Did you miss the Radiant with Color & Art exhibition featuring a portion of the AAS’s large archive of McLoughlin Brothers material that was shown at the Grolier Club last winter? Yes? Then you’re in luck! The exhibition has now been fashioned into a colorful online exhibit showcasing the history and work of the McLoughlin Brothers, the New York publishing firm that transformed American children’s book publishing.
The McLoughlin Brothers were publishers who operated in New York City from 1858 to 1920. Their firm produced books, games, and toys 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 United States 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.
The exhibition and catalog, which was curated by AAS Children’s Book Curator Laura Wasowicz and AAS Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Graphic Arts Lauren Hewes, highlighted more than two hundred items from the Society’s collections, including picture books, games, original watercolors, and wood blocks. This shortened online exhibit, built on the Omeka platform, draws from the Grolier exhibition and tracks the evolution of children’s book publishing in America and the rise and fall of the McLoughlin Brothers firm. The exhibit is broken down into nine distinct themes, which give a glimpse into the audience the brothers sought to engage, the social norms at the time, the technological advances in printing, and the introduction of the stories and tales that are still passed down to today’s children. Enjoy!