Founded in 1879, Goes Lithographing Co. occupied the same 75,000-sq.-ft. building the founder built on Chicago’s South Side in 1904 until a move in 2010 to Delavan Wisconsin . The influence and industry contributions of this fifth-generation family business are equally enduring.
As noted in Walter Soderstrom’s history of lithography, Goes can claim bragging rights as the first installation of the Harris Rotary offset press. According to the eighth edition of Sodersrom’s “The Lithographer’s Manual,” Ira Rubel, generally acknowledged as the first developer of an offset press, created the Sherbel Syndicate with Chicago company A.B. Sherwood. “The policy of the syndicate was to admit only one lithographer in a territory to monopolize the new invention,” Soderstrom wrote. “Approximately 12 presses were placed in this manner … but the plan to monopolize the press proved unworkable.”
Thanks to Goes Litho, Harris Automatic Press Co. emerged as an independent alternative to the Sherbel Syndicate. In 1906, a Harris salesman tried to sell Goes a rotary stone press, but the company declined. Instead, founder Charles B. Goes challenged Harris to provide him with an offset press along the lines of the Sherbel Syndicate’s offset machine. Eventually, Harris did and history was made.
On the Ground Floor of GATF
In addition to local groups such as the Lithographer’s Club of Chicago and the Ben Franklin Printing Club, Goes Litho was a founding member of the Lithographic Technical Foundation (LTF), the predecessor association to Graphic Arts Technical Foundation (GATF). Established in the early 1920s, LTF made great strides in eliminating the plate problems that plagued the offset pioneers.
“It was Goes Litho, Rand McNally and Edwards and Deutch,” says Charles B. Goes IV. “We’re the only surviving companies of those who founded LTF.”
Goes is only the seventh president in the company’s history. Goes’ wife, Linda, as well as their three sons, Eric L. Goes and Nels A. Goes, and Charles B. [Charlie] Goes V also work in the family business.
Prior to World War II, Goes did large amounts of commercial work, but pricing changes and web presses compelled the printer to become primarily a publisher of its own work, which is offered to the trade for finishing.
Stock Certificates and Calendars
Goes is probably best known for its certificates (including stock certificates) and calendars. “Stock certificates, along with corporate record books, remain a strong part of our business,” says Chris Goes IV, current Goes President.
Although most of the certificates retain their complicated scrolling and ornate embellished hand-engraved look, there’s no engraver toiling away at Goes. The company takes full advantage of digital design tools and a huge archive of material. Security devices include extra colors, angled lines, micro-printing and other techniques.
Two former specialties are largely obsolete. “With the advent of ballpoint pens, advertising blotters disappeared along with fountain pens.” Goes explains. “Picture framing of offset- lithographic prints also has decreased over the years. People used to select prints and frames from picture framers through mail-order businesses.”
The company still does a brisk business in bronzing diplomas and award certificates. “There are only three bronzers in the United States today,” says Goes. “The printing is done on a lithographic press, and then, in an inline process, the bronze or copper oxide is dusted onto the wet ink and captured. When it dries, you get a glittery effect. It’s a little different from hot stamping, which is plain gold. It’s a security device that can’t be duplicated.”
Technology Advances and Changes
The company’s transition from Lithography’s Stone Age to the modern digital era can be traced in its poster work. Goes produced a wide variety of posters for events ranging from the 1893 Columbian Exposition to Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. An 1893 Goes-produced World’s Fair poster is in the Smithsonian; the Chicago Historical Society collection includes several Goes posters promoting Chicago’s 1933 Century of Progress. The 1893 poster was produced using stone plates, while the 1933 poster was printed on a four-color rotary offset press. Today, a fleet of five Canon 9000 60-inch printers cranks out reproductions of the posters offered on Goes’ Web site.
On the sheet-fed side, Goes’ legacy equipment includes some circa 1981 Harris sheet fed presses and three 1936 Seybold cutters. Goes has updated some of its equipment — the cutters have been rebuilt and retrofitted with computer controls — but has found its vintage iron well suited to its work. “We print a lot of soft and thin papers that lend themselves to a little slower press, and the clamping pressure and knife slice is a cooler cutting sequence, perfect for this stock,” says Goes. “Plus, most of our material is run on an inventory basis; we’re not doing [quick-turn jobs].”
As a publisher of its own work, Goes tended to stick with older processes, generally for continuity’s sake (repeat jobs had to look the same) and because the older methods offered more latitude for tonal adjustment on press plates. “I joined the company after college in 1970 and, at that time, we were still doing wet-plate photography like Matthew Brady & WM Garrison did in the Civil War,” Goes recalls. “We were the last engraver to use a wet-plate process — RIT photographed and documented this in 1972. We then transitioned to more modern color separation techniques, and now we’re totally digital.”
The albumen plate process lingered at Goes Litho until the mid-1970s. “We had to change for our color work, but it was suitable for our line work,” says Goes.
In 1974, Goes abandoned its older color processes. “It took a long time and it was quite hard for us,” says Goes. “Some of our negatives for our religious pictures — which we still sell today — were 80 years old. We used them every time we ran the job. These were seven- or eight-color negatives. We finally contacted them onto film when we realized how dangerous it was [to keep using the original negatives].”
Much of Goes’ vintage equipment has been donated to various institutions. “We have donated original stone and plate printing presses to RIT,” say Goes, an RIT alumni. “Other presses have gone to the University of Wisconsin (Stout), the Art Institute of Chicago and the Smithsonian.”
In addition to historic machinery, Goes also donates his time to the printing program at a nearby city college. He has been an adviser on Kennedy-King College’s Graphic Media Advisory Board.
Goes is a keen student of printing history but he also realizes his company must keep pace with the times. “We need to become more of a software company,” he says. “Currently, all of our images are sold using paper as the conveyance. Eventually, we will [electronically] ask customers for the IP addresses for their digital presses and then send them the requested images. They can print off a certain number or customize the image. I see us evolving into a dual printer and software supplier.”