George Palmer Putnam (1814-1872), a native of Maine who had held several odd jobs in the bookselling and publishing industries, became publisher John Wiley's business partner in the 1830s. Wiley & Putnam first opened a London office in 1838, with the intention of securing the rights to British works for publication in North America and promoting North American literature in Britain. Putnam managed the London office until 1847, when he returned to New York. After dissolving his partnership with Wiley in 1848, Putnam founded his own firm, G.P. Putnam and Company.
Putnam achieved early success, publishing and republishing works by authors such as Washington Irving, James Fenimore Cooper, and Edgar Allen Poe in his first decade as an independent publisher. From 1853 to 1857, he published Putnam's Monthly: A Magazine of Literature, Science, and Art, which exclusively featured American authors. He faced financial difficulties during the late 1850s and placed his business on hold during the Civil War, offering his remaining stock to publishers Hurd & Houghton. Putnam and his eldest son, George Haven Putnam, reestablished themselves in the publishing industry by founding the firm G.P. Putnam and Son in 1866.
Joined by his brothers John Bishop Putnam and Irving Putnam, George Haven Putnam changed the firm's name to G.P. Putnam's Sons after their father's death in 1872. By the turn of the century, they had founded the Knickerbocker Press in New Rochelle, New York, and established a successful office in London. Boston native Constant Huntington (1876-1962) ran the London office from 1906 to 1953; in 1930, Huntington, having secured a controlling interest in the London branch, renamed it Putnam and Company Limited. The Bodley Head Group purchased Putnam and Company Limited in 1962, buying the remaining shares held by the New York office. Conway Maritime Press purchased the rights to some of the Putnam backlist in 1986.
The New York branch of G.P. Putnam's Sons merged with Minton, Balch and Company after George Haven Putnam's death in 1930, retaining the Putnam name. Around 1969, Putnam acquired the trade paperback publishers Berkley Books, which became a Putnam imprint. MCA, Inc. purchased Putnam and the Berkley imprint in 1975; both became independent units of MCA. Putnam and Berkley bought the children's book publishers Grosset and Dunlap and PEI Books in 1982. The Penguin Group bought Putnam in 1996, and then merged with Random House in 2014; after the merger, G.P. Putnam's Sons became an imprint of Penguin Random House. Berkley, Grosset and Dunlap, and G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers (a former Putnam imprint) are also divisions of Penguin Random House.
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McDowell, Edwin. "The deal for MCA; Fiction Pays for Putnam Publishing Unit." New York Times, November 27, 1990.
Putnam, George Haven. George Palmer Putnam: A Memoir, Together with a Record of the Earlier Years of the Publishing House Founded by Him. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1912.
Zboray, Ronald J. "Putnam, George Palmer." American National Biography Online. http://www.anb.org/articles/16/16-02475.html Author:
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