No more printing in GPO

The GPO changed its name today and there’s no more printing in the Government Printing Office headquartered in Washington, DC:

But behind all that fluff of emerging digital technology, the GPO still has hot metal (serviced by Dave Seat), at least one Vandercook, and a Kluge or two. Hot metal and letterpress has not been completely erased at the GPO.

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I served my Apprenticeship as a Compositor starting July 10, 1967. It started as a 5 year program and sometime in our 3rd year it was cut to a 4 year program. I stayed about 9 months as a Journeymen in the Hand Section on the 6th floor working as a Makeupman on the Congressional Record. I reassembled the Daily Record into the big Bound Records. Willie Handle was the Foreman, he was a good guy to work for. I had worked in basement printshops thru high school, I had some knowledge of hot metal. When I started in the Composing Room (they started us in Main Mono Section on the 7th floor) we each got a California case, a layout chart and a page of monotype. I distributed my page quickly and the Apprentice Instructor Jim Honze(sp?) asked me to help the others. We spent 13 weeks in Main Mono doing corrections, working in the sort room filling cases. All new hires (Journeymen) started in the Mono Section, I saw many of them gone after a day or two. You could easily tell they didn’t have much if any experience with handset type.
I still have my Indenture of Apprenticeship papers, my Journeyman Compositor diploma and my first pay stub. We started at 50% of the lowest paid craft (bookbinders), which was $2.09 per hour. For a 40 hour week, grossed $83.60 and take home was $63.35.
I haven’t been back to the Big House in about 40 years.

A lot of Good Memories.

Winston’s story is very interesting about the GPO. When he was working there, the GPO had about 125 Monotype casting machines in regular use plus all the support equipment. The main effort was the daily Congressional Record, a prodigious effort. When the end came for this massive amount of typesetting equipment, most of it was scrapped. A few machines were saved and ended up in the hands of people who are active in the American Typecasting Fellowship.

The head of the GPO used to carry the title of “Public Printer,” but I see the title has been reduced to merely “Director.” At one time, the Public Printer of the US played a significant role in American graphic arts and the person’s name was recognized by most people in printing—that was in the 1920s through at least the 1950s. The Public Printer was often a featured speaker at conventions of printers around the country and the GPO established standards for many parts of printing in terms of paper, plates, etc. and worked closely with equipment manufacturers.

Has there ever been a history of the GPO written? It is an amazing story. I would love to hear more!

Jeff’s link to the GPO history page lead to a nice collection of historic photographs. Interesting that only a few had captions perhaps because what was portrayed was a mystery to any of the current people working there. Scenes included hand type setting, multitudes of Linotypes, Monotype keyboards and Monotype casters, page make up, apprentice training in imposition, edge marbling of bound books, pen ruling machines, makeready of cylinder presses, electrotyping, stereotype casting, proof reading, press operation, book binding, record keeping, office scenes, retail sales, and a classic photo of a very modish Monotype keyboard operator in his best early 1970s attire. The site says it has over 10,000 historic photos so these were only the tip of the ice berg. Another site with excellent historic GPO photos is