Henry Altemus Company - Philadelphia

Having recently corresponded with Frank DeFreitas over at Antiquarian Holographica about certain historical sites in Philadelphia, I guess the Philly force was with me yesterday when I was out scouting for books.

I found a decent copy of The Story of Young Benjamin Franklin, by Wayne Whipple (Henry Altemus Company, Philadelphia, 1916). Whipple wrote a series of children's books portraying famous Americans such as Washington, Lincoln, and Franklin. He also wrote about American icons such as the Liberty Bell and the American Flag. I might have passed on the Franklin book if not for what was tucked inside as a bookmark--a contemporary brochure from the publisher, Henry Altemus.

There's a little character at the top of the first page, standing next to a row of books and with a book in hand, he exclaims,
An Altemus book and nothing to do until tomorrow. Oh, joy!

The brochure opens up into a front-and-back listing for Altemus' 20th Century Books for Boys and Girls. One side lists the books by the series for which they were written. The opposite side features illustrations depicting the front covers of a sampling of those books.

Altemus published more than just children's books, but the juvenile series seem to have been more popular and perhaps what the publishing firm is best remembered for. In 1904, Altemus scored a major coup with the first American edition of Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit. Her London publisher, Frederick Warne & Co, had failed to secure the American copyright and Altemus seized upon the opportunity to publish Potter's first book. His juvenile series books had their beginning in 1909 and lasted into the 1930s. When Henry Altemus died in 1936, the company expired also.

I didn't have to look far for information on Altemus and his publishing company. The interesting and very informative Web site henryaltemus.com has everything you'd want to know about Henry Altemus Publishing. From their History & Overview page, there is this:
Henry Altemus and the Henry Altemus Company (1842-1936) was a popular and prolific Philadelphia publisher which started as a bookbinder and evolved into a publisher of photographic albums, bibles, decorative reprints of fiction, religious and moralistic books, juvenile series books, fairy tales, puzzle books, etc.
And the rest, as the old saying goes, is history.


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