By Frank J. Romano There were 17,362 newspapers in the U.S. in 1919 and there are less than 7,000 today--dailies and weeklies. December 6, 2004 -- I was wandering through Pioneer Square in Seattle not too long ago and found some antiquarian bookstores. In one, I discovered a bound volume of newsletters called "The Informant" from Zellerbach Paper Company. The publications were about the size of Reader's Digest and each was printed on a different stock with different uses of color--all letterpress. They contained comments and observations about the printing industry--from 1919 to 1924. Based on the 1919 Census, there were 32,476 printing and publishing "concerns" in the U.S. They employed 287,278 wage earners. 11,951 were "job" printers. 17,362 were newspaper publishers, all with printing. 1,113 were bookbinders; 421 were engravers; and 23 were type foundries. Only 687 were publishers that did no printing; however, most of the publishers did their own typesetting and printing. There were other categories but those were the largest--I left out the very few companies that made wood type or did wood engraving or produced hand lithography. The two biggest printers were R.R. Donnelley and Rand McNally. The most well-known printing firm--The DeVinne Press of New York--faded away when its founder died in the early 1900s. DeVinne, together with Donnelley and McNally, were among the founders of the United Typothetae of America and the UTA later became the PIA. The 11,951 job printers were the ancestors to today's commercial printers. A lot of job work was done by those 17,362 newspapers, most of which were very small. They were the quick printers of the day. It is interesting to note that there were 17,362 newspapers in the U.S. in 1919 and there are less than 7,000 today--dailies and weeklies. One of the fillers in an article on printers who sell on price was, "Goods that are sold on price are really not sold--they are bought." The 1919 census was the first to define and quantify the fledgling printing industry in the U.S. From a small number of colonial newspaper/job printers, a growth spurt came between 1870 and 1900 as the book and periodical industry expanded. The next growth period came between 1900 and 1920 as parcel post and rural-free delivery opened up virtually every home and business to mail delivery. This gave rise to the catalog and direct mail industry. Then there was this piece in one of the issues: "Business is becoming more courageous. Business marched with a halting step this summer, but is now taking a full stride. Practically every industry in the nation is becoming more active. Generally there is a protracted slump in a presidential year. Business is better; it looks like we are going to have a good winter. The past sixty days have seen a marked change in the paper, publishing, and printing industry. No longer is there hand-to-mouth buying. Orders are coming in regularly and they are increasing in number. Optimism prevails." That was published in October, 1924, yet it sounds as though it was written yesterday. One of the fillers in an article on printers who sell on price was, "Goods that are sold on price are really not sold--they are bought." I guess they had the same problem with price competition that we have today.