Kerley Ink is one of the oldest remaining privately-owned ink
manufacturing companies in the United States. It was officially
founded in 1947 by Raymond Ambrose Kerley, but the company's roots
in the graphic arts go back considerably farther than that. As
a matter of fact, they go all the way back to 1909, the year that
the famous Indian Chief Geronimo died.
In that same year, the then 16 year-old founder of Kerley Ink took
the New York Central railroad from Schenectady, New York to Chicago
to seek his fortune. There he found work as a "printer's devil"
near downtown Chicago in a shop named The Regensteiner Press. The
rest, as they say, is history.
Even back in the 1920's and 1930's, Ray was quick to understand the
significance of the revolution in mass communication that was
taking place in America. Ray saw during his career as a printing
professional how the business of large-volume printing had been
growing at a nearly explosive rate since the late 1800's. By the
end of the 1920's, Ray Kerley had risen to the job of pressroom
superintendent at The Cuneo Press in downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
By that time, Ray realized that there were many new pressrooms
being constructed all across the nation, and that there was a
concurrent boom in the business of companies that supplied those
new pressrooms. An opportunity presented itself: start an ink
manufacturing company to supply printing and converting firms in
Wisconsin. Ray left his job in Milwaukee in 1932 for the town of
Menasha, Wisconsin to start up the Lake States Printing Ink Company
in an abandoned brewery.
Throughout the early 1930's, Ray sharpened his ink making skills in
Menasha, but eventually realized that there were much better
opportunities back in the bustling city of Chicago. So he packed up
his family and went back there in 1935. Ray's decision to take up
the job of ink manufacturing supervisor at W. F. Hall Printing Co.
was to prove historic, because while he was there, the brand-new
process known as "heatset web letterpress" was just invented. Ray
was one of the first adopters of the new process, and was a pioneer
in the new skill of formulating the heatset inks needed to run
these new, very fast web-fed presses.