Radiant with Color & Art: McLoughlin Brothers and the Business of Picture Books, 1858-1920 at The Grolier Club, December 6, 2017 – February 3, 2018

“The McLoughlin brothers, John Jr. (1827–1905) and Edmund (1833/4–1889), were New York publishers who operated from 1858 to 1920. The firm that they founded produced books and games for children for over fifty years, a notable achievement for any business, but an especially important one in the history of picture book publishing. As one of the first publishers to focus exclusively on products for children, McLoughlin Brothers was able to shape and define the American picture book market. The firm used wholesale and retail channels to distribute its books across the country and in Latin America and Europe; produced picture-dominated books that significantly escalated consumer’s expectations that image-laden books could be had at affordable prices; and created popular content that reflected the modern world of the child reader. The brothers never rested on their success, always striving to use technological innovation to improve their products and keep prices down and profits up. In no small way, McLoughlin Brothers sold the idea of picture books as a cultural necessity of American childhood—a belief still held by parents today.

This exhibition documents the working practice of the firm by associating its products with many of the tools used during the production process, such as printing blocks, designer mock ups, and watercolor illustration art. These objects tell a story firmly rooted in the discipline of book history, but also hint at nuances of nineteenthcentury business practices, the advancement of literacy for children, and revelations about cultural norms of the era during which McLoughlin Brothers thrived.” — The Grolier Club

Sarah Noble Ives, “At the Ball,” from Cinderella. Watercolor, gouache, pen and ink, ca. 1912. American Antiquarian Society

A Peep at Buffalo Bill’s Wild West (New York: McLoughlin Brothers, 1887). Gift of Herbert H. Hosmer, 1978. American Antiquarian Society

Young America’s A.B.C. and Pretty Picture Book (New York: McLoughlin Brothers, 1899-1900). Gift of Herbert H. Hosmer, 1978. American Antiquarian Society

A.B.C. of Objects for Home and School. Kindergarten First Book (London: Griffith, Farran, Okeden & Welsh). Copyright held by McLoughlin Brothers, 1889. American Antiquarian Society, Gift of Herbert H. Hosmer, 1978.

Cover design for The Night before Christmas. Watercolor, pen and ink, gouache, ca. 1888. American Antiquarian Society, Gift of Herbert H. Hosmer, 1978.

Radiant with Color & Art is co-curated by Laura Wasowicz, AAS curator of children’s literature and Lauren Hewes,  AAS Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Graphic Arts.

Images courtesy The Grolier Club.