McLoughlin Brothers

Mother Goose in an Airship
McLoughlin Brothers, 1909
Source: Brooklyn Historical Society

At the turn of the 20th Century, south Williamsburg was home to at least two of the country's largest printing houses. The larger of these was D. Appleton & Co., U.S. publishers of the Alice in Wonderland books and The Origin of Species, among many others. Appleton was located on Kent Avenue between Hewes and Penn Streets; the building was taken down for the construction of the BQE. The second publisher - McLoughlin Brothers - was located on South 11th Street between Wythe and Berry. The McLoughlin plant was constructed in two phases - the original ca. 1870 building is located on the north side of South 11th Street at the corner of Berry; the extension, constructed before 1900, is located on the south side of South 11th Street at the corner of Wythe. The red brick buildings still stand, their decorative sandstone or terra cotta trim legible beneath a layer of flaking white paint. The extension still retains a mansard roof with iron cresting. A pyramidal roof which sat atop the corner pavilion of the original building has been removed, but much of the rest of the buildings are intact (and very rough around the edges). At the moment, the buildings are occupied as artists lofts (have been for decades, we understand) - that may be changing as the building is either changing hands or going through foreclosure.

McLoughlin is the subject of an exhibit now underway at the Brooklyn Historical Society (its been running since last September, and continues through this August). The exhibit includes pop-ups, ABCs, children's "classics," cautionary tales, travel and adventure titles, and Christmas books. BHS has this to say:

This exhibit highlights beautifully-illustrated children's books, printed in Brooklyn by McLoughlin Brothers, a publisher who pioneered new technology and marketing techniques in the mass production of inexpensive children's books... Visitors will see children's classics, such as Alice in Wonderland and adaptations of Robinson Crusoe, educational books, such as The History of the United States in One Syllable, cautionary tales like those in the Little Slovenly Peter Series, ABCs, Mother Goose stories, Christmas Books, books teaching children how to paint or draw, along with games and puzzles.

McLoughlin Bros, ca. 1895

McLoughlin's success was largely due to the innovations in printing technology and inks that were developed at the South 11th Street plant. As a result of these innovations, McLoughlin was able to put out brightly-colored, visually stunning books and games for children at relatively low cost. As a result of its combination of skillful design, innovative printing and clever marketing, McLoughlin Brothers were practically synonymous with illustrated children's books and games. The company was bought by Milton Bradley in the 1920s, and all of the Brooklyn operations were relocated to Springfield, Mass.