Running Press records
Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts [Contact Us]3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
Running Press Book Publishers was established in January of 1972 by brothers Stuart "Buz" and Larry Teacher and was headquartered at 38 South 19th Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At the time, Buz was a doctoral student at the Center for Criminology and Criminal Law at the University of Pennsylvania, having previously graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a B.A. degree in psychology and sociology. Larry was then owner of the Encyclopedia Discount Center, also located at 38 South 19th Street in Philadelphia.
The Teacher brothers were the first in their family to delve into the world of trade publishing and built many of their industry insights upon their family's history as booksellers. Their stepfather, David Shuwall, owned and operated George Friend's Book Shop in Washington D.C., named after their step-uncle and located at Ninth and New York Avenues. According to Buz Teacher, his family's experience gave both brothers "a really good background for books in general, in that we saw what was being published and selling new, and we also had a feel for stable, classic backlist and used books." Their stepfather had little encouragement to give them when they announced their venture into publishing. "He begged us not to go into publishing," Buz said. "He was a very conservative person and jokingly told me to take my money and go on a long vacation instead. Anything other than publishing." In spite of their stepfather's advice, Running Press maintained strong associations with booksellers throughout the years, seeking them out for advice and information on what titles customers were asking after but did not exist.
The Teacher brothers cited their naïveté to the ways of the publishing industry as a source of strength in the beginning. Starting out with a national sales force, a distribution network, and advertising--but no manuscripts or authors--the brothers were also without any preconceived or fixed ideas. This freedom allowed them to explore new ideas and approaches to publishing, forming the basis of their company's eventual success.
In the early years Running Press' primary focus was on establishing itself as a trade publishing house whose sales were based on a strong backlist. The brothers sought out titles that would fill market niches and at first chose a few that had entered the public domain. Examples of these early titles include: Leather Tooling: A Guide for Learners and The Complete Encyclopedia of Needlework. Early on, the brothers decided that they would publish only non-fiction books: "books that we like, that we personally identify with. Our criteria are very simple: the book has to be able to tell a person how to do something, be something, or make something."
Another early title, What the White Race May Learn from the Indian, was brought to the brothers' attention by Betsy Robbins, wife of the owner of Robbins Book Store in Philadelphia. Authored by Wharton James and originally published in 1908, the title was suggested because it is considered one of the earliest examples of the ecology and back-to-nature movement, a niche subject area in Running Press' early days. After reading and loving the book, Larry Teacher decided to publish a new edition, as the title was in the public domain. This decision represents an early success, and What the White Race May Learn from the Indian made it through four printings. Other early and innovative Running Press projects include Gray's Anatomy and the first popular books on alternative energy.
From the company's beginnings until Larry retired in 1993, Buz Teacher headed the production and design departments, while Larry Teacher focused on editorial and contractual duties. Such were the primary, but not exclusive, functions of each, as both brothers managed the sales force and would constantly flow into the other's areas, providing opinions and feedback on business decisions. This collaboration was one of the many ways in which they discarded the old model of publishing as a traditional gentleman's profession and built Running Press on a new approach. Deliberately located away from the publishing epicenter of New York City, Running Press was free to focus its efforts on creating a strong backlist, generating original publishing concepts and new title ideas in-house, pricing their products intuitively, and spending a great deal of time and effort on innovative product packaging and intensive marketing efforts.
These efforts yielded many positive successes. Within five years, Running Press had four titles on the American Booksellers Association's basic stock list. As they expanded from "a small, folksy little company," their headquarters moved out of 38 South 19th Street. Running Press' new headquarters were located at 125 South 22nd Street in Philadelphia, in a Victorian carved-brownstone mansion built in 1889 by John Christian Bullitt. After Running Press restoring the building, it was named to the National Register of Historic Places.
Buz was publisher and CEO of Running Press from 1972 to March 2003. During that time, the company had more than 100 employees, published 220 new titles each year and distributed their books worldwide. In the late 1980s, Running Press expanded by opening offices in New York and London. By this time, Running Press had established a strong backlist, from which they generated 60% of their yearly sales, a noteworthy accomplishment in the publishing industry.
Running Press Book Publishers housed four imprints: Running Press, Running Press Miniature Editions, Courage Books, and Running Press Kids. The main Running Press line included heavily illustrated books in categories like how-to, self-help, food and wine, photo essays, and children's fiction and nonfiction. Created in 1989, Running Press Miniature Editions was a trademarked imprint containing meticulously constructed books in a two-inch-square format. The Miniature Editions line began with such classics as Shakespeare's sonnets and selections from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, and went on to include a number of profitable licenses such as Disney, LucasArts (Star Wars), I Love Lucy, and the For Dummies series, as well as innovative book-plus kits.
Inspiration for the Miniature Editions came from a letter written to Running Press by a San Francisco bookseller who had noticed how strongly customers, and particularly children, were attracted to the miniature-sized line of foreign language dictionaries produced by the German publisher Langenscheidt. The Teacher brothers sent the bookseller a check for sharing his idea and went on to sell 70 million copies of Miniature Edition titles.
The third Running Press imprint, Courage Books, was a line of high-grade promotional titles on gift-book subjects such as sailing, horses, trains, collectibles, gardening, and cooking, and also featured a series of illustrated children's classics. Running Press Kids grew out of the success of the company's children's publishing program and produced innovative books for children.
The list of Running Press authors included Stephen Hawking, Fred Rogers (Mister Rogers), Nobel laureate James D. Watson, Henry Louis Gates Jr., George Carlin, Malachy McCourt, Marlo Thomas, Stanley Crouch, John Lithgow and wine and spirits expert Michael Jackson. Bestselling books across all imprints included: Sisters (1994), Daughters and Mothers (1997), Diana: A Tribute to the People's Princess (1997) and Pat Croce's I Feel Great and You Will Too! (2000). Other Running Press titles of note titles include: The Flowering of American Folk Art with the Whitney Museum, Calder's Universe, the definitive book on Alexander Calder's life and work, The Windsor Style in America: The Definitive Pictorial Study of the History and Regional Characteristics of the Most Popular Furniture Form of 18th Century America, Sir Winston Churchill: His Life Through His Paintings, Women of Words, a personal introduction to 35 important writers, from Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley to Toni Morrison, Masterpieces of American Jewelry, in conjunction with an exhibition at the American Folk Art Museum and Strange Fruit, a biography of the first significant song of the civil rights movement and the first direct musical assault on racial lynchings in the South. Running Press also published an interactive portfolio with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and created publishing programs with the Barnes Foundation and Wine Spectator.
Other notable steps taken by Running Press Book Publishers included their capitalizing on sales trends outside of the traditional bookstore selling arena. In the 1990's, they expanded their market presence by taking advantage of the trend of increased book sales in general merchandise stores, discount warehouses, toy stores and supermarkets. Running Press succeeded in these non-traditional selling environments by inventing many popular variations on the standard format of books such as their Miniature Editions and compelling children's titles.
On 14 March 2002, Running Press Book Publishers announced that it would be acquired by New York-based independent book company, The Perseus Book Group. The acquisition was advantageous to Perseus in a number of ways: it doubled Perseus' increase sales growth as well as annual revenue while giving Perseus access to the specialty book market that Running Press had established over the years. The acquisition by Perseus was positive for Running Press as well. Buz Teacher, still Running Press' president and publisher, joined Perseus' Executive Committee and Board of Directors, taking a significant ownership stake while simultaneously maintaining Running Press' editorial and marketing autonomy at the imprint level.
Buz retired in 2003 from Running Press and became a consultant in the publishing industry as well as a trustee of the University of Pennsylvania Press. Using his industry knowledge, he also served as an expert witness for other publishers involved in various legal issues concerning book publishing.
The Running Press Records are the institutional records of the Philadelphia based publisher which follow the growth and development of the company from its establishment in the early 1970s to 2008, six years after the company's acquisition by the Perseus Book Group. The collection consists of 55 boxes, including two photograph albums and one oversized folder, spanning the years 1972 to 2008. It was donated in 2008 by Stuart "Buz" Teacher, who founded Running Press Book Publishers Company in 1972 with his brother, Lawrence.
The bulk of materials within the collection are concentrated within the years of 1978 to 1995. Primary types of materials within the collection include the following: 1. Correspondence. Contained within all series, with concentrations in Series I, II, and III. Correspondence of note includes the author/agent letters and faxes of Series I. These materials chart the development of book projects both from a business and creative perspective. 2. Book proposals. These are contained within Series I and cover the years 1977 to 2004. Book proposals for all four of Running Press' imprints are included, with many successful titles such as: Tony Meeuwissen's The Key to the Kingdom, Michael Green's Unicornis: On the History and Truth of the Unicorn and Georges Perrier's Culinary Techniques Cookbook. In addition to titles proposed by independent authors, there are materials from Running Press' New Titles Group, which was responsible for generating ideas for new Running Press books across all imprints. Running Press' New Titles Group proposals are contained within Series I. Administrative materials for the group, such as meeting agendas and memoranda, are contained within series IV. 3. Legal materials. Over the decades, Running Press was involved in a number of interesting legal matters. Those of note concerned intellectual property rights such as copyright and patent issues. One specific case for which there is a great deal of material concerns the Special Favors Patent case from the years 2001 to 2004. 4. Other. Also present within the collection are materials such as blueprints, newspaper clippings, VHS and Beta videotapes, books published by Running Press, and photographs. These other types of materials are spread throughout the collection, with the exception of the photographs, which comprise Series VIII.
Gift of Stuart "Buz" Teacher, January 2009
- University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
- Finding Aid Author
- Meredith McCusker
- Finding Aid Date
- Access Restrictions
Boxes 52, 52, and 54 closed until 1 January 2024.
The bulk of this collection is open for research use; however, materials in the last series, Confidential records, are closed until January 1, 2024. Also, access to original audio/visual materials and computer files is restricted. The Kislak Center will provide access to the information on these materials from duplicate master files. If the original does not already have a copy, it will be sent to an outside vendor for copying. Patrons are financially responsible for the cost. The turnaround time from request to delivery of digital items is about two weeks for up to five items and three to seven weeks for more than five items. Please contact Reprographic Services (email@example.com) for cost estimates and ordering. Once digital items are received, researchers will have access to the files on a dedicated computer in the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center. Researchers should be aware of specifics of copyright law and act accordingly.
- Use Restrictions
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