Portrait and bio taken with permission from Michael
"Spencerian Script and Ornamental Penmanship, Volume I"
The man who, above all others, is universally regarded as the most highly skilled
ornamental penman that ever lived, Louis Madarasz, was born in San Antonio, Texas on
January 20, 1859. He obtained a copy of Gaskell's Compendium of Penmanship when he was in
his teens. Studying the text by himself, he achieved a degree of skill in ornamental
writing that was remarkable for one so young. Such self-discipline and persistence were
instrumental in Madarasz's desire to master the art of penmanship.
In the late 1870's he enrolled as a student at the Rochester Business University in
Rochester, New York. While attending this institution, his facility with the pen earned
him a reputation throughout the state. During the years that followed, Madarasz took on
penmanship positions at a number of institutions. His wanderings eventually led him to
Manchester, New Hampshire the location of Gaskell's penmanship school. Besides being an
accomplished master penman, Gaskell was also a businessman who recognized advertising
opportunities. Madarasz, whose fame as a penman was fairly widespread by this time, also
recognized the opportunity to further his own skills by being associated with Gaskell. It
was a good association for both men, and soon the famous signature of Madarasz appeared on
the advertisements for Gaskell's Compendium. Madarasz stayed with Gaskell for several
years, learning much about advertising and the business of mail order.
As time went by, Madarasz again moved from one institution and town to another. He seemed
to have a restless spirit in this regard, and seldom stayed anywhere longer than a few
years. He worked in Sterling, Illinois; Jersey City, New Jersey; and Poughkeepsie, New
York. Regarding his social interests, he enjoyed chess and other board games, and was
quite skilled at playing them. He also enjoyed the theater, not only as a spectator, but
as an actor. He once studied under a professional thespian and even had a part in a stage
performance. This interest was, however, only temporary in the penman's life and he soon
went back to his love and profession of penmanship with greater zeal then ever before.
Over the years, Madarasz never tired of traveling, working and teaching. He had incredible
energy to devote to penmanship, and the quality of his work never faltered. His speed of
execution was reputed to be faster than any penman, before or since. His style was unique,
a dramatic, rather heavily shaded variety of ornamental writing. it has been said that
Madarasz's penmanship style was copied by more penmen than that of any other. In
1908-1909, Madarasz involved himself in a most ambitious project to earn money. He
purchased large, new scrapbooks of two hundred pages each. He then filled each page of the
books with his own penmanship. To do this he copied his own business letters,
correspondence, writing lessons and display writing and pasted them, one by one, upon each
page. He advertised them as the Madarasz Scrapbooks, and sold them for $45; $25 to be paid
as a deposit, and then $5 per month on the balance. In all he sold perhaps a dozen such
books. Only one of these is known to be in existence today, and much of it has been
reproduced in Volume Two of this text.
The last few years of Madarasz's life were spent in a business association in Goldfield,
Nevada. It was there that health problems began to plague the penman. After a severe bout
with pneumonia, Madarasz became diabetic and never regained his formally healthy physique.
Quoting from The Secret Of The Skill Of Madarasz, a book published by the Zaner-Bloser
Company in 1911 as a tribute to the great penman: "He passed away quietly on December 23,
1910, having on the day he was stricken written a Christmas greeting in that beautiful
clean cut style of penmanship which has been copied by so many thousand aspirants during
the past thirty years. At his request his body was cremated. His ashes rest in the
beautiful Columbarium at Fresh Pond, Long Island. His epitaph reads:
'In memory of a brave and gentle man whose love of Truth and justice made him an
Inspiration to all who knew him. He put his house in order, his work was done."'