From the 1950s through the 1980s, RR Donnelley was arguably the largest commercial printer in the world. RR Donnelley was also called upon by its customers to respond to disasters and triumphs with specially created or substantially revised quick turn-around, "commemorative publications."
On Friday, November 22, 1963, one hour after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, Time, Inc. asked RR Donnelley to shut down the production of Life magazine, even though 280,000 copies of a new issue featuring football star Roger Staubach had already been shipped. By Saturday night, a fresh cover featuring the late president and a new lead story and photographs of the assassination had arrived in Chicago. By early Sunday morning, the presses were again rolling with the new material inserted. Then on Sunday afternoon, Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald. Production was once again suspended so that an image of the shooting could be incorporated. By midnight Thursday, the final version of the magazine was ready for delivery. Although slow by today's standards, producing a news magazine at this pace seemed nearly instantaneous.
Similar stories can be told about the extraordinary measures RR Donnelley took to provide up-to-the-minute coverage of other major events, such as Life's coverage of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 and the funeral of Sir Winston Churchill in 1965, both of which required that the magazine hit the news stands on time and with the most current photographs.
RR Donnelley also printed special editions of magazines covering events such as the first moonwalk in 1969, the United States Bicentennial in 1976, and the Olympics in 1984, among many others. While these were celebratory events, the company was also called upon to responded to the sudden death of Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997, and the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001.