Arch A. Mercey, 73, an author and a retired senior vice president of Merkle Press, Inc. who was a government information specialist and documentary film producer in the 1930s and 1940s, died Thursday at the Althea Woodland Nursing Home in Silver Spring after a stroke.

A former tutor, ditch digger, librarian, truck driver, reporter, radio columnist, coal miner and college teacher, Mr. Mercey came to Washington in 1935 as an information specialist with the Agriculture Department's Resettlement Administration.

He subsequently served as assistant director of information, assisting in the writing, production and direction of the documentary films, "The Plow That Broke the Plains," and "The River," which set an all-time record for documentary films when they were shown in 4,400 theaters in this country and later distributed around the world.

From 1938 to 1940, he was assistant director of the U.S. Film Service, an arm of the National Emergency Council created as a clearing house for all federal film projects.

He subsequently served as a motion picture consultant to the president, as motion picture consultant to the Office of War Mobilization and Reconversion and as chief information officer for the World Health Organization.

In 1948, he became an editor and writer for Ransdell Inc., a predecessor of Merkle Press, and later became managing editor. He later was named senior vice president of Merkle Press Inc. and senior vice president of Publishers Company Inc. He had been semiretired since 1971.

Mr. Mercey was born in Mercer, Ky. He earned bachelor's and law degrees from the University of Illinois.

He was editor of the Vincennes (Ind.) Times newspaper before moving to Washington.

During World War II, he served as an assistant chief of public information in the U.S. Coast Guard with the rank of commander.

He was the author of "Sea, Surf, and Hell," a history of the U.S. Coast Guard, "The Laborers' Story," and "The Sheet Metal Workers' Story."

Survivors include his wife, Elena, of Washington; a daughter, Gail Getz of Thompsontown, Pa.; and a sister, Mrs. George Van Dyl of Hemet, Calif.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to a charity of one's choice.