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Children's Book Publishing in New York

The Home Primer

Children's Book Publishing in New York

New York was a hub of printing and publishing activity when the McLoughlin Brothers firm was formed in the 1850s. The population of the city was growing rapidly, from 696,000 in 1850 to 1.4 million by 1870. At first, many printers, papermakers, and bookbinders were clustered in lower Manhattan, but they gradually moved up to midtown by the 1870s. Dozens of printers and publishers went in and out of business in New York during the nineteenth century, adversely affected by unpredictable economic cycles, failure to update equipment as technologies changed, or the struggle to distribute products effectively. Capital investment was always a challenge in the printing industry, and many publishers diversified their printing businesses to maximize the use of their equipment, providing job work services, such as printing broadsides, forms, and so forth, along with book production.


There was a robust system of apprenticeships, journeyman positions, and training opportunities in the city’s print industry during this period, and connections made during the early years of a printer’s career often lasted a lifetime. Many printers, including John McLoughlin Sr. (fl.1828–1854), got their start on Newspaper Row, near City Hall, where vast operations for the New York Sun, the New York World, and the New York Times employed hundreds of pressmen, typesetters, mechanics, and printers.

Cinderella or The Glass Slipper

Professional organizations, including the National Typographical Union, Book Publishers’ Association, and the Publishers’ Board of Trade, were established in this period to allow individuals to network and to create strong representation of the trade for political reasons. An 1856 statement by the New York Book Publishers’ Association shows that publishers understood the need to work together: “Books, like other commodities, have their general circulation regulated by the facility with which they can be procured and the prominence with which they are presented to the public; and a judicious selection, at moderate prices, seems to be the primary requisite for a prosperous business.”


In part, thanks to these professional organizations, New York City provided an ideal location for the birth of McLoughlin Brothers. Dozens of trade professionals, from stereotypers to authors, could be found in its growing neighborhoods, and connections to customers around the world could be easily made using its transportation and communication resources. The city had a growing consumer base, as well. Remember that population boom? By 1870 there were 208,000 school-aged children living in the city of New York—an enormous local customer base for McLoughlin Brothers and the other printers of juvenile literature in the city.

 

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