Publishers’ Bindings through the Decades:

The Harkriders
(Laird and Lee, 1903)

Professional book designers such as Amy Sacker and Frank Hazenplug continued to produce distinctive signed designs as the new century dawned. Elaborate pictorial designs were common, and the use of color half-tone paper onlays grew. Matching paper dust jackets began to appear, spelling the beginning of the end for cloth bindings.

The first decades of the 20th century collectively are called the “Progressive Era.” Reform-minded Americans tackled issues such as big business, urban problems, the environment, racism, women’s rights, and labor relations. Progressivism spilled into literature and journalism of the time. McClure’s magazine published the famous exposes "Shame of the Cities" (which later became a book) and "History of Standard Oil," while Collier's printed "The Great American Fraud." These and similar articles published in other magazines of the time gave birth to investigative reporting. Books such as Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle also sought to incite reform. President Theodore Roosevelt dubbed these writers “Muckrakers,” after the man who could see nothing but filth in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress.

Lighthearted books, including L. Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz, were popular as well. Jack London published a number of books during this decade, including Call of the Wild, White Fang, Iron Heel, and Sea-Wolf.


Wanted--A Chaperon
(Dodd, Mead & Co., 1902)

Americans still enjoyed a great deal of leisure time. After the release of Ford’s Model T, Sunday drives in the new family car became a popular pastime. Hand-cranked Victrolas allowed people to hear recorded music in their homes. Ballroom dancing, Broadway musicals, and nickelodeons also occupied people’s time. Teddy bears became a fad following the publication of a cartoon depicting President Roosevelt with a bear.

The affordable American automobile was part of a transportation revolution, which also included the Wright brothers’ first successful flight. Women’s fashions were affected by these developments, as skirts grew shorter to allow women to step into cars and trolleys. The Gibson Girls, which appeared in magazines such as McCall’s and Ladies’ Home Journal, also influenced what women wore.

View all books from 1900-1909 in PBO database

Decades Gallery Home | 1815-29 | 1830-39 | 1840-49 | 1850-59
1860-69 | 1870-79 | 1880-89 | 1890-99 | 1900-09 | 1910-19 |1920-30


Allen, Sue. Decorated Cloth in America: Publisher’s Bindings, 1840-1910. Los Angeles: UCLA, Center for 17th- and 18th-Century Studies, William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, 1994.

American Cultural History, Kingwood College,

American Studies: Literature On-line Textbook,

Diehl, Edith. Bookbinding: Its Background and Technique. New York: Dover, 1980.

Lehmann-Haupt, Hellmut, ed. Bookbinding in America. Portland, ME: Southworth-Anthoensen, 1941.

May, Ernst R., and the editors of Life. Progressive Era, 1901-1917, vol. 9 in The Life History of the United States. New York: Time Inc., 1963.

Return to PBO home