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Founded in 1871, the Democrat Printing and Lithographing Company, located in Little Rock (Pulaski County), is a family-owned operation specializing in catalog and magazine printing. The company grew out of a newspaper department to its own industrial facility employing up to 200.
The Arkansas Democrat established the Democrat Printing and Lithographing Company as part of the newspaper’s printing division in 1871. In 1906, Democrat Printing separated from the Arkansas Democrat when the newspaper divided its assets. For the next forty years, the company primarily offered printing services using a sheet-fed printer.
By 1924, the company needed its own building for its growing business. Hiring the Sanders and Ginocchio architectural firm, the company built a three-story building, totaling 61,436 square feet, at 114 East 2nd Street in Little Rock.
The Parke-Harper Printing Company purchased and merged with Democrat Printing in 1938. However, the company elected to retain the older name of Democrat Printing. The company continues to be operated by Parke and Harper descendents in the twenty-first century.
The company added additional services throughout the 1940s and 1950s, including offering office and school equipment and supplies. It found particular success with school supplies, becoming the largest supplier of school supply catalogs in Arkansas. It also formed a subsidiary company that offered typesetting services. In 1968, Democrat Printing purchased its first web press, which catered to its market of catalogs and magazines with small to medium print runs.
In 1973, Democrat Printing once again outgrew its facilities and moved to an additional building, on 6401 Lindsey Road in east Little Rock. The plant expanded twice, with its latest expansion in 1991, increasing the facility to 126,000 square feet with a total of five presses. In 1999, the company vacated the Democrat Printing and Lithographing Company building on 2nd St. The rehabilitated Democrat Printing and Lithographing Company building and two adjacent buildings house retail stores, commercial offices, and loft apartments. The building was added to National Register of Historic Places on December 17, 1998.
In 2001, the company eliminated using film, moving to all-digital technology, and it installed the Goss Sunday 4000 press in 2008. In 2009, the company employed an estimated 200. It encompasses four departments, including prepass, press, bindery and shipping, and distribution and mailing.
Frank Herbert (Bert) Parke Jr. served as chair of the company until his death on August 12, 2015. He began working for Democrat Printing in 1954, and his father had been partner in the Parke-Harper Printing Company. His son and grandson also began working for the company.
For additional information:“Democrat Printing.” Arkansas Business, March 23, 2009, p. 19.
Democrat Printing and Lithographing Company. http://www.democratprinting.com/ (accessed December 9, 2015).
Democrat Printing and Lithographing Company Records. Butler Center for Arkansas Studies. Central Arkansas Library System, Little Rock, Arkansas.
Obituary of Frank H. “Bert” Parke Jr., Ruebel Funeral Home. http://www.ruebelfuneralhome.com/obituaryindividual.php?id=1832 (accessed December 9, 2015).
Shannon Lausch UALR Center for Arkansas History and Culture
Last Updated 12/17/2015
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