Every once in a while, a book from Van Antwerp, Bragg & Co. will come up in a search about Van Antwerp.  I wanted to figure out the history, and I found “A History of the McGuffey Readers” which outlines it.

From the book…

The Confederate States, at the opening of the War, had within their limits no publisher of schoolbooks which had extensive sales.  Nearly all of the schoolbooks used in the South were printed in the North.  But there were printing offices and binderies in the South.  The children continued to go to school, and the demand for schoolbooks soon became urgent.  To meet this demand, a few new schoolbooks were made and copyrighted under the laws of the Confederacy; but others were reprints of Northern books such as were in general use.  The Methodist Book Concern of Nashville, Tenn., reprinted the McGuffey Readers and supplied the region south and west of Nashville until the Federal line swept past that city.  This action on the part of the Methodist Book Concern had the effect of preserving the market for these readers, so that as soon as any part of the South was strongly occupied by the Federal forces, orders came to the Cincinnati publishers for fresh supplies of the McGuffey Readers.  This unexpected preservation of trade was of great benefit to the firm of Sargent, Wilson & Hinkle.

[Wilson, Hinkle & Co.]

In 1866 the special interests were closed out, and Mr. Lewis Van Antwerp was admitted as a partner.  On April 20, 1868, the firm of Sargent, Wilson & Hinkle was dissolved.  Mr. Sargent retired and the new firm, Wilson, Hinkle & Co., bought all the assets.  At this date Mr. Robert Quincy Beer became a partner.  Mr. Beer had long been a trusted and successful agent and he was put in charge of the agency department.  Under this partnership the business gradually became systematized in departments.  One partner had in charge the reading of manuscripts and the placing of accepted works in book form, one had charge of the manufacture of books from plates provided by the first, and one of finding a market for the books.  At the first organization of the firm of Wilson, Hinkle & Co., Mr. Wilson was the literary manager as well as the director of agency work.  Mr. Hinkle was the manufacturer, having control of the printing and binding, and Mr. Van Antwerp had charge of the accounts.  Mr. Beer was brought in to relieve Mr. Wilson in the direction of agents.  But Mr. Beer died suddenly, January 3, 1870, and the surviving partners soon sought for another competent and experienced man to take his place.

[Van Antwerp, Bragg & Co.]

Mr. Caleb S. Bragg had for years acted as the agent for a list of books selected by him from the publications of two or three publishers and was a partner in the firm of Ingham & Bragg, booksellers of Cleveland, Ohio.  Mr. Bragg sold his interest in the business in Cleveland and became a partner in Wilson, Hinkle & Co., on April 20, 1871; and at the same time Henry H. Vail and Robert F. Leaman, who had for some years been employees, were each given an interest in the profits although not admitted as full partners until three years later.  Mr. Hinkle’s eldest son, A. Howard Hinkle, was brought up in the business, and the contract for 1874 provided that he should be admitted as a partner, with his father’s interest and in his place, when that contract expired in 1877.  The contract of 1874 was preparatory to the voluntary retirement of both Mr. Wilson and Mr. Hinkle.  Consequently, on April 20, 1877, the firm of Wilson, Hinkle & Co. was dissolved and the business was purchased by the new firm.  Van Antwerp, Bragg & Co., of which Lewis Van Antwerp, Caleb S. Bragg, Henry H. Vail, Robert F. Leaman, A. Howard Hinkle, and Harry T. Ambrose were the partners.  This firm continued unchanged until January 1, 1892, except for the untimely death of Mr. Leaman on December 12, 1887, and the retirement of Mr. Van Antwerp, January 2, 1890, just previous to the sale of the copyrights and plates owned by the firm to the American Book Company.

This sale, completed May 15, 1890, did not then include the printing office and bindery belonging to the firm.  These were used by the firm of Van Antwerp, Bragg & Co. until January 1, 1892, in manufacturing books ordered by the American Book Company.  The American Book Company became, on May 15, 1890, the owners, by purchase, of all the copyrights and plates formerly owned by Van Antwerp, Bragg & Co.  The four active partners in that firm, each of whom had then been in the schoolbook business some twenty-five or thirty years, entered the employ of the American Book Company.  Mr. Bragg and Mr. Hinkle remained in charge of the Cincinnati business, Mr. Vail and Mr. Ambrose went to New York; the former as editor in chief, the latter was at first treasurer, but later became the president.

[A Vigorous Firm]

Van Antwerp, Bragg & Co. issued many new and successful books and remade many, including the McGuffey Readers and Speller, Ray’s Arithmetics and Harvey’s Grammars.  Most of these met with acceptance and this was so full and universal throughout the central West as to give opportunity to the competing agents of other houses to honor Van Antwerp, Bragg & Co. with such titles as “Octopus” and “Monopoly,” names that were used before “Trusts” were invented.  They also called the firm in chosen companies, “Van Anteup, Grabb & Co.”  These were mere playful or humorous titles in recognition of the fact that this firm had, by its industry, skill and energy, captured a larger share of the patronage of the people than was agreeable to its competitors, and they, in despair of success by fair means, resorted to the old-fashioned method of calling their antagonist bad names.  The best books, if pressed vigorously and intelligently, were sure to win in the end, and the people who used the books cared little what name appeared at the foot of the title-page.

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