Conkey Building (Franklin Building)
Life Span: 1887-Present
Location: 519-31 S. Dearborn
Architect: Bauman & Lotz
From Chicago and Its Resources, Twenty Years After 1871-1891
The W. B. Conkey Co., 341-3.51 Dearborn Street, General Printers and Book Manufacturers, have the most complete establishment in this country for the making of all kinds of catalogues, books, etc., in the shortest possible time; appreciating the fact that to-day Time is the great essential in printmg and binding, they have perfected their plant so as to be enabled to turn out the largest editions in an almost incredible short space of time.
In the Composing Room from 80 to 100 compositors are employed. There are many tons of body type, and 300 fonts of display type, embracing all the latest designs, all of which have been purchased new within the last year, and as it is not used for anything but tor electrotyping purposes, it must be alwavs clear, and in good condition
W. B. Conkey Company
Between Dearborn and Plymouth Streets near Harrison
The Press Rooms contain forty cylinder presses, from the perfecting presses which take the paper from the roll and print both sides, to the finest six roller stop cylinder machines used on the highest grades of black and color printing. Immense fire-proof vaults are provided for all book plates and dies. The plates of 3,000 books are kept in these vaults, where they are perfectly secure from fire or accident. The provision made for caring for plates is most ample for years to come.
In the lighting of the printing factory Mr. Conkey having given careful study of the effect light has to color, has overcome the difficulty of lighting press rooms with arc electric lamps, avoiding the variations of color. The press rooms are lighted by over fifty arc lamps of 2,000 candlepower, and make them as bright as sunlight.
The consumption of the press rooms average about fifty tons of paper per day. Some of the presses print as many as 64 pages of an 8vo. at one time. Color work of the highest class and printing of the very finest half-tone illustrations are done on smaller presses containing every one of the latest improvements.
The Bindery is the largest in this country, employing about six hundred people, and equipped
with all the modern improvements of the times, consisting of forty-five folding machines, twenty-two wire stitching machines, twenty-four improved book sewing machines, twenty-two cutting machines and twelve embossing machines, besides innumerable rounding, backing case-making, beveling, round cornering, indexing machines, etc.
This establishment can deliver to their customers 10,000 copies of a book of 400 pages, completely printed and bound, within twenty-four hours from the time the plates are placed in their hands. This Coiiipanv have two factory buildings, the printing building is 100×100 feet, six floors and basement; the bindery building is 125×70 feet, seven floors and basement. Two fast-freight elevators are required in each of the buildings, and also special conveyors are kept constantly moving with books unbound and bound, carrying them to any part of the bindery.
The printing department is run by two large engines of 150 horsepower, and the bindery department by a Hamilton-Corhss engine of 180 horse-power. Immense batteries of boilers in each supply abundant steam for power and heat.
Both buildings are fully equipped with high pressure automatic sprinklers, mercurial fire-alarms, complete equipment of fire-pails, etc. In addition special watchmen patrol every floor, and register their calls by time clocks, which secure perfect vigilance. As a result of these precautions the rate of insurance is less on this establishment than any smiilar one in Chicago. Time-clocks are provided for each department, so that each employe registers his own time. Electric call bells and telephones connect every department with the office, so that all parts of the establishment can be reached almost instantly, and are in perfect touch with the guiding head. From top to bottom everything is reduced to the utmost system and regularity. From 800 to 1,000 persons are constantly employed, varying according to the season, the pay-roll ranging from $8,000 to $10,000 per week, with an output of $1,000,000 per annum.
The machinery in each of the several departments are of the very latest improved; in fact, a fitting up the establishment nothing was found to be too good, which saved labor, or contributed to the perfection of the work turned out, and since then whatever improvements in machinery were made in their line have been secured, no matter at what cost.
The W. B. Conkey Company is an Illinois corporation, with a paid-up capital stock of $300,000, of which Mr. W. B. Conkey is President. The concern was started in a small way some fifteen years ago and has had a very healthy and steady growth ever since.
The Printing factory is located at Nos. 65-71 Plymouth Place, and the Binding factory at Nos. 78-88 Plymoutli Place. The Printing building was erected some four years ago purposely for a printing building, and has all the necessary requirements for such. The Binding building was also erected some four years ago by and owned by Mr. W. B. Conkey, who built it expressly to meet the requirements of the bindery, being lighted on two sides by wide streets, and the building having a depth of only seventy feet gives it the most perfect daylight throughout for all its workrooms.
This concern prints and binds from the smallest pamphlet to the largest and finest bound book, executing all work in the highest style of art.
The motto of the concern is to be “Always on time,” which, no doubt, has been the key-note to its remarkable success.
Chicago Tribune December 22, 1892
W. B. Conkey will, in all probability, be given the concession for printing the Exposition catalogue. This was practically agreed upon at a yesterday afternoon between members of the Board of Directors and National Comnmssion. The Board of Control of the latter body the right to finally pass upon the contract for the work. Inasmuch-as the full board has adjourned un- til Jan. 4, 1893, it was deemed necessary to secure several of its members remain in the city their consent to the contract, with the belief the entire body would ratify it later on. Mr. has signed the contract, and yesterday practically gave out the that unless he was as- sured before 6 o’clock that the contract would be his, he would withdraw his proposition. This announcement caused quite a stir among Exposition people, and they were not slow in bringing about a conference of all the parties in interest. As a result, Mr. Conkey and his attorney, ex-Judge Page, left the Rand-McNally Building with every assurance that the concession would go to Mr. Conkey.
As formally winding up all the charges preferred in connection with the investigation of Exposition officials in regard to the concession thre Executive at its meeting yesterday adopted a set of resolutions. After telling how the committee was organized the-resolutions say:
That the conclusions of your committee, from the heard,. are that there is not the slightest basis in fact for any statement. insinuation, or innuendo that any of the members of the Ways and Means committee, or any director, officer or employee of the World’s Columbian Exposition is or has been in the remotest degree, either directly or indirectly, interested in the granting or refusing of any concession either granted or refused by said committee. The members of the entire directory as well as those composing the Ways und Means committee are among the best known and most reputable business men in the city. They give their intelligence and valuable time to the Exposition without fee or reward; and their conduct, as shown by the evidence, is such as to the approval not only of all the stockholders but of every citizen interested in the success of tbe Exposition.
So apparent was it that the rumors which found expression to some extent in the public press, and which were insinuated in the charges filed with the committee, were wholly untrue, that the members of the labor organizations satisfied and honorably withdrew all such charges or insinuations.
On consideration of testimony of several of the Ways and Means committee who have had experience for the last eight months in the granting of concessions for the World’s Columbian Exposition, your committee is unanimously of the opinion that it is in many instances not wise to advertise for bids for concessions to be granted for the reason that the asking of specifications for many of the concessions so definite and certain that there could be intelligent bidding thereon is a matter wholly impracticable. But your committee is of the opinion that in the granting of concessions of any considerable importance it would be wise for the committee having it in charge to invite propositions by public or otherwise from persons engaged in the line of trade or business pertaining to the particular. This not so much for the reason of better terms to be obtained, for we are not satisfied that would always be the case, but for the sake of silencing those who might carp at perfectly honest and upright action if such inviting of competition was entirely omitted.
MARK L. CRAWFORD,
World’s Columbian Exposition, 1893
W. B. Conkey, Printer
Something About Conkey.
So much has been said about W. B. Conkey that public interest has been excited. Twenty years ago there trumped into Chicago a lad of 14 years with little clothing no money. He was young Conkey. He didn’t Know where to secure a meal, but he Was willing to work. A dry goods firm gave him a position at a nominal salary, which enabled him to secure board and lodging. He didn’t like the position he held and shortly afterwards learned the business of type-setting, beginning in the office of R. R. Donnelley. Mr. Conkey passed through all the gradations of type-setting and graduated the printers’ room to a position as reporter on the morning newspaper then known as the Courier. That publication passed out of existence years ago, but not before Mr. Conkey had passed three years in its service. When he left the Courier he went to the Evening News, then controlled by Melville E. Stone. Mr. Conkey was engaged in the capacity of city circulator for Mr. Stone’s afternoon venture.
In 1877 Mr. Conkey started in a small way a newspaper mailing agency. His office wasn’t a big one and he had to do a great deal of hustling for patronage. His efforts in this necessitated private work in several of the morning newspaper offices. In fact, his busiest time was at 3 o’clock in the morning, when editions of the newspapers were sent out from the city. But Mr. Conukey didn’t like work at 3 o’clock in the morning, and soon started a little book-binding establishment. He called it a book bindery, but that title, however, was far too dignified for the venture. What the proprietor did was to bind certain small pamphlets instead of books. Within a few years be opened a real book-bindery on Dearborn street. While his quarters comparatively ample for the capital invested, they soon proved to be too small. Not having extensive funds at hand he called in Mr. Zeese. now a Chicago publisher, and the two erected the Franklin Building on Dearborn street. Mr. Zeese took two floors and Mr. Conkey a like number. But before the bookbinder began in the new establishment he engaged two additional rooms. Later, with the exception of Mr. Zeese, he bought out all the other tenants and took the remaining rooms in the building. Since that time Mr. Conkey has been uniformly prosperous. Two years ago he bought out an entire printing establishment, and a year ago last July purchased another-the plant of the Illinois Printing and Bindery company.
Picturesque World’s Fair an Elaborate Collection of Colored Views
W. B. Conkey, Printer
Mr. Conkey was born in Sterlimmg. Canada, in 1858. He was one of a family of half a dozen children, and when his father died, leaving the mother to care for the children, he resolved to look out for himself and to reach Chicago. Within twenty years he has experienced all the vicissitudes of fortune and has now secured from the Exposition company a concession which demands $100,000 in cash, a bond for $150,000, a check for another $10,000, and involves the payment of a large percentage of the gross receipts of his venture.
Chicago Tribune, January 6, 1893
CONKEY GETS THE CONTRACT.
Preparations Already Under Way for Printing the World’s Fair Catalogue.
W. B. Coukey was yesterday given finally the contract for the concession for printing the Exposition catalogue. The papers were signed by President Higinbotham and other Worid’s Fair officials. Mr. Conkey deposited the check for $10,000, and demonstrated his ability to pay at the proper time $100,000 as a bonus. The catalogue of the World’s Columbian Exposition will be bound in English cloth, and will cost $2.50 per volume. This is for the volume containing all the lists in one book. There will be individual catalogues for each of the twelve great exhibit buildings which may be carried in the pocket. These small books will cost at the rate or 10 cents for sixty-four pages. If they exceed this number an .al price will be charged. and if they fall below it a lower price will be fixed.
The system of designating the location of exhibits is one of letters and figures. Each building will be marked off with lines running longitudinally and latitudinally. The longitudinal lines will be lettered; the latitudinal ones numbered. For instance, if Mr. Smith’s exhibit were designated “P 31” the visitor woild first discover the longitudinal line on which it was located and then seek for the intersecting line with the proper number. One feature new to catalogues will be the absence of a single line of advertising as such. The book will be printed neatly and form straightforward reading matter. After the statement of the exhibitor’s name and address and his exhibit there may be additional descriptive matter. This additional matter will be charged for at the rate of $5 per line.
mr. Conkey. as soon as the contract was closed yesterday, sent out to type founders ordering twelve tons of type. This large quantity was deemed necessary because it is the intention to keep the entire composition “standing.” The matter when put in type will be kept in that form the period of the Exposition. In order to guarantee the safety of the electrotypes ten sots will be made. One set will be stored in the First National Bank, another in a safety deposit vault on the West Side, another will be stored on the North Side, and six sets will be kept in the office of the publisher. The amount of metal that will be used in the electrotypes is estimated at six tons; amount of printing ink required, fifteen tons. The type if “set up” newspaper column width would make a line of metal one mile long. It will require a force of 1,000 people to handle the enterprise. At least forty cylinder presses, perfecting presses, with a of 12.00 perfected sheets per hour. Two hundred carloads of paper will be used in the bo:das. The estimated sale of the volumes ranges from 10,000,000 to 12,000,000.
Maj. Handy of the Department of Publicity and Promotion will be the editor-in-chief of the work. The descriptive matter and everything in reference to the exhibition will be furnished by the exhibiters themselves. This will be procured by means of blanks now being sent out to them for the purpose. This matter upon reaching Chbiago will be turned over to Maj. Handy and under his supervision edited and sent to the publisher. Mr. Conkey prints the work, places it on sale, and pays the Exposition company 10 per cent of the gross receipts until they shall reach $500,000. After that he pays 25 per cent of the receipts. In addition to the catalogue concession Mr. Conkey, associated with C. H. Taney of West Virginia, has secured the concession and contract for printing a directory of the Exposition. This directory is to contain a complete list of exhibiters, their home addresses, and the names of their exhibits. It wilt also embrace a history of the Exposition, cuts of all the buildings, portraits of the leading World’s Fair officials, as well as all the members of the Board of Lady Managers. In addition there will be given the rules and regulations of the Exposition.
This will also be copyrighted and sold at $2.50 per copy.
Company was sold to Rand McNally in 1949
The building was converted to lofts in 1983 and named Old Franklin Building. Booth Hansen were the architects.