Western Publishing, also known as "Western Printing and Lithographing Co." was a publishing firm based in Racine, Wisconsin, that was responsible for Golden Books.
The company was founded by brothers Edward Henry and Albert H. Wadewitz. It bought "West Side Printing Company" from a printer in September 1907 for $2,504 and changed its name in 1910. The firm was based in Racine, Wisconsin, with editorial offices in both New York City and Los Angeles, California, and another printing plant in Poughkeepsie, New York. In 1915, the company bought out Chicago publisher Hammerung-Whitman Publishing Co, which became their subsidiary Whitman Publishing Company. Another subsidiary was K.K. Publications, named after Kay Kamen, head of character merchandising at Walt Disney Studios from 1933-1949. K.K. Publications seemed to have ended in the mid/late 1960s.
Western Publishing also produced children's books and family related entertainment products as Golden Books Family Entertainment.
- Comic Books. Western held licenses for the characters from Walt Disney Productions, Metro Goldwyn Mayer, Edgar Rice Burroughs and Walter Lantz Studio, and produced comics based on these characters (and others) as well as original works. The editorial staff at the west coast office over the years included Eleanor Packer, Alice Cobb, Chase Craig, Zetta Devoe and Del Connell. Oscar LeBeck, Matt Murphy and Wally Green are among those who oversaw the east coast office. From 1938 to 1962, Western's comics came out under the Dell Comics imprint, who also handled the distribution and financing of the line. In 1962, Western decided to end its partnership with Dell and publish comics themselves, and set up Gold Key Comics. This continued until the late 1970s, after which newsstand distribution was discontinued in favor of distribution to toy stores etc. under the "Whitman Comics" banner. They stopped publishing comics in 1984, and all their licenses have since gone to other publishers. Some of their comics were published under that name, especially March of Comics. Dark Horse Comics has recently been doing some reprints of their original comic book properties, which are owned by Random House.
- Children's Books. Western published a wide range of children books (puzzle books, coloring books, Big Little Books, etc), mostly under the Golden Books and Whitman Publishing line since the 1920/30. The Little Golden Books was a very popular line. Beginning as the "Whitman Famous Classics," and later renamed the "Golden Press" imprint, Western published a series of (public domain) classics, such as Little Women, Little Men, Black Beauty, and Heidi, among many others.
- Older Juvenile Literature. Initially under its Whitman line, Western from the 1940s to the 1980s published several series of books for older children and young teenagers. Girls' mystery series included Trixie Belden, Ginny Gordon, Donna Parker, and Trudy Phillips. Boys' series included the Walton Boys, Power Boys, and Troy Nesbit mysteries. The line from the 1950s to the 1970s also included a number of titles licensed from popular movies and television shows: Lassie, The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin, many television Westerns, and Walt Disney's Spin and Marty and Annette, (from the serial featuring Annette Funicello that aired on The Mickey Mouse Club) among many other titles.
- Cookbooks. Golden Press for many years was publisher of various Betty Crocker cookbooks, reputed to have sold in the millions. Often these were issued in a spiral binder format so recipe pages could be removed for easy consultation while cooking.
- Corporate annual reports. A very lucrative division which showcased Western's expertise in specialized, technically unique publishing formats.
- Auto Service Manuals. Western printed auto service manuals for Volvo up to at least 1989.
- Other. The popular line of nature guides, Golden Guide, were published under the Golden Press name. This line has since been revived by St. Martin's Press. They published a line of guidebooks for coin collectors under the Whitman name, which has gone to H.E. Harris.
The company sponsored, (along with partners Dell and Simon & Schuster), the Story Book Shop on Main Street, U.S.A. in Disneyland which opened on July 17, 1955. It closed in April 1995.
In the 1990s, at least three Golden Books Showcase Store locations were opened, which featured only Western Publishing products. The first was opened in the Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, Illinois in November 1992; the second in CityWalk Center outside Universal Studios Hollywood in June 1993; and the third store was opened in Rockefeller Center in New York City in April 1994. They have all since closed.
Mattel bought Western in 1982, then sold it off in 1984. Under new ownership, it renamed itself "Golden Books Family Entertainment" and tried to focus on children's books. It sold off the adult books (Golden Guide) to St. Martin's Press in 1999, and later the H.E. Harris coin company would buy Whitman Coin Products from St. Martin’s Press in 2003 and rename as Whitman Publishing. By 1997, Western Publishing was absorbed into the name Golden Books Publishing Company.
Slogans and taglinesEdit
- I grew up with Golden Books! (1980s)
- Silence isn't Golden. Reading to your child is. (1997)
- Random House Inc. and Classic Media Inc buys Golden Book
- Classic Media to Debut Animated Feature Film at AFM
- Mark Evanier on the relationship between Dell Comics and Gold Key Comics
- Mark Evanier on the legacy of the book Walter Lantz Easy Way to Draw
- finding guide to Chase Craig collection held at the California State University-Northridge Oviatt Library Special Collections Department
- Comic Book Artist #22 (Oct. 2002)