Main Content

The History of Bohn’s Printing

In 1900, Ilwaco, Washington, before founding what would become Bohn’s Printing, Adam Bohn was making a home for himself with his wife Minnie Estelle (Lobdell) and children, Hazel and Charles. At the time, Adam owned a small newspaper, where he published the weekly Pacific Journal for many years and made a mark for himself as a journalist. The newspaper operation was typical of a small weekly publication of that day, which involved using type cases that held hand-set type, a wood cabinet topped with a marble slab (known as a “stone”), and a groaning old flatbed press powered by a gasoline engine. Yet the newspaper that came off the antiquated equipment was outstanding because, with the keen knowledge of what his readers wanted, Adam had selected his assistant editors with care. Both Samuel L. Simpson and Vance Hutchinson wielded the editorial pen at the Pacific Journal at different times. Later on, these men became nationally known writers. Disposing of his newspaper in 1903 due to political interest, he moved his family to the Willamette Valley. They remained there while he looked for a permanent location.

A New Start Despite its ups and downs, disastrous fires, and a hard knock history in the Northwest, The Dalles was considered an up and coming city in Oregon. The 50-year-old city offered great new opportunities with its ideal location and adjacent natural resources, which inspired Adam Bohn in his year-long search for a new location. In 1904, he purchased a dilapidated print shop from a man named J.F. Haworth and founded Bohn’s Printing, although at the time, as was customary, the business was named after Adam, A.J. Bohn, Job Printing. A Job Printer is a printer who does letterheads, invoices, announcements, and other miscellaneous work, as distinguished from one who works solely on books, periodicals, etc. It is assumed that “Job Printer” is not the name of the business, but instead a description of his work.

The first location of the newly established business was 305 ½ East Second Street in The Dalles, the second level of the Building on the corner of Washington and 2nd streets, Today, known as the Pioneer Building. The family took up their residence in rooms to the back of the printing office. Starting out, the business was equipped with only a few cases of dirty type and one small Pearl press. Most of the work that the printing business did consisted of letterheads, posters, business cards, and hand bills for traveling drama companies.

As time went by, the outdated equipment and battered typefaces were discarded and replaced. The business prospered and began to take up more space in the Pioneer building, so the Bohn family needed larger living quarters. In 1907. Adam started construction of a house on Jackson Avenue, which is now East 9th Street in The Dalles. At that time, the two-story residence on a bluff overlooking the Columbia was in a less populated area. Today, it is a prospering neighborhood.

The Bohn family experienced many significant events while living and operating their business in The Dalles. At the age of 18, Adam’s daughter Hazel died from an incurable disease, making Charles the sole heir to family business. In 1917, Charles took on the role of running the business, married Lelah Jordan and enlisted in the military during World War I. Also in 1917 Adam and his wife Minnie Estelle (Lobdell) passed away. In 1920, Charles returned from the war and took back the role of running the business. In 1921, he and his wife Lelah had their first son, Jordan. under Charles’ ownership, the printing business was renamed to bear the family name and relocated to 308 Union Street, where it remains today.

Through the Generations under the second-generation ownership of Charles, business showed steady and substantial growth. Through the years the expanding business added more space and updated equipment, and in 1932 became one of Mail-Well Envelope Company’s first dealers outside of Portland, Oregon. After finishing grade school, Jordan entered high school and began learning how to operate the printing business. It helped that he had the opportunity to take a course in printing at school because this laid the groundwork for transitioning ownership of the business from Charles to Jordan. In 1939, Jordan became the third-generation owner and operator of Bohn’s Printing. Charles later died in 1951. In 1952, Jordan and his wife Marcile welcomed their first son Richard into the world, with their daughter Debra following a couple of years later. Jordan also made some new changes to business in the late 50’s by designating the front part of the building for office equipment and supplies and the back of the building for printing machinery. Today’s set-up is very much the same.

Richard, or Rick as he is commonly known, grew up helping with business at Bohn’s until his graduation from high school in 1971. He then enlisted in the U.S. Army and spent two years at Fort Ord, where he headed the Sills B. Hays Army Hospital Printing Department. In 1974, he joined the family business working with his father Jordan. In 1986, Richard became the fourth-generation owner after taking over for his father. He continued to produce and prosper in the business.

The 80’s saw the birth of the fifth generation, with Rick’s daughter Ellen being born in ‘84 and his son Edward in ‘87. Unfortunately, the summer of 2001 marked the passing of both Jordan and Marcile Bohn. To continue the tradition, Ellen has been working with her father at Bohn’s Printing since 2008 and has added many new facets to the family business. Something else that has furthered the Bohn’s business growth and success was becoming an authorized Konica Copier Dealer (now Konica Minolta) for North Central Oregon in 1993.

For over a century and five generations, Bohn’s Printing has evolved from a small printing shop to a complete commercial printer that sells office supplies and equipment. This family business has stood the test of time and has been around to experience everything from the first world war to invention of the World Wide Web. We credit our success to keeping pace with the ever changing world and expanding needs of the community we serve.