The origins of The Washington Post can be traced to 1877, when the paper was founded by Stilson Hutchins in Washington, D.C. The Post was first in the city to become a daily paper and it grew in prominence through the end of the nineteenth century. The newspaper changed hands in the early twentieth century and relocated in the city several times, falling into bankruptcy in the 1930s.
In 1933 The Post was purchased at auction by Eugene Meyer who revived the paper. For the next eighty years the paper remained under the leadership of members of his family. His son in law, Philip L. Graham expanded the reach of the paper by purchasing competitor the Washington Times-Herald in 1954. After Philip’s death in 1963, Katharine Graham, Meyer’s daughter, oversaw the paper through a tumultuous journalistic period. Legal battles over freedom of the press and the Watergate Scandal increased the visibility of the paper in American cultural memory. In 1973 Donald Graham succeeded his mother as owner of the paper. He transferred the role in 2008 to his niece Katharine Weymouth. In 2013 the paper was purchased by Jeff Bezos.
Deaf Printers Join the Post
It is unclear when the first Deaf person worked at The Washington Post. Deaf publications indicate that Deaf men, students and graduates of nearby Gallaudet College, were employed at the Post as early as the 1920s. Evidence suggests that this was commonplace through the 1980s. It is likely that the majority of Deaf workers at the Post were white men, having received training in printing trades in residential Deaf schools. The first known Deaf woman employed as a printer at the Post was Dorothy C. Havens. Joining the composing room just after World War II, Havens continued to work there for 27 years.
Printing Changes at the Post
The status of printers at The Washington Post changed considerably in the final decades of the twentieth century. Despite the support of a robust and historical union, dramatic changes in technology used at the Post lead to the decline and disappearance of printing jobs. The daily broad circulation of the paper produced a demand for fast and efficient printing technologies. Throughout the twentieth century, The Post continually invested in updated presses and equipment to aid in the efficient production of the paper.
Beginning in the 1960s, the nature of printing began to change. Increasingly newspapers introduced photographic and computing technologies which displaced the need for large typesetting machines and their operators. While union printers were offered protections in their contracts at the Post which included training for new printing skills and guaranteed job security, these new technologies quickly reduced the number of skilled workers needed to produce the paper. By the late 1980s, the printing industry had transformed from linotype, or hot metal printing, to cold typesetting which used photography and computers to design, lay out, and print the newspaper. The number of printers declined and in 2001 the last Deaf printers left The Washington Post.
For a list of sources used, see Works Consulted.