The Methodist Roots of Harper Collins Publishing

I’ve been doing some reading on Christian denominations lately. While reading about Methodist history in America, I came across something I never knew before.

James, John, Joseph, and Fletcher Harper were brothers who grew up in New York during the early part of the 19th Century. They were raised in a strict Methodist environment.

At age 16, James became a publisher’s apprentice and eventually went into the publishing business with his brother John. Over the years, all four brothers were involved in the company.

The Harper Brothers
The Harper Brothers

Their goal was to have a publishing business based on “character, not capital,” which may be why they fell into financial problems later on.

Along with books, they began publishing Harper’s Monthly Magazine, Harper’s Weekly, and Harper’s Bazar. Harper’s Monthly is the second oldest monthly periodical in the US (behind Scientific American).

Their goal was to publish only “interesting, instructional, and moral” literature.

The book that really put Harper’s Brothers on the map was the publication of Ben Hur, which sold over 2.5 million copies by 1913.

All of their publishing was founded heavily on their Methodist upbringing and morals.

Their business fell into rough financial water in 1899 only to be bailed out by JP Morgan. The business was no longer under family control from that point on. The publishing business later became Harper Collins.

Interesting. Church History: you never know what you’ll learn.

***Credit for many of the above facts goes to Christian History Magazine.


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