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Norman W. Forgue
*Norman W. Forgue was born on this date in 1904. He was a Black printer, publisher and author.
Born in Chicago. His family lived at several houses in Chicago’s Near West Side neighborhood where his father had an ice delivery business in the 1910s. In an unpublished memoir of his youth, Suddenly I Remember, Forgue describes seeing a printing press for the first time in his uncle’s basement. Around the age of thirteen, Forgue took his first fulltime job with Rathburn, Grant and Heller, printers at Harrison and Wells Streets where he performed odd jobs in the composing rooms.
With the assistance of his Uncle Lou, Forgue got his apprentice card in Franklin Union No. 16 and began rotating to print shops around Chicago. In 1919, Forgue applied for a job in the switchboard department of Western Electric but landed in their pressroom where he was enticed by a possible bonus to print thousands of envelopes on an 8x12 Chandler & Price press. When the so-called reward turned out to be thousands more envelopes, he joined the Navy, where he also ended up in their print shop. In the 1920s, Forgue returned to Chicago.
He began as a compositor at Book Press and quickly rose in the ranks to foreman and superintendent. During this time, Forgue became acquainted with fine printing. He began The Black Cat Press in 1932 to publish fine press keepsakes and booklets and it continued to release titles for decades including his 1954 autobiographical essay, Poorer Richard: An Almanac Long after Franklin. In 1937, Forgue established Normandie House to manage the production of full-length books and in 1939 he began The Norman Press with Frederick Ryder.
Located at 510 N Dearborn, The Norman Press specialized in book design and typography, but also produced an assortment of commercial services. In 1974, The Norman Press joined Schori Pres in Evanston. Other ventures included his direction of a jazz and blues music label, Stepheny Records (named after his daughter) at 1800 Asbury Avenue, Evanston, Illinois. According to a 2014 blog by his daughter, Stepheny Forgue Houghtlin, Norman W. Forgue died in 1983.