Harry Otto, a Canadian born German had just married, started a family and was now going to live the American Dream and start his own letterpress printing business. He started the business, part time, in the evenings, in a garage behind their house on the northwest side of Chicago. As he continued working for other printers, he also continued the challenge of building his own letterpress shop. He went from operating in his garage to renting press time from his employers, to sharing loft space in Chicago’s “printer’s row”.
Harry quit his other jobs, rented his own loft space and devoted himself 100% to building Harry Otto Printing Company, a letterpress job shop. Because his first business card said “You Name It… We Do It” those early formative years encouraged experiments in letterpress printing. These early challenges embedded the philosophy we still adhere to today: “Craftsmanship and pride are not just ideals… they’re absolutes!”
Harry purchased Exclusive Bordering Company. Located in the same building as he was, Exclusive Bordering was an established card finishing company that specialized in hand bordering and hand deckle edging. Those early years at Exclusive saw mostly gold or silver borders on announcements. Or just a plain deckle edge on paper. Again, through persistence and innovation Exclusive Bordering Company grew.
After Harry’s death, his wife Mary took over ownership and their son Tom took over the day-to-day operations of the business. Having grown up in and around printing presses and having been employed there since he was 10 years old, Tom had already benefitted greatly from Harry’s proficiency and skillfulness. Always having a “love” for Christmas Cards, Tom devoted himself to the Christmas card business and grew his distributorship (The Campton Collection) of Holiday Cards to over 2,000 customers nationwide.
The company left downtown Chicago for the less restrictive and welcoming western suburbs.
After Mary’s retirement, Tom acquired full ownership and remains president today. Now, with it’s third owner and second generation the company continued to devote themselves to Christmas Cards, specialty work and letterpress printing.
After renting for over 40 years, the company was able to secure a lot in a newly formed industrial park and built their own facility. The company now has our permanent home in Elburn, Illinois.
The entire industry has seen a completely new paradigm shift. People started sending less Christmas Cards, the implementation of the desk top computer started replacing the way data was stored, the use of laser and ink jet printers was replacing job shop printing, and digital imaging was replacing offset printing. The world was becoming one-dimensional. Remembering his father’s first business card and “You Name It… We Do It”, the focus was now, asking what people wanted that no one else was offering. It soon became evident that people were tiring of the boring, one-dimensional products the technological age was bringing them. They wanted Borders, Bold Colors, Heavy “Thick” Papers, etc. Any treatment or process to paper that was going to make their piece stand above the others and we stepped into provide this desired service.
Another decade, another century, another era of change. As we proudly enter our 7th decade of family ownership we reflect on our humble beginnings and give thanks to God for the Blessings he has given us. I know Harry would be honored.
A recession slows down ordering habits. Gone are inventories. Gone are extravagances. Ordering is now “on demand”. The trend is still tactile, bold and bright. What’s old is new. The resurgence of letterpress printing continues, and we have taken many of the old presses out of mothballs and now utilizing more letterpress equipment today than we did in the hay-day of letterpress.
Bring in the future. We are now proud to boast that Harry Otto Printing Company is now in its 4th generation of family management. Ownership is still maintained by Tom and Cyndee but their son Lance has now joined the company and is plant manager. Like Tom, having grown up in the business, he has come on board with years of knowledge and experience.
The innovation of Exclusive Bordering Company continues to grow with the times. We offer a myriad of Hand Finishing Services and strive to create new techniques that will make your piece truly stand out. Ready to get started? Call at 800-543-8172 or email us.