L-H Printing Company was founded in 1924 in Morgan City, Louisiana by Byron Peter Leonard and a Mr. Hebert. From their prior employment at King-Hannaford Company they became acquainted with Leonard William Gray. Leonard had relocated to New Orleans, seeking better opportunities at Roger’s Printing Company.
Leonard Gray’s family had immigrated to Marblehead, Massachusetts in 1630 from Northampton, England. Several generations later, Dr. William Howard Gray, a civil war surgeon with the Union army, would make its way to Baldwin, Louisiana becoming involved with the Orphans' Home Society, now UMCOR. The Society was tending to the orphaned children of newly freed African-American slaves. He and his family would eventually settle in the Morgan City area.
Dr. Gray’s son William Bailey Gray, also a veteran of the war, would accompany his father to Morgan City and began publishing a local newspaper, the Morgan City Free Press, in 1879. William Bailey would continue the family printing and publishing traditions at times publishing the Independent Democrat, Morgan City Outlook and Rural Topics and a monthly journal, the Commonwealth. In conjunction with Mr. Gray's newspaper publishing was his commercial printing plant, called at various times the Free Press Book & Job Office(1880), Morgan City Free Press Plant(1883), Gray's Printing House(1891), and Gray & Sons Printers(1900). W. B. Grays widow Marie Louise would continue to operate the Gray Press until around 1915. All these enterprises had quite a mail order business in legal blanks and commercial printing throughout the state.
In 1926, Leonard and his Uncle Lucius LeBlanc purchase L-H Printing Co. from the aforementioned Leonard and Hebert retaining the L-H name. Gray ran the printing side of the business with LeBlanc working in sales both in the Morgan City area and along the New Orleans Great Northern Railroad line where he was employed. During these early years of the business, Leonard met and married Della Ann Lancon of Jeanerette, Louisiana. Della became and would remain an active partner and participant in the business for more than 50 years. Two children were born into the Gray union, daughter Nelwyn and son Carlton Leroy.
Like all of America, the L-H Printing Company was affected by the Great Depression of the 1930's. But, careful planning, long hours, thrifty budgeting, and attention to service saw the firm through. Following the depression, Leonard and Della would buy out Leblanc, becoming the sole owner of the business.
Following World War II, daughter Nelwyn met and married Navy veteran Lige Robison while both were attending Southwestern Louisiana Institute, now ULL, in Lafayette. The 1940's, 50's, and 60s brought the oil and gas industry and a boom in business to the Morgan City area and to the printing business as well. In the late 1950s, Leonard invited son-in-law, Lige, now a school teacher in Berwick, to join The L-H Printing Company. Also continuing the family tradition by learning to hand set type and run a press was son Carlton. Leroy.
In the late 1950’s the business would relocate to 205 Railroad Avenue. Both son Leroy and son-in-law Lige were made equal partners at that time. Lige started his printing career in typography eventually becoming its principal sales representative, devoting his energies to growing the expanding office supply and office furniture lines. Lige would became a beloved sales representative, local elected official on several levels and friend to many. Leroy remained connected to the company, but choose to pursue other business interests.
The energy bust of the 1980’s again brought hard times to the local economy. L-H Printing again was no exception. Once again with the leadership of Leonard and Della, the business was able to maintain its reputation as a stalwart of the local business community.
Changes to the printing industry have been a challenge to the printing operations, but L-H continues to thrive by investing in the latest digital technologies. A significant portion of the business is now electronic or digital printing. A recently installed large format color printer gives the company the ability to print posters, banners and images as wide as 44” and as long as 20’ in length. Milestones for the printing company included being the first printing firm in St. Mary Parish to have linotype capability, first to offer offset lithography, first in-house electronic typesetting and first digital color printing service.
No discussion of the L-H Printing Company is complete without acknowledging the contributions of two remarkable women, Della L. Gray and Nelwyn G. Robison. Della or ‘Mom” as she was known to her family was the face of L-H for decades and the true matriarch of the company, staffing the front desk, greeting customers, taking their orders, answering the telephone, assisting with collections, and any other such role when called upon. Della and Leonard worked full time in the family business until well into their 80’s, retiring only when age forced them to in the 1990’s.
After raising her family of seven children and with husband Lige’s diagnosis of ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, Nelwyn would re-enter the workplace at L-H Printing where she had once worked as a young woman. Quick to answer the phone and take an order, Nelwyn was always attentive to details and strived to make the customer experience a pleasure. After nearly 30 years with the family business, Nelwyn retired from her duties at age 85.
In the 1990’s the company began branding itself as L-H Printing and Office Supply. The Office Supply division, offers a fully line of Office Products, Office Furniture, Break Room Supplies, in additional to Janitorial and Sanitation products.
Now, the next generation, at L-H Printing and Office Supply looks forward to providing service and value to our clients for many more years to come.
L-H… Our roots and here, not our branches!