From Textbook Salesman to Owner of Prangs
Soon, Edwin started working as a salesman for E.L. Kellogg Company, textbook publishers, and then for Ginn and Company, publishers of Athenaeum textbooks. He was their representative for the Midwest and Manitoba and lived in Minneapolis until 1900, when Edwin and Mertie Laura Graham got married. The couple lived in Boston where Edwin was Assistant Editor at Ginn & Co. Edwin Ginn was known for his progressive educational ideas reflected in his textbooks and in his School for International Peace in Boston.
A year later, the Grovers moved to Chicago where Edwin was editor of the school book department of Rand McNally in Chicago, then editor-in-chief. He was obviously quite talented, and a mover and a shaker. In 1906, he joins Atkinson and Mentzer as the third principal in a textbook publishing company. In 1911, Edwin buys a majority interest in the Prangs Company. Prangs' niche was art-prints, art school supplies, and teachers' manuals for art classes.
In Chicago, the Grovers lived in Highland Park, IL. Both of their daughters, Frances and Hester were born there. Mertie was involved with the Congregational Missionary group, Edwin started a Fecit club, a precursor of a boy scout troop. Pictures I received from Dave Berto who was a student and friend of Grover, show Edwin in various settings, and the Highland Park newspaper mentions the fund-raising activities of the Fecit club. Both Nahum and Frances (mother) lived with them in Highland Park at one point, and Edwin's sisters Eulalie and Nan lived with them wherever they moved after that. Edwin started the Chicago Craftsman Guild. He had been a member of the Boston Craftsman Guild when they lived in Boston.
The Billiken was a Buddha-like statuette that Florence Pretz licensed through the Chicago Craftsman Guild. It was a good-luck charm and became wildly popular in the early 1900s. The manufacturer made a lot of money, but Florence's take was minimal. It appears that Edwin had been involved in negotiating her contract, and the incident was painful for all involved (except the manufacturer).
1911 finds the Grovers in NYC where Prangs was located. They lived in Ridgewood, NJ, quite a commute from Manhattan. Their youngest son, Graham, was born in Ridgewood. It appears that, in the early 1920s, Edwin moved the Prangs headquarters to Chicago, and they returned to Western Springs, a western suburb. In 1925, Edwin is now 55 years old, he retires from the textbook and art publishing business. His sister Eulalie had published her Sunbonnet Babies and Overall Boys primers that sold over 4 million copies. One may assume that the Grovers were well off, looking forward to a happy retirement.
In the late 1890s, Edwin had written a poem "Because of Thee" that he submitted to Hamilton Holt at the Independent. Holt said he would publish it, but it never made it into the paper. When Edwin inquired about the lapse, he and Hamilton Holt had lunch at Coney Island. Edwin had been fascinated by Emerson's article on a "Professor of Books." He was working on a paper on the subject, when he was in Washington, D.C., and on the spur of the moment, cabled Holt about visiting. Holt replied: "Come on down!" The rest is the history of Edwin Grover's second career as Professor Books at Rollins College.
Ed Gfeller 2016
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