Laird & Lee

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Laird & Lee was a Chicago-based book publisher known for its dime novel fiction and dictionaries. Its paperbacks were primarily distributed at railroads and newsstands instead of bookstores.[1] The firm was founded in 1883 by Frederick C. Laird (born c. 1863) and William Henry Lee (c. 1863–1913). Lee bought out Laird in 1894. Their publications included the Pinkerton Detective Series (1887–1901).

After Lee died in 1913 without heirs to his $200,000 fortune, the firm eventually became a division of Laidlaw Brothers, which was a division of Albert Whitman & Company.[2][3][4]

Some mystery surrounded Lee's background, and upon his death it was reported that he was a light-skinned black, which if true would have made him one of the first black publishers in the United States.[5][6][7][8]

Authors published by Laird & Lee include Opie Read and Ignatius L. Donnelly.


  1. ^ Jung, Nathan. Maps for Mobile Audiences in the Creation of a Bestseller, Mediamorphosis: Print Culture and Transatlantic Public Sphere(s), 1880–1940 (2011)
  2. ^ Cox, J. Randolph. The Dime Novel Companion: A Source Book, p. 153-54 (Greenwood Press 2000)
  3. ^ (27 July 1913). Late Publisher Son of Slave, Sunday Chronicle (Paterson, New Jersey), p. 2, col. 4.
  4. ^ Stern, Madeleine B. Publishers for mass entertainment in nineteenth century America, pp. 177-78 (1980)
  5. ^ Laird & Lee, Inc., Chicago, Illinois, Quigley Collection of Children's Literature website, Retrieved October 12, 2012)
  6. ^ (28 July 1913). MANY SEEK LEE FORTUNE; But No Heir of Chicago Publisher Is Found -- Mystery in His Life, The New York Times
  7. ^ (5 August 1913). The Mystery of William Henry Lee: Who Can Solve Secret of Rich Man Who Tried To Speak on His Deathbed, Tacoma Times
  8. ^ (9 August 1913). William Henry Lee, Late Member of the Book Publishing House of Laird and Lee ..., The Broad Ax (Chicago)