Pelican Publishing Company

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Pelican Publishing Company
Parent companyArcadia Publishing
FounderJohn McClure
Country of originUnited States
Headquarters locationNew Orleans, Louisiana
DistributionUnited States and worldwide
Key peopleStuart Omer Landry, Hodding Carter, Milburn Calhoun
Publication typesbooks
Nonfiction topicshistory, travel guides, art, architecture, children's books, textbooks, Louisiana

Pelican Publishing Company is a book publisher based in Metairie, a suburb of New Orleans.[1] It was acquired in 2019 by Arcadia Publishing, a leading publisher of local and regional content in the United States.[2]

Pelican publishes approximately 60 titles per year and maintains a backlist of over 2,500 books.[3] Most of its titles relate to Louisiana and Southern culture, cuisine, art, travel guides, history, children's books, and textbooks.


Founded in 1926 by John McClure, Pelican's early history was tied to William Faulkner. Its roots were in the Pelican Bookshop on Royal Street, a hangout for New Orleans' literary circle of the time, which included Faulkner, Sherwood Anderson, Caroline Durieux, Grace King, and Lyle Saxon.[4]

Its first release was Sherwood Anderson and Other Famous Creoles: A Gallery of Contemporary New Orleans, a book of illustrations by William Spratling with captions and a foreword by Faulkner. Spratling and Faulkner were roommates in a building just off Jackson Square.[5][6][7] The book was a play on the Mexican cartoonist Miguel Covarrubias' The Prince of Wales and Other Famous Americans, published the previous year; just as the Prince of Wales was not an American, Sherwood Anderson was not a Creole.

Stuart Omer Landry period[edit]

In early 1927, Pelican was acquired by Stuart Omer Landry, who owned the publisher until his death in 1966.[8][9] Landry, who was born on his father's Alma plantation near Thibodaux, worked in advertising and was a founding board member of the Metairie Park Country Day School.[10] Landry was anti-New Deal and a racial conservative, and under him, Pelican published many books advocating white supremacist and segregationist positions, including his own The Cult of Equality: A Study of the Race Problem (1945), The Battle of Liberty Place: The Overthrow of Carpet-bag Rule in New Orleans, September 14, 1874 (1955) (a defense of the White League and the Ku Klux Klan), and Rebuilding the Tower of Babel: A Study of Christianity and Segregation (1957).[11][12][13][14]

The African-American newspaper the California Eagle called Landry "an old-line Southerner of the traditional Keep-the-Negro-in-Place School."[15] Landry also published the first edition of the Louisiana Almanac in 1949.[16] Historian Lawrence N. Powell described Landry's Battle of Liberty Place as "propaganda, using history to defend segregation and a racial status quo."[17]

Sales to Hodding Carter and to the Calhouns[edit]

After Landry's death, Pelican was bought in 1967 by Hodding Carter, the Pulitzer Prize-winning progressive journalist.[18] He renamed the publisher to Pelican Publishing House, but his ownership lasted only three years. In 1970, Carter sold Pelican to brothers Milburn and James L. Calhoun, natives of West Monroe in north Louisiana.[19] Milburn, who became Pelican's publisher and president, was a physician in New Orleans; James, who would be Pelican's senior editor, did public relations work for Louisiana State University. The brothers already owned a similar publisher, Bayou Books of New Orleans.[20] The brothers were, like Landry, conservative; among the first books issued under their ownership was The Real Spiro Agnew: Commonsense Quotations of a Household Word, edited by James Calhoun.[21]

Neo-Confederate books[edit]

Along with works of local history and other mainstream nonfiction, the Calhouns also turned Pelican into what has been called "the central publishing house of the Neo-Confederate movement," including books that helped "found the modern neo-Confederate movement."[17][22] Among the titles it published were The Southern Nation: The New Rise of the Old South,[23] Myths of American Slavery,[24] Lincoln Über Alles: Dictatorship Comes to America,[25] and The South Was Right![26]

These and other Pelican books argue that "the Confederacy was the true moral victor in the Civil War...the Civil War was not fought over slavery," and "that the South should separate from the North all over again and form its own country."[27]

In a 2001 interview with the local weekly Gambit, Milburn Calhoun endorsed secession from the United States ("Oh, we would be much better off that way"), said Southern slaveowners "took care of our slaves because they had value," and that "Racism is not hate based on skin color...There are people who devoutly hate Southerners. That’s racism. The most widespread hatred of today is against practicing Christians."[27][28] The neo-Confederate books Pelican published were consistently among its biggest sellers.[28] The South was Right! sold more than 180,000 copies.[29]

After Milburn Calhoun[edit]

Milburn Calhoun died in 2012, after which his daughter Kathleen Calhoun Nettleton became publisher and president.[30][31] James L. Calhoun died in 2019. During their ownership, Pelican's catalog had grown from 22 books to more than 2,000.[32] They also moved the company's headquarters from New Orleans to suburban Gretna, where a 1998 fire at the publisher's offices and warehouse did an estimated $2 million in damage.[33]

In 2019, Arcadia Publishing bought a majority interest in the company.[34] A majority of Pelican's past titles were acquired in the transaction and are now published under the Pelican imprint of Arcadia. Pelican Publishing Company, still owned by the family of Nettleton (who died in 2021[35]), retains rights on the remainder.[36]

In 2020, Arcadia Publishing acquired River Road Press, another publisher of books about New Orleans, Louisiana, and the surrounding region. Scott Campbell, River Road's founder, was named publisher of Pelican Publishing and the two company's catalogs were merged.[37]

Significant titles[edit]

Pelican Publishing has produced many noteworthy titles, including the following:

  • Arnaud's Restaurant Cookbook: Legendary Creole Cuisine by Kit Wohl
  • Blood in West Virginia: Brumfield v. McCoy by Brandon Ray Kirk, which tells the story of the Lincoln County Feud[38]
  • The Cajun Night Before Christmas by James Rice, a parody of the popular "Night Before Christmas" poem in which Santa Claus visits Cajun Louisiana
  • The Cavalry Battle that Saved the Union: Custer vs. Stuart at Gettysburg by Paul D. Walker
  • Clovis Crawfish, a children's series by Mary Alice Fontenot
  • The Commissioner: A True Story of Deceit, Dishonor, and Death by Bill Keith, on the Shreveport public safety commissioner George W. D'Artois[39]
  • Finn McCool's Football Club by Stephen Rea, a memoir of an Irish pub before, during, and after Hurricane Katrina
  • Louisiana Almanac, a resource of statistical data and historical information related to Louisiana
  • The Maverick Guides, a series of travel guides begun by Robert W. Bone
  • New Orleans Classic Cookbook Series by Kit Wohl
  • See You at the Top, the first book by motivational speaker Zig Ziglar
  • Sherwood Anderson and Other Famous Creoles: A Gallery of Contemporary New Orleans by William Spratling and William Faulkner


  1. ^ "Contact Us". Retrieved 2023-05-08.
  2. ^ "In the age of distraction, one small publisher keeps local history alive in sepia tones". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2023-05-08.
  3. ^ Herman, Jeff (2012). Herman's Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, & Literary Agents. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks, Inc. p. 269. ISBN 9781402260612.
  4. ^ "About Us". Retrieved 9 May 2023.
  5. ^ "Sherwood Anderson and Other Famous Creoles: A Gallery of Contemporary New Orleans, William Faulkner's New Orleans". Howard-Tilton Memorial Library. Tulane University. Retrieved 9 May 2023.
  6. ^ Spratling, William; Faulkner, William (1 January 2022). Sherwood Anderson and Other Famous Creoles. Open Road Media. ISBN 978-1-5040-6815-4. Retrieved 9 May 2023.
  7. ^ Reed, John Shelton (17 September 2012). Dixie Bohemia: A French Quarter Circle in the 1920s. LSU Press. ISBN 978-0-8071-4766-5. Retrieved 9 May 2023.
  8. ^ "La. Publisher, Historian Dies". The Daily World. 2 Aug 1966. Retrieved 9 May 2023.
  9. ^ "Charter of Pelican Book Shop, Incorporated". West Bank Herald. 27 Jan 1927. Retrieved 9 May 2023.
  10. ^ "In Which We Sink Our Modesty and Talk About Ourselves..." Louisville Courier-Journal. 3 Feb 1930. Retrieved 9 May 2023.
  11. ^ Landry, Stuart Omer (1945). The Cult Of Equality. Pelican Publishing.
  12. ^ "A Nation At The Racial Crossroads; Indictment Of Champions Of Equality". The Montgomery Advertiser. 15 Apr 1945. Retrieved 9 May 2023.
  13. ^ Facincani, Lee. ""The Liberty of the Nation is in Jeopardy": Views on the Battle of Liberty Place From Beyond Dixie". University of New Orleans. Retrieved 9 May 2023.
  14. ^ Landry, Stuart Omer (1957). Rebuilding the Tower of Babel: A Study of Christianity and Segregation. Pelican Publishing. Retrieved 16 December 2021.
  15. ^ Gardner, Dan (18 Oct 1945). "Plain Talk: Dark Races on the March". The California Eagle. Retrieved 9 May 2023.
  16. ^ Phillips, Faye (2007). "Review of Louisiana Almanac, 2006-2007 Edition". Louisiana History: The Journal of the Louisiana Historical Association. 48 (4): 492–494. ISSN 0024-6816. JSTOR 25478516. Retrieved 9 May 2023.
  17. ^ a b Adler, Constance (27 Feb 2001). "The House That Dr. Calhoun Built". Gambit. p. 2. Archived from the original on 30 June 2001. Retrieved 9 May 2023.
  18. ^ "Carter Will Become Book Publisher". Biloxi Daily Herald. 1 Mar 1967. Retrieved 9 May 2023.
  19. ^ "Hodding Carter Sells Pelican Publishing Co". The Concordia Sentinel. 22 Apr 1970. Retrieved 9 May 2023.
  20. ^ "Publishing Firm Bought By Former City Residents". The Monroe News-Star. 23 Apr 1970. Retrieved 9 May 2023.
  21. ^ "Vice-Presidential Discussion". North Baton Rouge Journal. 5 Nov 1970. Retrieved 9 May 2023.
  22. ^ Sebesta, Edward H. "Neo-Confederate publisher of books for African American children". H-Net. Retrieved 16 December 2021.
  23. ^ Thornton, R. Gordon (2000). The Southern Nation: The New Rise of the Old South. Pelican Publishing. Retrieved 16 December 2021.
  24. ^ Walter Donald Kennedy (2003). Myths of American Slavery. Pelican Publishing Company. ISBN 978-1-58980-047-2. OCLC 49824683.
  25. ^ Emison, John Avery (2009). Lincoln Über Alles: Dictatorship Comes to America. Pelican Publishing Company. ISBN 978-1-58980-692-4. Retrieved 9 May 2023.
  26. ^ James Ronald Kennedy; Walter Donald Kennedy (1994). The South was Right! (2 ed.). Pelican. ISBN 978-1-56554-024-8. OCLC 1003804528.
  27. ^ a b Adler, Constance (27 Feb 2001). "The House That Dr. Calhoun Built". Gambit. p. 1. Archived from the original on 28 April 2001. Retrieved 9 May 2023.
  28. ^ a b Adler, Constance (27 Feb 2001). "The House That Dr. Calhoun Built". Gambit. p. 3. Archived from the original on 7 May 2001. Retrieved 9 May 2023.
  29. ^ Kennedy, James Ronald; Kennedy, Walter Donald (2020). The South was Right!. Shotwell Publishing. ISBN 978-1-393-23011-3. Retrieved 9 May 2023.
  30. ^ "Milburn Calhoun Obituary (2012) - New Orleans, LA - The Times-Picayune". Retrieved 2023-05-08.
  31. ^ Coen, Cheré (22 Apr 2012). "World Book Night celebrates reading, books". The Daily Advertiser. Retrieved 9 May 2023.
  32. ^ "Obituary for James Lynton Calhoun". The Monroe News-Star. 5 Dec 2019. Retrieved 9 May 2023.
  33. ^ "Fire ravages publishing company in Jeff Parish". The Daily Advertiser. 3 Jan 1998. Retrieved 9 May 2023.
  34. ^ Milliot, Jim (April 4, 2019). "Arcadia Will Buy Pelican Publishing". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved June 12, 2019.
  35. ^ "Kathleen Nettleton Obituary (1958 - 2021) - New Orleans, LA - The Times-Picayune". Retrieved 2023-05-08.
  36. ^ "Arcadia Publishing to Acquire Pelican Publishing Company". Biz New Orleans. 2019-04-04. Retrieved 2023-05-08.
  37. ^ "Arcadia Publishing to Acquire River Road Press". Biz New Orleans. 2020-05-07. Retrieved 2023-05-08.
  38. ^ Kirk, Brandon. "Blood in West Virginia: Brumfield v. McCoy". Pelican Publishing Company. Retrieved 26 December 2014.
  39. ^ Bill Keith (2009). The Commissioner: A True Story of Deceit, Dishonor, and Death. Gretna, Louisiana: Pelican Publishing Company. ISBN 978-1-58980-655-9. Retrieved October 18, 2014.

External links[edit]