Reynolds and Reynolds: History in Dayton stretches to 1866

Reynolds and Reynolds, a company that made its mark producing standardized business forms, was founded in Dayton over 150 years ago.

In 1866, Lucius D. Reynolds, a former Bellefontaine newspaper publisher, made his way to Dayton with $500 tucked in his pocket.

» PHOTOS: Reynolds and Reynolds, the early years

He and his brother-in-law, James R. Gardner, moved into a vacant firehouse located behind the Turner Opera House (now the Victoria Theatre) and opened a print shop.

The following year, Gardner left the business and Ira Reynolds, Lucius’ father, joined him and the company became known as Reynolds and Reynolds.

The company, which began with six shop workers and a traveling salesman, was among the early printers that specialized in standardized business forms and revolutionized how records were kept.

In 1869 Ira Reynolds invented and patented a removable and reusable hard cover for duplicating sales books that utilized an insertable carbon leaf, according to the company history. That invention made it faster and easier to create multiple copies of the same information.

“My improvements relate more especially to books suitable for salesmen and book-keepers and are designed not only to facilitate and economize their labors, but also to serve as a check upon both, and a protection of their employer and his customers,” wrote Reynolds in his Dec. 21, 1869 patent application.

Reynolds received four patents by 1874 for his forms related inventions.

Over the years the company expanded and moved to accommodate growth. In 1898 it moved to Washington and Germantown streets, where it remained for more than 100 years.

A boon in the region’s rich car culture helped spark further company growth.

Reynolds was already producing business forms for automotive dealerships, tailoring them to the way dealers handled accounting and inventory, when a 1927 contract for the Chevrolet division of General Motors marked a weighty achievement for the company.

It was now supplying business forms on a national level and went on to start an automotive forms division. That success led to becoming a major supplier of forms - and later computer systems - to the U.S. automobile retail market.

During World War II the War Manpower Commission, a U.S. government agency that managed the efficient use of labor, resolved the company had an important role to play.

Reynolds and Reynolds printed ration books and became the lead printer of technical handbooks for Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

Forms began to morph into computer software for automotive retailers in the 1960s, and the company was among the first to provide computer services to its customers.

Today, the company that began with fewer than 10 employees in downtown Dayton has more than 4,300 employees worldwide. More than 1,300 are employed in Dayton.

“We would hope a company with this type of heritage would be another point of pride for the greater Dayton community,” said Tom Schwartz, director of corporate communications for the company.

“In many ways, Reynolds is a product of the rich heritage of innovation that formed the Dayton region. The company continues to reflect that history of innovation and the knowledge and skills of the people who live and work here.”

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