WOA 50th ANNIVERSARY -- Sowing The Seeds
By May of 1970, the association boasted 500 conference attendees and 280 vendors. By then, there were also an estimated 680 web presses installed throughout the United States. Today, since there are no WOA membership dues involved, and since any heatset web printer or industry supplier may utilize any of the products and services offered by the association, there is no accurate count as to just how many members actually belong to the group.
Tom Quadracci, executive vice president of Quad/Graphics and in-coming WOA board president, remembers a story his father, Harry R., told him about the early days of the Web Offset Association. "It was during the time when web offset wasn't supposed to be able to print high-quality work. At one meeting, my father brought a copy of Arizona Highways (a high-end publication) and informed the group that the magazine had been produced on a web offset press.
"They didn't believe him, so he had to go back to the plant, get the printing plates and put them back on the web press," Quadracci continues.
"This way he could show them the untrimmed web signatures to prove that it had indeed been produced on a web offset press. It proved to be a milestone in the way people thought about the web offset industry and what could be done," he says.
While the WOA helped to move the industry toward increased acceptance of the web offset process, it also earned a reputation over the years as being a rather "wild and wooly" social organization, as well.
"Quite franky, in the early 1970s the association meetings were quite social," admits John Tiffany, a past WOA president and a retired senior Banta executive. "There were a lot of attendees who never attended the sessions. All they did was socialize with each other."