1836-1880

The Journey Begins

Richard Robert ("Dick") Donnelley, the only child of Irish immigrants, John and Jane (Elliott) Donnelley, is born in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. John Donnelley is killed in a railroad accident when Dick is a young boy.

1836

The Apprentice

Dick becomes an apprentice in Chatterton's printing office in Hamilton, rises to the position of foreman and subsequently becomes a partner in the firm. He lives with his mother, who is blind, and his Aunt Margaret, who takes in printer's boys as boarders in her home to eke out a living.

1850
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Furthering His Craft

Richard Donnelley accepts a job offer from a former Canadian colleague, and relocates to New Orleans to become a foreman in the printing operations of the New Orleans Daily Delta newspaper. That same year, Edward Goodman and Leroy Church form a partnership in Chicago to publish a journal called Christian Times.

1857

Civil War Intervenes

With the outbreak of the American Civil War, Mr. Donnelley, whose sympathies lay with the North, leaves New Orleans and returns to Canada, where he starts a printing company called Donnelley & Lawson. Two years after returning to Canada, he marries Naomi Shenstone, to the great displeasure of her father, a prominent businessman who apparently thought that this son of poor Irish immigrants would never amount to anything.

1861
  • Founding Moment In Chicago

    In August, Richard Robert Donnelley learns from friends of an opportunity to purchase a half share interest in the printing operations of Church, Goodman & Cushing in Chicago and begins corresponding with Edward Goodman. Goodman visits the Donnelley's in Hamilton and learns from merchants in the town of Richard Donnelley's high esteem and sterling reputation. In October, Donnelley arrives in Chicago with his wife, Naomi and infant son, Reuben, to manage the printing operations Church, Goodman & Donnelley. The company's signage touts its technological resources as Steam Printers.

  • The First Edition

    "Proceedings of the Cook County Sabbath School Convention, Held November 17 & 18, 1864" is the first book whose production is directly overseen by Richard Robert Donnelley in Chicago. Over the next six years, the company grows rapidly and becomes one of the largest book and periodical publishing and printing companies in the western U.S.

1864

The Lakeside Press

Richard Donnelley and his partners organize a syndicate to greatly expand the printing business. In an early branding initiative, the new organization is named the Lakeside Publishing and Printing Company. The company's name is a nod to the reputation of Houghton Mifflin's Riverside Press and reflects the company's proximity to Lake Michigan – then a fast-growing waterway for transporting goods to and from Chicago. The company's printing operations adopt the trade name of "The Lakeside Press", which will be used in the company's branding for more than 100 years.

1870

Fire And Rebirth

The Great Chicago Fire destroys nearly half the city, sweeping away RR Donnelley's new printing plant and destroying Richard Donnelley's home. Insurance cannot make good on the loss. He travels to New York and, using nothing more than his impeccable reputation for integrity as collateral, is able to borrow enough money to rebuild his business. Even the railroad agrees to ship printing equipment to Chicago on credit … an unheard of concession.

1871

Facing The Panic of 1873

The reconstruction of the Lakeside Publishing and Printing Company building is finally completed, but calamity strikes once again as the Panic of 1873 (a recession that will last for several years) begins. Undeterred by adversity, R.R. Donnelley is determined to keep the business going by bringing in new partners and expanding the range of material the company publishes and prints.

1873

Directory Debuts

Two years before the telephone is invented, R.R. Donnelley produces the Lakeside City Directory of Chicago, a vehicle for advertisers to reach businesses and consumers. The concept that advertising will support the widespread distribution of data will give rise to the Yellow Pages industry and eventually online search.

1874

Creating A New Company And A New Industry

Founder Richard Robert Donnelley believes that publishing and printing are best addressed as two separate specialties, so the company forms the Chicago Directory Company to handle the organization's publishing ventures. In 1916, the pioneering directory business becomes a separate corporation, under the guidance of one of R.R. Donnelley's sons, Reuben Hamilton Donnelley. Better known as the R. H. Donnelley Corporation, it becomes a leading publisher of telephone yellow pages.

1880