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Wiley Facts

Only a handful of surviving publishers predate Wiley. The short list of venerable publishers includes Longman (1744); Aubanel (1744); Editions Lemoine (1772); Encyclopedia Britannica (1768); United Methodist Publishing House (1789), Old Farmer’s Almanac (1792); Taylor & Francis (1798), and Thomas Nelson (1802).

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Thomas Jefferson was president the year that Wiley was founded. While there have been 41 U.S. Presidents since 1807, there have only been 10 Wiley Presidents, including William J. Pesce, the current Wiley President & Chief Executive Officer.

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Before the Wileys went into publishing, they were distillers. The first John Wiley (1720-1760), a sea captain who came to America from Scotland, made his living in New York as a distiller. His son, John (Jack) Wiley, was also a distiller. Jack’s son, Charles, strayed from the family business and opened a print shop at 6 Reade Street in lower Manhattan in 1807.

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John “Jack” Wiley, father of the Company’s founder, was a Revolutionary War patriot and brigade-major, who after blowing a whistle on the privateering of army supplies became the Commissary of Purchases for New York in 1780. That proved an opportune position for a merchant-turned-soldier who once claimed that he thought himself “duty-bound to even spare the coat off my back to supply the necessities of the brave soldier who at the risk of life and health nobly steps forth to defend our Glorious Cause.”

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Three-quarters of Americans could read at the time when Charles Wiley opened his shop. About 75 to 90 percent of Americans, depending on time and place, were literate enough to read the Bible, and so were also able to read books and newspapers. Many Americans owned books outright. The wealthiest among them owned impressive libraries. Most famous was Thomas Jefferson’s collection of 6,487 volumes, which would become the nucleus for the Library of Congress, but less exalted citizens, too, bought books and presumably read them.

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The Company’s earliest surviving book was published in 1812. Charles printed William Ballantine’s legal treatise on the statute of limitations.

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Charles Wiley first collaborated with Washington Irving in 1813, when he printed his biographical sketches of American naval heroes in The Analectic Magazine. Wiley went on to publish Irving’s The Sketch-book of Geoffrey Crayon in 1819, offering his tale, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, to an American audience for the first time.

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The back room of Charles Wiley’s store was known to the New York literati as the “Den,” after it became the ultimate meeting place where sundry poets and philosophers loitered about and editors like Charles made friends with the people they wanted to publish. Charles was the only publisher invited to membership in James Fenimore Cooper’s famous Bread and Cheese Club, a direct outgrowth of Wiley’s literary den that also included James Kirke Paulding and Washington Irving.

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In the 19th Century Wiley moved with the times – from publishing literature to books of technology. During the Second Industrial Revolution, railroads, steamships, and the telegraph moved goods and information many times faster than ever before. Schools and libraries flourished, and Americans were overwhelmingly, and increasingly, literate. During this Golden Age of technology and commerce, Wiley cast off the publishing of literature and fixed its future on publishing useful knowledge.

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Thomas Edison, the “Wizard of Menlo Park,” held William H. Wiley in high regard… A superstar of the Gilded Age, Thomas Edison was a prolific inventor whose three greatest claims—the incandescent light bulb, the dynamo, and the phonograph—changed the lives of millions and spurred on generations of inventors. Edison knew “the Major” well, and recommended him glowingly for the position of Commissioner General of the United States at the Paris International Exposition of 1900.

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The 7th generation of the Wiley family is now working at the Company. In 1807, Charles Wiley opened a bookshop in New York City. His son and Company namesake, John Wiley, took over 19 years later. John’s sons, William H. and Charles Wiley, succeeded their father. Later, their nephew Edward Hamilton, and Charles’s son, William O. Wiley, assumed leadership. Cousin Bradford Wiley took the helm in 1956, and his three children—daughter Deborah and sons Bradford II and Peter Booth Wiley—all followed him into the Company. Bradford II succeeded his father as Chairman of the Board in 1993, and continues on as a Director; Peter took over as Chairman in 2002. Deborah is Senior Vice President, Corporate Communications, and Jesse Wiley, Peter’s son and a 7th generation Wiley family member, now also works at Wiley.

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1914: Wiley helps Americans clean up their act. The bestselling 1914 Wiley Pocketbook The Cost of Cleanness, by Ellen H. Richards, focused on the scourge of humanity: dirt. The foremost female industrial and environmental chemist in the U.S. of her day, Richards was known for her investigation of “sanitary science,” pioneered the field of home economics, and was the first woman admitted to M.I.T and its first female instructor.

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Oh, you mean that kind of engineer... While prior to the Civil War there were only six engineering schools in the U.S., the Second Industrial Revolution created an insatiable demand for engineers. By 1880 there were 85 engineering schools in the U.S., and 40 years later, 126—fuelling the demand for respected learning materials, and generating research and discoveries for publication. As the body of engineering knowledge grew, so did the need to publish it.

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In the 1920s, Wiley workers took an exercise and deep-breathing break every afternoon. This was a custom later supplanted by the coffee break. Today, colleagues unwind with yoga, aerobics, kickboxing, soccer, and softball.

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Wileys battle south of the border, and beyond. In his early years, Wiley President Edward Hamilton served in the U.S. military under General John “Black Jack” Pershing, tracking the bandit Pancho Villa into Mexico in 1916, and fighting in World War I as a forward artillery observer on the Western Front, where he was briefly captured. His uncle, William H. Wiley, the “Major”, was a respected Civil War veteran, awarded the rank of major for gallantry.

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What Wiley product is as important to architects as a pencil? In 1932, Wiley published the first edition of Architectural Graphic Standards. “Every architect loves it, wears it out, and keeps it within arm’s length,” said Philip C. Johnson, the international style pioneer and architect of The Glass House, New Canaan, CT. “I have always considered my Graphic Standards as important in design as is my pencil.” Sales concur; In 75 years, over 1 million copies of this indispensable volume have been sold.

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Did Rosie the Riveter read Wiley? During World War II, technical know-how was essential to victory. Wiley’s knowledge publishing delivered the latest on everything from aircraft, ship, and auto repair to bridge building, water purification, and nuclear physics. On the home front, Wiley textbooks and references trained thousands of engineers, scientists, managers in military universities, and civilian workers.

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Over the years, Wiley has weathered boom and bust alike. While the 1920s U.S. economy roared and the 1930s economy went bust, it had little impact on Wiley or the growing demand for useful knowledge. Wiley first posted $1 million in sales in the year of the Great Crash, $2 million by the time of Pearl Harbor, and over $5 million by the time the GIs came home and—courtesy of Uncle Sam—headed off to college, where they read our textbooks.

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