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MCLOUGHLIN BROTHERS MATERIALS ADDED TO DE GRUMMOND COLLECTION

 

Through the generosity of Justin Schiller, Ltd. antiquarian booksellers, the de Grummond Collection has enriched its holdings with a unique donation/purchase of a substantial collection of McLoughlin Brothers published books, original illustrations, and other related publication materials.

The McLoughlin Brothers publishing firm was established in 1828 by John McLoughlin, a young Scottish immigrant. His job with the Sterling Iron Company put him in contact with Robert Hoe, a manufacturer of printing presses and eventually led to his interest in publishing children's books. After a brief employment with the New York Times, McLoughlin purchased a hand press, some fonts of type and produced his first children's pamphlet in 1828. By 1840 he had merged with Robert H. Elton, a competitor who was known as the "Cruikshank of America" for his skill as a wood engraver. Thomas Bewick, British naturalist illustrator had popularized wood engraving, or "white line drawing," as a method of book illustration at the close of the 18th century.

McLoughlin and Elton issued toy books, comic almanacks and valentines under the imprint of Elton & Co. until 1850 when both retired. McLoughlin's son John, Jr. had joined the firm when still a teenager and had become a partner at age 21. His first change after succeeding his father as publisher was to change the imprint to "John McLoughlin, successor to Elton & Co." By the mid 1850s his brother Edmund joined the firm where they worked together as "McLoughlin Brothers."

Their business thrived and they added toys, games, paper dolls and other novelty items to their successful line of books. John, Jr. seemed to have inherited his father's talent and love for the process of making children's books. He became the first, and for many years the only, printer in America to issue books with colored illustrations. The color was achieved through a stenciling process used until the early 1860s. Since the brothers were always eager to adopt the newest technology, they progressed from the hand-stenciling, to wood engraving in color and finally to chromolithography. They were also the first American printer to use zinc plates. Their domination of the children's book field led to the opening of a new factory in Brooklyn in 1870, said to be the largest such factory in the United States.

For a time the firm relied on reprinting designs pirated from British publishers and illustrators. They introduced American children to the genius of British illustrators Randolph Caldecott, Kate Greenaway, and Walter Crane. It was not until the isolation caused by the Civil War that a truly American school of illustration was born. McLoughlin's premier illustrator was Thomas Nast, well known political cartoonist who in 1870 created the definitive image of Santa Claus, as well as the symbolic Republican elephant and the Democratic donkey. After Nast, the firm continued to employ celebrated artists. Palmer Cox, creator of the Brownies; Justin H. Howard; Helena Maguire, famous English painter of animals; G.A. Davis, the Jessie Willcox Smith of her day; and Howard Pyle all contributed to the continued success of the McLoughlin Brothers publications.

Although Edmund retired in 1885, John continued to expand the business and constructed a complete lithographic plant in 1894. So great was the business that a staff of 75 artists was employed at the Brooklyn factory to design books and games. As was often the case with McLoughlin artists, their work was anonymous.

After guiding the firm for nearly sixty years, John McLoughlin, Jr. died in 1907 and control was turned over to his sons James G. and Charles. Neither son had inherited his father's passion for publishing children's books, so the firm languished until Charles' death in 1920. McLoughlin Brothers publishers was offered for sale by James and the stock, plates, machinery and good will was purchased by a major competitor, Milton Bradley, of Springfield, Massachusetts who retained the McLoughlin name and much of the personnel. The new owners employed artists Frederick Richardson, Janet Laura Scott, Katherine Sturges, Harrison Cady, Hildegard Lupprian, Clara M. Burd and others famous in the art circles of the day. In 1938 a mainstay of the McLoughlin line was artist Geraldine Clyne, creator of the best-selling "The Jolly Jump-Ups" three dimensional books.

The McLoughlin line continued to flourish as part of the Milton Bradley empire, but despite the popular "Sing-a-Song" xylophone book which sold 250,000 copies and the average yearly sales totaling about 500,000 units, the McLoughlin line came under control of bankers who decided to liquidate the stock. The firm was sold to Julius Kushner, a New York toy manufacturer, in late 1951. Kushner planned to proceed with the liquidation, but after a study of the McLoughlin history and the realization of its outstanding contribution to the American children's publishing industry, he decided to continue production under the time-honored McLoughlin name. He increased print runs of popular titles, lowered the retail prices, and added titles to the Color Classics series. Despite his improvements, the firm was once again sold in 1954, this time to Grosset & Dunlap, who continued to publish novelty items and toy books bearing the McLoughlin imprint for another 20 years. As late as 1978 this historically important imprint was still used on a few special publications, surviving 150 years after John McLoughlin's first pamphlet was printed.

At John McLoughlin's death, the writer of his obituary in Publishers Weekly said, "Every child in the land knows the McLoughlin toys and books, and even across the seas their edition of Mother Goose has been sent printed in many languages. In fact, the history in the last decade of colored toy books for youngsters is the history of Mr. McLoughlin and his firm."

Prior to this recent donation/purchase, the de Grummond Collection had impressive holdings of McLoughlin imprints including more than 300 19th century titles, nearly 100 titles from the 20th century, an 1891 Palmer Cox Brownies cube puzzle box and a rare proof scrap book that survived a flood that destroyed the Springfield plant. The proof book contains approximately 1200 woodblock proofs printed by the McLoughlin Brothers in the latter half of the 19th century. Many of the proofs are annotated, providing remarks on their acceptability for publication. According to McLoughlin scholar, Michael Joseph, the proof book served as a "Rosetta Stone" for his inquiry.

The new acquisition consists of 150 published books dating from the 1870s to the 1940s, encompassing classics, fairy tales, Mother Goose rhymes, painting books, shape books, foreign language titles, and even three rare Horatio Alger imprints. Original materials include dummies, original illustrations, typescripts, and proofs for titles such as The Six Happy Goats, Happy Jaspar, The Little Tin Soldier, Bobby Beaver, and The House in the Woods with illustrations by artists Pru Herric, Betty Howe, Sari, Robert A. Graef, Ianray, and Catherine Merritt. A large amount of publisher correspondence from the 1940s is also included.

The combination of our previous holdings and the recent acquisition makes a fantastic research archive available to scholars in a variety of fields. More that 500+ McLoughlin titles have been cataloged and are accessible through our online catalog. Also, thanks to our third NEH grant, a detailed Finding Aid of the original materials is now online.

 

 

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The de Grummond Children's Literature Collection
Box 5148
Hattiesburg, MS 39406
(601) 266-4349
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