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2004 HALL OF FAME John Bell -- Ethics Really Matter

October 2004
By Erik Cagle

Senior Editor

Truth be known, many customers of The Ovid Bell Press in Fulton, MO, never enjoy the opportunity to realize just how honestly and fairly they're being treated.

And that's just fine with President and CEO John Bell—a third generation printer, a man of integrity and honesty, and a 2004 Printing Impressions/RIT Printing Industry Hall of Fame inductee. While Bell prefers the problem-free experiences, it is those challenges that arise during the print production process that allow The Ovid Bell Press to showcase its abilities.

"It's that problem we often create in the world of printing that allows us the opportunity to display what we're made of," says the 53-year-old. "Nowadays, you don't hear many people stand up and take responsibility for their actions, but I think our customers appreciate our candor. Honor plays a big part in our company's business ethics. We want to be sure that we're very honest and fair with our customers."

The Ovid Bell Press is deceiving; it smacks of a small-town community printer, yet the 120-employee sheetfed and web shop is a publication printer with a national scope. Of the 200 regular short-run magazines and periodicals it churns out every month, only 20 customers are in-state. Associations, medical publishers and special interest magazines, journals and newsletters constitute The Ovid Bell Press' primary clientele.

The printing industry has the failed political aspirations of "Silver Dick" Bland to thank for The Ovid Bell Press' contributions in short-run publications. As some followers of late 19th century U.S. politics are well-aware, Rep. Richard P. Bland (D-MO)—a.k.a. Silver Dick or Honest Dick, who gained notoriety for the 1878 Bland-Allison Act that brought us the Morgan silver dollar coin—made a run at his party's 1896 presidential nomination. He ultimately lost to fellow Democrat William Jennings Bryan (who himself was to presidential bids what the Buffalo Bills were to Super Bowl bids: wildly unsuccessful). Three years later, Bland died.

Ovid Bell was the secretary to Bland and had high political aspirations himself. So when Bland's presidential bid failed and the candidate passed on, Ovid Bell's future in politics slipped away, as well. Ovid's father pulled some strings and landed him a newspaper job and, shortly after the turn of the century, the younger Bell bought one of the community's two newspapers. But Ovid soon saw a brighter future in printing publications for outside concerns, so he sold the paper and formed The Ovid Bell Press in 1924.

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