Cover image for George Palmer Putnam : representative American publisher
George Palmer Putnam : representative American publisher
Greenspan, Ezra.
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Publication Information:
University Park, Pa. : Pennsylvania State University Press, [2000]

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xv, 510 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm.
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Z473.P95 G74 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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George Palmer Putnam (1814-1872) was arguably the most important American publisher of the nineteenth century, a man fully and multiply involved in developments transforming all aspects of literary culture. In this comprehensive cultural biography, Ezra Greenspan offers a wide-ranging account of a rich, productive life lived in print, interrelating Putnam's life with the life of his family (one of the most remarkable of its time), with the changing patterns of life in New York City and the nation, and with the institutionalization of modern print culture in nineteenth-century America.

Putnam's roles and achievements were many: he established and ran the publishing house of G. P. Putnam's in New York City; published many of the leading American antebellum writers, male and female, canonical and noncanonical (indeed, was responsible for the first act of American canonization-of Washington Irving); was the leading publisher of art books in his time and launched Putnam's Monthly; led efforts resulting in the institutionalization of the American publishing industry and was the most outspoken promoter of American authorship; led the fight in the United States for international copyright; was the first American publisher to open an overseas (London) branch office; and for a decade was the leading American agent in the international book trade.

Putnam's achievements were not limited to his professional sphere: he was also the founding Superintendent of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the official publisher to the New York World's Fair of 1853, the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue in New York City during the Civil War, and the organizer of the greatest authors-publishers dinner ever given in nineteenth-century America. Friend and confidant to many of the leading figures of his time, he was not simply a centrally placed publisher but was one of the most centrally placed people of his entire society.

This study is based on meticulous archival research into not only Putnam's own papers but into the records of his business, the papers of other family members, and the archives of persons with whom Putnam had contact through business and social networks. In a finely detailed narrative, Greenspan weaves together the story of Putnam's life and that of the development of print culture in nineteenth-century America to offer an ambitious, comprehensive biography of this "representative American publisher."

Author Notes

Ezra Greenspan is Professor of English at the University of South Carolina.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

In 1829, young George Palmer Putnam (1814-1872) arrived in New York as both the city and its book trade were burgeoning. The founder of the G.P. Putnam publishing house (along with a retail firm) in 1848 was an enterprising and creative publisher whose career prefigures many aspects of publishing today. He published huge bestsellers like Susan Warner's The Wide, Wide World (1850) and Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852). Putnam's marketing acumen was particularly keen: he mined his backlist well, publishing various editions of his books (he created Putnam's Railway Library, to be sold at the newly created bookstalls in railway stations); he was one of the first to cultivate American authorsÄJames Fenimore Cooper and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow were in his stableÄand female writers (Catharine Maria Sedgwick was one of his core authors); he initiated tie-in projects, securing an agreement with the organizers of the New York World's Fair to be the official publisher of related books, which he sold at the exhibition as well as through normal channels; and he created an upscale literary journal, Putnam's Monthly (to rival the eminently successful Harper's Monthly), in 1852-53. Greenspan unfortunately dwells on the minutiae of Putnam's career, often in tedious fashion, while more exciting possibilities, such as Putnam's interactions with Melville and Poe, remain underexplored. Nor does Greenspan plumb Putnam's character adequately; he remains a gentlemanly cipher. In the end, this is less a portrait of a man than a fascinating look at the development of American publishing in one of its critical periods. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



Chapter One Family Antecedents: The Palmers and Putnams of New England "Of making many books there is no end"--these, the first words ever to pass out of the mind of George Palmer Putnam and onto the printed page, were surely the most ironic he was to write during his long involvement in the culture of nineteenth-century print. An awareness of their irony, however, would hardly have registered on the earnest nineteen-year-old, all-purpose bookstore clerk then making his first foray into publication. In naively citing the biblical warning, he could not have foreseen that the central story of his own life would be the making of many books or that that activity would be one increasingly integral to the life of his own society. But within several years of writing these words, Putnam was to become deeply involved in the rapidly expanding print culture of his time, and, once involved, he was to play a leading role in its evolution during one of the most dynamic periods in the history of American letters. The boy who left home and school in small-town Maine in 1825 at age eleven to enter the working world, first in Boston and then four years later in New York City, where he arrived with no visible contacts or prospects, was hardly as unprepared as one might think to begin working his way into and up through the culture of book reading, writing, and making. In fact, his family, on both sides, was a distinguished one in the social, political, and cultural life of colonial and early republican New England, as it would continue to be on a national level through the nineteenth century; and Putnam's life and career make best sense when understood in the larger context of his family. This is so not only because he had a keen sense of family connectedness and loyalty but also because his earliest experience of letters came in the family home as the son of a teacher and an amateur man of letters. Indeed, his family home was one that would have put him in intimate touch with the changing atmosphere of letters in his society, since the Putnams and Palmers had been immersed for generations in their surrounding culture.     George Palmer Putnam was descended on his father's side from a well-established, middle-class New England family of farmers, ministers, physicians, and ship captains (roughly similar to that of Nathaniel Hawthorne, whose distant ancestor had married a Putnam and who himself married George Palmer Putnam's first cousin Sophia Peabody). His earliest New World ancestor, John Putnam, arrived in Massachusetts in 1642 and settled and prospered in Salem, the family seat for numerous generations. John Putnam's grandson Benjamin was a sea captain, who was presumably otherwise occupied when other members of the extended family played a leading role in agitating for the punishment of witches. Benjamin Putnam died in 1715 and left a will stipulating, among other things, that his son Daniel be provided for in order to continue his education at Harvard.     Daniel Putnam graduated in 1717 and married his first cousin Rebecca Putnam the following year in Salem. Shortly thereafter, he answered the call of the people of Reading, Massachusetts, a village about twenty miles north of Boston, to become the minister of the church they planned to organize in the newly declared parish on the north side of town. Promised by the community a meetinghouse and parsonage and an annual salary of £66 and fifteen cords of wood, he accepted their call. He began to preach in 1718 but was ordained only in 1720 as minister of the settlement later incorporated as North Reading. There, on the main street, his grateful parishioners built him a two-and-a-half story house of plank construction that remained the Putnam family home into the early-twentieth century. His early years there could not have been easy; in 1722 a collection was taken up by the town to help its minister, who "is represented to be in great straits." That act of charity brought him whatever short-term relief £5, 17 shillings, could purchase. With time, though, he managed to establish his presence and that of his family in the community and lived out his long life there, preaching for nearly four decades and acquiring a reputation for piety and dedication. He also managed to accumulate for his use and that of his children a fairly distinguished ministerial library, if one as remote from the interests of his nineteenth-century descendant as was the library of the Puritan occupants of the Old Manse from the interests of their nineteenth-century "follower." One other legacy Rev. Putnam deeded his family was land; at some point in his tenure, the community voted to give him twenty acres of land and to plant him an orchard, which he gratefully accepted as given "to me my heirs and asines forever." That land became the basis of his family's growing estate during the following generations, as the Putnams prospered and became one of the village's leading families even before the American Revolution.     His eldest son, also named Daniel (1721-73), was a respected church deacon and doctor who made his mark in local affairs, serving as selectman in 1763, 1768, and 1771 and as Reading's representative to the General Court in the year of his death. He developed a substantial medical practice in the village, which provided him the wherewithal to enlarge the family's already considerable holdings in land, the primary basis of its wealth. When Daniel's two eldest sons died, probably in the same epidemic that carried him away several weeks subsequently in late 1773, the court awarded the entirety of his real estate to his eldest surviving son, Henry (1755-1806), only eighteen at the time.     That first Henry Putnam was to answer the call to arms on 19 April 1775. He served in a regiment commanded by his townsman Captain John Flint, but otherwise, in contrast to his Connecticut cousin General Israel Putnam, he saw little action during the war. Rather, he followed largely in his father's and grandfather's footsteps, distinguishing himself as a prominent citizen of the town and, from 1778, as the elected deacon of the church to which his grandfather had ministered. He also served North Reading, as was by then virtually a family tradition, as selectman and representative to the General Court. A hard-working farmer like his father, he increased the family estate, which by now expanded beyond the large family farm to include land holdings elsewhere in Massachusetts and in New Hampshire and part interests in local saw and grist mills. By the time he died in 1806, he was one of the most substantial landowners and a leading citizen in the town.     If the first Henry Putnam witnessed the birth of a new country, his eldest son, also Henry (1778-1827), represented the first generation of Putnams to experience the broadened opportunities that came with nationhood. Not much is known about his early years other than the facts that he was raised in the paternal homestead in North Reading and that he went on to Boston Grammar School. He then matriculated at Harvard College, one of the eldest among the seventy students in the class of 1802, which also included three other young men from North Reading. Although he was the first member of his immediate family to attend Harvard since Rev. Daniel Putnam nearly a century before, Henry pursued his studies with little of his great grandfather's religious zeal. In fact, his name appears conspicuously in tallies of students caught missing prayers in the chapel. Like many of his classmates, he took off a few weeks during several winters of his academic career, with college permission, to teach school in the area. An intelligent, creative young man, Henry Putnam distinguished himself at school chiefly by his literary talent. He contributed a long English poem to exercises held at the chapel in July 1800; then two years later he was the English-language poet at his class's commencement. But taken all in all, his years at Harvard seem to have been unexceptional. He graduated with his class in 1802 with an eye toward the practice of law and subsequently gained admission to the Suffolk County bar. Three years later, he received his master's degree, one of about half of the class of 1802 to do so.     These are the bare facts about the father of George Palmer Putnam. From them one can readily infer that, in many ways, Henry Putnam belonged to a new generation of Putnams, one less bound to the family home and ways. The first eldest son in generations not to serve the local Congregational church as deacon, he was not only less rigid in his own faith, eventually passing completely out of the ranks of Congregationalists, but less able or perhaps simply less inclined to bind his wife and children to the ancestral religion. Moreover, he had less tie to the geographical area where the family had lived since its arrival in the New World. While his brother Joshua remained at home and inherited the family homestead and the bulk of their father's estate, Henry chose soon after his marriage to Catherine Hunt Palmer in 1807 at Jamaica Plains to move away from Massachusetts. He was not to return there for any length of time until the last year of his life, when he retreated alone and probably in destitution to the family home, where he died on 12 January 1827. On the Palmer side of the family, the New World line of descent was shorter but more distinguished. George Palmer Putnam's mother, Catherine Hunt Palmer, was the granddaughter of General Joseph Palmer, the first member of his family to emigrate to America. Born in Devonshire in 1716 of a prosperous, middle-class family and well educated in his youth, he emigrated to New England in 1746 with his wife and brother-in-law, Richard Cranch, early his business partner and later a judge in Massachusetts. A man of means, Palmer bought a large tract of land in Braintree, Massachusetts, which he named Germantown after the large number of immigrant German workers he employed. During the three decades preceding the Revolutionary War, he established a variety of manufactories, which came to include a spermaceti candle factory, a chocolate mill, a glass factory, and salt works. In 1752, the colonial legislature granted him a fifteen-year monopoly on the manufacture of glass, a skill in which he excelled. To complement his stature as the leading entrepreneur of the community, he built a fine, three-story residence called Friendship Hall, where he lived like a country gentleman, entertaining his neighbors, who included the Adamses and the Quincys; tending to his several acres of orchards and gardens; and overseeing the growth of his library, one of the finest in colonial Massachusetts.     As hostilities intensified between the colonies and Britain, Palmer was gradually moved to play a leading role on the colonial side. So did his eldest son, Joseph Pearse (later father of Catherine Hunt Palmer), a leader of the Boston Tea Party. During 1774 and early 1775, Joseph Palmer became a central figure in political gatherings on both the colonial and the national level. Shortly before the outbreak of fighting, he was elected to represent Germantown (or Braintree) at the Continental Congress. John Adams, who was passed over for the position, approved of the choice, calling Palmer "as good a Hand as they can employ, and having been for sometime in the Center of all their Business, in the County, Town and Province, [he] is the best man they have." He responded to the call to arms on 19 April 1775, and the following month he represented Suffolk County at the second Continental Congress, where he was chosen secretary. During the war, he rose to the rank of brigadier general and was charged with various responsibilities, including the fortification of Boston and the attack on British forces in Rhode Island. That latter expedition ended in disaster. Palmer was charged with irresponsibility and tried by court martial, before being cleared by the Continental Congress.     He emerged from the war with his finances considerably weakened, having given generously to the cause and been repaid in large part in colonial currency, whose depreciation was so severe as to make it virtually worthless. One immediate consequence was the loss of Friendship Hall to Palmer's creditor and one-time friend John Hancock, who, at least according to family legend, actually had the family forced out of its doors. Always resourceful and untiring, Palmer resettled his family in Roxbury and tried to recoup his fortune in the last years of his life by starting a salt works in Boston. He died, however, in 1788 before seeing his plans through to completion. Although not left in debt, the Palmer children and grandchildren never again experienced the easy days of affluence and comfort enjoyed during the General's lifetime. Over the decades leading up to George Palmer Putnam's childhood, stories about that earlier era of Palmer affluence continued to circulate widely among the general's descendants but only as family legend. Joseph Palmer's more direct legacy to his descendants was the gift of pride and gentility, but stripped of the financial resources needed to sustain that attitude.     General Putnam's only son, Joseph Pearse, inherited something of his father's entrepreneurial spirit but little of his talent for execution. A 1771 graduate of Harvard, he married the following year Elizabeth Hunt, the attractive seventeen-year-old daughter of a successful distiller from Watertown. Her education had been limited by her father's disbelief in female learning, and Palmer sought to teach her from the books in his father's library. Since the completion of his own studies he had been in business with his father, who had set up a retail store and import-export business in Boston that the two men stocked with products, including those manufactured in the various family works back in Germantown. Amid growing tension between the local authorities and citizenry, the young couple settled in Boston, where the first of their nine children (Mary, the future wife of the lawyer-playwright Royall Tyler) was born the next summer. Three months later came Joseph Pearse Palmer's participation in the Boston Tea Party (or, in the family vernacular, the making of "salt water tea"). His role an open secret in town, word soon reached the ears of the royal governor, who ordered him expelled from Boston and the family's store and warehouses on Long Wharf burned to the ground. Under duress, the young family lived for a short time with Elizabeth Palmer's wealthy father, then, thinking it unsafe to return to Boston, moved into their own house in Watertown.     Like his father, Joseph Pearse was increasingly drawn during the early 1770s into enthusiastic involvement in current affairs on the patriot side, as were many of his Harvard classmates and friends. On the night of 18-19 April 1775, he and his father rode together to Lexington to answer the call to arms; his father returned so drained that he had to be helped off his horse. Several weeks later, the younger Palmer was appointed quartermaster general of the gathering Continental Army, a position he maintained until relieved of his responsibilities when George Washington arrived in Cambridge to assume control of the army. He served for a short period in 1777 as his father's brigade major, but during most of the rest of the war he was engaged with his father primarily in the manufacture of salt from sea water on the Palmer farm, as well as in other business operations. In 1778, the General invited him and his family to move into the large farmhouse on the Germantown estate, where they lived several years in Palmer-style opulence with servants and grooms to attend the needs of the growing family.     After the end of fighting, he opened a store in Cornhill, Boston, with his father as silent partner. But the store failed, as, on a larger scale, did the far-flung enterprises of his father. Following the loss of the family estate and the transferal of the family's home and business to Boston, Joseph Pearse Palmer joined his father in his ambitious new project of salt works on Boston Neck, into which the two men sank the remainder of the family's assets as well as funds raised from investors. But soon after the General died, their creditors, lacking faith in the still incomplete project and in the younger Palmer, withdrew their funds, undermining the works and leaving Palmer, for the first time, on his own and without a source of capital for executing future projects. Even in the months before his father died, he was describing his situation as "truely [ sic ] distressing--destitute of necessaires, in my family, and void of any means of providing" and appealed to an acquaintance for employment, no matter how "trifling" the work.     From the time of his father's death and the loss of the salt works to the end of his life, Joseph Pearse experienced little but frustration and failure. Despite financial assistance from his wealthy in-laws, he had little success in various enterprises carried out in various localities, and his family was forced to adapt itself to living far below its previous station in life. Their reduced circumstances did not come easily to the proud Palmers: the family was forced to take in boarders and to do its own manual chores, yet it continued to receive company elaborately and to live beyond its means. Forced to reduce the size of his family, Joseph Pearse Palmer chose to forestall the education of his oldest son (also Joseph) and to send him to sea as a cabin boy. Likewise, he allowed his oldest daughter Mary to go to New York in 1789 as a companion to the children of Elbridge Gerry, a signer of the Declaration of Independence who had recently been appointed a representative in the newly constituted Congress.     Matters only deteriorated, however, in the following decade. Having exhausted opportunities in Boston, Palmer gladly accepted the offer of his Hunt brothers-in-law in 1790 to take possession of a farm in Framingham that had been deeded to them. Just a few years removed from the genteel pleasures of the General's country seat, the family now gave itself over to the common chores of manual labor in and out of the house (living, in effect, a reversal of the plots of such favorite recent British novels as Tom Jones, which Joseph Pearse once enjoyed reading out loud to family and friends in his father's library). With a growing number of children at home (their ninth and last child, Catherine Hunt, having been born in Framingham in 1791) and few of the financial resources their parents had had in raising them, Elizabeth and Joseph Pearse Palmer had no recourse but to take upon themselves the task of educating their children at home. During winters, Palmer turned his own schooling to profit by opening a private school for boys. Preferring such work to farming but failing to attract enough students in the Framingham area, he accepted the invitation in 1794 of his son-in-law Royall Tyler, who had himself recently moved to Vermont to practice law, to try his fortune as a tutor in the family of wealthy Vermont acquaintances, a gambit that required that he leave his family behind on the Framingham farm. As matters turned out, Palmer had scarcely better fortune during the three years he spent in Vermont, which was too sparsely populated to provide him enough students to generate much income to send back to the family at Framingham. So matters continued until one day in 1797 when Palmer, while inspecting a new bridge being built over the Connecticut River at Woodstock, fell through a plank and was killed on the rocks below (as, by chance, just a week later his son Edward, an apprentice printer living down river in Brattleboro, met his death by drowning in the same river).     By that time, the family home had ceased to exist. Most of the children were already off the farm and beyond the supervision of Elizabeth Hunt Palmer, who had abandoned the farm before her husband's death and moved to Watertown to be near her own family. She still had three children with her, including Catherine Hunt, whom she raised in proximity to the locale of her own childhood. Assisted by a loan from a Mr. Smith and offered the use of a building owned by her brother William, Elizabeth Hunt Palmer joined forces with her sister Kate Hunt in opening up a small store dealing in English goods in the center of Watertown. After a few years, the store provided her with a steady income, but the time and attention required for its management made it impossible for her to attend as fully as she wished to her three children. Worried that they were being neglected and left to imitate the behavior of the local children, she worked frantically to place them with relatives. In 1798, a family arrangement was made to have the eldest of the three, Elizabeth, sent off to live with the Peabody family of Atkinson, New Hampshire (whose mother was a Cranch, the family with which the Palmers were intermarried at the generations of both Joseph Palmer and Joseph Pearse Palmer). Four years later, Elizabeth married the Peabodys' son Nathaniel, with whom she was to have, among her seven children, three gifted and, in time, famous daughters: Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, Mary Peabody Mann, and Sophia Peabody Hawthorne. Months after the departure of her daughter Elizabeth, Elizabeth Hunt Palmer was able to send her youngest son George (for whom George Palmer Putnam would be named) to Mary Cranch in Quincy, who had briefly housed Elizabeth until arrangements for her live-in situation with the Peabodys could be finalized.     Mrs. Palmer continued to worry, however, about the education and welfare of her bright, youngest child. Watertown, so a refrain of her letters went, was no place to raise children. In April 1799, she was hoping to send Catherine to live with her aunt Elizabeth Cranch at West Point, but nothing came of that scheme. By year's end, she was frantic to find a better situation for Catherine and enlisted her daughter Elizabeth to help her persuade Mary Cranch of Quincy to invite Catherine to live with her. That effort apparently came to fruition the following year when Mrs. Cranch did take Catherine into her house. By this circuitous route, the young girl wound up in the vicinity of the home in which her father had grown up. She lived with her aunt in relative comfort and was even able to attend for a time the Young Ladies' Academy run by Susanna Rowson, who was as well known in her own day as the preceptress of that school as she was as the author of her best-selling novel, Charlotte Temple (1791). How many terms Catherine spent at Rowson's school is unknown, but it seems clear that the time she spent there not only provided her with her highest level of formal education but served her in later years as the basis of her own career as a private school mistress. Catherine Hunt Palmer presumably met Henry Putnam, her senior by thirteen years, somewhere in the Boston area, although virtually nothing else is definitively known about their early history other than the fact of their marriage in 1807. Their union must have seemed, at the time, a godsend to Mrs. Palmer, who had fretted for years over her inability to provide for her unmarried children. In time, though, she came to regret deeply her youngest daughter's marriage to Putnam. Even at the time of their wedding, things could not have been going well professionally for Putnam, who was then practicing law in Suffolk County, because shortly afterward the couple decided to move to the relative outpost of Brunswick, Maine. They took Mrs. Palmer along with them, who used her savings to help finance provisions for their new home. Why they moved specifically to Brunswick is not clear; the most likely reason is that, lacking an economically secure base in Massachusetts, they accepted the advice of Catherine's school friend Narcissa Stone, herself a member of one of Brunswick's leading families, to try the small but growing town as the site of a private school.     Brunswick was little more than a handsome New England village at the time, its population of about three thousand people living in a narrow range of white-painted, two-story homes and stores stretching neatly along one broad main street and a few narrower cross streets. The commons set aside by the town fathers was still not drained and was widely used for the pasturing of cows, and much of the town's land was as yet "unimproved." Blueberry bushes, whose picking was a favorite late-summer activity, grew wild in many places; first-growth forests surrounded the town; vegetable gardens grew widely and served not only villagers' practical needs but also as a source of pride; and favorite recreational activities, such as pigeon shooting, sledding, and swimming, reflected how closely life in Brunswick corresponded to the natural cycle of the year. The general tenor of life in the village can be gauged by some of the regulations passed by the town council in 1830, which forbade children from sliding down streets on vehicles not drawn by animals and from grabbing on to moving vehicles and which fined citizens for allowing geese to wander off their property ($.06 per goose). Throughout the period of the Putnams' residence in Brunswick, the sight of Indians passing through the town or traveling up and down the adjacent Androscoggin River was common; the senior Putnam even claimed to be acquainted with members of the Penobscot tribe. In fact, for a period of time an Indian woman named Molly Suctomer lived in the one-story building adjoining the Putnams' house.     Although it might have been fanciful to advertise early-nineteenth-century Brunswick as being, in Henry Putnam's words, of "so singular a combination of the beautiful and the sublime," the town certainly had its charm and character. More important, it had ambitions that clearly distinguished it from the average New England village of the time. Its primary source of pride lay in Bowdoin College, Maine's first school of higher education, which was founded in 1794 and grew considerably over the course of the next few decades. During the period of the Putnams' residence, the college was situated on a six-acre campus surrounded by a fence; the three buildings within formed an incomplete square. The college library, though originally meager, soon grew considerably as a result of the bequest of James Bowdoin, son of the Massachusetts governor for whom the school was named, of his books and paintings. By the 1820s the student body had expanded to 120 young men; among those present simultaneously during the early 1820s were such men of future prominence as Franklin Pierce, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow--the latter two became professional authors whom George Palmer Putnam, a boy growing up just blocks down Main Street during their residence at the college, would publish.     Boosts to the ambitions not only of the college but of the town and state were given by the move to independence from Massachusetts, which culminated in Maine's statehood in 1820. That same year Brunswick became the home of one of Maine's first printing offices. Six years later, a group of local men (including Bowdoin President William Allen; the Putnams' friend, Bowdoin professor Parker Cleaveland; and Stephen Longfellow) petitioned Congress to establish an "astronomical observatory in the town of Brunswick, and state of Maine; a state of great commercial facilities, and having a large and growing commerce"; their primary desire, they declared, was to promote "American genius." In short, the town came to aspire to the status of a regional center for education and culture.     It had even stronger aspirations to commercial and industrial development. By the 1820s, Brunswick was beginning to show early signs of industrialism. The largest employer by far was a sizable factory overlooking the Androscoggin River in which cotton and woolen textiles were spun on machinery operated by a workforce of nearly one hundred people. Other new factories were set up along the river to take advantage of the ready supply of waterpower: grist mills (one of which was reportedly managed by Henry Putnam around 1820), saw mills, and shipbuilding facilities. Stages connecting the town to points east, west, and north arrived daily, although there was no rail connection until 1849. Despite these developments, agriculture remained a major source of livelihood in and around the town, with grains, vegetables, and apples the primary crops of choice.     Such was the town in which the Putnams relocated in 1807 and in which their five children were born in biennial succession: Henry in 1808 (died in 1815), Catherine in 1810, Anna in 1812, George Palmer in 1814, and Elizabeth in 1816. The first generation of Putnams raised outside of eastern Massachusetts, the Putnam children developed a quick affection for the out-of-door life style of northern New England. Although George Palmer Putnam never wrote publicly about his Maine years, he did reminisce to his son about the pleasures he took winters skating on the Androscoggin and summers boating up river to Bath. No doubt, he also took part in the activities typical of children in the town: swimming in the river; foraging the fields for blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries; playing ball; ice skating and sledding; and exploring along the river and in the surrounding woods. At the same time, as the only son in the family, he was called upon to help his parents indoors and out with the daily chores. With his father often away from home on field trips through Maine in the early 1820s, George must have been expected early on to assume a large share of family responsibility, a trait that would be one of the most fully developed in the mature man. One early sign of his sense of responsibility has survived: while walking by Bowdoin one day, he spotted a fire on the roof of one of the college buildings and ran back into town, shouting the alarm. Such action would have been quickly appreciated by the townspeople; in a more serious outbreak of fire in 1822, one of the original college buildings had burned to the ground.     Provincial though Brunswick was and precarious as was the financial situation of the family, with Henry Putnam unable or unwilling to work as a full-time lawyer, the young Putnams had the good fortune to grow up in one of the town's most cultured families. Although far removed from the luxury of the fine private library owned by General Palmer, where his children found the latest English and Continental imports side-by-side with handsomely bound rare volumes and first editions, the children of Catherine and Henry Putnam did not lack for books or intellectual stimulation. Their father was one of a small number of college graduates in the town and was widely recognized in the community as a man of learning and varied abilities. He is listed, in fact, among the honorary degree recipients at Bowdoin for 1807, the year he arrived in town, even if in all likelihood he received that degree ad eundem rather than as an honor. No less esteemed was their mother, the steadier and more focused of the parents, a well-read woman with strong ideas and powerful convictions. Aided in her earlier years by her friend Narcissa Stone, who returned to Brunswick and, after her father's death, established herself as one of the most active, influential people in the community, Mrs. Putnam ran a string of private schools in town from 1807 until 1825 and quickly made her presence known as the town's foremost private schoolmistress. On the most practical level, she took this initiative in large part of necessity as the main provider of the family's livelihood, even though the schools also served her own children, all of whom, boys and girls alike, eventually attended their mother's classes. On the larger historical level, she was participating, like her father and several of her elder sisters, in the broad educational movement sweeping across post-Revolutionary New England, as children from all classes sought to acquire the basic skills offered through primary and secondary schooling. "Rich and poor have an equal privilege of schools in Maine," as her husband was to write in 1820, "every attention is paid to the education of children by all classes." Indeed, that new reality of expanding education in which the Putnam parents found themselves, as it gave rise to an accompanying increase in literary-based skills matched to a proliferation of books, magazines, and newspapers, became the basis in the next generation of their son's career as a nationally minded publisher.     Like her parents before her, who removed the rug from the parlor that became her father's classroom, Catherine Hunt Putnam typically turned the parlor of the family home into her classroom. The Putnams' first home in Brunswick was a two-story structure on Main Street built by Captain John Dunlap (whose son Robert, a future governor of Maine and United States Congressman, was to become an important professional contact for George Palmer Putnam at several times in his career). By the time the Putnams arrived in Brunswick, Dunlap, who had prospered from the fur trade, lumber operations, and shipping interests, was not only a community leader but reputedly the richest man in Maine. In 1799 he had headed up the building committee for Bowdoin's Massachusetts Hall; at about the same time, he began the construction of the finest house in town for himself, a handsome mansion that was completed by 1800. His old house he rented out. The Putnams, his second set of tenants, lived in it from 1807 until 1820, at which time Dunlap apparently chose to give the house to his recently married daughter and her husband, Dr. Isaac Lincoln. Mrs. Putnam then moved her school next door to the Forsaith House and, several years later, to the home of Narcissa Stone's uncle, on the corner of Main and Mill streets.     The sole surviving document from any of her Brunswick schools is a printed examination sheet, dated 16 October 1824. It indicates a fourteen-week term and lists the various grades, with a possible range from "perfect" to "irregular," she gave this particular student for recitations. Although Mrs. Putnam was regarded by her family as a demanding woman, this girl received grades exclusively of either "perfect' or "well." In addition, it is clear from a letter sent to her grandson by one of Mrs. Putnam's former students that in 1821 the school had forty-five girls and three boys in attendance (one of whom, she mentioned, was seven-year-old George), that it was housed in a large hall of the family residence, and that Mrs. Putnam managed the house and school with no help except that given by her eldest daughter Catherine. That correspondent thought enough of Mrs. Putnam to visit her at several unspecified dates in New York City; it is not hard to imagine that a number of her other former students also carried away a vivid memory of her and her school that remained with them through adulthood.     Her exertions were hardly limited to the sphere of education, the field to which other Palmer women of that generation and the next were attracted. An unusually strong-minded individual, she also arrogated to herself the role of activist in the affairs of the Baptist church in Brunswick. Although a town, like others throughout New England, that had long been a bastion of Congregationalism, the parent faith of both the Palmers and the Putnams, Brunswick had been no more able than other early-nineteenth-century communities to prevent inroads by competing sects. Mrs. Putnam had herself been admitted to the First Congregational Church of Brunswick in 1813, to which she was preceded by her husband; but three years later she left that church and joined the town's First Baptist Church. The reason for her break was stated in a letter to her brethren, in which she explained her motivation as owing to the discrepancy she perceived between the organization of the First Congregational Church and her God-enlightened views on "the order and foundation of God's lower house." By the 1820s her new church was to have the unusual distinction of having in its small congregation both the first printer in Maine (its minister, Benjamin Titcomb) and the first printer in Brunswick (Joseph Griffin). In fact, for a time she even wrote articles for Griffin's Baptist Herald, the first Baptist paper issued in the United States. But even before Griffin set up shop in Brunswick, Mrs. Putnam had quarreled theologically with the congregation of the First Baptist Church and had taken steps, along with Narcissa Stone and a group of other congregants, to form Brunswick's Second Baptist Church. In this latter church she played a leading role during her remaining years in Brunswick, a pattern of devotion and service that she maintained during the rest of her long, active life. Remembered by her granddaughter as a woman "whose whole life was absorbed in a vivid militant theology," Catherine Hunt Putnam continued to devote herself to the Baptist cause during the last decades of her life in New York. There she directed the Baptist Female Bethel Union and helped found and direct the First Baptist Mariners' Church, a missionary organization dedicated to spreading their gospel among sailors who, they hoped, would carry it in turn to the four corners of the globe. A more elusive figure is Henry Putnam, a man of many talents and few accomplishments who strayed far from the parental faith and home but who seems never to have found either himself or his place. Whatever role he played in the family was certainly less forceful than that of his wife, whose affairs apparently dictated the family's move to Brunswick as well as its removal from the village in 1826. In a similar pattern, he was presumably following the lead of his stronger-minded spouse when he gave up his membership in the Congregational Church in 1821. During the two decades he lived in Brunswick, his role in the community never equaled his abilities. His name, always trailed by the honorific "Esq.," does appear from time to time in the ledgers of community organizations (the Congregational Church, the town council) but seldom with consistency or authority. Perhaps his finest moment came when he was appointed to a five-man local committee charged with drafting a report outlining how New England industry had suffered as a result of the federal embargo against England. The report concluded with an affirmation of the rights of free speech and freedom of the press, and a copy of the protest was then sent to President Jefferson. The following year Putnam is listed as a representative to the Maine legislature. In addition, for nearly a decade he handled many of the legal affairs of his Congregational Church, a period of service that continued until (and presumably ended with) his wife's break with the church.     All in all, though, among the hard-working, hard-driving Yankees of Brunswick, Putnam must have seemed to others (and perhaps to himself) comparatively like a failure. He served consistently in no roles of authority, he accomplished so little during nearly two decades in town that his name appears only infrequently in early histories of Brunswick, and, except for the extraneous remark that he was the ancestor of the New York publishers and "loved the sport [of pigeon shooting] better than the law ... he was noted for his pigeon stand and booth of brush, and his game," he went unmentioned in the primary nineteenth-century history of Bowdoin. Nor is he mentioned except in passing in a nineteenth-century chronicle of early Maine lawyers and law courts. Whatever his initial expectations, he never developed much of a legal practice in Maine, nor is it certain that he ever worked very hard at doing so. Perhaps his poor health played a role in impeding his career--such, at least, is the explanation repeatedly advanced in the memoirs of later generations of Putnams. Their mentions of his life, though, are so few and guarded and their omission of accounts of his death so complete as to make the public explanation sound suspiciously like a deliberate family attempt to hide what must have been his true affliction: alcoholism.     The strongest evidence of Putnam's alcoholism comes in a letter written by his mother-in-law, who lived with the Putnams for a time in Brunswick, to her eldest daughter. In it, Mrs. Palmer expressed her conviction that his intemperance and irresponsibility made him unfit for family life: Our dear Catherine is now without a school for 8 months--And you have no more idea of her sufferings on his account than a Child unborn--I myself have witnessed the most Christian patience and forbearance in her deportment to him--and I will venture to say there is not one of you that could have borne what she has for 7 years etc before it was publicly known how he squandered his time and his substance with low br[ed][?] or dissolute companions. My sufferings while with him, and before she could be convinced of it were inexpressible . I have preached--and done everything I could before Sophia [Mrs. Palmer's daughter] was married to convince him it wd end in ruin --And now his mind is entirely inebriated that he is a great brute and he ought to be in an almshouse where he might have [a con] stant guardian--he needs it.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsp. vii
Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Introductionp. xiii
List of Abbreviations Used in Notesp. xvii
Chapter 1 Family Antecedents: The Palmers and Putnams of New Englandp. 1
Chapter 2 Early Years in New York City and the Book Tradep. 31
Chapter 3 Wiley and Putnam, New York and Londonp. 59
Chapter 4 Home and Office, Privacy and Professionalism, 1840-1841p. 85
Chapter 5 Life and Business in Londonp. 103
Chapter 6 International Dealings in American Books, 1845-1847p. 145
Chapter 7 London, Rome, and Back Home to New Yorkp. 191
Chapter 8 Publishing American Arts and Letters, 1850-1852p. 239
Chapter 9 Putnam's Monthly and "the Putnam Public"p. 285
Chapter 10 Years of Boom and Bust, 1853-1857p. 323
Chapter 11 Print, Public Service, and the Civil Warp. 381
Chapter 12 G. P. Putnam and Sons (and Daughters), 1867-1872p. 429
Indexp. 487