February 17, 2022 10:00 EST

Books and Manuscripts

 
  Lot 115
 

115

[Philadelphia] [Leary's Book Store]
Portrait of Philadelphia Bookseller William A. Leary, Sr.

Philadelphia: F. Gutekunst, Photographer, (December, 1886). Large albumen print, mounted to board; Gutekunst label mounted to verso, with date inscribed in pencil. Chip in mount, bottom right corner, tears in same, upper left and right side; scattered soiling. Print: 12 5/16 x 10 in. (313 x 254 mm); board: 17 1/16 x 13 7/8 in. (433 x 352 mm).

This is the only known extant photograph of William A. Leary, Sr., who established the beloved Philadelphia institution, Leary's Book Store, in 1836. An archive of the history and operations of Leary's held in the Special Collections Department at Temple University in Philadelphia has only a photo of his son, William A. Leary, Jr., and some illustrated woodcut maquettes of Leary, Sr. (based on this photo) from an early 20th-century periodical. In their collection we were able to locate a photograph of a display from the shop (pictured here), likely from the early 20th-century, which shows a copy (this very copy?) of this photograph, with a plaque beneath it identifying the man as W.A. Leary, "Founder". A identically sized and mounted albumen print by Gutekunst, of Leary, Jr., dated a year after this photograph, is located in the archive. Leary, Sr. died in 1865, and his son in 1874, so we suspect this photograph, along with the one of his son, were made for the aforementioned display in homage to them after Edwin S. Stuart and Charles Mann acquired the bookstore from the Leary estate.

An extraordinarily rare, and perhaps unique, piece of American bibliophilia.

Leary's Book Store was one of the earliest and longest continuously running bookstores in the United States, operating from 1836-1969. It was founded in 1836 by William A. Leary, Sr. (1816-65), as a sidewalk book stall on North Second Street near Old Market Street. Due to his business's proximity to this-then popular marketplace, his business grew rapidly, and after running his bookshop in numerous locations, he finally settled at 138 North Second Street. The store was nationally renowned for its multitudinous and inexpensive selection, as well as for Leary, Sr.'s managing style of allowing customers to peruse the shelves uninterrupted by his sales team. Leary, Sr., operated the store until his death in 1865, when it was taken over by his son, William A. Leary, Jr. (d.1874). In 1868, Leary, Jr., relocated the store to Fifth and Walnut Street, a few blocks away, across from Independence Hall, to attract the bustling crowds of lawyers, tourists, and professionals. When Leary, Jr.'s failing health, attributed to his service in the Civil War, increasingly limited his ability to run the shop, he hired 13-year old Edwin S. Stuart (1853-1937), who quickly rose to manage the entire operation. Soon after Leary, Jr.'s death in 1874 the store was taken over by Stuart, who renamed it, Leary, Stuart, & Co., and moved it to its final location at 9 South Ninth Street, in the shadow of the towering Gimbel's department store. After 133 years in continuous operation, Leary's closed in 1969, and its contents were auctioned by this very house, Freeman's. Memorably, during the clear out of the store an original first printing of John Dunlap's Declaration of Independence was discovered tucked into a scrapbook, and was auctioned on Wednesday, May 7, 1969, fetching over $400,000. This "Lost" Declaration now resides at the Dallas Public Library.

Sold for $693
Estimated at $1,000 - $1,500


 

Philadelphia: F. Gutekunst, Photographer, (December, 1886). Large albumen print, mounted to board; Gutekunst label mounted to verso, with date inscribed in pencil. Chip in mount, bottom right corner, tears in same, upper left and right side; scattered soiling. Print: 12 5/16 x 10 in. (313 x 254 mm); board: 17 1/16 x 13 7/8 in. (433 x 352 mm).

This is the only known extant photograph of William A. Leary, Sr., who established the beloved Philadelphia institution, Leary's Book Store, in 1836. An archive of the history and operations of Leary's held in the Special Collections Department at Temple University in Philadelphia has only a photo of his son, William A. Leary, Jr., and some illustrated woodcut maquettes of Leary, Sr. (based on this photo) from an early 20th-century periodical. In their collection we were able to locate a photograph of a display from the shop (pictured here), likely from the early 20th-century, which shows a copy (this very copy?) of this photograph, with a plaque beneath it identifying the man as W.A. Leary, "Founder". A identically sized and mounted albumen print by Gutekunst, of Leary, Jr., dated a year after this photograph, is located in the archive. Leary, Sr. died in 1865, and his son in 1874, so we suspect this photograph, along with the one of his son, were made for the aforementioned display in homage to them after Edwin S. Stuart and Charles Mann acquired the bookstore from the Leary estate.

An extraordinarily rare, and perhaps unique, piece of American bibliophilia.

Leary's Book Store was one of the earliest and longest continuously running bookstores in the United States, operating from 1836-1969. It was founded in 1836 by William A. Leary, Sr. (1816-65), as a sidewalk book stall on North Second Street near Old Market Street. Due to his business's proximity to this-then popular marketplace, his business grew rapidly, and after running his bookshop in numerous locations, he finally settled at 138 North Second Street. The store was nationally renowned for its multitudinous and inexpensive selection, as well as for Leary, Sr.'s managing style of allowing customers to peruse the shelves uninterrupted by his sales team. Leary, Sr., operated the store until his death in 1865, when it was taken over by his son, William A. Leary, Jr. (d.1874). In 1868, Leary, Jr., relocated the store to Fifth and Walnut Street, a few blocks away, across from Independence Hall, to attract the bustling crowds of lawyers, tourists, and professionals. When Leary, Jr.'s failing health, attributed to his service in the Civil War, increasingly limited his ability to run the shop, he hired 13-year old Edwin S. Stuart (1853-1937), who quickly rose to manage the entire operation. Soon after Leary, Jr.'s death in 1874 the store was taken over by Stuart, who renamed it, Leary, Stuart, & Co., and moved it to its final location at 9 South Ninth Street, in the shadow of the towering Gimbel's department store. After 133 years in continuous operation, Leary's closed in 1969, and its contents were auctioned by this very house, Freeman's. Memorably, during the clear out of the store an original first printing of John Dunlap's Declaration of Independence was discovered tucked into a scrapbook, and was auctioned on Wednesday, May 7, 1969, fetching over $400,000. This "Lost" Declaration now resides at the Dallas Public Library.

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