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George Palmer Putnam

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George Palmer Putnam1 This article is about American book publisher who lived from 1814 to 1872. For his grandson, the American publisher, author and explorer who lived from 1887 to 1950, see George P. Putnam.

George Palmer Putnam (February 7, 1814 - December 20, 1872) was an American publisher and author. He founded the firm G. P. Putnam's Sons and Putnam's Magazine. He was an advocate of international copyright reform, secretary for many years of the Publishers' Association, and founding superintendent of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Table of contents
  1. Early life
  2. Career
  3. Personal life
  4. Death
  5. Works

Early life

Putnam was born in Brunswick, Maine on February 7, 1814. On moving to New York City, Putnam was given his first job by Jonathan Leavitt, who subsequently published Putnam's first book. In 1838, Putnam and John Wiley established the publishing house of Wiley & Putnam in New York City. In 1841, Putnam went to London where he set up a branch office, the first American to ever do so. In 1848 he returned to New York where he dissolved the partnership with John Wiley and established G. Putnam Broadway, publishing a variety of works including quality illustrated books.


In 1852, with the assistance of George William Curtis and other partners, he founded Putnam's Magazine. It operated until 1856, resumed in 1868, and finally merged with Scribner's Monthly. His company was the official publisher to the 1853 New York World's Fair.

Putnam published the books of many classic American authors including his close friend Washington Irving, William Cullen Bryant, James Fenimore Cooper, and Edgar Allan Poe. He served as secretary for the Publishers' Association for many years and was an advocate of the creation of International Copyright Law. During the American Civil War, he participated in the Loyal Publication Society of New York, and suspended his business for three years (1863-1866) to become the United States government's Collector of Internal Revenue in New York City.

An important member of the New York artistic community, Putnam was the leading publisher of art books in his time and became one of the founders of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and served as honorary superintendent in 1872. He was also chairman of the Committee on Art at the Vienna Universal Exposition. He is believed to have been the first publisher to offer "royalties" to authors like Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Thomas Carlyle.

Personal life

Putnam married Victorine Haven; their marriage produced seven sons and four daughters. Their daughter, Mary Corinna Putnam (1842-1906) was a pioneering female doctor, the first woman admitted to the Faculté de Médecine de Paris. One of their sons, Herbert Putnam (1861-1955), became a noted librarian who served as the United States Librarian of Congress. Their youngest daughter Ruth Putnam (1856-1931) became a noted author.


On Putnam's death in New York on December 20, 1872, his sons George and John inherited the business and the firm's name was changed to G. P. Putnam's Sons. George Putnam published his father's memoirs in 1912 and in 2000, his life's story was told again under the title George Palmer Putnam -- Representative American Publisher by Ezra Greenspan, Associate Professor of English at the University of South Carolina.

George Palmer Putnam's grandson and namesake, George P. Putnam (1887-1950), was part of the family business but was also an author and explorer whose first wife was Dorothy Binney, the daughter of Edwin Binney who founded Crayola; after their divorce, he married the famous aviatrix Amelia Earhart. His granddaughter Brenda Putnam was a well-respected sculptor and author.


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