Childs (1868) The Public Ledger Building – Inscribed Philadelphia Press Publishing Newspapers


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Childs, George W. The Public Ledger Building, Philadelphia: with an Account of the Proceedings Connected with its Opening June 20, 1867. (Philadelphia: George W. Childs, 1867)

Octavo. ix, 205 pages with steel engravings and index.. Hardcover. Bound in red leather-covered boards stamped on both covers and spine in gilt. All edges gilt, marbled endpapers. Inscribed by Geo. W. Childs to Mrs. M. L. Miller in May 1878.

Condition: VG. Wear to hinges and extremities. Hinges holding fast. Slight foxing. Gilt on covers and spine bright.

George William Childs (1829–1894) was an American publisher who co-owned the Philadelphia Public Ledger newspaper with financier Anthony Joseph Drexel.

On 5 December 1864, with Anthony J. Drexel, he purchased the Philadelphia Public Ledger, at that time a money-losing newspaper, losing about $150,000 per year. The business was squeezed by rising paper and printing costs due to wartime shortages as the country engaged in the Civil War. The paper had lost circulation by supporting the Copperhead Policy of opposing the American Civil War and advocating an immediate peace settlement with the Confederate States. Most readers in Philadelphia at the time supported the Union. Publishers were reluctant to increase the one-cent subscription cost to cover the actual costs of production in the face of declining circulation. Childs bought the paper for a reported $20,000.

Upon buying the paper Childs completely changed its policy and methods. He changed the editorial policy to the Loyalist (Union) line, raised advertising rates, and he doubled the cover price to two cents. After an initial drop, circulation rebounded and the paper resumed profitability. Childs was intimately involved in all operations of the paper, from the press room to the composing room, and he intentionally upgraded the quality of advertisements appearing in the publication to suit a higher end readership. For four years he rarely left the paper before midnight.

Childs’ efforts bore fruit and the Ledger became one of the most influential journals in the country. Circulation growth led the firm to outgrow its facilities, and in 1866 Childs bought property at Sixth and Chestnut Streets in Philadelphia and constructed the Public Ledger Building, which was called at the time “…the finest newspaper office in the country.” It was estimated that toward the end of Childs’ association the Ledger was generating profits of approximately $500,000 per year.