A Tale of Two Whitmans

If you’ve been reading this blog since the summer, you’ve seen plenty of our old books.

But we’re occasionally asked about other old books—books that turn up quite often at flea markets, antique stores, and in personal collections. Here’s an example:

These books are often tie-ins to TV shows and movies from the 50s and 60s, and they say “Whitman” on the spine.  Sometimes friends and acquaintances come across these books and wonder if we published them. They ask: Is that the same Whitman?

The answer is no. And yes!

The simple explanation: those books that say “Whitman” were produced by the Whitman Publishing Company of Racine, Wisconsin. Not our company—we’re in Chicago, and we go by the name Albert Whitman & Company.

The more complicated explanation: Whitman Publishing Company was a subsidiary of Western Printing & Lithographing Company of Racine, Wisconsin, which got into the children’s book business in 1916, after it merged with a Chicago publisher called Whitman-Hamming. That Chicago company was not our company, either, but it was founded in part by a veteran book salesman named Albert Whitman. Who also happens to be OUR Albert Whitman.

And shortly after his first company became part of Western Publishing, Albert set out on his own to start another business in 1919—that’s us!

The Whitman Company in Wisconsin became well-known for its inexpensive books and Hollywood licensing deals, and in the 1940s, its parent company began producing the famous Little Golden Books. (Sometimes folks think that we started Little Golden Books—we didn’t, but the name “Whitman” may have appeared on the copyright page of early editions, hence the confusion.)

As for Albert Whitman & Company, we became famous for publishing the Boxcar Children Mysteries, bringing innovative special-needs titles to the public in the 1960s, and we’ve remained independently owned for more than 90 years. In 1949, Mr. Whitman sold the company to a group of his employees, and company ownership has continued in that tradition ever since.  More about the company’s history can be found here.

So what’s up with the two Whitmans? Different companies… but the same man behind the name!


A Tale of Two Whitmans