Sunday, May 4, 2014

Blue and gold bookseller's label for Frederick Loeser & Co.

This tiny bookseller's label — it measures just seven-eighths of an inch across — is affixed to the inside front cover of Doubleday & McClure Company's 1899 edition of The Day's Work by Rudyard Kipling.1

Frederick Loeser & Co. was a major department store in Brooklyn, New York, for nearly a century, from 1860 until 1952.

Co-founder Loeser (1833-1911) was born in Mergentheim, Germany, the son of a poor silversmith. He came to America in 1853 with $2.50 and a silver watch. Less than a decade later, he partnered with Moritz Dinkelspiel to open Loeser and Dinkelspiel in Brooklyn. It was from that business venture that Frederick Loeser & Co. eventually sprang.2

The company went bankrupt in 1952 and a month-long liquidation sale was held, according to the Brooklyn Eagle. The proceeds were divided equally between management and the employees.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has more than a dozen pieces of apparel from Frederick Loeser & Co. in its collection. And, in 2010, museum curator Plácida Grace Hernández put together an interesting presentation that folded in history of Loeser & Co. with what could be learned from vintage garment labels. Here is an excerpt that details some of the department store's history:
"By March 1887, Loeser's moved into a new five-story building at 484 Fulton Street. ... The first three floors were dedicated to sales. The fourth held administrative offices and the top floor was reserved for 'washrooms, ladies' fitting apartments, [and] rooms for buyer's samples, etc.' The new building had every modern convenience, including elevators, electric lights, and telephone service. Seven years later, Loeser's expanded again, constructing an annex that extended to Elm Place. Loeser's also unveiled a pneumatic-tube payment system; to complete a sale, clerks placed documents and cash in a small capsule; the capsule then rode a cushion of air through pipes that led directly to the cashier's department, where the transaction was completed."

Regarding the book store within the department store, I found two advertising pitches that had been used by Loeser & Co. in a 1909 book titled Advertising Cyclopedia of Selling Phrases:3
  • "New members or those who renew their subscriptions to the Booklover's Library will for a limited time receive without charge six books which may be selected from a considerable list. These books have been withdrawn from the Booklover's Library for complimentary distribution, and the published prices range from $1.10 to $3.00. They include fiction, travel, history and biography and some of the most popular books of the past year."
  • "One dollar and twenty-five cent bound books, 15c. Books fine enough for gifts — one more of the notable offerings from this splendid book store — the store that is generally accepted as the only complete book store in Brooklyn and the lowest priced book store anywhere. These books are neatly bound in buckram, with uncut edges."

More bookseller labels

1. Doubleday & McClure Company, founded in 1897 by Frank Nelson Doubleday and Samuel Sidney McClure, is now simply Doubleday. The Day's Work was, according to Wikipedia, one of the company's first bestsellers.
2. The biographical information in that paragraph was culled from Loeser's August 1, 1911, obituary in The New York Times.
3. The book's subtitle is: "A collection of advertising short talks as used by the most successful merchants and advertisement writers; classified and arranged so as to facilitate the expression of ideas and assist merchants in general lines of business and specialists in special lines in the preparation and compilation of advertising copy."

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