50 years of R.R. Donnelley

by Rachael Reynolds-Soucie

Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone

machine is one of the greatest inventions of

all time. It changed the way humans communicated

forever.

As telephone wires were thrown up

across the country, and the world, there was

a need for a directory where people could

find numbers they were looking for.

“The telephone directory became one of

the most useful books and perhaps the most

used of any book in our homes and business

life.” That quote, from the 1908 issue of

“The Operating Bulletin,” published by the

Traffic Department of the Chicago

Telephone Company, illustrates just how

much people relied on it.

But the task wasn’t easy. From making

the paper, setting the type, printing the

pages, assembling and binding the books,

trimming them and delivering them to

countless homes, it was an enormous and

complex task.

In 1968, that task was given to the citizens

of Dwight when the R.R. Donnelley

plant was constructed along Illinois Route

47. It would change the town forever,

becoming, and still remaining, its largest

employer.

“I wonder at times where we would be

without Donnelley,” said Village

Administrator Kevin McNamara, a lifelong

Dwight resident.

2018 marks 50 years in Dwight, 48 as

R.R. Donnelley and two as LSC

Communications. In that time, the company

put thousands of locals to work.

There were other Donnelley plants that

came before Dwight, but the Dwight

Manufacturing Division was to be something

unique: the site of “the world’s most

modern telephone directory printing plant,”

with both letterpress and, later, offset printing

equipment, according to a 1969 booklet

the Donnelley plant printed for their customers.

For consumers, that means encyclopedias,

inserts for newspapers and millions

upon millions of telephone books for more

than 1,100 cities and towns, including

Chicago, St. Louis, Indianapolis and

Milwaukee, all created, printed and bound

by a workforce of dedicated employees.

“I don’t think I ever went anywhere

where we didn’t print their phone books,”

said Shirley Seabert, of Dwight, who

worked at the plant for 32 years.

At its peak, Donnelley employed more

than 1,000 people, said McNamara, who,

like many youngsters of the day, worked

there during the summer break from college.

As Donnelley grew, so did the village. In

came new subdivisions, a lively downtown

and a community that holds itself up, proud

to call it home. Donnelley fostered hometown

pride, encouraging workers to partake

in the community. Many served on school

and village boards, coached sports and were

involved in church activities.

Donnelley encouraged hard work and

rewarded that with plenty of opportunities

for advancement. It fostered a culture that

made you want to get up and go to work in

the morning. Teamwork and camaraderie

helped sustain a massive workforce.

It’s a different world today. Telephone

wires have been replaced with cellphone

towers. Home lines with rotary dials have

gone the way of the flip phone. You don’t

even need a phone book these days. Just get

on your smartphone and Google it.

LSC Communications has adapted with

the times, but there will always be a need for

quality printing. Today, LSC

Communications remains a Fortune 500

company. Headquartered in Chicago, it

employs more than 42,000 worldwide and in

2017 had $6.9 billion in sales.

The Dwight plant still employs 500 people,

and in this issue of The Paper we celebrate

its 50th anniversary with a special section.

Read Special Section to The Paper ….RRD LSC