McLoughlin Brothers, Inc. woodblocks
Language of Materials
The collection consists of approximately 1,200 nineteenth century woodblocks once part of the New York City children's publishing house, McLoughlin Brothers, Inc. (active 1858-1920). A portion of the woodblocks pre-date McLoughlin Brothers, Inc. and were inherited from the New York City children's printing firm, Elton & Co. (active 1840-1851). Woodblocks by the New York engraver Edward Dunigan (active 1842-1849) were acquired by McLoughlin Brothers, Inc. after 1850 and also appear. Other prominent artists such as engraver Edward P. Cogger and illustrator Justin Howard are represented in this collection.
Biographical / Historical
The New York City children's publishing house McLoughlin Brothers, Inc. enjoyed incredible popularity in the nineteenth century by printing books, toy books, paper dolls, games, and other related materials marketed for youth. Their experimentation with color printing processes and their subsequent success with chromolithography (a process that uses a chemical reaction to transfer engraved images) is one of the most significant contributions to color printing in children's picture books.
McLoughlin Brothers, Inc. emerged from the New York City firm Elton & Co. (active 1840-1851) where engraver Robert H. Elton and John McLoughlin, Sr. published toy books, comic almanacs, and valentines. In a stark departure from the morality tales of the previous century, such products (marketed towards children) were becoming increasingly popular. John McLoughlin, Jr. (1827-1905), John Sr.'s son, learned under this tutelage; Elton trained John Jr. in the art. In 1850 or 1851, they passed the business to John McLoughlin, Jr. His younger brother Edmund (1833?-1889) became a partner soon after in 1855.
The public continued to embrace the captivating nature of nursery rhymes, fairy tales, and other entertaining fiction made for children throughout the nineteenth century. McLoughlin Brothers, Inc. hinged their continued success on the understanding of this change. They expanded their products to include games, blocks, and paper dolls. As a result of their increased and varied production, their footprint expanded from the original headquarters of 24 Beekman Street to 30 Beekman Street. In 1871, McLoughlin Brothers, Inc. also opened a color printing factory at South 11th Street and Berry Street, Brooklyn. The factory employed approximately 75 artists who experimented with a variety of color printing techniques. Such colorful illustrations perfectly complemented the children's picture book. Of these, chromolithography became the most prevalent. Most McLoughlin Brothers, Inc. imprints after 1880 were printed using the chromolithography process.
McLoughlin Brothers, Inc. cultivated a great many artists and engravers. At times this was through the purchasing of woodblocks, especially in the early years of the company. In addition to the woodblocks of Elton's, of which the company inherited, McLoughlin Brothers, Inc. also bought the woodblocks of the early nineteenth century New York-based engraver Edward Dunigan (active 1842-1849) soon after his retirement. Other notable illustrators included well-known names such as Thomas Nast, Justin H. Howard, and Edward P. Cogger. Before the late nineteenth century, many engravers went uncredited for their work, though some would initial or sign their woodblocks. The increased use of illustrations further popularized the art and the artists.
Edmund McLoughlin retired from the business in 1885. Soon after, John Jr.'s sons, James G. and Charles, joined the company. After John Jr. died in 1905, McLoughlin Brothers, Inc. suffered from the loss of his leadership and creative direction. Milton Bradley bought the company in 1920. The McLoughlin Brothers, Inc. imprint appeared on their reprints, under Milton Bradley, into the 1940s.
Toy manufacturer Julius Kushner bought the toy and game trademark in 1951. The children's book trademark eventually sold to Grosset & Dunlap in 1954. The book imprint fell into disuse by the 1970s.
The executive officers of McLoughlin Brothers, Inc. divided amongst themselves the archival collection of the publishing house in 1950 or 1951. It was likely spurred by the imminent sales of the McLoughlin Brothers, Inc. trademarks which would occur later in 1951 and again in 1954. The Milton Bradley treasurer George Marshall Fox received the collection of woodblocks. The woodblocks remained in the Milton Bradley factory in Springfield, Massachusetts until the New England Hurricane of 1938 flooded its basement. Fox saw the boxes of the woodblocks floating down the Connecticut River, hired a truck, and rescued what could be salvaged.
The remaining woodblocks were moved to his family's Seldon Farm in East Charlemont, Massachusetts. In 1977, he contacted the bookseller Justin G. Schiller of Schiller, Ltd. to sell the woodblocks. Schiller, Ltd. purchased the collection and published the Catalogue 35 in 1978, selling a select 125 woodblocks from the collection. An additional 1,200 were sold to Dawson's Book Shop in Los Angeles, California.
About 1,200 woodblocks remained and were stored by Schiller, Ltd. in Manhattan. During an electrical fire in 1980, the woodblocks were further damaged by fire and the water used to extinguish the flames. In 1989, Schiller, Ltd. donated the surviving McLoughlin, Brothers, Inc. woodblocks to the Patricia D. Klingenstein Library at the New-York Historical Society.
McLoughlin Brothers, Inc. moved and expanded frequently. Please see below for the full chronology of their locations:
• 1858: 24 Beekman Street
• 1863: Expanded to 30 Beekman Street
• May 1870: 52 Greene Street
• February 1871: 71 Duane Street
• 1871: Factory opened at South 11th Street and Berry Street, Brooklyn
• 1886: 623 Broadway
• 1892: 874 Broadway
• 1899: 890 Broadway
• 1920: Sold to Milton Bradley and moves to Springfield, Massachusetts
Hewes, Lauren B., Kayla Haveles Hopper, Justin G. Schiller, Laura Wasowicz, Ellen S. Dunlap, Nikki Grdinich, and Jaclyn Penny. Radiant with Color & Art: McLoughlin Brothers and the Business of Picture Books, 1858-1920. Worchester, Massachusetts: American Antiquarian Society, 2017.
Wasowicz, Laura. "McLoughlin Bros.. Collection." McLoughlin Bros | American Antiquarian Society. Accessed January 11, 2022. https://www.americanantiquarian.org/mcloughlin-bros.
This collection has been organized into the following series:
Series I. Assorted Series
Series II. Mother Goose titles
Series III. Edward P. Cogger, engraver
Series IV. Dame Wonder series
Series V. Young America series
Series VI. Robert H. Elton, engraver
Series VII. Title pages, multiple woodblocks, and miscellaneous woodblocks
Series VIII. Vignettes
Series IX. Alphabet books
Series X. Conserved woodblocks
Series XI. Damaged woodblocks
Scope and Contents
This collection consists of approximately 1,200 woodblocks from the children's publishing house McLoughlin Brothers, Inc. (active 1858-1920). The woodblocks include popular series and titles issued by McLoughlin Brothers, Inc. including the morality tales inspired by the German Slovenly Peter by Henrich Hoffmann, Dame Wonder series, Young America series, paper dolls, card games, alphabet picture books, and popular nursery rhymes such as Mother Goose. Many by popular engravers and illustrators are also prominent, such as Robert H. Elton, Edward P. Cogger, Edward Dunigan, and Justin Howard.
The woodblocks have been arranged primarily by series and/or title, except where an engraver has been indentified. If the series, title, or engraver cannot be identified, the woodblocks are arranged by form (i.e. title page, border, etc.) or subject (i.e. children, animals, etc.) Series X and XI are arranged primarily by condition.
Prior to the donation of this collection to the New-York Historical Society in 1989, the McLoughlin Brothers, Inc. woodblocks survived a flood in the early 20th century and a fire in the late 20th century. The condition of the woodblocks range from excellent to poor; many are charred, fragmented, and/or broken. Where known, the condition of woodblocks are noted in the finding aid. The woodblocks range in size but do not exceed folio size.
Materials are stored offsite and advance notice is required for use. Please contact Library Appts@nyhistory.org prior to your research visit to coordinate access.
Taking images of documents from the library collections for reference purposes by using hand-held cameras and in accordance with the library's photography guidelines is encouraged. As an alternative, patrons may request up to 20 images per day from staff. Application to use images from this collection for publication should be made in writing to: Department of Rights and Reproductions, The New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024-5194, firstname.lastname@example.org. Phone: (212) 873-3400 ext. 282.
Copyrights and other proprietary rights may subsist in individuals and entities other than the New-York Historical Society, in which case the patron is responsible for securing permission from those parties. For fuller information about rights and reproductions from N-YHS visit: https://www.nyhistory.org/about/rights-reproductions
The collection should be cited as: McLoughlin Brothers, Inc. woodblocks, PC 001, New-York Historical Society.
Location of Materials
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Justin Schiller and Raymond Wapner, 1989
About this Guide
The original inventory in hard-copy was processed at N-YHS by Michael Joseph. In late 2021-early 2022, Reference Librarian Crystal Toscano adapted that inventory to create this on-line finding aid. Conservator Kataryna Vargas rehoused a portion of the collection in late 2021.