by Kelli Bello

After the first few sentences of a Benson Sun article from 1962, I felt like I had met my new best friend.

In her profile of the late great Esther Green, writer Rosemary Madison opined, 

“She’s a dynamo.

She’s as resilient as a cork bobbing in water.

She’s as open, friendly, and easy to know as the old-time neighborhood family druggist.

She’s a force in an all masculine world, and as feminine as a lace parasol.”[1]

Can you blame me for being a little smitten by this horseback-riding, portrait-painting, Hollywood-adjacent, polio-surviving dynamo?

The life story of Esther L. Boyer Green Humphrey leapt off the pages as I began to research her. At the time, I was working as the production manager of the Firehouse Letterpress. Shop owner Larry Richling and I had recently moved his massive collection of vintage letterpress blocks, printing presses, film equipment, and Hollywood press kits in order to build a new print shop in Council Bluffs.

While sorting through the endless boxes, one name kept appearing: FEPCO.

FEPCO stands for Film Exhibitors Printing Company, and was founded 1924 by a 21-year-old Esther Green and her husband Walter Green. FEPCO produced “movie papers,” which contained everything a theater needed to successfully promote a film release.  

After a theater booked a film for screening, Hollywood studios would issue them a press kit. In the kit was the cast list, plot synopsis, photo stills, and a plethora of poster themes and sizes that could be ordered. The regional or small town theaters typically received their press kits from a middleman, not the studios, and this is where FEPCO made its mark. At the height of its business in the 1950s, FEPCO was serving over 4,000 small towns, and had clients in all 50 states and Canada.[2]

Examples of FEPCO press kits from the Firehouse Letterpress collection. Image courtesy of Kelli Bello.

Walter and Esther Green established their business at the perfect time in the 1920’s – when the Golden Age of Hollywood was in its early years and the appetite from movie-goers was insatiable. In Omaha, Theater Row sprung up along Douglas Street between 14th and 16th to meet the need. This bustling stretch of downtown was home to many iconic theaters in the first half of the 20th century, including The Moon, The Rialto, and The Empress theaters. FEPCO’s offices were located right near the heart of the action at 15th and Davenport.[3]

Unfortunately, in 1950 Walter Green passed away from a heart attack at the age of only 50.[4] Esther soldiered on with the business and under her leadership, elevated FEPCO to a national and international player in the Hollywood advertising business.

The Greens outside of the Omaha Community Playhouse in 1935. Image Source: The John S. Savage Collection, The Durham Museum.

“I was a widow for seven years, played the part of a man and a woman,” she said. She went on to remarry Harry Humphrey, a retired representative of the Field Paper Company.[5]

For Esther and FEPCO in the 1950’s and 1960’s, business was good and demand was constantly increasing. In the 1962 Sun profile, Esther proudly declared,

“And just think, it’s right here in Omaha, and being centrally located enables us to give comet-fast service with personalized theater advertising such as heralds, programs, window cards, monthly calendars, mat service and photoengraving. We’re the largest in the world and that’s not stretching the blanket one bit!”[6]

Business boomed from the 1920s -1960s, until studio relationships with these regional “exchanges” evolved away from the established middleman model, and eventually the rapid dawn of the Digital Age drastically changed the printing business.[7] Where once FEPCO was in high demand to produce the mats and blocks required by newspapers to print film advertisements, the shift to modern offset printing made FEPCO’s bread and butter products obsolete.[8]

Letterpress advertising blocks produced by FEPCO. Image courtesy of Kelli Bello.

This was the final deathblow to the “movie papers” industry, and FEPCO shuttered its doors in 1980, with Esther passing away shortly after in 1981.[9]

In the span of FEPCO’s 56-year reign, Esther was faced with many challenges in a rapidly evolving film industry. Audiences were also evolving, and the business weathered multiple wars. She seemed to take these obstacles in stride and pivoted her business accordingly. In 1966, she even received a citation from President Lyndon B. Johnson for her participation in the Youth Opportunity Campaign – a home front effort to create skilled labor positions for teenagers.[10] For Esther and many employers, this was an opportunity to fill positions left vacant by soldiers fighting in Vietnam.[11]

At the time of the recognition by President Johnson, 18 of FEPCO’s 22 employees were minors. She said, “You can only have so many key people. Viet Nam has taken away three of my really key people. Youngsters train easily. They’re agile. They’re smart.[12]

Modern inventions like air conditioning, television, and drive-in theaters kept FEPCO constantly on its toes.

“At one time, we worked our heads off in the winter time. Then summer was slack time. Now, because of outdoor theaters, it’s a complete turnaround. Air conditioning was a big factor at one time, and theaters were the pioneers. At first, we dealt with the small-town theater. Then TV came in, little theaters went out, and the industry developed into huge drive-ins.”[13]

All of this business acumen appears to be a part of her family’s fiber. She was born Esther Boyer to Irish and French parents. Her father, Charles Boyer, founded Boyer Coal and Ice Company, and all five of her brothers struck out to form their own enterprises including Boyer Trailer, Boyer Insurance, Boyer Candy, and Boyer Hardware.[14]

The Boyer family business, c. 1930. Image courtesy of Council Bluffs Public Library.

 A childhood bout with polio left her wheelchair-bound for years. It was during this period of recovery that she fostered a talent for drawing and painting. Her artistic talents were so strong that as an adult, a portrait she painted of her gardener was even displayed in the Joslyn Art Museum.[15] She was also a ceramicist, a dancer, an organist, and a horsewoman.

She went on to run a marathon and swim two miles a day.

“None of it came easy. Everything was a challenge and a struggle. I had missed a lot of things, having polio.”[16] 

Her friend Mrs. Robert Hoff summed up Esther’s “kinetic energy” well, “There’s nobody like Esther. People half her age will be leaving the dance floor, exhausted. And Esther is still going strong – and I mean she knows all those fancy jitterbug things.”[17] 

With a penchant for spinning straw into gold, it was her difficulty walking as a teenager that eventually brought her future husband Walter Green into her life. He noticed her struggling on the way home from school and offered her a ride home on his bicycle. They were married in 1920, when Esther was just 17 years old.[18] 

Her role as a titan in the Hollywood film industry allotted her certain cache among celebrity circles. At her home, Greencrest Acres, a sprawling property at 96th and Dodge Street, she displayed framed photos of her celebrity friends, many of whom were houseguests on the property. The A-List names included Lucille Ball, Cary Grant, Bob Hope, Jayne Mansfield, and Anna May Wong. One of her and Walter’s dearest friends was a young nightclub singer named Walt Liberace. Before becoming the rhinestone-encrusted mono-monikered icon, he recorded his first commercial record in Esther’s basement recreation room.[19]

Esther meets her idol Kim Novak. Omaha World-Herald, 25 March 1956. 

But nobody had Esther as star struck as Golden Globe-winning actress Kim Novak. Esther said, “I’m so crazy about her. She’s not only a good person, she’s religious. She has the highest standards, a background of culture, devotion to her parents. She’s my favorite.”[20]

In 1956 while attending the Drive-In Theater Convention in Cleveland, Esther waited in line for 45 minutes to meet her idol face-to-face. Kim Novak signed Esther’s menu, but like so many before her, was deeply charmed by Esther and invited her to sit down and share a dessert.[21]

Esther in her penthouse apartment located above FEPCO headquarters at 416 S. 14th Street. Omaha World-Herald, 19 February 1967.

I feel honored to have initially “met” Esther by working with the equipment she and FEPCO produced at the letterpress shop Larry and I built. Scratching under the surface a little deeper in local newspaper archives revealed a dynamic, well-respected, and savvy trailblazer who built an empire and appears to have been unanimously beloved by everyone who met her.

When Esther L. Boyer Green Humphrey passed away in November of 1981, she left behind an immense legacy. A legacy that still inspires women today…well, at least one woman. This one.




[1] Madison, Rosemary. “The Private World of Esther Green – After Polio, She’s a Dynamo in a Man’s World” Benson Sun, 22 November 1962.

[2] Ibid.

[3]  Madison, Rosemary. “The Private World of Esther Green – After Polio, She’s a Dynamo in a Man’s World” Benson Sun, 22 November 1962.

[4] Obituary. Omaha World-Herald. 13 November 1950.

[5] Madison, Rosemary. “The Private World of Esther Green – After Polio, She’s a Dynamo in a Man’s World” Benson Sun, 22 November 1962.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Nicol, Brian. “Hollywood Flashbacks.” 2009, p.6.

[8] Ibid. p. 6.

[9] Obituary. Omaha World-Herald. 19 November 1981.

[10]Johnson, Lyndon B. “Statement by the President on the 1966 Youth Opportunity Campaign.” 11 April 1966.

[11] “President Cites Omahan for Employing Young.” Omaha World-Herald. 24 June 1966.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Madison, Rosemary. “The Private World of Esther Green – After Polio, She’s a Dynamo in a Man’s World” Benson Sun, 22 November 1962.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Omaha World-Herald. 3 December 1940. p. 5.

[16]  Madison, Rosemary. “The Private World of Esther Green – After Polio, She’s a Dynamo in a Man’s World” Benson Sun, 22 November 1962.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Omaha World-Herald. 25 March 1956. p. 88.

Close filters
Products Search
Products Price Filter