1M Inaugural Invites for Obama Stirs the Ink at Printer

An ordinary day at Precise Continental, a printing company in Brooklyn, NY, suddenly transformed unbeknownst into something extraordinary as the phone rang. It was a new client calling, but with a very unorthodox order.

The company’s owner Jim Donnelly ran through the whole gamut of emotions as he digested the news from the caller: thrilled, scared and excited. Meanwhile, on the other end of the line, the executive director of the Presidential Inaugural Committee placed a tall order: 1 million invitations for the historical inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama to be shipped out the first week of January—giving the folks at Precise Continental less than a month to scramble.

Making it Happen
What seems like an impossible order within a brisk time period, ran smoothly, as the employees of the union shop got that extra boost of overtime that is well-appreciated during any holiday season—especially one surrounded by doom and gloom of the economy.

“We were running 16 hours a day, but still were able to let our employees have off Christmas and New Year’s Day,” Donnelly says, “It was an incredible accomplishment that took a lot of dedicated hard work, but believe it or not, it was really fun and the employees were so thrilled and so upbeat about the whole thing.”

What about all of those McCain/Palin ticket supporters in the press room? Well, as Donnelly puts it, “We are a union shop and 99%-plus of our employees supported Barack Obama.”

After the staffers unanimously said “Yes” to the increased hours and meticulous expectations, Precise Continental looked to Buzzink for their fine gold ink and Neenah to help fulfill a special request for the order from the client: That it all be FSC certified, including the paper.

All in all, the style of the inauguration invitation is traditional and dates back in history, as it’s always engraved, classic and elegant. The care taken to keep the invite FSC certified and in a union shop differentiates this inaugural invite for Obama from those of former presidents in past years. This invite, like others in history will likely become a collector’s item—perhaps treasured more than any other as America’s first black president ushers in.

The Invitations
They’re engraved on Neenah’s CLASSIC CREST® Papers Recycled 100 Natural White. The finished size of the invitation is 8 ½ X 11. The text is fully copper-plate engraved in the deepest black ink. The inaugural seal is engraved in gold and then the gold is multi-level embossed with a hand-crafted die.

Printing Process
The black text portions of the invitations ran on a two-up 11 by 17 sheet, engraving one invitation at a time, work and turn. The stock was then trimmed to 8 ½ by 11 and ran one invitation at a time to engrave the gold and multi-level emboss (burnish) the gold.

Golden Seal
First, an impression of flat gold is laid down with an engraved plate, this gold impression is always “rougher” and less shiny, Donnelly says. In this case, due to the size of the seal, Precise Continental crafted a screen plate to produce a uniform, solid gold image.

The shine and smoothness is added in a second pass, which is called a burnish or emboss pass. In a completely separate press run, a hairline registration is required as the press operator comes back and hits the gold again to emboss/burnish the gold to add the detail of the inaugural Seal. “This must be absolutely perfect—there is no forgiveness—the gold/emboss impression must register exactly,” Donnelly says.


The typeface is a customized Shelley Allegro. “One of the requirements for the job, since time was the essence, was that we be able to set the type right here in our prepress department,” Donnelly says.

Precise has been in business for 26 years and added Continental to the company 5 years ago. They went FSC certified in 2007. Precise Continental, Dumbo, NY. www.precisedtk.com.

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