PUBLISHER: Chatterton-Peck Company, New York, 1906-1909

ABOUT: "Grosset & Dunlap emerged as the chief rebinder and reprinter ... [John H.] May persuaded the partners [of Grosset & Dunlap circa 1908] to take over the business of Chatterton & Peck, which had succeeded the Mershon Co. as publishers of a substantial line of children's books, primarily stories for boys, including most of those by Edward Stratemeyer, whose "Rover Boys" series was the forerunner of others in a similar style...." (Tebbel II: 365).

Chatterton-Peck emerged from The Mershon Company over the summer of 1906, incorporated by early 1907 with Augustus L. Chatterton, President; Charles H. Peck, Secretary; and Stanley B. Flint, Treasurer. Chatterton and Flint provided capital; Peck, a long-term Mershon employee, provided management experience and probably detailed knowledge of the Mershon publishing department, which the new company had purchased intact, including a large number of plate sets, and, most notably, contracts with Edward L. Stratemeyer and his rapidly growing Literary Syndicate. Owned by three brothers, Mershon for much of its existence had printed, electrotyped, and bound, and was only in the 1890s forced into publishing. Its engagement with Stratemeyer was not going well, there was a flurry of competition among publishers eager to secure Syndicate rights, and the informal understanding between the principals was surely that Mershon would continue to print but Chatterton-Peck was solely responsible for marketing the property. Keeping Stratemeyer happy, it was understood, would likely lead to considerable profits for the new company.

For whatever reasons, Chatterton-Peck was not successful, published fewer new titles than promised, and sold few copies of those it was able to get out. Stratemeyer reclaimed rights, there were rounds of law suits, and by March 1908 Grosset & Dunlap held rights to new Syndicate titles, Chatterton-Peck retaining rights to the few lines contracted earlier. At the end of 1909 Peck retired from the company, which was then quickly merged into the A. L. Chatterton Co. with most assets presumably sold off. Nothing more has been learned about Peck.

Stanley Flint was Chatterton’s brother-in-law, seems to have been involved with a number of failing hardware and leather companies, perhaps as a takeover specialist, and he was a principal in at least two investment companies, one again shared with Chatterton. His role was surely providing a substantial part of the initial capitalization of $25,000 as well as financial acumen.

Augustus Leonard Chatterton (1852-1932) is more interesting. Born in New York City in 1852, he was the last of four sons of Leonard (1813-1894?) and Eliza A. Andrews Chatterton (1818-1879). His father, born in upstate New York (his mother in England) was a construction carpenter and the family moved frequently: in 1840 Cayuga; 1850 New York City; 1851 Rochester; 1860 St. Louis; 1870 Chicago; and from 1871 to his death about 1894? mainly in Auburn, New York. A. L.’s three older brothers were Oscar (1836-1907), George (1840-1897), and William A. (1844-1909). Oscar apprenticed with a silver smith while George rose in ranks during the Civil War but were principally bookkeepers and both involved, at least intermittently, with William's and with A.L.’s publishing firms.

By 1863, age 19, William was a printer in Chicago, and by 1869 had his own business as a manufacturer of shipping tags and job printer, in 1870 titled printer and lithographer. In 1879-1880, as “& Co.,” he was publisher of The Medical Counselor, had published two medical books, and had at least two more in process, adding further journals and monographs through 1903. In 1868 he had married Martha S. Yates (1847-1905), and by 1880 they lived in Wilmette with three children (9, 6, and 3). The 1900 U.S. Census found them on Gates Avenue, Brooklyn, with a then 17 year old son (born 1883).

Augustus Leonard, age 18, is listed in 1871 as a clerk in Chicago, residing with his brother, but by 1878, styled “& Co.,” was publisher of the American Homoeopathist, addressed both 121 Dearborn Street, Chicago, and 23 Park Row, New York City. The following year he took on publishing a quarterly, The Homoeopathic Journal of Obstetrics and Diseases of Women and Children and in 1882 established the Directory of Homoeopatic Physicians, a mailing list revised monthly and applied to mailing at a cost of $25, a service he continued well past 1900. In 1882 he also married Bertha Winslow Flint (1865-1941), producing four children. By this time it seems certain his activities were largely if not completely in New York, though one wonders if much of his printing was not contracted to his brother in Chicago. In 1886 The Homoeopathic Journal changed subtitles and became bi-monthly with A. L. now both an editor and publisher. Before 1890 he was firmly officed in Manhattan, with property at 200 Hancock, Brooklyn, that housed the family plus John and Anna Flint (Bertha’s parents, both born in England) and two servants.

Apparently around 1902, William packed himself off to San Francisco, opening a print shop and applying in January 1904 for membership in the San Francisco chapter of The Typographic Union, noting he had been “at trade for 40 years” in Chicago. Martha must have been restive at this time, initiating a divorce granted on grounds of “willful desertion.” She then died in Cook County, Illinois, with status “Married” on January 23, 1905. William’s new business was lost in the Earthquake of April 1906, and in this time a legal suit was joined between son, William W., and father which in 1907 reversed the divorce judgment on appeal because neither desertion nor other relevant grounds were argued in the original action. William himself died 26 May 1909 in Kane, Illinois, near St. Louis and apparently close to one of his adult children.

A. L., meantime, as The Chatterton Company, sometimes A. L. Chatterton, and in records often “Leonard” (perhaps he was less than fond of “Augustus”), continued an active career to about 1917, adding medical and legal publications both as editor and publisher as well as monographs, and in 1905, his own durable detective novel, The Strange Story of the Quillmores (Stitt Publishing Co.). Stitt was a short lived (just 1905) spun-off subsidiary from Mershon, just as their Stratemeyer problem was heating up. Perhaps Chatterton, as well as working with Stitt, had used Mershon as his printer and spotting an opportunity to exploit a promising property without directly disturbing his own medical specialization, plunged into Chatterton-Peck as an investment. He was noticed annually in the Brooklyn Blue Book during the 19-teens and served in leadership posts for the [Reformed[ Congregation Club of Brooklyn. He died age 80, 14 September 1932, survived by his wife (who died September 1941), his four children and a goodly number of grand-children.

[This account draws on several sources: genealogical records; mentions in publications; and James D. Feeline, “The Stratemeyer Syndicate and Its First Major Challenge: Chatterton-Peck and Quinn & Boden,” a presentation to 2011 Popular Culture Association national conference, kindly shared in mss. Feeline in turn draws on footnoted sources, many from the vast literature on Edward L. Stratemeyer and his Stratemeyer Literary Syndicate. As made clear in his notes, Feeline has made effective use of the Stratemeyer archive held by the New York Public Library.]

The firm submitted a catalog to PTLA in 1907 which listed a large number of books for juveniles previously issued by Mershon and one series of general books.

Chatterton-Peck Company, ""The House for Juveniles", 1907: :

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Last revised: 25 December 2023