Daniel Otto


Otto was the most talented of the four sons of Johann Henrich Otto (1733–c. 1800), one of the Pennsylvania Germans’ seminal fraktur artists, who took up his father’s artalong with his brothers. Born in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, Daniel’s work surpassed his brothers’ with the intensity of his colors and the striking nature of hisdesigns. He followed his schoolmaster-father’s move from Schaefferstown, Lebanon County, to St. Peter’s Church, overlooking the junction of the Mahanoy andSchwaben Creeks in Mahanoy Township, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania, where he began to draw frakturs as well as fill in printed examples. Daniel eventuallymoved to Brush Valley, Miles Township, in Center County, Pennsylvania, where he remained until he crossed the mountains to the south and settled at Aaronsburg inHaines Township, Center County. As his name is crossed off the Aaronsburg tax list in 1821, he may have moved elsewhere subsequently. During much of this time inthe area he was a schoolmaster, an occupation for which no taxes were paid unless the teacher owned land. Daniel later married and had a large family.Daniel Otto’s fraktur was inspired by his father’s work. Known for the flat tulips (like those brought from Europe by early settlers and still found growing wild inPennsylvania) that identified his body of work before his name was discovered, Otto also drew elaborate figures of parrots, long-necked birds, mermen and mermaids,and alligators to decorate his frakturs. He also drew pairs of lions facing each other, typical of the Pennsylvania Germans, who usually paired lions or unicorns together.For his certificate forms he designed an assortment of compartments that provided space for the text, unlike his father’s forms, which provided only a straightforwardrecord of birth and baptism. His palette of brilliant ochre and yellow makes his work among the most striking of fraktur to be discovered. Daniel Otto died in Haines Township inCenter County.