One of the foremost business enterprises of Racine was organized in 1908 and succeeded to the business of John Geller, who had conducted his interests under the name of the Westside Printing Company. He had established the business about 1906, and it was conducted under the original name until 1910, when it was incorporated under the laws of Wisconsin as the Western Printing & Lithographing Company. In 1908 Edward H. Wadewitz had bought out the Westside Printing Company and admitted William Bell to a partnership, while six months later Roy A. Spencer became a member of the firm and afterward Mr. Bell sold out. In the spring of 1909 Clarence H. Van Vliet became a partner in the business. The officers of the Westside Printing Company from 1908 until 1910 were: Roy A. Spencer, president; Edward H. Wadewitz, secretary and treasurer, with Edward H. Wadewitz for a short time as vice president. Following the incorporation of the business in 1910 the first officers were Roy A. Spencer, president; Clarence H. Van Vliet, vice president; and Edward H. Wadewitz, secretary, treasurer and general manager.
In 1908 the plant was located in the cellar of Dr. Fazen’s building on State Street, but was removed to Joseph Leichtweih’s building at 550 State Street, occupying half of that building in 1909. The following year a removal was made to the Dr. Shoop building at 213-227 State Street, where they occupied the basement and a part of the first floor. The growth of the business caused them to enlarge their quarters in 1911, when they rented a part of the third floor. In 1912 they took over most of the first floor and all of the third floor and in 1913 removed their offices to the second floor and rented the fourth floor, placing the lithographing department there. In 1914 they installed electrotyping and engraving departments and took a part of the fifth floor, renting the remainder of that floor in 1915, so that they are 110W occupying about ninety per cent. of the floor space of the entire building.
In 1916 they bought a large Chicago publishing company which they moved to Racine. This business is known as the Whitman Publishing Company. More floor space was required and they then leased the entire building for a long term of years. As indicated by these changes, the business has steadily grown and the company has kept abreast with the time by installing modern machinery, having today the largest and most complete printing plant in Wisconsin, containing every department allied to the printing business, from that of engraving to printing and binding.
On August 1, 1916, an advertising agency was organized. This was brought about by a desire to render complete service to its customers, so that the company could analyze a customer’s business, point out the weak spots; suggest intelligent ways and means for stimulating the customer’s business; handle their publicity; write their advertisements; place their ads with publications: and design, execute and produce direct by mail, advertising literature, thus relieving a customer of all this detail and concentrating this much desired advertising service with one local concern. The advertising agency is known as the ‘Western Advertising Agency.
The Western Printing Lithographing Company has the latest style linotype and monotype machines, the most up-to-date, efficient automatic presses and automatic binding machinery. They are equipped to specialize in fine book and catalog printing, furnishing the high grade work demanded by automobile and machinery manufacturers.
Their color process printing and offset work have received praise wherever shown. Their patronage now comes to them from all over Wisconsin and many other states and they compete successfully with printers in Chicago and other metropolitan centers. In 1908 the company employed five people, four of whom are still with them. Their employees are all practical men in the business and today on their pay roll are over one hundred and twenty-five names. Over half of these people are skilled workmen and their output shows the most artistic productions brought out by the printing business. Their building is equipped throughout with a sprinkler system, and has fire and moisture proof vaults for valuable plates and engravings.
Among the larger contracts completed by the company was that for over two hundred and twenty thousand portfolios for S. C. Johnson & Son of Racine, produced during the years of 1913, 1914 and 1915. The covers of these portfolios were made of Japanese wood veneer, it required one hundred and twenty-five thousand pieces, twenty by thirty inches, of wood veneer, all imported from Japan, which comprises the largest amount ever brought into the United States of one size and one color. The design of the portfolio was made in the office of the company and this was the largest job of its kind which the company has ever undertaken. For the last seven years they have been printing the Farmers’ Catalog of the J. I. Case Plow Works, which is 110W running over five hundred thousand catalogs per year. This company has printed ten million almanacs for a Chicago-New York concern, making fourteen car loads of books, one machine being operated for eight months on this particular job, automatically printing and folding the work complete. For five years they have been printing the Studebaker almanacs of one million issues each year. They have also printed the Armour Memorandum books for four years, running as high as over two million copies annually.
This business is located in a city that requires much high grade printing and in nine years the company has succeeded in demonstrating to the public that it can meet every requirement in its line. They also publish many children’s books, historical works, novels and other volumes, which are sold under the name of the Whitman Publishing Company, the salesmen traveling from coast to coast.
In 1909 this company took their first job, which amounted to one thousand dollars, and they felt that they were making very substantial advances in so doing. Up to the present time, single contracts amounting to thirty thousand dollars have been handled successfully. Something of the marvelous growth and development of this enterprise is shown by the following figures which give their business in round numbers through successive years: 1908, $6,000;
This shows a consistent and remarkable business growth, justifying the statement that theirs is one of the most important industrial enterprises of Racine.
Source: Stone, Fanny S. Racine, Belle City of the lakes, and Racine County, Wisconsin : a record of settlement, organization, progress and achievement; Chicago: S. J. Clarke Pub. Co., 1916.