W.F. Humphrey Press on Pulteney Street

October 15th, 2021

By John Marks, Curator of Collections

For almost 100 years, W.F. Humphrey Press was a job printer in Geneva. Newspapers took on other work as well, but Humphrey only printed books, pamphlets, stationery, and catalogues. In the days before Excel spreadsheets, they printed and bound custom ledgers for businesses and organizations.  

Man With Mustache And Bow Tie Circa 1900

In the late 1870s, came to Hobart College from Poultney, Vermont. After graduation he worked at the Geneva Courier newspaper for three years. In 1885 he began his printing business on the second floor of the Zobrist drug store on Seneca Street. After several moves, he settled at 30 Linden Street in 1895 in the former building of the Geneva Optical Company. Humphrey Press stayed there until 1915.

That year the company moved to a new plant on Pulteney Street, part of which still stands.  Designed by local architect I. Edgar Hill, it presented Spanish architecture in the front, and an industrial factory in the back. North-facing sawtooth windows provided natural light.

The company was more than a local printer. They could do anything that was ordered, but they had large accounts across the United States. They promoted advertising – catalogues, mailers, etc. – as their specialty. They emphasized the importance of making a good impression through printed materials and how the right printing could pave the way for a company’s salesman.

Two Story Building With Factory Circa 1935In the 1930s Humphrey Press put out a regular pamphlet, Printed Punch, to promote its work. It’s a glimpse into how business was conducted in the first half of the 20th century. The “girl at the desk” took a salesman’s card back to “the boss” who decided if he wanted to be seen. “Until a man knows something about you and your goods, what earthly reason should he have for wanting to see your salesman?”

William Humphrey died in 1934. The company incorporated and William’s son Robert became president. He began working with his father in 1910 and stayed at the company more than 50 years.

The Humphreys hired experienced men in the printing industry who often moved up in the company. When Robert died in 1966, J. Andrew Foster, Sr. became president, after starting at Humphrey Press in 1930.

In 1973 W.F. Humphrey Press, Inc. acquired Almarco Printing that had been on Castle Street. By the 1980s Hobart & William Smith Colleges wished to expand along Pulteney Street. Humphrey Press looked at Geneva properties for relocation, but ultimately moved near Canandaigua in 1982. The factory portion of the press was torn down to build the Colleges’ Scandling Center. The front of the building was retained as a faculty dining room.

4 responses to “W.F. Humphrey Press on Pulteney Street”

  1. Joanne Wisor says:

    John, this brought back memories I would go periodically to get scraps of white or colors, various weights, and sometimes stapled blank booklets for Ontario Day Care, Wendy Brown Art Classes and North St School. They were very generous.

  2. Douglas A. Fisher says:

    Would like to learn more about the relationship between Humphrey Press and Hobart College art professor Norman Kent, who printed woodcuts and linocuts that he designed of Geneva scenes.

    1. jmarks says:

      We don’t have any information in our files regarding that relationship. I believe Humphrey Press printed the annual calendar series for National Bank of Geneva featuring Kent’s work in the 1930s and 40s, but they aren’t marked as such. Of the Kent publications we have, only one – a series of woodcuts of the Pleasant Valley Wine Company – was printed by Humphrey.

  3. Pim Larsson-Kovach says:

    Thank you John, very informative and interesting to follow the whereabouts of the business.
    Now I understand why I never knew where the Humphrey Press was located since I came here in 1982 when the Press had moved away from Geneva.

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