by Rachael Reynolds-Soucie
machine is one of the greatest inventions of
all time. It changed the way humans communicated
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
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
“I wonder at times where we would be
without Donnelley,” said Village
Administrator Kevin McNamara, a lifelong
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