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Ripon's 50th a Time to Reflect -Cagle

December 2012

Our friends at Ripon Printers in sunny, downtown Ripon, WI, celebrated their 50th anniversary with an Open House on Sept. 26-27. According to Ripon stalwarts Deba Horn-Prochno and Carol Cluppert, the event was a huge success.

The anniversary celebration included a community/family night, with more than 500 visitors dropping by to say hello, while nearly 50 customers and prospects dropped by the second day. Festivities included a 45-minute tour of the facility, a family pictures video, printed samples, cake and punch. All visitors received a tote bag filled with goodies including a 50th Anniversary booklet, calendar, spiral notebook and pen.

The booklet contained a timeline, photos and testimonies by longtime employees. Jeff Miller, a first shift web press crew leader and a 35-year Ripon veteran, penned a nostalgic look back at his career. He started off making $2.80 an hour as an 18-year-old, and took the gig because it offered health insurance (some things never change). He remembers his first encounter with four-color printing ("Wow, art class paid off") but, perhaps most of all, he reveled in the craftsmanship that enabled him to be expressive as well as productive.

"You had to be a skilled craftsman to get the most out of the equipment," he wrote. "Everything was hands-on. Literally. What left the building was the work of your hands and mind."

Times certainly have changed, Miller noted. Fifty years ago, no one would bat an eye at racing inside/outside the plant, using pallet jacks, trucks and office chairs as vehicles. Then there was the time someone on second shift wrote a welcome note in the parking lot by using press wash and set it ablaze. Most companies wince at the days when the break room was thick with cigarette smoke, a major no-no in the modern workplace.

We may not have been safer (or saner) back then. But it sure was a blast, eh?

POWER OF PRINT(ERS): Our amigo from sister publication Publishing Executive, Jim Sturdivant, recently came across a gravestone in North Carolina that really drove home the importance of being a printer during Early America. The gravestone was of one James Davis, whose accomplishments seem to cast him as a southern Ben Franklin. I'll let Jim take it from here.

"I'm a little dubious of the term 'information scarcity,' as if there was ever a time when people did not have loads of news and gossip coming their way. Back in the stagecoach era, when we all lived in close-knit, walkable communities (no need for terms like "new urbanist" back then), news and views flowed over fences and across tables, out of taverns and churches and docks.

"Still, the person in charge of the local printing press must have possessed a type of authority that's difficult for us to grasp today. A printer was the hub, the establisher and keeper of records, the validator of all that was official, authoritative and lasting. The word imprimatur—from the Latin, "let it be printed"—connotes something being correct, proper, approved. The local printer did more than create documents; he created significance. Merely having a press lent importance to a town, and the more printers it had, the more important it was.

"My thoughts were led in this direction by a gravestone I encountered in New Bern, NC. The second oldest town in the state, New Bern was the colonial capital and briefly the state capital after independence. As an important port and the largest town for many miles up and down the East Coast, New Bern became a major center of commerce and culture in the early years of the republic.

"One of the town's most important citizens was James Davis , who 'established the art of printing in North Carolina,' creating the first newspaper, book and magazine. As the printer for the state, he was no doubt the leading private government contractor, the Boeing or Northrop Grumman of his day. He was also a sheriff, legislator, judge, postmaster and producer of currency. As with his contemporary in Philadelphia, Ben Franklin, I have to wonder how many of these positions of authority were outgrowths of his profession.

"We all know the importance of the press to Early America. Appreciating the role of printers adds to our understanding of why freedom of the press was, and is, key to American democracy."

Happy Holidays: From our family to yours, we would like to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. We hope your holiday season is safe and enjoyable, with much prosperity awaiting you in 2013. Cheers! PI


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