Ken White’s designs for the Government Printing Office

Monday, January 22, 2018

This week while I was processing the Ken White collection I came across a box labeled “GPO Bookstore.” Although I had no idea what GPO stood for, I assumed it was nothing special - perhaps the initials of the bookstore owner?

Upon further exploring the contents of the box, I was pleasantly surprised by what I found. It turns out that GPO stands for Government Printing Office, and Ken White kept a plethora of hand-drawn plans for this project.

Perhaps you are wondering what, exactly, the Government Printing Office is and why they have a bookstore (I certainly was). According the GPO’s website (, the Office aims to: “Produce and distribute information products and services for all three branches of the Federal Government, including U.S. passports for the Department of State as well as the official publications of Congress, the White House, and other Federal agencies in digital and print formats."

Most importantly, they are in charge of providing "permanent public access to Federal Government information....” The GPO Bookstores are where you can find your own copies of these materials, which was especially important before the 2000s, when digital access to this sort of information wasn’t an option. White designed bookstores for at least three Government Printing Offices in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Kansas City.

As I mentioned, I was especially excited to find all the hand-drawn plans for these designs. I often find original project plans tucked away among photocopies but have yet to find this many for a single project. The care and precision put into these documents is inspiring; they are truly works of art!

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Rebecca Koch is the Processing Archivist for the Ken White and Marshall Johnson NHPRC Project at Hagley Museum and Library.