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1998 Hall of Fame--Father of Web Offset

October 1998
During his nearly 70-year career, Harry R. Quadracci has overseen 121 press installations.


It didn't take long for Harry R. Quadracci to prove what kind of man he was. In fact, he proved it while still a boy.

The Quadracci family had moved to America from Italy in 1906 in search of a better life. His father opened a grocery store in Racine, WI, after they settled in, but The Great Depression would leave millions of people, the Quadraccis included, bankrupt.

That's when Harry Quadracci stepped to the forefront.

He had taken up printing at the age of 15 as a hobby and a way to make extra money, and he used that money to acquire a letterpress one year later. The grocery store, broke because it extended credit to customers who couldn't pay, wasn't legally required to pay back its creditors. But the younger Quadracci printed materials for his father's creditors and placed $5 of every $20 job toward the debt his father had incurred. The elder Quadracci was able to repay every penny owed by the store.

Why pay, when most other people either didn't or couldn't?

"A man's credit," Harry Quadracci explains, "is his personal bond."

Thus began a milestone-laden printing journey for Harry R. Quadracci, a 1998 Printing Impressions/RIT Printing Industry Hall of Fame inductee.

Quadracci, 85, is chairman of the board of directors at Quad/Graphics, Pewaukee, WI. He joined the company in 1972, helping his son and company founder, Harry V. "Larry" Quadracci, operate the business.

That was the beginning of a new career for Quadracci, but it also brought to an end 38 innovative, successful years at the W.A. Krueger Co., which he co-founded and later co-owned.

The W.A. Krueger Co. began when Quadracci sold his first press, the Belle City Queen, and other print shop assets to William A. Krueger. Quadracci had owned the Belle City Queen ever since he started his own company, Standard Printing, in 1930.

Little did Quadracci know that the Belle City Queen was the first in a long line of presses he would oversee installed. He oversaw the installation of 15 web offset presses at the W.A. Krueger Co.; at Quad/Graphics, he oversaw the addition of 88 web offset presses and 18 gravure presses. Thus Quadracci headed up the installation of 121 web presses, believed by many in the industry to be the highest-ever total for one person.

In 1954, Krueger purchased its first four-color press with a long oven. Prior to having long dryers, web presses were used for one- and two-color newsprint jobs.

"We gave web offset a chance by providing the process with top-quality separations, film work, expensive ink and coated paper," Quadracci recalls. "Thus, web offset quality could compete with other printing processes."

It was the installation of the first four-color web offset press with a long dryer and chilled-water cooling system that impacted the industry most. Krueger instantly became known as the premier web offset printer in the country, led by Quadracci. He oversaw the installation of 15 web presses, making Krueger the first large printer to convert to web offset technology.

Giving Web a Chance
"He was the person who gave it a chance by giving it good separations, good paper, good ink and the best equipment available," notes his son, Larry Quadracci. "That's how web offset took over the mantle of the production process from rotary letterpress."

Investing in cutting-edge technologies is only part of what Angelo Rivello thinks of at the mention of the elder Quadracci. Rivello, who has known both Harry and Larry since 1967, sees the elder Quadracci as an educator.

"To me, he has always been a great teacher," notes Rivello, senior vice president of distribution and worldwide manufacturing at Newsweek, of which Quad/Graphics holds the printing contract. "In my formative years coming up in the offset business, he was truly an offset genius. I always felt privileged to work and spend time with him. He had the patience to take the time and show us the way and what needed to be done.

"The one tenet he used to say was that offset printing will get better when we get faster," Rivello points out. "He truly understands the process."

What strikes Rivello most about Quadracci is his unquestionable, unmatched integrity.

"I've always been impressed by the quiet, intelligent way he went about doing his job," Rivello says. "He's always been the consummate professional and businessman. No one left a bigger stamp on me than he did."

Quadracci learned how to be competitive during his early years in the business. During the Depression, he invested enough time and effort into Standard Printing to keep his costs down and underbid established printers. On one job in particular—printing coupons for unemployed people in Racine, WI, to exchange for meat—he was accused of illegally cutting his prices. That certainly wasn't the case.

"During The Great Depression, the National Recovery Act established minimum pricing," Quadracci recalls. "The Blue Eagle Board—set up to monitor compliance with the NRA's act—perceived my actions as undercutting the minimum price established for printing."

The board took no action against the young printer, however, upon learning how Quadracci had maintained a low overhead by running a more productive business.

The young entrepreneur sold his Belle City Queen and accessories to William A. Krueger in 1934, which provided Quadracci enough money to get married and set up a home. He became the first employee of the W.A. Krueger Co., located in Milwaukee, and his relentless work contributed to the steady growth of that company.

Quadracci eventually became co-owner of Krueger and the printer outgrew its original location, prompting a move within the city. With the end of World War II and the transformation to a peacetime economy, Krueger invested in new equipment to adapt to the market changes. A few years later, the company developed Micro-Color, the process of establishing prepress operations and press operations under the same roof.

"It ensured that color photos would reproduce the way customers wanted them," he says. "This process helped us attract the attention of many national accounts."

Micro-Color did, indeed, have an immediate impact on national accounts. In 1950, Arizona Highways magazine chose Krueger as its printer, thus becoming the first of those major accounts.

In 1957, with annual sales reaching $4.5 million, Krueger's stock went public and another plant was opened in Brookfield, WI. That plant has since become one of World Color's facilities.

Along with the addition of presses, expansion marked the last 10 years of Quadracci's tenure at Krueger. In 1962, a printing plant was opened in Phoenix and six years later a book plant sprouted in New Berlin, WI.

When Quadracci stepped down in 1972, he had served as director of manufacturing, executive vice president and a board member.

Quadracci may have retired from Krueger, but he didn't give up his love of printing. He joined Quad/ Graphics, the company named for him by the company's founder—Larry Quadracci—and has continued to help guide the company through some impressive financial growth spurts.

Name Recognition
"When I started Quad/Graphics, the most valuable asset I had was the reputation of the Quadracci name, which meant quality, print knowledge and integrity," Larry Quadracci recalls. "I credit a great deal of the success of Quad/Graphics to his work over the years."

The younger Quadracci has learned from his father, among other things, the principle that the only way to coordinate a printing plant "is to have it in the palm of your hand. Our company continues in that tradition with very hands-on management. You've got to be on the shop floor."

The numbers say the philosophy has worked. Quad/Graphics currently generates sales in excess of $1.4 billion and boasts nearly 12,000 employees. It has 16 plants in the United States and three others in South America and Europe.

Larry Quadracci says his father has left numerous truisms in the industry, mainly the belief that good equipment is a sound, cheap investment, regardless of how expensive it may be.

The one truth that sticks out above all others, the younger Quadracci believes, is that his father is a good man.

"I have never heard anybody say a negative word about him," Larry Quadracci remarks. "His reputation is his lifelong work."

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