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Western Publishing
Private
Industry Publishing
Genre Children's
Fate Folded into Golden Books Family Entertainment
Successors Random House (book publishing rights/characters and entertainment catalog)
DreamWorks Classics (characters and entertainment catalog)
Founded 1907; 114 years ago (1907) in Racine, Wisconsin, United States
Founders
  • Edward Henry Wadewitz
  • Albert H. Wadewitz
Defunct August 16, 2001; 19 years ago (2001-08-16)
Headquarters 1220 Mound Avenue, ,
United States
Number of locations
3 (New York City, Los Angeles, Poughkeepsie, New York)
Area served
United States
Brands Little Golden Books
Subsidiaries

Western Publishing, also known as Western Printing and Lithographing Company, was a Racine, Wisconsin, firm responsible for publishing the Little Golden Books. Its Golden Books Family Entertainment division also produced children's books and family-related entertainment products. The company had editorial offices in New York City and Los Angeles, California. Western Publishing became Golden Books Family Entertainment from 1996 to 2008. As of 2013, Little Golden Books remains as an imprint of Penguin Random House.

Divisions

Comic books

With licenses for characters from Walt Disney Productions, Warner Bros., Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Edgar Rice Burroughs and Walter Lantz Studio, Western produced comics based on these characters, as well as original works. The editorial staff at the West Coast office over the years included: Eleanor Packer, Alice Cobb, Chase Craig, Zetta Devoe, Del Connell and Bill Spicer. Bernie Zuber was an editorial artist, a position similar to that of a production artist, from 1957 until 1982. Oskar Lebeck, Matt Murphy and Wally Green are among those who oversaw the East Coast office.

From 1938 to 1962, Western's properties were published under a partnership with Dell Comics, which also handled the distribution and financing of the comic books. In 1962, Western ended this partnership and published comics itself, establishing the imprint Gold Key Comics. As Murphy explained the split:

With regard to a Western-Dell separation, this was by mutual agreement so that each company would be free to explore the potential business in the comics market without the self-imposed restrictions which formerly required Western and Dell to work exclusively with one another. In our previous relationship, Western Publishing Co. secured the rights, created the comics, printed them and shipped them out for Dell. Dell acted as the publisher and distributor and did the billing and paid Western for its creatively manufactured products.

This imprint continued until the late 1970s, after which newsstand distribution was discontinued in favor of distribution to toy stores under the "Whitman Comics" banner. The company stopped publishing comics in 1984, and all of its licenses have since gone to other publishers. Many of these new licensees have included among their offerings reprints of stories originally published by Western.

Prior to 1962, in addition to comics published through Dell, Western published some comics under its own name, particularly giveaways such as March of Comics and the annual kite safety title (which featured an array of licensed characters) published over a span of 32 years for power utility companies. Both series had print runs in the hundreds of thousands.

In the 1990s, the Western/Gold Key characters Magnus, Turok and Dr. Solar were licensed to Valiant Comics, who published modified versions of the characters to great success. However, by the mid-1990s, Valiant's sales had slumped due to the decade's speculative boom collapsing, and the company ceased publishing in 1999.

In 2004, Dark Horse Comics began reprinting some of Western's original comic book properties, which by then were owned by Random House, along with Tarzan from the Jesse Marsh era. In 2009, the company announced plans to launch new versions of various Gold Key characters, with former Valiant editor-in-chief Jim Shooter as head writer.

Children's books

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Uncle Don's Strange Adventures, a 1936 Big Little Book, featured a story about radio host Uncle Don and his adventures with a mystery cruiser.

Beginning in the 1920s and 1930s, Western published a wide range of children's books (puzzle books, coloring books, Tell-a-Tale books, Big Little Books), mostly under the Golden Books and Whitman Publishing brand names. The Little Golden Books was a very popular series. Lucille Ogle helped develop the format for these low-priced books, which told simple stories and were among the first children's books with full-color illustrations. The first was published in 1942. Beginning as the "Whitman Famous Classics", and later renamed the "Golden Press" imprint, Western published a series of (public domain) classics, such as Little Women, Little Men, Black Beauty and Heidi.

In the late 1960s, Golden Books were bound in the Goldencraft reinforced library bindings and sold to schools and libraries in the United States by a group of independent sales representatives. The library bound books were very popular with the schools and libraries. Offices were set up in Wayne, New Jersey, and the reinforced library books were warehoused in Wayne and distributed from that location. There were about 80 sales representatives in the United States under the general manager, Roy Spahr.

Older children's literature

From the 1940s to the 1980s, Western published several series of books for older children and young teenagers, initially under its Whitman line. Girls' mystery series included Trixie Belden, Ginny Gordon, Donna Parker, Meg Duncan and Trudy Phillips. Boys' series included the Walton Boys, Power Boys, Brains Benton, and Troy Nesbit mysteries. The series, published from the 1950s to the 1970s, also included a number of titles licensed from popular movies and television shows: Lassie, The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin, many television Westerns, and Walt Disney's Spin and Marty and Annette (from the serial featuring Annette Funicello that aired on The Mickey Mouse Club. The company was also the original American publisher of The Adventures of Tintin, issuing six titles in English translation in 1959 and 1960, before discontinuing further releases because of what were considered disappointing sales.

Magazines

In 1937, Western, at the request of Kay Kamen (who oversaw licensing and marketing at Disney), assumed production of the newsstand version of Mickey Mouse Magazine, which, in October 1940, was succeeded by the comic book Walt Disney's Comics and Stories. 1936-1954 Story Parade, Inc. (a Western subsidiary) published Story Parade: A Magazine for Boys and Girls with a children's literature orientation. Then in late 1955, Western initiated Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse Club Magazine with content produced by Disney Studio staff members. It was intended to promote The Mickey Mouse Club television series. Eventually the name was changed to Walt Disney's Magazine and the focus shifted to contemporary Disney movie and television productions. In a similar vein, they printed Gulf Oil's Wonderful World of Disney premium (1969-1970) which was edited by Disney's George Sherman. During the 1960s, Western published The Golden Magazine for Boys and Girls with Cracky the Parrot as its mascot.

Miscellaneous

For many years Golden Press was publisher of Betty Crocker cookbooks. Often these were issued in a three-ring binder format so recipe pages could be removed for easy consultation while cooking. Western produced games such as Trivial Pursuit and Pictionary until Hasbro bought that division in 1994. The company published the children's science books The World of Science and The Golden Book of Chemistry Experiments, while the Golden Guide nature guides were published with the Golden Press name.

Slogans and taglines

  • I grew up with Golden Books! (1980s)
  • Silence isn't Golden. Reading to your child is. (1997)

Trademarks

Western Publishing Company Inc. owned dozens of trademarks over the years, many of which have now expired. A sampling of Western's trademarks follows. Some like "Golden" for example were registered multiple times for different uses (separated by "/"). Refer to the website cited for a complete listing of all trademarks.

FIRST FUN - Children's Workbooks
MIRROR MANIA - Equipment Sold as a Unit for Playing a Board Game
A GOLDEN BLOCK BOOK - Children's Miniature Books
POP-UP GAME - Equipment Sold as a Unit for Playing a Board Type Parlor Game
V.I.P. - Jigsaw Puzzles
IMAGE - Coloring Books / Juvenile Books / Jigsaw Puzzles / Children's Books / Pre-recorded Audio Tape Cassettes
GOLDEN - Coloring Books / Retail Mail-Order Services in the Field of Housewares, Giftwares, and Personal Care Products / Jigsaw Puzzles / Crayons / Equipment Sold As Units For the Purpose of Playing Board or Parlor Games / Juvenile Books-Namely, Storybooks, Picture Books, Preschool and School Activity Books, Coloring Books and Painting Books...
GOLDEN PRESS SHOPPER'S SERVICE - Retail Mail Order Services in the Field of Books
DRIVE AWAY - Children's Books
SPONSORED PUBLISHING - Advertising, Marketing, and Publishing Services Offered to Clients for the Purpose of Enabling Such Clients to Promote the...
SP - Promoting the Goods and Services of Others by Producing and Distributing Specialty Products
PICTURE PARADE - Illustrated Books for Children
DOODLE BUG - Children's Books
PAINT WITH WATER - Children's Paint Books
A GOLDEN MELODY BOOK - Children's Books which Emit an Electronically Produced Melody
GOLDEN MELODY - Children's Books which Emit an Electronically Produced Melody
KING'S COURT - Equipment Sold as a Unit for Playing a Card Game
PRETTY AS A PICTURE - Equipment Sold in Units for the Purpose of Playing a Board- or Parlor-Type Game
GOLDEN STEP AHEAD - Educational, Color-Illustrated Workbooks Intended to Be Used by Children of Preschool and Elementary School Age in the Classroom.../ Children's Educational Workbooks Intended for Use in School or Home / Pre-Recorded Audio Tape Cassettes Packaged in Combination with Children's Workbooks and Sold as Units in the Form of Combination...
IT ACTUALLY PLAYS MUSIC – Children's Books Which Emit an Electronically Produced Melody
STEP AHEAD - Children's Printed Educational Flash Cards
MAGIC SLATE - Toy and Amusement Apparatus for Temporarily Receiving Written Impressions
GOLDEN MINIATURE - Jigsaw Puzzles
WHITMAN CLASSIC – Coin Folders, Namely, Hinged Books or Fold-Out Albums Intended for Storage and Display of Coins and Coin Collections
A GOLDEN SUPER ADVENTURE BOOK – A Series of Children's Books
A GOLDEN THINKABOUT BOOK – A Series of Children's Books

  • The Westerner Western Publishing House organ, #194 (Jan. 1966) Golden Anniversary Issue; v.3 #2 (Winter 1982), Commemorative Issue [1]
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