GPO and the Stars and Stripes

Because this year marks the 150th anniversary of the Government Printing Office, I’ve been trying to highlight some of its history by featuring some unusual Government publications with a GPO connection. How’s this for unusual: a newspaper that was not printed through GPO, not printed in the United States, and staffed by a number of distinguished authors and critics as well as a future Public Printer.  It took advertising, had 526,000 readers at its peak, yet only stayed in business for about a year and a half. It was, gentle readers, the original Stars and Stripes, the paper of choice for the American doughboys of World War I. (Stars and Stripes currently is published as a non-Government, DoD-authorized newspaper:

Thanks to the estimable American Memory project of the Library of Congress, the entire run of the U.S. Army’s Stars and Stripes, published in France from February 8, 1918 to June 13, 1919, is available online for browsing. A special American Memory presentation, “A Closer Look at The Stars and Stripes,” highlights the contributions of such luminaries as New Yorker founding editor Harold Ross, drama critic (“Old Vitriol and Violets”) Alexander Woollcott, literary critic John Winterich, sportswriter Grantland Rice, and columnist and “Information Please” radio show panelist Franklin P. Adams (greatly admired in his day and now sunk without trace – who now remembers “The Diary of our own Samuel Pepys”)?  The “Closer Look” also examines soldier-authored material, censorship, and other issues affecting Stars and Stripes. Some of the doughboys’ poetry even transcends doggerel, although not always by much.

Finally, a roster of Stars and Stripes staff reveals the name of Augustus E. Giegengack – a euphonious cognomen, to be sure (hmm – I must be channeling Alexander Woollcott) –   the future Public Printer to whom I referred above. Sergeant Giegengack is listed as working in Circulation, but he started out in charge of printing the paper and expanded his reach to various circulation, delivery, and other tasks. As a poem in Stars and Stripes put it:

“Mail, wrapping, typing, couriers – his duties are a score,

Whenever we can think of it we’ll give him twenty more;

I often wonder how one man can handle such a batch –

When does this great executive get time to stop and scratch?

Nothing neglected, nothing slack

In the department Giegengack.”

After his discharge from the Army, the sergeant returned to the printing industry until his nomination as Public Printer by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, following which he ran GPO from 1934 until 1948 – the longest serving Public Printer in GPO history. He’s also the only GPO chief ever to be profiled in the New Yorker – a three-parter in 1943. He seems to have been both a colorful character and a very efficient GPO chief executive, and the profile is well worth seeking out (New Yorker subscribers can access it online). Many libraries also have extensive runs.

The Stars and Stripes was not only a fine newspaper, but perusing its pages takes one back nearly 100 years to see how the soldiers of the day viewed the war, their situation, and their country. (I wonder if many of today’s soldiers write doggerel?). Even the ads are fun to read! A product of the well-managed “department Giegengack,” it’s a paper that’s still readable and thought-provoking today, when the last American World War I veteran has just left us for “Over There.”

8 Responses to GPO and the Stars and Stripes

  1. Heather Taft says:

    What an interesting post and because of this great idea it gives live to the old arts. I really appreciate it.


  2. Meg Irish says:

    Thanks for including some of our history in your blog.

    Stars and Stripes is alive and well both in print and online at — and also offers a digital archive containing most of its content from 1949 through 1999 online ( World War II editions are being added to the collection, hopefully in the near future.


  3. Drako says:

    I am very happy digging in newspapers and magazines published many a year before my birth …
    Thanks for this post … It’s fantastic!


  4. Edgardo Berraz says:

    More than interesting.I’d like all of these information about old treasures of the history than to receive this post make me truly happy.Many thanks and hope follow recipe much more like this.


  5. Richard Connell says:

    Best source, Allan Millett(1) sees it as a war and so do I. But a war with limited objectives. Our history teachers forget to tell us that the quasi-war with France and the 1812-1814 thing also had limited objectives. The French quit the former and New Orleans camouflages our lopsided defeat.

    Arrived in 1MarDiv as replacement platoon leader.
    None of us discussed the question nor even brought it up. We really did not care.

    (1)See Allan Millett’s first two volumes of ‘The War in Korea’. He makes a good case for a long simmering civil war where ‘police action’ helped Mr Truman get UN approval for intervention. Who won? Korea won.


  6. Ronald Dorff says:


    I’m a former Army Veteran (Korean War? or Police Action?)


  7. Ahsan Iqbal says:

    Since the discovery of American Continent, say by Columbus, or to make short,The Independence of America, from the British-what so ever ruling-America flourished silently, in a patriotic self building way.
    To my consideration- this is the world war1, America entangled & entrapped itself with the European complicated intrigued colonial politics, it of course had the charm of focusing & over powering himself to the rest of the Globe. I don’t think the European Colonial masters ever liked it—not yet today—building E.U. E.C etc.( Once The sun never set in British Empire-& now they hardly have 2 hours sunlight )They are now undone to assist U.S–but their minds thinks different–bringing Euro to resist $. In the mean time India, China like states are rising steadily.E.U meant to parallel U.S monopoly hegemony !

    Consequently some other 3rd. country’ll come out to fill the gape.The recent world’s diplomatic & conflicting history gives clear hints of it!!

    My earnest interest in U.S’s world war ! & world war @ involvements, Sir, Churchill’s role, U.S mass’s opinion-prior to world war 2, & of the solid gains of U.S over the rest of the world yet today.

    I Mm curious & have a vast thirst of minute knowledge about the episodes ! Hope GPO will help me meet the thirst through every minute of incidents, episodes & history !

    With Best of Regards

    Ahsan Iqbal
    60 / Sharada Ghosh Road,

    Cell : +88 01190610020


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