Saturday, December 04, 2010

The story of Kables and Mt. Morris, a timeline by guest blogger Murray

Murray and I graduated from Mt. Morris High School in Illinois in 1956 and 1957. It was then a small town with several thriving businesses related to printing and publishing, an excellent school system, four churches, and a solid retail business district. When my parents and grandparents were young there had been a Mt. Morris College (two different entities, 1839-1932), but it closed in 1932. At one time Mt. Morris had a high school, junior high, and an elementary school, but those are gone too except for the middle school. Two years ago Watt Publishing, one of the largest publishers of agricultural journals, moved out. Last week, the announcement came that Quad-Graphics would be leaving too. That's the current name of a company that began in 1894. Here's how Murray explains the timeline from Kable Brothers Printing to Quad-Graphics.


Norma, here are the events leading up to the demise of our beloved Kable Brothers Printing Company.

1957 - Western Publishing of Racine, Wisconsin, elected to compliment their strong children's books, games and toys business. They purchased Kable Printing. They were a great company to work for as they paid well and had great benefits including profit sharing. They allowed Kable management to continue to manage the daily operation of the plant.

1974 - This continued until the photo engravers decided to strike in May of 1974. Western Publishing handled the negotiations with the union. Kable limped though the strike under Western Publishing till 1979 as the strike weakened them.

1979 - Mattel purchased Western Publishing in 1979 [for $120.8 million in cash and stock] primarily for Western's lucrative children's books, toys and games business. They then divested themselves of Kable in 1980 to the Providence Journal because they really had no interest or expertise in printing and publishing.

1980 - The Providence Journal had a printing division called Providence Gravure. They added Kable printing to this division and allowed Kable to keep its name. [Murray transferred to Providence in 1981, retiring in 1995.] They also had gravure plants in Dallas and Richmond. They were an excellent company to work for as they were generous with their benefits and paid well.

1986 - In 1986 they sold the Gravure division to Robert Maxwell of Maxwell Communications. Robert Maxwell was determined to become the largest communications media in the world. He was obsessed with attempting to overtake Rupert Murdoch as the world's largest communications empire. Maxwell was ruthless in his attempt. He kept acquiring and expanding sometimes using the pension funds of his acquisitions for capital. Fortunately he didn't touch the pension funds of the Providence Gravure Printing division. Maxwell drowned mysteriously in November 1991 while cruising off the Canary Islands, investigators discovered that he had misappropriated hundreds of millions of dollars from his companies and their pension plans to finance his corporate expansion. Maxwell's companies were forced to file for bankruptcy protection in Great Britain and the United States.

1990 - Quebecor Printing, located in Montreal, Quebec, purchased the Providence Gravure printing division from Maxwell Communications in 1990. Kable became Quebecor Mt. Morris. Quebecor Printing had similar goals as Maxwell. They wanted to become the largest commercial printer in the world by overtaking R.R. Donnelly. Their business plan was based strictly on total sales. They were successful based on total sales, however it was at the risk of their bottom line. To help towards their goal they merged with World Color in 1999. Kable/Quebecor Mt. Morris became QuebecorWorld. The QuebecorWorld business plan failed.

2010 - QuadGraphics with 30,000 employees worldwide purchased the bulk of QuebecorWorld U.S. printing plants in June of 2010. QuadGraphics immediately began consolidating and closing down various printing plants. On Nov. 30 QuadGraphics announced that starting Jan. 1, 2011 the Mt. Morris plant will began reducing it's work force from 500 to 100 employees to be completed by April 1. 2011.



Anonymous said...

via e-mail

Believe it or not, with all the subscription businesses and the magazine printing plant (who at one time printed mags like Playboy, Family Circle, TV Guide, various catalogs, etc . . .), this little town had the second biggest volume of mail in the state, second only to Chicago. Of course most of the mail went out on pallets by train or trucks but the post office had their employees right on site, in the printing plant. With this latest news our post office will take a big hit.

About 5-6 (??) years ago the state tore-up and upgraded the 2 lane highway through town to 3 and 4 lanes with wide turning corners AND added our single stop light to accommodate the many daily tanker trucks that delivered ink and solvents. They even altered their plans to allow for the railroad crossings and altered several side street intersections. There was no other need!!

With the probable closing of the last printing business and no need for paper, what's the need for a railroad that served only one community? And with no printing business what's the need for all those many large tanker trucks in and out of town? And that makes me wonder . . . What's a small town of about 2800 (and soon dropping, I'm sure) need a 3 and 4 lane highway with one stop light??

Anonymous said...

Murray sez:
Mt. Morris didn't need the road widening or stop light even with the printing plant in full operation mode. But that's the way our state government works. Hmmm? Could that be why the state of Illinois is in the same shape as other states including our Federal government....? BROKE!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Hello Norma....I grew up in Mt. Morris and started my printing career as a rotogravure 4-color retoucher in 1953. After completing my apprenticeship, and working for 2 years as a journeyman, Eddie Miller gave me the oportunity to join the Kable sales force. I was transfered to the N. Y. sales office and after several years there accepted a sales opportunity with Providence Gravure.

In roughly 1986 (when I was V.P. of Sales and Marketing) I brought to the attention of our president Jack Briggs that Kable would be a good acquisition. We purchased Kable and had some great years working with my old friends in Mt. Morris. You know the story after that..Maxwell, Quebecor and now Quad.

I am heart sick over what is happening. However, I will always have fond memories of growing up in Mt. Morris and will always remember my good old friends from the Kable/Providence days.

Say hello to my good old friend Murray Trout.

Best Wishes to you and my prayers and thoughts are with Mt. Morris.

John Anderson

Jim said...

Thanks, Norma for Murray's article and the post afterwards by John
Anderson. It does make you sick when you think of what MM used to be. Now it is a place to die - and only a junior high school in the city limits. How long before that shuts down and every school child will be bussed to Oregon?

senordineroman said...

Hi -
Could you continue the timeline up until now?

Unknown said...

It is now 2020. My grandfather Ken Heeren worked there, lived 1000 feet from the plant on Wesley ave. Im quite young right now, but I remeber as a kid the roar that the plant made, sounded like a hum of a musical note. The trucks would go by every 5 minutes and shake the old house. I remember 4 "upside down rockets" .I remeber a big blue crane loading a massive piece of machinery onto the roof. This machine was rectangular with a rounded front with a logo it it , it was on the south end of the building, and it was installed in roughly the year 2000. I was about 5 years old. I remember 3 green boxcars parked there. I remember a train with 2 engines on Easter sunday after the plant closed, and it was the last train I ever saw in Mount morris.

Unknown said...

Hello All,
My grandfather worked at Kable as a Monotype operator in the teens. He moved there from Danville, IL with his family and lived with the Kable family until he could find a home. He also played saxophone in the Kable band. He passed away from the swine flu in 1918. The Kable news dedicated most of their front page to his obituary. I still have a copy of that paper. He was returned to Danville for burial and the Kable brothers attended the funeral. Never got a chance to know him as I was born 20 years later.

Anonymous said...

Miss ya grandpa, think about you every week if not everyday <3