This content originally appeared in GPO’s FDLP Desktop which was replaced by FDLP.gov in 2008 and was written as part of the 125th Anniversary of the Government Printing Office, now known as the Government Publishing office..
As part of its 125th anniversary commemoration in 1986, GPO published a series of historical articles in its employee newsletter, the New Typeline. The articles, by GPO Historian/Curator Daniel R. MacGilvray, focused on the Public Printers and how they responded to the social and economic forces impacting GPO and the printing industry between 1861 and 1980. Those paper publications included graphics, which this Web reprint does not.
This ten part New Typeline series was reprinted in Administrative Notes, in 1986-1987. Citations to the specific New Typeline and Administrative Notes issues are listed at the end of this series.
Success to Printing
The first in a series of articles commemorating GPO's 125th Anniversary, by Daniel R. MacGilvray.
The name of Benjamin Franklin is linked to the United States Government Printing Office. Some GPO employees mistakenly tell newcomers that he was the first Public Printer of the United States. Visitors to the Government Printing Office are aware of his benevolent gaze from the Veteran's landing of Building One, where a reproduction of Jean-Antoine Houdon's classic bust looks down the marble steps at employees and patrons of the GPO Bookstore. Indeed, his spirit is very much a part of this agency which produces Government publications which make their way to libraries and individuals throughout America and to most of the nations of the world.
To understand "the Franklin connection" with the Government Printing Office is to go back in time before GPO officially opened its doors on March 4, 1861. Benjamin Franklin's role in "The GPO Story" is rooted in pre-Revolutionary Colonial America.
Born in Boston 280 years ago, on January 17, 1706, Benjamin Franklin was the youngest of 10 children. His father manufactured soap and made and sold candles. Young Ben began working with his father at the age of 10. Like many Boston boys, Ben wanted to go to sea and perhaps have a look at England, the home of his Quaker parents. His father was aware of this, and tried to apprentice his son to a nephew who made and sold knives. The terms were harsh, and Ben declared he would be a printer instead. So at age 12, he entered into apprenticeship in the printing business of his older brother, James Franklin, publisher of a weekly newspaper, The New England Courant.
That 18th century world of printing which Benjamin Franklin entered consisted of many small family businesses. Colonial print shops were not very large and frequently sold stationery and books. All members of a family helped with typesetting and related chores. Presses were still wooden and modeled after the winepresses of Gutenberg's day. If a husband died, his widow and children carried on the business. Women printers were not uncommon. Indeed, the first printing press brought to North America from England to Massachusetts, the Cambridge Press, was set up in 1638 by Elizabeth Glover, the widow of the Reverend Joseph Glover. The act earned her the title, "Mother of the American Press." Franklin assisted the wife of a former partner, Elizabeth Timothy, and wrote that she "managed the business with such success that she not only brought up reputably a family of children but at the expiration of the term was able to purchase of me the printing house and establish her son in it." From the beginnings of American history, men and women have worked together in printing.
There were many besetting problems that plagued colonial printers. England made it difficult to produce manufactured items in America. Type, foundry equipment, paper, ink, and presses had to be purchased at considerable cost from England. The young Franklin saw in Boston and Philadelphia rather crude wooden press printing. However, when he shipped away to London in 1724, he had a year and one-half to work at the trade and experience state-of-the-art printing. He worked for Samuel Palmer who was writing a history and manual of printing. He also worked for John Watts who helped William Caslon set up a type foundry that would influence the printed page for years to come. His curiosity took him to the James Type Foundry where he observed every step in that process. When he returned to Philadelphia in 1726, it was as a mature printer who understood the future direction that his craft was to take.
Franklin's career as a printer led him from Boston to Philadelphia to London to Paris and home again before his death in 1790. He turned his hand to ink making and sold to printers a mixture of lampblack and varnish by the keg. He became an agent for the budding Pennsylvania paper mills and supplied printers up and down the Atlantic coast. While in Paris, he purchased foundry equipment and set it up in Philadelphia in 1775 for his grandson, Benjamin Franklin Bache. This foundry produced all kinds of types then in use, as well as Greek and Hebrew. Because of Franklin's efforts, other printers flourished.
During his career, Franklin served as official printer to the colonies of Pennsylvania and Delaware. It was his responsibility to print the Government documents of his day. These included the proceedings of the respective colonial assemblies, as well as the laws they passed. One such work that is particularly well printed appeared in 1740, A Collection of Charters and Other Publick Acts relating to the Province of Pennsylvania. It is one of his many folio-sized documents, pamphlet bound. In this capacity, he well illustrates the pre- Independence pattern of colonial printing of official documents. He was a "Publick Printer" of his time, and is still a worthy model for Public Printers of today.
The Franklin who looks down the marble steps of Building One at entering workers and people in quest of Government publications, wishes us well on our 125th Anniversary. We, in turn, wish him well on his 280th birthday. Had he been alive when the U.S. Government Printing Office came into being his attitude toward its creation and toward those who served as craftsmen may well have been similar to that expressed when he visited another printing establishment in 1757. At that time he was in London where he had worked as a young man. Although famous and much sought after in England, he searched out the old print shop where he had once worked. Timperley's Encyclopedta of Literary and Typographic Anecdote, recounts the event:
During his visit at this time, he went to Mr. Watts' Printing office in Wildcourt, Lincoln's Inn- fields; and entering the press-room, proceeded to a particular press, where two men were at work: "Come, my friends, " said he, "we will drink together; it is now forty years since I worked like you at this press, as a journeyman printer. " A gallon of porter was sent for, and the three drank "Success to Printing!"
Long Time Coming, GPO
The second in a series of articles commemorating GPO's 125th Anniversary, by Daniel R. MacGilvray.
In world history, the year 1789 is remembered for the beginning of the French Revolution. That was also a year of peaceful beginnings in these United States following the American Revolution. It saw our first Presidential election and General George Washington chosen for our highest office. The first Congress of the United States under our new Constitution met in New York City on March 4, 1789. President Washington delivered the first inaugural address on April 30. On September 9, the House of Representatives recommended the Bill of Rights for adoption by the States. The first executive departments were formed: the Department of State, the War Department, and the Treasury Department. The Office of Postmaster General was created. The Federal Judiciary Act was passed providing for the organization of our Supreme Court; and on September 26, John Jay became Chief Justice of these United States.
During that momentous year, the first mention of public printing occurs in a House recommendation that proposals be invited for "printing the laws and other proceedings" of the new Congress. By May, printers' petitions were being received asking to "be employed in the printing for Congress." Indeed, the House Journals for the first and second sessions were done by New York printers Francis Childs and John Swaine. The Senate's printing was done by John Fenno. The Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House were directed by a joint committee to have printed "600 copies of the acts of Congress and 700 copies of the journals." When Congress moved to Philadelphia in 1790, printers Childs & Swaine, and John Fenno, moved with them. There they were joined by Philadelphia printer Samuel H. Smith. Together, their firms produced the bulk of congressional printing from 1793 to 1800.
An act of 1794 contained an appropriation for public printing. It provided "For the expenses of firewood, stationery, and printing work, and all other contingent expenses of the two houses of Congress, ten thousand dollars." For the same purposes, the act provided $2,261.67 to the Secretary of State; $4,000 to the Treasury Department; and $800 to the War Department.
When Congress moved to the new capital of Washington in 1800, printers followed. President Thomas Jefferson encouraged printer Samuel H. Smith to make the move from Philadelphia. In 1801 Smith was printing reports of congressional debates in his Washington newspaper, the National Intelligencer. Three times a week the paper appeared. Its stenographers took notes in Congress and asked speakers to review them prior to publication. Lateness of reports was common. In December 1801 a proposal was made in the House by Virginia's Representative John Randolph to appoint a printer to the House. After lively debate, this was defeated and the work was left to enterprising local printers.
Not until 1818 were the shortcomings of local printing addressed. Congress appointed a joint committee to "consider and report whether any further provisions of law are necessary to insure dispatch, accuracy, and neatness in the printing done for the two Houses of Congress. In 1819 the committee issued a report over the names of New Jersey Senator James J. Wilson and Pennsylvania Representative Thomas J. Rogers. It asked that Congress consider "the establishment of a national printing office (with a bindery and stationery annexed), which should execute the work of Congress while in session, and that of the various Departments of Government during the recess and should do all the binding, and furnish the stationery, for the Departments, as well as for Congress . . . The committee of opinion that such an establishment, under the superintendence of a man of activity, integrity, and discretion, would be likely to produce promptitude, uniformity, accuracy, and elegance in the execution of the public printing . . ." However, the time for reform was not propitious. Instead of a Government Printing Office and a Public Printer, the hasty resolution of March 3, 1819, provided that the House and Senate should elect their own printers, instruct how the work should be done, and say what price would be paid.
The practice of electing House and Senate printers was to last until 1861. Between 1819 and 1846 these printers included Gales & Seaton, Duff Green, Blair & Rives, Thomas Allen, and Ritchie & Heiss. With the introduction of power presses, these firms were able to take advantage of Government rates slow to change. One firm, Blair & Rives, did so well that in 5 years it purchased its rented building, bought townhouses (including Blair House), and acquired country estates. In 1840, the House appointed a Select Committee on Public Printing and asked it to report on prices considered just and reasonable, the propriety of separating Government printing from newspaper publishers, and the practicality of a national printing office. One result of this investigation was a House bill which asked: "That there shall be erected . . . on some suitable spot in the city of Washington, to be selected by the President of the United States, a building of brick, suitable and convenient for a printing office, in which all the printing for Congress, and for the Executive Departments, and for the Post Office Department, shall be performed." Again, the bill did not pass, and Congress moved instead to a system in which printing should be done by the lowest bidder.
Another result of the investigation begun in 1840 was a joint resolution of August 3, 1846, which called for advertising in local papers at the beginning of the last session of Congress and requesting sealed bids for Senate and House printing during the next Congress. The first local printers to undertake the contract were Cornnelius Wendell and Charles Van. Benthuysen. They took the contract at low rates, filled it, but lost money. The printing costs to the Government during the period 1846 to 1852 nevertheless amounted to $3,462,655.12, which was almost as much as had been expended between 1819 and 1846.
This expense of printing for Congress gave rise to the act of August 26, 1852, which repealed the law of 1846. It provided "That there shall be a Superintendent of the Public Printing, who shall hold his office for the term of two years, who shall receive for his services a salary of $2,500 per annum, and who shall give bond with two sureties to be approved by the Secretary of the Interior, in the penalty of $20,000, for the faithful discharge of his duties under law. The said Superintendent shall be a practical printer, versed in the various branches of the arts of printing and bookbinding, and he shall not be interested, directly or indirectly, in any contract for printing and book binding, and he shall not be interested, directly or indirectly, in any contract for printing for Congress or for any department or bureau of the Government of the United States."
A well-known citizen of Washington, DC, was selected by President Millard Fillmore in 1852 to serve as the first Superintendent of Public Printing. He was John T. Towers, a practicing printer who had learned his trade in the office of Duff Green, printer to the Senate in 1830. He later worked as a foreman for Thomas Allen, also a printer to the Senate. At the time of his appointment, Mr. Towers owned his own book and job printing firm. A committed trade unionist, he noted: "As far back as 1832, in the city of New York, I was a member of the first trades union in America, pledged to maintain the 10-hour system, and the principles sustained by me then as a journeyman printer have been and ever will be sustained by me as an employer." Mr. Towers served as Superintendent during 1852 and 1853. He went on to become mayor of Washington, DC, and died in 1857. Three more Superintendents followed prior to the creation of the Government Printing Office. They were: A.G. Seaman, 1853-57; General George W. Bowman, 1857-59; and John Heart, 1859-61. Meanwhile, the practice of electing House and Senate printers continued, but with oversight from the Superintendent of Public Printing.
The new system was not without abuses; and in January 1860, three congressional committees were investigating all phases of public printing and binding. Fixed rates were a part of the problem. Advancing technology enabled some firms to take advantage of the rates. The election of House and Senate printers was considered a political plum, and majority parties received generous donations as a result. The elected House and Senate printers in turn farmed out jobs to working printers for a percentage of the profits. Binding, engraving, and paper purchases were similarly farmed out for a cut, and political donations were expected. The Select Committee on Public Printing reported overcharges to the Government of $750,000.
The uproar produced a reform bill sponsored by Ohio Representative John A. Gurley, a former newspaperman, and chairman of the select committee. The bill called for the establishment of a Government Printing Office. After vigorous debate in the House, on May 31, 1860, H.R. 22 was passed, 120 to 56. The Senate went on to pass it on June 16, 1860, 31 to 14. To implement the bill, on June 23, 1860, Joint Resolution No. 25, authorizing the establishment of the GPO, was signed into law by President James Buchanan. It said that the Superintendent of Public Printing was "authorized and directed to have executed the printing and binding authorized by the Senate and House of Representatives, the executive and judicial departments, and the Court of Claims, and, to enable him to carry out the provision of this act, and he hereby authorized to contract for the erection or purchase of the necessary buildings, machinery, and materials for that purpose."
Thus, on the eve of the Civil War, the greatest crisis to be faced by Americans since 1776, the time finally arrived for the realization of an idea often mentioned in the past. The United States Government Printing Office was about to be born.
Our Doors Swing Open
The third in a series of articles commemorating GPO's 125th Anniversary, by Daniel R. MacGilvray
On the day that Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated President, March 4, 1861, the United States Government Printing Office opened its doors on H Street at North Capitol. The area was farmland gradually giving way to roads and buildings. Nearby Tiber Creek overflowed in wet weather, producing swamp and puddles, and gave rise to the neighborhood's nickname, "Swampoodle."
Opposite the GPO was a notorious saloon operated by "Spud" Williams. Frequented by printers, it displayed a sign, "Show Up Room, When Congress Meets." Whiskey went for 8 cents a shot and was distilled locally for the saloon during the Civil War.
An approaching visitor first caught sight of the tall chimney of the Engine House where a 40-horsepower engine supplied steam heat for the four-story main building. Press rollers were also manufactured here. A nearby Machine Shop housed a mechanic well known for his practical knowledge of machinery and his genius for invention. Stables were where the horses were kept when not transporting paper and finished printing. A Store House received and held paper. Some 40,000 reams of paper came in and went out of this building each year, each ream weighing from 45 to 50 pounds, containing 480 sheets of standard printing paper, 24" x 38".
The main building had been designed by Edward Clark, the Capitol Architect, in 1856, and had first opened for business on November 16, 1857, when it had been owned by Cornelius Wendell, Printer to the Senate. On the first floor was a Wetting Room with troughs and equipment used for dampening paper prior to use, along with a hydraulic press to smooth it out. Here, too, was the Ink Room where lampblack and oil were mixed and clean ink rollers kept. However, it was the Press Room that commanded attention, with 23 Adams bed and platen presses as well as 3 Napier cylinder presses, all steam powered, moving with great regularity, tossing off nearly printed sheets. As many as 210 reams, or 100.000 sheets, were often printed here in a single day.
On the second floor, a visitor found the walnut finished office of the Superintendent of Public Printing, with furniture of the period, a marble top walnut chiffonier, mahogany sofa, velvet carpet, etc. A walnut bookcase caught the eye, with its examples of finer Government printing, such as the Annual Message of the President to Congress, the Annual Report of the Regents of the Smithsonian Institution, the Report on the Exploration of the River Colorado of the West, and others. Adjoining this was the Business Office, where accounting took place. Nearby was the Proof-Reading Room, where printed copy was carefully scanned to eliminate error.
The largest area of the second floor was occupied by the Composing Room, a spacious hall with 60 windows admitting needed light, but with gas fixtures for night illumination. There were 93 double stands, and the tools of the trade, including 160 composing sticks, 19 imposing stones, and 35,000 pounds of small pica. An enclosed area was set aside for executive printing, where work of a confidential nature took place without fear of premature leaks to newspapers.
The third floor was devoted to the Bindery. In a large Folding Room, 200 young women were seated at tables where they rapidly folded printed sheets by hand. An Executive Binding Room contained two powerful cutting machines for trimming the edges of books, shears for cutting pasteboard, gas furnaces for heating gilding stamps, and many other useful tools. Adjoining this was the Ruling Room, where ruling machines applied faint red or blue lines to the many blank books used in the Federal Government.
The fourth floor was a vast Store Room for printed books waiting to be bound. Above it, on the roof, flew two American flags, one at each end of the building.
Over all of this, and some 350 employees, presided the newly appointed Superintendent of Public Printing, John D. Defrees. He was described by Dr. John B. Ellis as "a plainly dressed, quiet mannered man; a printer by trade." Actually, he was a great deal more.
Born on November 8, 1810, in Sparta, TN, John Dougherty Defrees had a father hostile to slavery. To get away from it, the family moved to Piqua, OH, in 1818. At 14, John was apprenticed to learn press-work and typesetting. At 17, he was on the road as a journey man printer working in Xenia and Cincinnati, OH, and in Louisville, KY. At 21 with his brother Joseph, he established a newspaper in South Bend, IN. Two years later, he sold his interest and was licensed by the Supreme Court of Indiana to practice law. As an Indiana State Senator, he helped get a charter for a small college on St. Mary's Lake; this was to become the University of Notre Dame. In 1845, he purchased the Indiana State Journal in Indianapolis, hired such antislavery writers as Henry Ward Beecher (the father of Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom's Cabin). Defrees soon became known as the most fearless, caustic, and brilliant political editor in the West.
He was active in the liberal wing of the Whig Party, and was a delegate to Whig and later National Republican Conventions in 1848, 1852, and 1856. Many Republicans sought his advice and political support, including Abraham Lincoln. So it was not surprising when on March 23, 1861, President Lincoln appointed him as Superintendent of Public Printing to the newly opened U.S. Government Printing Office.
Superintendent Defrees served through the Civil War years, and later in various capacities. His annual report for 1861 noted savings in excess of $60,000 over pre-GPO costs. His report of 1862 echoes the Civil War as he said, "The present struggle for the existence of the Government has greatly increased the quantity of blanks and blank books required, especially by the War, Navy, and Treasury Departments."
In 1863, Lincoln responded to a request from his friend and advisor, visiting the Government Printing Office on October 24 at about 3 p.m. In typical Presidential fashion he walked through the plant accompanied by his appointee. In a letter, Defrees recounted an incident which happened.
"A poor girl in the employment of the GPO had a brother impressed into the rebel service, and was taken prisoner by our forces. He desired to take the oath of allegiance, and to be liberated. She sought an interview with the President who wrote the note asking me to inquire into the facts, which I did, and the young man was liberated on the President's order."
On February 7 of 1864, the Superintendent sent a letter of advice to President Lincoln. It asked, "Now, why not send a message to Congress recommending the passage of a joint resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution forever prohibiting slavery in the States and territories?" Lincoln's prompt reply of February 8 said, "Our own friends have this under consideration now, and will do as much without a Message as with it."
It was also in 1864 that Washington, DC came under a threat of Southern invasion as General Jubal Early's forces approached within 5 miles of the Capital. GPO employees were a part of what was known as the Interior Department Regiment. Printers made up Company F and bindery workers filled Company G. Hours were set aside for drill and instruction; and GPO was guarded at night. With the imminent threat, GPO volunteers took up defensive positions. When General Grant's forces repulsed the attack, printers and binders returned to work. These were the first of many veterans to play a role in our Nation's history and the history of the Government Printing Office.
The year 1865 was tumultuous. It saw General Sherman's forces march through the South to the sea, Lincoln's second inaugural on March 4, General Lee's surrender at Appomattox, the assassination of President Lincoln, and the new Presidency of Andrew Johnson. President Johnson chose a new Superintendent of Public Printing, the man who had commissioned the four-story building on H Street and North Capitol, Cornelius Wendell. The post-Civil War period was underway.
Era of Reconstruction
The fourth in a series of articles commemorating GPO's 125th Anniversary, by Daniel R. MacGilvray
The dozen years following 1865 are often referred to as "Reconstruction Years" in America's history because they witnessed a recovery from the destruction of the Civil War, as well as intense political arguments on reconstruction policies. For the Government Printing Office, "reconstruction" took a special form between 1865 and 1882. Repeated requests from our Superintendents of Public Printing, Congressional Printers, and Public Printers, gradually secured funds from Congress: in 1865 for a four-story addition at the west end of the main building; in 1871 for another four-story addition fronting on North Capitol Street; and in 1879 for a four-story fireproof building south of the main building. GPO also purchased a lot on H Street during 1880-81 and put up a stable and a second four-story fireproof extension west of the North Capitol Street section.
Behind this "reconstruction" was an ongoing concern reflected in annual reports citing needs for adequate work space and safety. Typical was the concern voiced in 1869: "The building now occupied by the Government Printing Office has, under the increase of its business, become insufficient for its proper accommodation. Indeed, it is impossible now to crowd within its walls sufficient machinery and operatives to keep up with the demands made upon its resources, especially in the binding department . . . The buildings now used for the storing of large quantities of paper necessarily kept on hand are insufficient, inconvenient, unsuitable, and unsafe, and should be discontinued in their use for that purpose." Supporting arguments were marshaled from Edward Clark, Architect of the Capitol, who toured GPO in 1870 and stated in a letter that "prudence demands that measures should be taken to procure additional capacity, and that all heavy loads possible should be placed on the ground floor." Mr. Clark also helped in our reconstruction by providing a plan for outside fire escapes for which Congress appropriated $3,000 in 1878. These were described as "of brick and iron, and are very substantial, so that, should a fire occur in defiance of every possible precaution, they would afford additional and ample means of escape." It was in 1880 that fire extinguisher were acquired and workers instructed in their use. The theme of safety was already being woven into the fabric of GPO.
The most noteworthy event of the peacetime years 1865-1882 was the acquisition by the Government Printing Office of the responsibility for the Congressional Record. During the early part of the century, reporting the debates and proceedings of Congress had been conducted by a variety of enterprising newspapers. One of these, the Congressional Globe, lasted longer than the others. It began reporting debates in 1831 as a semiweekly owned by Francis P. Blair, a Kentucky native and an ardent Andrew Jackson supporter.
[Picture in the Typline edition, not included here - GPO's second Superintendent of Public Printing Cornelius Wendel, who served from September 1, 1866 to February 28, 1867.]
The first GPO produced issue of the Record appeared on March 5, 1873, in quarto form. Congressional Printer Almon M. Clapp noted, "The change in the form and style of this publication from that previously followed by the Globe was induced by a desire to secure comeliness, convenience, and economy for the work . . . The facilities of the Office are so extensive, that prompt publication of the proceedings and debates of any day's session, no matter how extensive or voluminous, will be assured the following morning without a peradventure, if the copy thereof is promptly furnished the Printer." Even though the Record was entirely handset (and would be until 1904), a standard of overnight publication was proudly maintained.
It was during the post-Civil War years that the pattern of a Presidentially appointed Public Printer finally emerged. President Andrew Johnson appointed Cornelius Wendell as Superintendent of Public Printing; and he served GPO from September 1, 1866, to February 28, 1867. During his brief term, he averted a major printers' strike and instituted an 8-hour day and a 6-day week. Meanwhile, on February 22, 1867, a Congress at odds with President Johnson decided to elect GPO's top official, make him an officer of the Senate, and call him Congressional Printer. The Senate then went on to elect John D. Defrees, who served from March 1, 1867, to April 14, 1869. While serving as Congressional Printer, Defrees secured for GPO printing and binding for the Patent Office and the Commissioner of Customs. He was followed in the electoral process by Almon M. Clapp, a Connecticut native with many years of printing experience. Taking his post as Congressional Printer on April 15, 1869, he was to see Congress change its mind after the departure of President Johnson. In July of 1876, Congress repealed its earlier legislation and specified a Presidential appointment for GPO's top officer, with advice and consent of the Senate, and a title of Public Printer. On August 1, 1876, President Ulysses S. Grant appointed Almon M. Clapp as the first Public Printer of the United States. He was followed by a familiar figure' John D. Defrees, who was appointed by President Rutherford B. Hayes on June 1, 1877, as the second Public Printer of the United States. Defrees served until the spring of 1882. The pattern of Presidential appointment was now firmly established.
Advances in printing technology did not go unnoticed by GPO's Public Printers and their predecessors. Indeed, by contracting for special equipment they were to contribute to an ever- improving state-of-the-art. In 1878, Public Printer Defrees wisely observed, "Improvements in machinery for the more rapid and economical manufacture of newspapers and books are constantly being made, and those who do not use them work to great disadvantage." One of his predecessors, Superintendent of Public Printing Wendell, had in 1866 secured for GPO the marvel of its day, a Bullock Perfecting Press. This was the first automatic, reel-fed rotary press which worked from stereotype plates, and printed on both sides of the paper. It had two printing and two impression cylinders. The paper was fed from the reel and was cut into sheets before it reached the impression. The sheets were then carried through the press by tapes and mechanical fingers. In an hour, the press could deliver 10,000 flat sheets printed on both sides.
Defrees, himself, took a similar step in 1878 by contracting for the manufacture by Cottrell & Babcock of a specially designed Two-Revolution Cylinder Press. On the arrival of the first two of three, he reported to Congress: "Seeing no reason why the Government Printing Office should not avail itself of some of these improvements, two large presses, on which to print the Confessional Record and other work when not needed for that publication, have been put into it. More work can be done on these presses than can be done on 12 Adams presses and by the employment of one-third of the number of employees required by those presses."
By 1882, GPO was on the eve of another revolutionary technological change. Noted under disbursements in the annual report for that year was the following: "Electrical plant, consisting of two dynamos, lamps, and all other necessary fixtures and labor, $3,839.69." GPO was entering the "Age of Electricity!"
Age of Electricity
The fifth in a series of articles commemorating GPO's 125th Anniversary, by Daniel R. MacGilvray
Interestingly, in 1882 the Government Printing Office's first two dynamos and related equipment were charged to the "account of the Congressional Record." Earlier introduction of new technology, such as the Bullock perfecting press of 1866, and Cottrell & Babcock's two revolution cylinder presses of 1878, were sanctioned by the Joint Committee on Printing to enhance production of the Congressional Record. Not surprisingly, Public Printer Sterling P. Rounds noted in 1884: "The Edison system of electric light, which was introduced in the Record room by my predecessor (Defreees), has been extended to the press and document rooms, with very gratifying results. The light produced is cheaper than gas, far superior in all respects, and is much preferred by the employees. Connection has also been made between the electric light engine and the press room, so that in case of accident to the main engine there would not be a suspension of work in the press room."
By 1895, Public Printer Thomas E. Benedict was faced with the increasing need to shift from steam powered presses to electrical power. He decided not to try to expand the existing electrical lighting plant, but instead to request a new one. He made his case as follows: "Electricity applied to machinery has been found to be not only very economical, but a great advantage and convenience. Its easy adaptation to the varying speeds required by printing machinery, its safety, and the ease with which it may be produced and controlled are all points in its favor. The belt-power system in use here was a continuous one, and when one machine was in operation every belt and pulley was set in motion, with consequent danger of fire from friction. Direct electrical power will permit the independent operation of any machine, either day or night, and will also allow machines to be placed in any part of the building without regard to lines of shafting. Besides these advantages, full protection is secured from any general stopping of machinery such as frequently occurred under the belt system." Progress was rapid; and, in 1896 Public Printer Benedict was able to say, "The Government Printing Office power and lighting plant is now for the first time such as will prevent interruption of its work by reason of the failure of any single source of power or lighting supply."
A great deal of work by Public Printers focused on the buildings acquired in 1861, additions to them, modifications of them, and plans and justifications for new buildings. Of the structures that stood on the site bounded by H and North Capitol Streets, and Massachusetts and New Jersey Avenues, between 1861 and 1902, none survive. The oldest building still standing is located on the northwest comer of North Capitol and G Streets. Its foundation was dug beginning in 1899; and it was completed in 1903. The cost of the land, obtained through condemnation proceedings, was $190,028.06. The cost of construction was $2,429,000. A local architect, James G. Hill, was chosen; and the preparation of plans and construction was supervised by Captain John S. Sewell, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Assigned to H. K. Collins, Chief Engineer of the Government Printing Office, was the task of "planning, installing, and operating the steam power, the plumbing, ventilating, steam heating, and cold drinking water systems." Entrusted to the Chief Electrician, W H. Tapley, was the "duty of planning, installing, and operating the clerical system by which the motive power and lighting of the new and old buildings" were to be operated.
The building was described as follows: "The new building fronts 175.3 feet on North Capitol Street, and extends 408 feet on G Street. The basement walls are of brick, and the exterior walls of red brick, with red sandstone and terra cotta trimmings. The outer walls of the court and the inner walls of the building are of whiteface brick, and all stairway and elevator walls and toilet rooms are of white-enameled brick. The building rises from the surface of the ground seven full stories, exclusive of basement and attic. The floor space is equal to 377,200 square feet, or about 10 1/2 acres . . . . Adjoining the basement is a fireproof vault for the storage of stereotype and election plates. Its dimensions are 175 by 20 feet on North Capitol Street, and 408 by 20 feet on G Street. It is located under the west pavement of the former street and the north pavement of the latter. It is estimated it has a storage capacity for 2,000,000 plates.
"The first floor of the building is occupied by the press and roller divisions; the second floor by a portion of the folding division and the supervising and clerical force of the office; the third floor by the folding division; the fourth floor by the bindery; the fifth and sixth floors by typographical and proof divisions; and the seventh floor by the divisions devoted to job work, and the electrotype and stereotype foundry . . . . A pneumatic tube system for the rapid transmission of copy and proof to the various portions of the office has been installed, and is in successful operation . . . . In the loft of the building are located ventilating fans, operated by electricity, and the machinery for operating the carriers in the pneumatic tubes, the power being also furnished by electric motors. Provision has been made for eight elevators for passenger service, four freight elevators, one sidewalk elevator, and two form elevators.
"The power, heat, and light for the old and new buildings is furnished from a plant which is remarkable for its efficiency and economy. It extends from Jackson Alley, in the north to G Street on the south. The steam is furnished from eight boilers of Scotch marine type, of 300 horsepower each, supplied with appliances for saving and reusing heat, and these furnish steam for operating four cross-compound condensing engines direct connected to electric generators. One of the engines is of 200 horsepower, one of 450 horsepower, and two of 800 horsepower each. The economy of fuel in the production of power, heat, and light by this plant is cause for marvel in the minds of experienced operators of motive power. With one minor exception each piece of machinery in both buildings is operated by a separate electric motor, and electric currents fire furnished day and night for more than 10,000 lights.
"The most important consideration connected with the new building is that it is fireproof from basement to attic. The frame is of open-hearth steel, the window casing of iron, and brick and porous terra cotta protect columns, girders, and beams from expansion, fire. The structure is so substantial that heavy printing presses and other machinery are operated on the seventh floor without apparent vibration. A novel and useful feature of the new building is a plant for the supply of drinking water, without the accompaniment of ice, to all the operatives. Seventy-five drinking fountains are placed in convenient locations, supplied from tanks of filtered water in the basement, and the temperature of the water reduced to a palatable degree by passage through an ammonia plant."
The men who brought the Government Printing office into the "electronic age" were three remarkable Public Printers: Sterling P. Rounds, from Illinois; Thomas E. Benedict, from New York; and Frank W. Palmer, from Illinois.
President Chester A. Arthur appointed Public Printer Rounds on April 15, 1882. He served the Government Printing Office until his resignation on September 12, 1886. At the time of his appointment, the Nation was still reacting to the previous year's assassination of President James A. Garfield by a disappointed office seeker. This sad event gave great impetus to civil service reform legislation. On January 16, 1883, the Pendleton Act was passed which provided for a three-man bipartisan Civil Service Commission to draw up and administer competitive examinations for Federal jobs. Although covering only one-tenth of Federal employees, this was an important beginning which Public Printer Rounds implemented in the Government Printing Office. He noted the change in December, 1883: "The custom was for each Foreman to appoint or discharge at will; there was no record aside from the payroll, and it was simply impossible for the head of the office to know who was in his employ except as shown on the payrolls. I adopted the rule that the Public Printer, being responsible for the work of the office, should make all the appointments." A daily record of employees by states was introduced, along with a weekly report showing "appointments, resignations, deaths, transfers, etc.:' and made available to the Public Printer. As a result, said Rounds, "I confidently believe that the shorter hours of service, and better pay than prevails in outside offices, together with due care in selection and appointments, has resulted in making the force now employed in the Government Printing Office of such skill and efficiency as was never exceeded, if equaled, in any other printing establishment in the world."
Public Printer Rounds was an energetic innovator. The problem of a mob scene on one payday per month was met by dividing the payroll into three sections and paying those listed on the 3rd, 8th, and 13th workday of each month. He renewed old wooden floors and installed new toilets. He abolished the older system of wetting and making ready calendared paper in favor of the more popular method of working dry paper that kept its gloss and finish. In the area of fire safety, he secured pumps, hoses, buckets, and fire escapes for the wooden buildings, as well as conducted regular fire drills. He recommended and obtained from Congress 15 days paid annual leave for employees, where there had been none. He also introduced, "A more comprehensive system of accounts, whereby a perfect record is made of every transaction. By opening new books and adopting an improved system of auditing, checks, and counterchecks, there is not a single transaction that is not fully shown, and there is a voucher for every item"
President Grover Cleveland appointed Thomas E. Benedict to succeed Rounds on September 13, 1886. He served to May 6, 1889, and was later reappointed by President Cleveland on May 3, 1894, and served then to March 30, 1897. During his first term, with a work force of about 2,200, Public Printer Benedict recommended 30 days paid annual leave for employees, and secured it from Congress in 1888. He began the practice of having annual reports of division chiefs. He promoted the use of electrotyping and stereotyping in place of letterpress work. He noted craft workers were petitioning Congress for better wages, and went on record saying, "rates of wages as fixed by law are now insufficient." He also supported premium pay for nightwork, noting, "The rule allowing such extra pay is now universal in the printing trade." When he returned for a second term in 1894, it was to find a work force of about 3,600; and he set about implementing a reduction in force. Some 700 employees received a notice which read: "Being satisfied that the best interests of the public service and the efficient performance of the work of the GPO necessitates a reduction in the number of employees, it becomes my duty to direct the foreman of printing to inform you that your services would not be required after the day of this notice. Cashier will settle any balance of wages due you at the earliest possible moment convenient with the duties of his desk." This step prompted many workers to petition Congress for an extension of Civil Service. President Cleveland did just that on August 1, 1895, with an amendment on August 22, and "GPO Rules" were published, saying: "any male citizen of the United States not under 21 and any female citizen not under 18 may be examined for positions in the GPO." By 1896, Mr. Benedict felt new employees selected from certified lists were working as well as those previously appointed by Public Printers.
Perhaps the most significant event to occur during the Benedict years, was the passage by Congress of the Printing Act of 1895. Long overdue, and a topic of need stressed by early Public Printers, codification finally took place. For the first time the apprentice system was recognized in law: "The Public Printer may employ any such number of apprentices, not to exceed 25 at any one time, as in his judgment will be consistent with the economical service of the office." But the real thrust of the Act was best described in the New York Daily Tribune for December 6, 1894: "Under its operation the cost of the public printing and binding will be materially reduced and a system established which will result not only in a more intelligent distribution of Government publications, but in placing copies of all of them in depositories throughout the country where they will be convenient of access to persons who may desire to consult them. The bill also provides for the distribution among public libraries and other depositories of the vast accumulation of old documents numbering nearly 1 million volumes which now occupy valuable space in the Capitol and elsewhere in Washington, and against further accumulations of the same sort." The Act also called for the appointment of a Superintendent of Documents who would "receive and care for all surplus documents in the possession of Government offices; assort and catalog them; supervise their distribution and sale; catalog and index monthly and annually all documents published; in fine, to render accessible to librarian and the public generally the vast store of Government publications." Mr. Benedict was quick to appoint the first Superintendent of Documents on March 26, 1895, a man "with superior practical ability and literary attainments," Mr. Francis A. Crandall, from Buffalo, NY, "a gentleman whose recommendations for the position were of the highest, and who possessed an additional qualification, viz, that he would have nothing to unlearn in order to carry out the evident intention of Congress to secure better methods and greater efficiency in the distribution of public documents." With Public Printer Benedict's departure in 1897, the Government Printing Office was approaching the new century electrified, under Civil Service, with a mandate in the new Printing Act of 1895, and with a Superintendent of Documents charged with getting Government publications into America's libraries and into the hands of its citizens.
The Public Printer who was to take the Government Printing Office into the Twentieth Century was appointed by President Benjamin Harrison on May 7, 1889. Frank W. Palmer served to May 2, 1894, and was later reappointed by President William McKinley on March 31, 1897, and again served to September 8, 1905. During his first term, Palmer argued mightily in behalf of a new fireproof main building. But it was the 1893 collapse of Ford's Theatre that threatened many people in Washington, including some in Congress, and a great many in the wooden buildings of the Government Printing Office. Public Printers Benedict and Palmer stood as one on this issue, and Congress began to listen. It was also in 1893 that Congress gave up its long tradition of hand scribed bills, in favor of printing from type. On December 12, 1893, Public Law No. 1, of the 53d Congress, 2d session, became the first of many acts to be so printed.
When Public Printer Palmer returned for a second term in 1897, it was to renew the struggle for the building; and by 1898, Congress appropriated money for the purchase of land. The Spanish American War came and went that same year, and provided the Government Printing Office with a new crop of veterans. The Document Division drew upon its 3 Years of experience to reorganize into six sections: Bookkeeping and Correspondence; Sales; Catalog; Library; Mail; and Stock. In 1899, Congress appropriated funds for equality of pay among printers, pressmen, and book binders; so that all might be paid 50 cents an hour, or $4 for an 8 hour day. Other crafts petitioned Congress, and on July 1, 1900, the same rate was granted to blacksmiths, carpenters, electricians, electrotypers, leather parers, machinists, plumbers, saw grinders, steam fitters, and stereotypers. Other pay increases that year allowed $3.50 a day for painters; and for women, $2.50 a day for directresses, $2 a day for gold workers, numberers, press feeders, sewers, and folders. It was from these workers that the initiative came for a "sick room" on the third floor of the old building. They provided a cot, blanket, and a small supply of donated medicine. The Government Printing Office provided the room, and in 1905 the first Medical Director, a former GPO employee. Before Mr. Palmer ended his term in 1905, he reported: "In June 1904, contracts were made by the Public Printer with the Mergenthaler Linotype Co. for the purchase of 46 double magazine typesetting machines, at a cost of $3,600 each, and with the Lanston Monotype Co. for 28 typesetting machines, at a cost of $3,150 each." This stride into hot metal technology engendered uneasiness among many employees, who feared machines would be used to replace them. They made their concern known to Congress, and on September 9, 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt relieved Mr. Palmer of the position he had held for over 13 years. But the future was arriving, and Public Printer Palmer had glimpsed it in 1901 when he observed, "in the event that the use of electric automobiles should prove more practicable than horses and wagons for transporting the products of the GPO the supply of the necessary electric currents for charging the automobiles could be furnished from the power plant of the new building." The "Age of the Auto" was getting underway.
The Age of the Auto
The sixth in a series of articles commemorating GPO's 125th Anniversary, by Daniel R. MacGilvray
In 1901 a Public Printer suggested that automobiles might "prove more practicable than horses and wagons for transporting the products of GPO." Five years later, on January 26, 1906, another Public Printer made headlines: "Finds Horses too Expensive. Public Printer at Washington May Substitute Automobiles." The newspaper article went on to say: "He will confer with the President about it and will endeavor to get Congress to appropriate for the purchase of the vehicles." It remained for a later Public Printer to finally report in 1912: "The purchase and installation of charging panels and charging circuits in the new garage to accommodate the automobiles cost $1,289.56. During this fiscal year six electric trucks were purchased at a cost of $17,373. A greater part of the old traffic equipment was sold, six horses and two trucks being kept. During the first six months that these automobiles were in service the total cost of the combined garage, delivery, and stable sections was $18,145.60, indicating an estimated saving per annum of $12,196.90 over the cost of operating the delivery and stable sections in the previous year." Eleven years of effort, spanning the careers of four Public Printers, were needed to bring the Government Printing Office into the "Age of the Auto."
The men who guided the Government Printing Office into the "automobile age" were four unusual Public Printers: Charles A. Stillings, from Massachusetts; John S. Leech, from Illinois; Samuel B. Donnelly, from New York; and Cornelius Ford, from New Jersey.
President Theodore Roosevelt appointed Public Printer Stillings on November 1, 1905; and he served the Government Printing Office until his suspension by the President on February 5, 1908. Seldom has a Public Printer been such a center of controversy and national publicity.
Stilling's background reveals his ambition. He began working in his father's printing office in Boston at the age of 14. He dropped out of high school at 16 to learn the business, and was steadily advanced by his father, E. B. Stillings, a prominent figure in the Grand Army of the Republic. Setting out on his own for Washington, DC, he soon became manager of the Printers' Board of Trade. Subsequently, he took a similar position in New York City. While there, a friend told him of the resignation of Public Printer Palmer, and remarked, "That's a position you ought to have." Stillings agreed, and made an appointment to meet President Roosevelt at Oyster Bay, NY. The President was impressed by his enthusiasm and knowledge of printing. He made some inquiries about this 200-pound, 34-year-old man. Endorsements were forthcoming: from Massachusetts Senators Winthrop M. Crane and Henry C. Lodge, as well as from numerous large printing firms. As a 32nd degree Scottish Rite Mason, and a member of the Mystic Shrine, Stillings did not lack in fraternal support.
While awaiting confirmation, headlines appeared in The New York Sun for November 16, 1905: "Printing Office Scandal. Effort To Defeat Confirmation of Stillings. Oscar J. Ricketts, Late Acting Public Printer, Leads The Opposition, The Basis of Which Is Alleged To Be the 'Open Shop' Proclivities of Mr. Stillings. Confirmation took place without incident. However, the new Public Printer was to be followed by one storm cloud after another. During his term, Americans were to hear more about the Government Printing Office than at any previous time in its history.
The person most responsible for bringing a spotlight of publicity to the Government Printing Office was President Theodore Roosevelt. Not only did he appoint Public Printer Stillings, but he gave him an order that brought him into the limelight. The Associated Press reported it on August 24, 1906: "President Roosevelt has endorsed the Carnegie spelling reform movement. He issued orders today to Public Printer Stillings that hereafter all messages from the President and all other documents emanating from the White House shall be printed in accordance with the recommendation of the spelling reform committee headed by Brander Matthews, professor of English in Columbia University. This committee has published a list of 300 words in which the spelling is reformed. This list contains such words as 'thru' and 'tho' as the spelling for 'through' and 'though.'"
The press had a field day with the "reform spelling crusade" and editorials and cartoons abounded. The Supreme Court entered the fray and directed that its opinions should be printed in the old style. Finally, Congress had the last word when Representative Charles B. Landis of Indiana, Chairman of the House Committee on Printing, introduced a resolution on December 13, 1906: "Resolved, That it is the sense of the House that hereafter in the printing of House documents or other publications used by law or ordered by Congress, or either branch thereof, or emanating from any executive department or bureau of the Government, the House printer should observe and adhere to the standard of orthography prescribed in generally accepted dictionaries of the English language. The motion passed unanimously. The President let the Public Printer and the Nation know that the old style was reinstated.
No sooner had this cloud burst, than another one appeared on the horizon. On May 30, 1907, Public Printer Stillings authorized a "reduction in force" and announced the dismissal of 204 employees, half of whom were journeyman bookbinders, and half of whom were women, mostly sewers and goldworkers. This action, the Public Printer said, was necessitated by changes in printing and binding regulations which caused a falling off of work. A special dispatch to the Rochester Chronicle of April 30, 1907, described the resulting impact: "Many pathetic scenes followed the receipt of the dreaded yellow envelopes by the women. A number of them could not refrain from shedding tears, while a few became hysterical. Several of them had worked in the printing office for years."
The Public Printer brought on another storm by insisting on physical examinations for the elderly workers at the Government Printing Office. This is reflected in a news item for September 31, 1907: "The women employed in the Government Printing Office, especially those in the bindery, have entered the fight to have Public Printer Stillings deposed. Their grievance is a reduction of wages. One thing to which they object is the physical examination ordered by Stillings. Many of them are widows of Civil War soldiers and they know that they cannot hop, skip and jump in competition with boys and young men. They also object to the rigid surveillance to which they are subjected."
Other acts of the Public Printer alienated women in the workforce. One which received a great deal of publicity was the removal of mirrors from work areas. One woman explained their need to a reporter, on April 27, 1907: "Yes, we had our own mirrors and they were necessary. In the main dressing room of each of the floors where the women work there is one mirror, but what could a hundred or more girls do before one mirror when everybody wants to leave as soon as the Government has had our day's work? Under the old order it took each of us but a moment to see how we looked and we could go out on the street feeling that we were presentable. From half past 4 o'clock until 6 each day is the only time we have in which to do our modest shopping, and it is a race to get to the stores before they close. Mr. Stillings evidently believes we should leave this building all frowsied up and looking disreputable. Well, we'll fool him, anyhow, for he cannot prevent our carrying little pocket mirrors and the shops will have a run on that article.
Needless to say, the trade unions were also provoked. A headline in The Boston American for March 15, 1907, read: "Strike Threatened at U.S. Print Shop. The article went on to say: "Because they claim Public Printer Stillings is trying to supplant them with apprentices and unskilled men, the small army of stereotypers and electrotypers at the great government print shop are threatening a strike. At a special meeting a delegation was named to wait on Stillings and present their grievances." On July 22, 1907, the same newspaper reported: "Resolutions denouncing in vigorous terms Stillings' recent order fining proofreaders for overlooking errors were forwarded today to President Roosevelt and laid before the Department of Justice by Columbia Typographical Union No. 1. On October 17, 1907, the Central Labor Union of the District of Columbia passed resolutions "asking President Roosevelt to remove Charles A. Stillings from office."
Public Printer Stillings viewed things differently from his critics. He expressed himself on June 24. 1907, before a Washington, DC gathering of photoengravers and electrotypers. A reporter noted: "Mr. Stillings said an effort was being made to place the Government Printing Office on a plane with the best printing establishments in the world. He described how he had found a more or less disorganized force of workmen in many lines; how he had made an attempt to place at the head of several departments experts in their several lines; how he had met with some opposition; how he had been misunderstood in some ways, but how at last it was becoming apparent that the Government Printing Office is not only abreast with the best establishments of its kind in the world, but the idea was beginning to appear that the true aim is to make it the model printing house of the world."
However, the controversies which swirled around Public Printer Stillings prompted his suspension by President Roosevelt on February 5, 1908, and a subsequent investigation. The resulting Rossiter Report of February 29, 1908, was critical of expenditures relating to "cost, audit, and inventory systems," along with purchase of supplies and furniture amounting to $138,110. Criticism was also made of failure to properly train workers in the efficient use of new typesetting machines. Worker morale was found to be low. The report's conclusion stated that the Public Printer "had not been a good judge of men, but at the same time could not be accused of any intentional wrongdoing."
President Roosevelt also appointed Public Printer Leech on June 9, 1908. He served the Government Printing Office during a period of transition for 6 months, until November 30, 1908. A veteran of the Government Printing Office, the new Public Printer had learned his trade in Indiana working for The Pantagraph. He came to Washington DC in 1889 as a compositor, later serving as a proofreader and foreman. When appointed by the President, he was serving as Public Printer of the recently acquired Philippines. As an honorary member of the Columbia Typographical Union, he had twice represented their members at meetings of the International. One of the first areas he examined as Public Printer was that of wages paid in the Government Printing Office. He authorized increases for linotype and monotype operators, as well as printers, bookbinders, proofreaders, and other occupations requiring special skill
During his brief administration, Public Printer Leech implemented a new system of accounting. The annual report for 1906 said of it: "By the accounting system is shown monthly the total cost of operation, daily the amount of wages earned, and at any moment the amount of purchases, the total expenditures to date, and the outstanding obligations." The system was considered to be of "comparative simplicity" and "logical arrangement." However, the workload proved too heavy for the Public Printer, and his doctor ordered him to rest. On December 1, 1908, he resigned. During his last day at the Government Printing Office, more than 1,000 employees met with him to wish him well.
President Roosevelt's third appointee to the Government Printing Office, on December 1, 1908, was Public Printer Donnelly, a former president of the International Typographical Union. He served through the term of Roosevelt's successor, President William H. Taft, until June 25, 1913. The new Public Printer had been previously appointed by the President to a number of special commissions, and was well known to him. One of the Public Printer's early suggestions, made in his annual report for 1909, related to the eighth (or attic) floor of the new building. He observed: "The majority of employees of the Government Printing Office partake of the noonday meal in the workrooms in which they are employed. Food is carried into the workrooms in large quantities and distributed from convenient points This method is unhealthful and insanitary, increases the difficulty of keeping the office clean, and attracts insects destructive to certain classes of material." He went on to request authority to construct skylights in the roof and to use the area as a lunchroom. The Public Printer also set about securing new business. He was able to report on December 5, 1910: "In February we undertook the work of printing the postal cards. On this work many difficulties were met with, particularly owing to paper and mechanical troubles. At the date of the submission of this report, however, the work is up-to-date. The Government Printing Office printed in the month of October 156,834,000 cards." For the entire fiscal year 1911, he reported production of 1,280,895,840 postal cards! This particular legacy of Public Printer Donnelly is still a vital part of the Government Printing Office which in 1986 installed a new No. 8 Roland Man 5-color offset press for the printing of postal cards and passports.
One unusual, but painfully significant, episode occurred in 1911. During the construction of a wall for the garage, the Civil Service Commission certified six bricklayers and one laborer for work on the project. After a few days on the job, the bricklayers let it be known that they wanted the laborer, a black man, removed from the project. When this was not done, they walked out. The Civil Service Commission then certified six new bricklayers, who happened to be black men. Some vociferous criticism was leveled at the Public Printer for refusing to dismiss the laborer, and for replacing the bricklayers who had left. The Public Printer clearly expressed himself on this matter, and was quoted by The Reformer (Richmond, VA), on November 11, 1911: "I am loyal to union principles when they stand for protection and for fair play to all concerned. Negro bricklayers work side by side with white bricklayers in the Washington and other Navy yards. I cannot see why in the case of the work to be done at the Government Printing Office, the white bricklayers should expect an exception to be made in their favor. There are 400 Negro employees in the Government Printing Office. Colored persons work in the various departments side-by-side with other employees in harmony and with great efficiency. I wish to declare with all emphasis that any employee of this department who tries to precipitate the devilish stricture of race prejudice will be immediately dismissed and will not again be employed!"
Public Printer Donnelly's concern for the employees showed itself in still another farsighted way. He reported to Congress in 1911: "There are employed in the Government Printing Office more than 250 persons above the age of 65, and it would be of advantage to the Government to provide for the retirement of those who have given to the public service the best years of their lives and who may be unable to perform an average day's work. This could be equitably accomplished through the adoption of a plan which would in effect amount to an annuity to each employee upon arriving at the age of retirement or upon becoming disabled. The basis of such annuities should be length of service and the salary or wage received during their employment, which in the case of those who have been in the service for many years would meet their ordinary requirements during the remainder of their lives. Such a plan would result in saving a large proportion of the amount that it is conceded generally is now lost through the superannuation of employees, and would at the same time be an act of justice to the individual and a recognition of long and faithful service." Not until 1920 did the Civil Service Employees' Retirement Act take effect; and Public Printer Donnelly helped sow the seeds.
On June 26, 1913, newly elected President Woodrow Wilson appointed a friend known to him in New Jersey, Public Printer Ford, president of the State Federation of Labor. He served the Government Printing Office and the Nation through the trying days of World War I, until April 4, 1921. One of his first acts was to obtain from President Wilson an executive order which allowed him to appoint a private secretary. He chose Joseph P. O'Lone, who had been treasurer of the New Jersey State Federation of Labor, and was prominent in the Knights of Columbus. The Public Printer then put his stamp of approval on the annual report of 1913. In it, his closing words addressed the wage question: "In conclusion I would recommend that the wages of compositors and bookbinders, now at 50 cents per hour, be increased to 55 cents per hour, also that bookbinder machine operators be increased from 55 cents to 60 cents per hour. It is estimated that the sum of $83,000 will be required to meet the increase in salary should this rate be granted by Congress." He was to repeat this same request in annual reports for 1914, 1915, 1916, and 1917. In his final report for 1920, he pointed out with some exasperation: "For the past two or three years only by promises of his utmost endeavor with Congress for relief has the Public Printer been enabled to retain sufficient efficient employees on the legislative rolls to take care of the ever increasing demands of Congress, the departments, and the general public. Within the past year the office has lost by resignation the services of many of its best paid and most efficient employees, and the good of the service impels this appeal to the Congress for a proper adjustment of these rolls … Owing to the seriousness of the situation it is urgently recommended that Congress take favorable action so that the salary and wage rate in the Government Printing Office will compare with the salary and wage rate paid in commercial establishments doing similar work."
Initially, Public Printer Ford set about promoting a number of health and safety measures. His annual report for 1914 mentions: "A 'rest room' has been installed on the fifth floor of the new building for women employees who may become exhausted during working hours. The room is under the supervision of the medical and sanitary officer. I consider it a very humane and necessary adjunct to the office." In 1915 he reported: "Realizing that the health of employees in the linotype section was being endangered by fumes and noxious gases arising from melted metal in the linotype pots, I installed a ventilating system in that section at a cost of $398. The installation of this system has resulted in a very material change for the better in the atmosphere of the room and the general working conditions." He also noted that: "All faucets were removed from drinking fountains throughout the buildings and replaced with bubbling fountains, at a cost $946.75; this replacement was a decided advance in sanitation." Public Printer Ford felt vacations were an important source of rest and renewal for employees. He expressed considerable satisfaction at a legal opinion on the subject: "A decision of the comptroller, dated February 15, 1915, definitely decided that employees of this office are entitled to leave of absence with pay for 30 working days each year. The decision was fair and just and in full conformity with law."
Meanwhile, World War I had begun in Europe; and it was to have a major impact on the Government Printing Office. On the eve of America's involvement, in 1916, the value of the fiscal year's printing and binding (excluding that for the Superintendent of Documents) was $6,201,864.42. During the record breaking fiscal year of 1919, this product amounted to $12,774,712.34. The entry of the United States into the "Great War" produced a rush of orders in 1911. The Public Printer listed some of them: "Registration cards, 25,000,000; certificates of registration, 18,000,000; Manual of Courts-Martial, 100,000; Small-Arms Firing Manual, 100,000; Manual of Guard Duty, 100,000; Infantry Drill Regulations, 90,000; Liberty Bond posters in two colors, 1,000,000, with delivery in three days; Boy Scout posters in several colors, 4,000,000 with deliveries in a few days time; bulletin on home gardening, 1,000,000; and many other large quantities of bulletins on home economies."
The War's impact altered the life at the Government Printing Office. In 1918, the Public Printer reported: "The number of women employed in the office now is far in excess of previous years; they have been assigned to many branches of work heretofore filled by men only, and show a willing desire to carry it through." Three 8-hour shifts made hectic the chores of maintenance workers: "The employees engaged in the upkeep of buildings and plant worked under considerable difficulty on account of the office being in operation almost constantly, and it being necessary that their work conflict as little as possible with productive operations." There were also security measures: "Secret and confidential publications, of which there were very many, were handled throughout the office under strict and ironclad regulations, preventing any premature publicity or any breach of the confidence of departmental officials." A peak of employment was reached in October 1918 when "the number of employees was 5,307." Despite this, there was considerable employee turnover: "The general average number of separations from the service has been approximately 200 per month, the two principal reasons given being those of better compensation in other places and draft into military and naval service." Finally, the end came; and the Public Printer observed: "The signing of the armistice on November 11, 1918, found this office in full swing on the largest output in its history. With practically all divisions running on three eight-hour schedules, the value of product was amounting to about one and a quarter million dollars a month."
With peace came a profound political change. War weary Americans elected with 16,152,200 votes a down home printer, Warren G. Harding, who owned and worked in a small newspaper, The Star, in Marion, OH. That "Printer" President when in the White House turned to the Joint Committee on Printing for a new Public Printer. One was forthcoming who was to prove "President Harding's Legacy" to the Government Printing Office.