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Tribute to Michael H. Bruno, Upon His Passing, Paid by Frank Ro

January 2005
Michael H. Bruno, February, 1911 - January, 2005

By Frank Romano

"Printing was my vocation for all my working life. Ninety years of my life were spent in the 20th century. I had the good fortune of being where the action was during the most active period since printing was invented. This was the last 64 years of the 20th century."

Mike Bruno died peacefully in his sleep this week at the age of 93. He is survived by his wife Gilda, his son J. Michael and daughter Donna Eltoft. Mike will always be considered the father of the American printing industry.

In 1925 his mother died at the age of 45. She had wanted him to become a doctor and he would have gone into medicine if she lived. But Mike hated the sight of blood and switched to chemistry. In 1927 he graduated with honors as 5th in a class of 750 at Hillhouse High School in New Haven and won a four-year scholarship to Yale University. One of his classmates would be the future chairman of Heidelberg.

Intrigued by an article in "Inland Printer," now "American Printer" on collotype printing, he went to work for a Connecticut printing company that printed with gravure. In 1936 he met Gilda Esposito and they were married in 1937. Before the start of World War II he joined the ready reserve and then went on active duty in 1941 as Research Officer in the Army Map Service, later the Defense Mapping Agency, and today DIMA. After the war he retired as an Army Major and went into the Reserves and ultimately as a Lt. Colonel in 1971.

He joined the fledgling Lithographic Technical Foundation, later the Graphic Arts Technical Foundation, and moved to Chicago. Later, the organization would move to Pittsburgh, PA. After a distinguished career at LTF he took a senior position with International Paper and introduced a newsletter "What New(s) in Graphic Communications," which he published for 25 years. For the last 20 years of the newsletter Sheila Ward, who typeset every issue of TypeWorld (now Electronic Publishing), deciphered Mike's handwriting and composed his newsletters and reports.

The Pocket Pal has been published by IP since 1934 and its 18th edition was published in 2000. Mike was its editor since 1967 when he was assigned the project of editing the 10th edition. The first edition of the Pocket Pal was printed in 1934 by Grover Daniels of Daniels Printing Company, Everett, MA. More people have learned about printing from the Pocket Pal than any other source.

With Frank Preucil and others, Mike established the research methodology and knowledge base for the printing industry and pioneered many of the technological innovations that made lithographic printing a viable process. Mike and a small group of industry people went on to found the Technical Association of the Graphic Arts after WW II as a forum to present and disseminate industry research. He retired from IP in the late 1970s and traveled the world, Gilda always at his side, as a consultant on printing technology. His annual "Status of Printing in the U.S." was presented at international conferences for over 50 years. He was active well into his late Eighties, publishing and speaking about the industry he loved. He attended every Drupa from its start in 1951 until the end of the century, the last accompanied by his grandson, who had graduated from Illinois State University in Bloomington, IL. Mike was one of the first Americans allowed to lecture in (then) Communist China. In the last year, he suffered from a heart attack and congestive heart failure. I visited him at a nursing home in Illinois in October, 2004. He was still interested in the industry and wanted to talk about it.

Over the last few years I had him write his autobiography, which will be published in 2006 as "Mike Bruno's History of Printing in the 20th Century." For it, 165 of his slides are being scanned by students at RIT. He loved jazz and dancing, but every conversation would always turn to printing.

Mike was a kind and gentle man who was passionate about printing and the people who produce it. When he moved from New Hampshire, he gave me his library and almost all the awards he had won--hundreds of them. But the one memorial that is greater than all of them is the American Printing Industry in the 20th Century. He can take credit for having helped to create and nurture it.

I am sure accolades will pour in from around the world. As he used to add after the obits he ran in his newsletter--Good bless, Mike Bruno.


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