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The Government Printing Office: World’s Largest Printing Office in 1916

Learn about the impressive Government Printing Office, once the world's largest printing office in 1916. Explore the documents, photos and history of the GPO, and its role in making US diplomatic relations more transparent.
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Thanks to the GoDC Editor-in-Chief Tom for letting me drop in and contribute again. I have a number of topics to tick off, so let’s get to it!

Back in 2012, there was a little post here on banning joy rides in government automobiles, and an excellent picture of the stacks and stacks of documents produced by the Government Printing Office. Around that time, there was a growing trend for governments to be more transparent to its citizens, so it makes sense to see reams of paper ready for distribution. I think what we see today with every department, agency, and embassy having its own blog and Twitter feed can be understood as an extension of this trend. (N.B.: For anybody doing archival work on US diplomatic relations, the University of Wisconsin’s digitized collection of the Foreign Relations of the United States series is an invaluable resource. Continuously published by the Government Printing Office, it goes back to 1861, the year the Office was formally established.)

The interesting thing is that in 1916, the Government Printing Office was claimed to be the largest printing office in the world (via the Washington Post, July 5, 1916). Here is a partial print from that day’s Post:

Washington Post - July 5th, 1916
Washington Post – July 5th, 1916

The same claim is in the caption here, an excellent shot via the Library of Congress (circa 1906).

1906 photo of the Government Printing Office
1906 photo of the Government Printing Office
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