Kingsport Press Strike Collection, 1963-1967


Title: Kingsport Press Strike Collection

Collection Number: Kingsport Community Manuscript Collection (KCMC) 366

Physical Description: 1 box

Creator: unknown

Repository: Archives of the City of Kingsport



Provenance: The Kingsport Press Strike Collection was donated to the Kingsport Public Library by the family of Colonel E. W. Palmer prior to the establishment of the archives. The materials were located in the archives at the time of the hiring of the fist city archivist in September 1993.

Access/Restrictions: There are no restrictions on use of this collection for research purposes. The researcher assumes full responsibility for observing all copyright, property, and libel laws as they apply.

Processed by: Archives staff processed the collection in 1993. Brianne Johnson reprocessed the collection and developed the finding aid in April 2008.



This collection should be cited as:

Kingsport Press Strike Collection, 1963-1967. KC Manuscript Collection 366, Archives of the City of Kingsport, Tennessee.



Kingsport Press was a powerful Tennessee presence in the publishing world for fifty years. The press was initially established in 1922 by Blair and Company, the New York bankers who financed the Clinchfield Railway and the Kingsport town site, with John B. Dennis as chairman of the board of Kingsport Press, Incorporated. As an integral component in fulfilling the interlocking concept of industry upon which Kingsport’s founders created the planned industrial community, Kingsport Press served as a catalyst for the development and expansion of related industries such as Mead Paper Company.

The company began in four unused concrete structures acquired from Grant Leather Company. The initial company president was Louis Adams, who secured the company’s first contract with the Woolworth chain for the mass production of a miniature clothbound series of the classics. When Colonel Elbridge Woodman Palmer (1886-1953), former president of the bindery of J. F. Tapley Company, was recruited as president in 1925, he systematically restructured Kingsport Press by remodeling the plant, retraining and increasing the labor force, and creating a sales department. Walter F. Smith, a subsequent company president, observed that Palmer understood that books needed to be made, but also needed to be marketed, and needed to reach their intended audience for the press to be successful. Palmer diversified the press’s fields of publications to include textbooks and encyclopedias, increased company floor space from a few hundred square feet to 12.5 acres, and added additional shifts, making the press operational twenty-four hours a day.

Palmer served as president for twenty-nine years and quickly became a nationally and internationally known industrialist and civic leader. Serving as president of the Tennessee Society of Crippled Children and Adults for eighteen years, he also was president, trustee, and treasurer of the national Society for Crippled Children and Adults. Locally, Palmer was founder of the Kingsport Building and Loan Association, an original incorporator of the Holston Valley Community Hospital, and a supporter of the Kingsport Public Library.

During World War II Palmer was deputy director of the War Production Board’s Printing and Publishing Division, which produced such materials as Bibles and equipment instruction manuals for U.S. troops. In 1943 he received the honorary rank of colonel for his work in the Adjutant General’s Department, where he served until 1945. After the war, he received the Legion of Merit for his distinguished service.

Chemist Walter F. Smith succeeded Palmer as president in 1953, and in his first year as president Smith developed new methods of cloth manufacture and gold stamping. Under his direction the company enjoyed continued growth, with 1961 marking a major expansion of the company’s facilities. Elected chairman of the board in 1961, Edward J. Triebe was the fourth company president. He guided the press through a period of rapid technological change as well as another expansion that included the construction and start-up of a second plant–a highly automated operation in Hawkins County twelve miles from Kingsport. Triebe also oversaw a major transition in printing emphasis from letterpress to offset lithography. Kingsport Press during his tenure had 2,500 employees.

One of the nation’s longest strikes occurred at Kingsport Press from March 11, 1963, continuing into the spring of 1967. National union officials and federal labor mediators were unable to resolve the situation, and as negotiations broke down, picket lines went up, accompanied by vandalism and violence. In 1964 over five thousand people applied for press jobs, and by April 28, 1967, both new and returning company employees rejected the unions.

In 1969 Kingsport Press merged with Arcata National Corporation, becoming a wholly owned subsidiary of the graphics, communication, and information services company. When Triebe was elected chairman of the board of Kingsport Press in 1969, G. Robert Evans left U.S. Gypsum to become the fifth company president. Two years after the merger of Kingsport Press and Arcata National, Evans was selected to direct the newly created Arcata Graphic Services Group. In 1971 Hugh F. Swaney came to Kingsport from the Mexican operations of U.S. Gypsum to serve as the press’s president.

Today, Quebecor World, a company that began in Montreal, Canada, in 1954, owns the former Kingsport Press, having acquired it when it purchased Arcata Graphics in the 1990s. In 1999 Quebecor Printing merged with World Color Press, creating Quebecor World. It ranks as one of the largest bookmaking companies in the world. The company’s customers include the leading international publishers, and it produces all types of hardbound and softcover books. Products of this graphic communications industry include elementary, high school, and college textbooks and workbooks; reference sets; book club selections; Bibles and hymnals; blank books and specialty binders; juvenile books; university press books; dictionaries; and school yearbook covers.


*Taken from the Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture Carroll Van West (editor-in-chief) Nashville, Tennessee: Tennessee Historical Society: Rutledge Hill Press, 1998.


Quebecor closed the doors on its Kingsport facility in 2006 and agreed to give the 1-million-square-foot facility to the City of Kingsport.



The Kingsport Press Strike Collection consists of two scrapbooks that contain newspaper clippings that pertain to the strike. Also included are documents filed in the ChanceryCourtofSullivanCounty and various publications documenting the strike.



Kingsport Industry

Kingsport Press

Kingsport Press Strike (1963-1967)



  1. “The American Pressman,” March 1963
  2. ChanceryCourtofSullivan       County, 1963
  3. Committee Information, undated
  4. Evans, Arthur C., undated
  5. Kingsport      Times-News, April 2, 1967
  6. News Release, July 27, 1963
  7. “The Specialty Worker,” April and June 1963
  8. Scrapbook, 1963
  9. Scrapbook, 1963-1964