The First Government Printing Office, 1902

If, as claimed, "the consumption of paper is the measure of a nation's progress," surely the rapidly increasing demand for better and more extended facilities for supplying the Government's need for the various classes of printed matter is clearly indicative of the rapidity of our national growth.

The remarkable increase of facilities during the past 40 years, necessitated by a constantly growing demand, is best exemplified by a comparison between the size of building required for the Government Printing Office in 1860 and the collossal proportions of the new structure of 1902. The various statistical data herewith given—also a list of Public Printers from the first—will aid in making the comparison.

In 1856 Cornelius Wendell was elected "Printer to the House," and although authority for the purchase of the building was given by Congress in i860, actual ownership of the first Government Printing Office dates from 1861, the location being on the southwest corner of what is now North Capitol and H streets.

While it is true that in 1857 General Stead man was elected printer by the House, still Mr. Wendell continued to do most of the work.

The first Government Printing Office was established at a cost of $54,311 for building and lot, and $92,234 for equipment, or a total of $146,545— which was considered an exorbitant sum at the time.

- The First Pubic Printer.

Mr. John D. Defrees was, in 1860, appointed by President Lincoln "Superintendent" of Public Printing. Hence Mr. Defrees was virtually the first Public Printer, discharging the duties of the office from March, 1861, to August, 1866, when, by the appointment of Andrew Johnson, Cornelius Wendell held the position from September, 1866, to February, 1867. On March 1, 1867, however, Mr. Defrees again assumed charge of the office, under the title of " Congressional Printer" — the name adopted by Senate enactment. In April, 1867, Mr. Defrces was succeeded by Mr. Almon M. Clapp, who held the office until May, 1877. Meanwhile, Congress, in July, 1876, changed the name of "Congressional Printer" to that of "Public Printer," to be appointed by the President, and confirmed by the Senate. In conformity therewith, Mr. Clapp was appointed by President Grant. In June, 1877, Mr. Clapp was relieved by Mr. Defrees, appointed by President Hayes. Mr. Defrees continued in the office until 1882, being succeeded by Hon. S. P. Rounds in April of that year, who held the office until September, 1886, and was succeeded by Hon. Th. E. Benedict, who was in turn succeeded, in May, 1889, by Hon. Frank W. Palmer, by appointment of President Harrison. In May, 1894, Mr. Benedict was appointed by President Cleveland to a second incumbency of the office of Public Printer, which he continued to hold until April, 1897, when President McKinley called Mr. Palmer to again assume the duties of Public Printer, which he still continues to discharge—and it should be added that he is widely esteemed as one of the ablest and most popular of the entire list of Public Printers since the office was first established.

Additions to Original Building.

In 1865, an addition of 60 feet was constructed 011 the end of the first building on H street, extending south 76 feet. In 1870 there was another extension to fronton North Capitol street 113 feet, with a depth of 61 feet to connect with the H street wing. The so-called "fireproof building," 86x53 feet on the west end of the main building, and 60x60 feet to the east, was added in 1879, and in 1881 still further extended cast 93x60 feet, thereby connecting it with the 1870 addition on North Capitol street. All the extensions and additions enumerated were only of the same height—four stories— as the original building, but in 1896, however, a seven-story fireproof building, 27x169 feet, extending.from H street to Jackson alley, and adjacent to the main building, was constructed of brick and steel under direction of the Chief of Engineers of the Army.

Although the size of the original building had been largely added to from time to time, and its facilities greatly extended, still, owing to the constantly increasing demands made upon the Government Printing Office, it was found that the construction of a new building of adequate proportions and modern in all its appointments, could not longer be ignored, nor further delayed, in justice to the requirements of the public service. And, fortunately, Congress took that view by appropriating $2,000,000, which was subsequently increased to $2,429,000 for the colossal new structure.

1. "The First Government Printing Office", Official Manual and Constitution Book of the Government Printing Office Mutual Relief Association, Washington, D. C., 1902, pages 26-28.
See Also
Government Printing Office Mutual Relief Association 1902 Manual

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