Company History - Our 97th Year...
1918. World War I ended on November 11th. Dwight E. Vicks, Sr. was working alongside his brother in Utica, New York. They were running letterpresses for an internal print shop at a large textile mill. Dwight Sr. was 17.
Dwight Sr. only had a seventh grade education, but this did not prevent him from pursuing his dreams. He learned the trade of printing and decided to make it his life's work. Dwight and his brother borrowed what money they could to purchase the internal print shop and make it their own. Vicks Brothers Printing was born.
Utica, located in central New York state, was a prominent and prestigious city in 1918. Forty percent of those living in Utica were of Italian decent. The city fathers of Utica approached Dwight Sr. to ask him to print the Italian language newspaper. He did so for many years on the letterpress that now sits in our lobby, a refurbished gift of Dwight Sr.'s employees on his seventieth birthday.
It was during the roaring twenties that Dwight's wife and business partner, Mary, decided to purchase his brother's stake in the business and Dwight Sr. became the sole owner. The excellent leadership of Dwight Sr. is what brought Vicks through the Great Depression.
On July 22, 1933 Dwight and Mary had their only child, a son, Dwight “Duke” E. Vicks, Jr. Duke started helping his dad at an early age. On December 7, 1941 Duke was helping his parents move to a new building and while unpacking boxes, heard the famous radio broadcasts of the events at Pearl Harbor.
Duke's parents made education a priority. Duke was accepted to Cornell University where he studied economics, naval science and also conducted the Cornell Big Red Band. Upon graduation in 1954, he served as a Lieutenant in the United States Navy. After the Navy he returned to Cornell to earn a Masters in Business Administration.
While completing his final year of business school in Ithaca, New York, Duke drove the two hours home weekly to assist his father with the business. Duke returned home in 1957 for good after earning his MBA to eventually lead Vicks Litho.
Offset printing was just being introduced in 1957 and Duke saw this process was the future. He mortgaged the company, against the wishes of his father's advisors, to purchase a 29” Miehle offset press. Duke's courage proved to be the right move as letterpress quickly was overtaken by the new offset technology and Vicks was able to compete in the new world.
Vicks served the many defense companies located around Utica in the late fifties and early sixties. As some of these businesses began to leave the area, Duke knew he had to diversify. He chose the book publishing markets and began making semi-weekly trips to New York City. Soft-cover book manufacturing remains an important focus of the company today.
Continuing in the Vicks family tradition, Duke's son Dwight III returned to the company in 1991 after earning and BA and MBA from Cornell University, and working in the banking industry. Following in his namesake's footsteps, Dwight spent the first year in the facility working alongside the Vicks employees, several of whom are third generation employees as well.
Just as Duke came aboard during the transition from letterpress to offset, Dwight has led Vicks into the digital revolution. In the same spirit of constant investment and change, Dwight helped steer the company to provide digital technology on the front end of the bookmaking process, and today Vicks has a complete digital book manufacturing facility.
In 2001, the Vicks team dedicated its 30,000 sq. ft. addition to house its latest five unit heat-set web to Duke Vicks just as an earlier Vicks team recognized the merits of the company founder. The team named the new facility “Duke's Place” inspired by the Duke Ellington's tune of the same name. Duke loved music, conducted several big bands of his own and was an accomplished trumpet player.
Duke is no longer with us, but Dwight, along with the members of the Vicks team, continues the Vicks family tradition of focusing on the needs of its customers and employees. It is this family tradition that has brought Vicks into its 97th year and continues to guide the company into the future.