James Watson Clement

images source: private collection


Watson's office at 201 Main St, Buffalo

James W. Clement was born in 1841 in Geneseo. He apprenticed as a printer in the Democrat & American office,
then opened his own newspaper, the Genesee Valley Herald, in his own book and job printing shop in 1868. After
numerous ventures and travels, he moved to Batavia and operated a printing shop there from 1878 until he stopped
in Buffalo on the way home from Chicago. There he spoke with a well-known Buffalo printer, Daniel Penfield, about
his business. The next spring, Penfield died and Clement purchased the business at 201 Main Street with old friend
Christopher Abell. Within two years he was sole owner of his self-named printing firm.


201 Main Street, Buffalo, first location of Clement Printing.

Clement's business grew steadily; by 1894, his business was classified as one generating
between $5,000 and $10,000 business annually. Clement hired Gustave Hornung who
excelled at laying out and scheduling jobs so that production could be increased effectively.
Clement also hired a bookkeeper in 1897, Irish-born David Lorimer Johnston, who also
had learned the printing business at the Buffalo Express.



David Lorimer Johnston. Image source: private collection.

Johnston's first major accomplishment at the Clement company was to devise a cost-finding system
for the print shop which proved so successful that it was distributed to members of the United Typothetae
of America. In 1898, the company moved to larger quarters at Washington & Exchange Street.


The flatbed Miehle steam press, aka the Perfecting Press which printed both sides of a page in one operation. Image source: private collection.

In 1901, the J.W. Clement company supplied printing jobs for the above press on display in the Graphics Arts
building at the Pan-American Exposition in 1901. A skillled Buffalo printer, George A. Vincent, was hired to
operate the Miehle press. J.W. Clement purchased this one-of-a-kind press after the Exposition closed
and hired Vincent to operate it. Clement retired from active management in 1902.



78-84 Exchange Street Plant. Image source: private collection

Under the management of David Johnston and Gustave Hornung, the plant moved again to larger
space at 78-84 Exchange Street. James W. Clement died in 1907 and David Lorimer Johnston became president.
The next year the company incorporated as the J.W. Clement Company. Their plant handled orders of the
magnitude of three million 8x11 booklets, another for 3,600,000 mailing pieces at a time. In 1909 the company
was doing its first printing for the Western Electric Company and the Federal Telephone and Telegraph Company
of Buffalo. In 1910, the company began printing telegraph blanks by the millions for the Postal Telegraph
Company, a job that lasted for 33 years.

The J.W. Clement Company occupied 50,000 square feet at its Exchange Street facility by 1911. It had installed
the first Miehle two-color press; it had 40 bindery employees. Its customers included the Singer Sewing Machine
Company, Standard Oil, the American News Company, Royal Baking Powder, Remington Arms, Thomas Edison, Inc.,
among other national companies. The company purchased land at Seneca, Lord, and Seymore Streets in 1913. The
new building was under construction when the Exchange Street plant burned March 20, 1914, causing $125,000 damage.


The J.W. Clement Company plant at Seneca, Lord, and Seymour Street. Image source: private colleciton.

The new plant was one block from its largest customer of the time, the Larkin Company. In 1920, the Clement Company produced
the City Directory ($50,000), 1,500,000 almanacs, 75 million booklets and catalogs in addition to millions of labels, folders and
other pieces of printed matter. In 1923, another 40,000 square feet were added to the plant, and in 1926 the company purchased
Matthews-Northrup Works from the Buffalo Express.

At the 50-year anniversary, the company was grossing $2,000,000 per year and employed around 350 people. By 1932, the
company was producing the Burpee Seed Catalog. 1932 was also the year president David Johnston died, leaving the Clement Company
financially sound so that it weathered the Depression years. During World War II, the company printed millions of pocket-sized
Bibles for servicemen.


Erie Street plant. Image source: private collection.

In 1946, the Clement Company purchased the Cleveland & Buffalo Transit Company terminal at the foot of Erie Street as part of
an expansion. It was an excellent location because of its proximity to two railroads. In 1947, the company's first 10-color press
was installed and used to print color-page inserts for Life Magazine.


Map of the foot of Erie Street, with the Clement plant shaded in red. Image source: Sanborn Maps.

The Clement Company purchased a controlling interest in Pacific Press, located in Los Angeles, becoming
a national company.

The City of Buffalo informed Clement in 1957 that it would have to vacate its Erie Street property within
three to five years in order to make way for an urban redevelopment program for the
Erie Basin. In 1962, the mayor and commissioner of urban renewal advised the company
that action on the property would be taken in April, 1963. As a result, Clement constructed a new facility
on 50 acres in Depew. Unfortunately, the city did not take ownership of the Erie Street property until
several years later, at a much depreciated value to the company. Clement lost a lawsuit against the city.


The Depew location of Clement/Arcata/Quebecor.

By the early 1960s, the Clement Company was one of the largest printers in the U.S. with plants
in Buffalo, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. One of its staple productions from 1965 was the Reader's
Digest. California-based Arcata National Corporation acquired the Clement Company in 1965, renaming
the Buffalo plant Arcata Graphics, Buffalo Division. In 1981, that factory employed more than 1,800.

In 1992, Quebecor Printing, a Montreal-based company, purchased the Depew Plant of Arcata Graphics,
along with two other plants, for $85 million dollars. In 2007, the plant remains in operation with a work force
of 800. It continues to be the exclusive printer of Harlequin books at a rate of around 140 million Harlequin books
a year, eight truckloads a day.

2012 update: the company, most recently known as Quad Graphics, closed permanently.

 

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