Washington DC – The Printing Office

THE GOVERNMENT occupies a four-story brick building, covering the square at the corner of North Capitol and H streets. It is interesting to visitors from the fact that it is the largest printing and binding establishment in the world, having a working force of from 2,500 to 3,000 persons, and an immense quantity of the best material known to the ” art preservative of arts.” This office executes all the printing required by Congress and the executive and judicial departments of the government—truly an enormous amount, which will be realized by the statement that every year very nearly $3,000,000 are expended for it. An official with the title of Public Printer is in charge, and he receives a salary of $4,500.

Visitors to this mammoth establishment enter at the main door on North Capitol Street, and are provided with guides to show them over the building. It is an interesting though a rather fatiguing journey through the great halls and apartments occupied by busy men and women, noisy with the clatter of presses and other machines, and crowded with thousands of printed volumes and documents. The finest and costliest typographical work done in the country may be seen, and scores of unique machines, found only in the most extensive printing offices. The immense press-room, with a hundred large presses in constant motion ; the type-setting room, three hundred feet long, filled with compositors ; the great folding and binding rooms — all excite wonder and admiration, particularly as the vast amount of work appears to be progressing smoothly and easily, and apparently without a sign of confusion. Every department has a competent foreman and manager, and there is a fixed standard of work to which all the employes must conform. The very best service is required, and a careful record of deficiencies is kept.

Practically the office is unlimited in its productive capacity. It can also do very rapid work, if so required by Congress or any of the departments. For instance, the copy of a bill of Congress, or a report, which will make fifty or sixty large printed pages, may be received at ten o’clock in the morning, with orders for immediate delivery. It will be put in type, the proof read twice and corrected, and in two or three hours the bill or report, printed and bound, will be ready to be delivered.

The finest work ever produced by this office was The Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion. It was printed on very costly paper, and contained a great number of magnificent illustrations, executed at a cost of many thousands of dollars. An edition of 2,000 copies was first issued, and afterward Congress ordered an-other edition of 10,000 copies. The work was demanded by all the principal libraries of the world.

In the bindery can be seen every process known to the trade, including marbling, embossing, stamping, and other high branches. Some of the volumes issued are bound in sumptuous style. In the foundry, electrotyping and stereotyping are done.