Imágenes de páginas



Early apprenticeship to William Williams of Utica-Opens a book store in Auburn-S. Wells Williams-Ex-Gov. Throop, and the Albany Regency-President Van Buren on a fence-Mr. Seward and Washington Irving-Ivison removes to New York-Mark H. Newman & Co.-Newman & Ivison-Sad death of John C. Ivison-Ivison, Phinney, Blakeman & Co.-The thirty day credit system--He astonishes Trubner & Co., London-Immense sales of school-books-Retires with an ample fortune.

HENRY IVISON recently retired with an ample fortune

from the head of a firm, undoubtedly the largest school-book publishing house in the world. It is pleasant to write thus of him, who took me as an apprentice, when a youngster to learn the business of book-selling.

Mr. Ivison came to this country from Scotland in the year 1820, in company with his father's family, but they, returning soon to their native land, left their boy behind, to learn the trade of book-binding, apprenticing him for that purpose to William Williams, of Utica, then the largest book-seller west of Albany. It was with William Williams, that the late Thurlow Weed at one time worked as a journeyman printer.

Young Ivison was received into the family of his employer where he was treated as one of the children, Mr. Williams having conceived a fancy for him, because of hist tender years, and from the fact of his being left alone, a young stranger in a strange country. He remained with his employer for nine years, and then, in the year 1829, after he had served his apprenticeship, he said to Mr. Williams, "Now I am out of my time, I hardly know what is the best thing for me to do." Mr. Williams replied, saying, Henry, keep right on and remain with my family. I should be glad to have you continue in my employ."


About the year 1830, Mr. Williams had occasion to visit. the western part of the state, and stopping at Auburn, he there met his old friend, the late James S. Seymour, then Cashier of the Bank of Auburn, a man of great worth and influence. Mr. Seymour asked, "Haven't you a young man you could send out here to start a book store ?" There were stores already located there of that nature, but they were not satisfactory to the better class of people, especially to the professors and students of the Auburn Theological Seminary, in which Institution Mr. Seymour held an official position. Mr. Williams at once replied, "I think I have a person with me who would suit you-a young man just out of his time with me."

After the return of Mr. Williams to Utica, he called young Ivison into his office and said to him, "Henry, I think I have got an opportunity for you to go into business. A friend of mine at Auburn wants another book store there." Mr. Ivison replied, that he had no experience in a book store, although he did know how to bind books. "That is true," said Mr. Williams, "but you can soon learn. You can go right into my store to-morrow morning, and my head clerk will give you all the facilities you need to get acquainted with the details of the bookselling business."

Accordingly Mr. Ivison spent about six months at this new business, and then went with a letter of introduction

to Mr. Seymour at Auburn, who had agreed to furnish sixteen hundred dollars capital, the net profits to be divided equally between them. Mr. Williams purchased the first stock for the young book-seller, and with it sent his son Wells, who had experience in the book store. Mr. Ivison was about two years his senior. Rev. S. Wells Williams, D. D., subsequently went to China as missionary printer, becoming famous as the historian of that country, and useful as a diplomat in negotiations made from time to time between China and our own country. His work "The Middle Kingdom," has become the best authority on all that pertains to the Celestial Empire. His recent death while President of the American Bible Society, caused universal regret.

He remained with Mr. Ivison several months, leaving him then, to prosecute the venture alone. A large business was built up, not only in Auburn, but embracing surrounding territory. The store at Auburn had only one counter, but one side was completely filled with books. One morning, a green, country-looking young man walked in, and looked around among the books on the shelves, and was finally attracted by a copy of Thucydides. Calling for Mr. Ivison he asked, "Will you please tell me what kind of book is that Thuck-a-di-des !"


Mr. Ivison relates a good story of a visit of President Martin Van Buren to Willow Brook, the residence of Governor Throop, near Auburn. He was accompanied by what was called the Albany Regency, a syndicate of renowned politicians, consisting of Azariah C. Flagg, William L. Macy, Silas Wright, and Edwin Croswell (editor of the Albany Argus). The Governor owned a large and wellcultivated farm on the banks of Owasco Lake, near Auburn, and was anxious to have the President view the beauties of the place. After walking half way around it, they all climbed a fence, and sat down on the top rail to rest. "Throop!" said the President, "have you a map of this place?" "I think I have at the house!" was the reply of

the Governor. "Well," continued the President, "if you have no objection I will look at the map for the rest of it. I have traveled quite far enough." The Regency then adjourned to the house for refreshments.

I remember one day, Mr. Seward, then Governor of the State, came into the store, accompanied by a fine-looking gentleman. The former asked Mr. Ivison if he had a copy of Washington Irving's latest work, receiving an answer in the affirmative, at the same time being furnished with a copy which he purchased, turned to his companion and said, "I want your autograph in the book." The gentleman then took a pen from Mr. Ivison's desk, and writing his name in the volumes, handed them to Mr. Seward. That was the first time I had ever seen Washington Irving.

After a moderately successful business of sixteen years, Mr. Ivison removed to New York. During one of his business trips to that city, he became acquainted with Mark H. Newman, then a successful school-book publisher. Mr. Ivison not only bought supplies from Mr. Newman, but books purchased at other houses were packed there.

Mr. Newman's health at that time was very poor. One day he saw Mr. Ivison carrying large parcels to be packed at his store, and stopping him said, "Ivison, I see you are not afraid to carry your own bundles. Now I want just such a good strong man as you are to come to New York, and help me, as my health is failing, and you have health, experience and capacity." Mr. Ivison replied that there were two obstacles to overcome before he could give a positive answer: One was, the necessity of consulting his wife, and the other, the question of capital. Mrs. Ivison favored the removal to New York. The next question was: What to do with the Auburn Store.

It was finally decided that Mr. Ivison's brother, John, should take charge of it, and continue the business. The latter was a young man at that time, about the same age as myself, and formerly a fellow clerk in his brother's

[ocr errors]

book store. He was very fond of hunting, and one day went alone to shoot ducks on one of the neighboring lakes. On the following day, his body was found near his boat, with his unloaded gun, evidently accidentally discharged. Thus a bright and promising young man was suddenly ushered into another world, leaving a fond young wife, and infant son; the latter, thirty years later, also became a bookseller in Auburn.

In the year 1846, Mr. Ivison removed with his family to New York, becoming a partner with Mr. Newman, contributing a moderate amount of capital-the style of the firm being Mark H. Newman & Co. The most important books published by them, were Saunders' Readers, the first consecutive set of readers published in this country, beginning with the primer and spelling-book, and then graded from that, up to five readers in the set. The sale of these books was very large at that time, and has steadily increased each year, until the sale of the series is enormous.

At the expiration of five years, a new partnership for three years was formed, under the firm name of Newman & Ivison, but before the end of the first year, the senior partner died, leaving the business entirely in Mr. Ivison's hands, who carried it on in accordance with the partnership articles, by the consent of Mr. Newman's executor. Mr. Ivison then bought out the entire interest of the concern, re-organizing the business, and admitting thereto, H. F. Phinney, of Cooperstown, N. Y., an experienced bookseller, and son-in-law of J. Fenimore Cooper. The firm of Ivison & Phinney is perhaps better known to-day, than any other with which Mr. Ivison has been associated.

Mr. Phinney's health failing, Mr. Birdsey Blakeman, Augustus C. Taylor and Mr. Ivison's oldest son, David B., the latter having been born at Auburn when I was a clerk for his father and member of the household, were admitted as partners in the year 1866, the firm being known as Ivison, Phinney, Blakeman & Co. One of the first acts of the new concern was to reduce the length of credits to

« AnteriorContinuar »