Those “almost square-block serifs hanging for dear life onto needle-thin verticals” on Old West Wanted posters are actually so-called Egyptian fonts created in the early 19th century for large broadsheets posted in public squares, reported [FPO] magazine in Summer 2008. The type style was first commercially introduced by Vincent Figgins, under the name Antique, with copies of specimen dated 1815 and 1817.
“Following Napoleon’s Egyptian campaign … an intense cultural fascination with all things Egyptian followed,” [FPO] reported. In London, artifact shows became popular, and these shows were advertised on broadsheets using the new slab serif fonts. In no time they became associated with and known as Egyptian fonts.
By the 1850s, these fonts were long out of favor. Printers who made their way to the American West brought with them these bargain fonts that successful printers on the East coast no longer wanted. “So, ironically, fonts associated with an early 19th-century European cultural craze had become secondhand goods that were used extensively in the American West,” [FPO] reported, and, thus, became forever associated with the Wanted poster. Amazing.