Joe Boling writes:
In Harvey Stack's reminiscences: seems to me Whitman was not Whitman yet in 1947 - at least not
for the Redbook. Wasn't it Western Publishing at that time - or something even earlier? I don't
collect Redbooks, so I don't have an early one to look at. I thought I had the replica of the 1947
book, but I must have passed it on.
I put the question to Dennis Tucker of Whitman Publishing, who passes along this interesting
history of the firm:
Whitman Publishing Company was actually formed in 1916, as a subsidiary of Western Printing &
Lithographing Company of Racine, Wisconsin. The way the company came about is a classic business
example of turning a liability into an asset.
Among Western's early-1910s customers was Whitman-Hamming, a Chicago publishing firm that
specialized in children's books. At one point Whitman-Hamming was near insolvency and was unable
to pay for a press run of books that Western had printed for them under contract. The printing
company kept the books instead and, after successfully and profitably selling the stock itself,
made arrangements to acquire Whitman-Hamming in 1916. Western moved the publishing firm to Racine,
renamed it Whitman Publishing Company, and operated it as a subsidiary.
Whitman grew through the 1920s primarily as a publisher and distributor of children's books,
puzzles, and board games, but by the mid-1930s the company was also firmly established as a
numismatic publisher, with a line of "coin boards" that enjoyed broad distribution and popularized
Whitman's Handbook of United States Coins (developed by marketing man Richard Sperry Yeo, later
known by his pen name, R.S. Yeoman) debuted in 1942, cementing Whitman as a numismatic publishing
firm of note. As Harvey Stack mentioned, Whitman's Guide Book of United States Coins (the "Red
Book," also by Yeoman) was rolled out in late 1946, with the second print run of its first edition
following hot off the presses in early 1947.
A few years ago at the Whitman Coin and Collectibles Philadelphia Expo, longtime editor Ken
Bressett and I gave a talk on the history of the Red Book. David Lisot taped our presentation and
the Q&A session afterward. You can find the 42-minute video at www.coinvideo.com as catalog
For E-Sylum readers who are interested in Whitman and Western, I recommend Frank J.
Colletti's Guide Book of the Official Red Book of United States Coins, which is chock full
of hobby and publishing history; and Leonard S. Marcus's Golden Legacy: How Golden Books Won
Children's Hearts, Changed Publishing Forever, and Became An American Icon Along the Way. The
latter book focuses on another famous Western Publishing line (Little Golden Books), but has a
good amount of general company history.
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
HARVEY STACK ON NUMISMATICS IN 1947
Wayne Homren, Editor
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