Recently I purchased two old wooden boxes containing brass rule and some dusty metal “sorts”. Sorts are cast metal type used for printing. I soon discovered that the sorts included some picture blocks but I could not make out what they actually depicted nor figure out how they were designed to be used.
After many hours of internet searching I found a photo of metal type that looked like mine. The American letterpress printer who owned them thought that they were from MacKellar, Smiths, & Jordan. MacKellar, Smiths, & Jordan was type foundry based in Philadelphia. It was the dominant American metal type foundry, and became the main branch in the creation of American Type Founders in 1892. It continued to operate until the Philadelphia factory was destroyed in 1910.
In 1892 MacKellar, Smiths and Jordan published their Specimens of printing types: ornaments, borders, corners, rules, emblems, initials, &c. After more searching I discovered a page in their book entitled Combination Orient Border containing all the picture blocks I had. While I do not have a full set, I had enough to create a January calendar page for the Association of Hand Printers in New Zealand.