Printer to the Modernist Movement: A Century of Progress

In 1933 Chicago set out to show the world how far it had come in the century since its founding, and demonstrate how it was overcoming the effects of the Great Depression. The proof came in the form of "A Century of Progress," the 1933-1934 Chicago world's fair for which RR Donnelley was official printer.

Printing for "A Century of Progress" was an important undertaking not only because of the event's sheer size (in its first year, the fair attracted more than twenty-seven million visitors), but because the fair was an extravaganza of modernist design. From tickets and postcards to brochures and magazines, RR Donnelley's world's fair materials demonstrated that its designers were able to provide a graphic look as accomplished as anything being generated by the nation's great graphics firms. To reinforce the message, RR Donnelley sponsored a large printing exhibit in the Graphic Arts Pavilion at the fair, where visitors could see the progress of a four-color book from prepress to manufacturing to binding.

Conveniently, the fair was located immediately east of the RR Donnelley plant at Calumet Avenue and 22nd Street, and the public was invited to the company's galleries to see a special exhibition on "A Century of Progress" and to view the fair's electrical display at night from the building's rooftop. In 1933 alone, the company welcomed 25,000 visitors into its building.

In addition to its work as the fair's official printer, RR Donnelley produced posters and other materials for many individual exhibitors. Among these was a booklet about the Piccard-Compton stratospheric ascension (a balloon launched one evening in the hopes it would attain a world-record altitude) and the invitation and program for the Cellophane Ball in honor of Her Majesty the Queen of the Fair. In large part through RR Donnelley's design and printing for the fair, "A Century of Progress" had an important nationwide impact on the development of modern graphics in many fields.

Admission tickets

R.R. Donnelley & Sons Company Archive.