A portrait of Grand Rapids resident and prominant businessman, Arthur E. Ormsbee (1887-1971) was the owner of Commonwealth Printing Co. in Grand Rapids, Michigan and a leader in the printing industry. He was active in local, regional and national professional organizations and was an advocate for graphic arts education. His 1936 publication, "This Printing Business" has been referred to as the'Gettysburg address of printing' and has been widely reprinted. (Source: Grand Rapids Public Library).
Arthur E. Ormsbee Arthur E. Ormsbee retired from the Commonwealth Printing Co. in 1955 after 38 years in the printing
business. In 1952, he had been named the Outstanding Craftsman of the Grand Rapids Club of Printing
House Craftman, 5th District (Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and Pennsylvania). In May 1964, at
the age of 76, he was further honored by the local club with “Arthur Ormsbee Night.” At that time he was
engaged in the activity of setting up the 19th century printing shop at the Grand Rapids Public Museum.
His collection of incunabula was given to the Museum in 1966.
Ormsbee was born in Beloit, Iowa Sept 2, 1887. He moved with his parents to Montpelier, Vermont
before his first birthday. His formal schooling ended at 13 when he went to work at the Vermont
Waterman News in Montpelier. There he learned to set type, working 26 hours a week for $2.50 a week.
At 15, in 1903 he left Montpelier, and traveled the country, ending up in Grand Rapids in 1908. He was
employed at various plants, working for Dean Hicks Printing for four years, then Dickinson Brother for
On May 14, 1912 he was married but they had no children. He was a member of St. Alphonsus Parish, the YMCA, and the Community Chest.
In 1915 he partnered with Linke-Santter Printing Co., purchasing four printing plants including the
Martin Wurzburg plant in 1917. This plant, then on lower Monroe Ave., was the location of the new
Commonwealth Printing Co. In 1928, the plant moved to the Leonard Building, 31 Ottawa Ave.
Ormsbee celebrated his 50th anniversary in the printing business November 20, 1950. He was a charter
and active member of the Printing House Craftmen organization in Grand Rapids, serving in that
association from the 1930s. He wrote and spoke extensively on printing history and published a history of
the Grand Rapids printing industry for the 100th local anniversary. His booklet “This Printing Business”
has been referred to as “The Gettysburg Address of Printing,” and distributed widely among national
printing organizations and trade journals. Ormsbee was active in other local, regional and national
organizations, including United Typothetae, the Graphic Arts Associations, the National Graphic Arts
Education Assoc., and American Institute of Graphic Arts.
Ormsbee advised several area colleges and universities on printing education, among them Davis
Technical School, Grand Rapids Junior College and Ferris State University, including the preparation of
Ormsbee died at the age of 82, on Aug. 21, 1971 (From the Grand Rapids Public Library)