, and printing presses replaced hand-made documents, Fraktur slowly dwindled, replaced by printed certificates that could be filled out by hand.
Frakturs are a very traditional colonial American form of art.  Born and bred right here, in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, they incorporate calligraphy and imagery in certificates commemorating life events.

If you are looking for a unique heirloom-to-be present for wedding, anniversary, birth, house warming, or other, I can attest that they make wonderful keepsakes and are greatly appreciated by the recipient. 

Traditional fraktur themes are;
Marriage Certificates (weddings and anniversary gifts), 
Birth Certificates (newborn gifts).  

Frakturs are often adapted to suit many other purposes!
Birth Fraktur examples. Click on each thumbnail image to see a larger version.
Wedding Fraktur examples.  Click on each image to see a larger version.
Other Frakturs.  Click on each image to see a larger version.
How to Plan a Custom-Created Fraktur
Please feel free to look over the above examples and pick and choose a layout that you most enjoy. You are welcome to blend and alter the designs.  Elements can be added.  For instance, I often work pets or hobbies into the piece to make it uniquely yours.  Childrens' names and birthdates can be added to wedding certificates.  Parents names can be added to birth certificates. The sky's the  limit!

Contact me with your ideas, and I will work with you to be certain we create a piece that you'll cherish.

I generally do each piece to order, which takes up to three weeks.  However, if you are in a hurry, please see my Artwork To-go page for custom-finished works.

How much do they cost?  I realize cost is a concern, and will be happy to give you a ballpark figure before we start.  (For a quick idea now, visit the Artwork To-go page.)