End of an Era
End of an Era
When John McLoughlin Jr. died in 1905, the strongest driving force behind the company was gone. His brother and cofounder of McLoughlin Brothers, Edmund, had died six years earlier in 1889. John’s son Charles, who took the helm after his father’s death, passed away in 1914, and his other son, James, had outside pursuits that left him little interest in running the company. Under Charles, the company continued to produce an annual catalog full of old favorites and new titles, and the Brooklyn factory kept humming along. An army of traveling salesmen kept taking orders for classic titles such as Arabian Nights, as well as contemporary games featuring popular sports like football and cycling. But the engine that drove the golden years was definitely slowing.
After over fifty years of expansion and experimentation, the firm began to flounder in the years following World War I. Quality dropped as cost-cutting measures introduced inferior pulp paper stock and photomechanically reproduced illustrations. In 1920, the company was sold to the game publisher Milton Bradley in Springfield, Massachusetts. Milton Bradley was primarily interested in the game inventory and patents, many of which were quickly subsumed into its own product line. Bradley retained a diminished version of the book publishing business as well, reissuing some older titles annually, along with a few new books. The art archive, the library of competitors’ books, business records, and printing blocks and plates were all moved to Massachusetts, and the factory contents and property in Brooklyn were sold.
A massive flood of the Connecticut river in 1938 filled portions of the Milton Bradley factory with water and apparently claimed the McLoughlin Brothers ledgers and business records. The library of books, annual catalogs, and original artwork from the early days were all spared, however, and between 1950 and 1951 these were divided up among several Milton Bradley executives. Much of this material is now preserved in library collections like the American Antiquarian Society and serves as evidence of the processes and procedures used by McLoughlin Brothers during its decades of operation as the largest publisher of juvenile literature in the United States.