The Defunct American Book Company (1890 - 1970)

Updated: Feb 9, 2019


Photo by: Captain's Book Shoppe LLC, Oct 18, 2018.

I like a good mystery.


The Captain’s Book Shoppe preowned paperback mysteries range from $1 - $4.50 … up to $25 for our vintage Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes hard bound books.


Solving certain mysteries can be a bit perplexing. The mystery I am currently working on concerns a publishing house from the 1800’s called American Book Company. One of their books slipped into the store that has the look and feel of being printed in the 1950s or 60s but has a listed copyright of 1899. If you know anything about this firm and their publishing habits, please post here or send me a private message.


Feel free to shoot me an email at: Jeffrey@Captainsbookshoppe.onmicrosoft.com with any leads concerning the defunct American Book Company.


Syracuse University Library Special Collections Research Center appears to have the company’s business papers and letters. A trip east for a bit of research is probably in the making.


Syracuse University lists on their Special Collections website the following information about the defunct American Book Company:

The American Book Company (ABC) was an educational book publisher that published textbooks at the elementary school, secondary school and collegiate levels. The company was formed in 1890 by the consolidation of four publishing houses: Van Antwerp, Bragg and Co., A.S. Barnes and Co., D. Appleton and Co., and Iveson, Blakeman and Co. It operated successfully as the American Book Company for more than seventy years with the public school system and other educational institutions as its main clients, publishing educational titles on accounting, agriculture, art, civics, foreign languages, history (both ancient and modern), life sciences, literature, mathematics, penmanship, physical sciences, and various levels of readers.
In the 1960s and 1970s the company passed first to Litton Industries and then to the International Thomson Organization, finally being acquired by D. C. Heath and Company in 1981. ABC was eventually absorbed into D. C. Heath and ceased to exist as an imprint.
The company employed many noted artists as illustrators for its public-school textbooks, including Norman Rockwell and Frederick Remington. It is perhaps best known for its series of McGuffey Readers, which sold 120 million copies between 1836 and 1960.[1]

In 1977, Dean Winegardner established a book wholesaling firm by the same name, American Book Company, in Tennessee. The current AMERICAN BOOK COMPANY which is still in business is a “wholesale distributor of closeout, remainder, hurt, promotional and bargain-priced books. “Remainder” books are overstocks that have not left the publisher’s warehouse. “Hurt” books are not necessarily damaged or defective, but refer to books returned to publishers which are not reprocessed into inventory.”[2] I am interested in the publishing habits of the first firm from the 1800s, the publishing house: American Book Company which is now out of business.


Please do not hesitate to post any leads you may think will assist in solving the American Book Company mystery. Thank-you.

[1] https://library.syr.edu/digital/guides/a/amer_book_co.htm (Accessed: October 18, 2018).


[2] http://www.americanbookco.com/AboutUS.aspx (Accessed February 9, 2019).

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