Johann Henrich Otto

Johann Henrich (sometimes Heinrich) Otto (1733 - c. 1800) was an American fraktur artist.

Otto was a native of Schwarzerden close Pfeffelbach, and came to the Thirteen Colonies as a juvenile man, arriving aboard the ship Edinburgh on October 2, 1753. He married Anna Catharine Dauterich; their children were born in Lancaster and Montgomery Counties in Pennsylvania. Beginning in 1755 he advertised himself as a weaver. From 1777 until 1780 he motto military assist in the American Revolutionary War. He appears to have worked as a schoolmaster for numerous Reformed Protestant churches; from almost 1769 until 1779 he was associated with an institution in Schaefferstown, Pennsylvania, and sophisticated he lived in Mahanoy Township, then in Northumberland County, where he likely taught at St. Peter's Lutheran and Reformed Church. Otto began producing fraktur in the 1760s; he was in the midst of the first artists to create birth certificates using the style. His primeval pieces are totally hand-drawn, very lustrous and detailed. By 1784 he was having baptismal certificates printed at the press of the Ephrata Cloister; the woodblocks used to gild the pieces may have been designed by him as well. Some of them contain longer certificates which appear to justify infant baptism, a practice generally disdained by Mennonites in the area. Otto plus created broadsides featuring Adam and Eve during his career, as well as spiritual mazes, bookplates, and presentation pieces. The natural world that he drew were higher copied by extra artists, who next borrowed the style of his text. His four sons, Jacob, William, Daniel, and Conrad became fraktur artists, as did Conrad's son Peter. Johann Otto died in Mahanoy Township.

Five works either known to be by Otto or ascribed to him are in the accretion of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Five more are owned by the Winterthur Museum, while four are in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Six are held by the Phillips Museum of Art at Franklin & Marshall College.

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