Publishers’ Bindings through the Decades:

Own Your Own Home
(Bobbs-Merrill, 1919)

As paper dust jackets became more common, professional designers expanded their work to include them. The firm Decorative Designers was responsible for thousands of books, designing both cloth covers and paper jackets. Thomas Maitland Cleland, Frank Hazen, and Amy Sacker also made their mark on books of this decade. The variety of designers' individual styles made for a diverse assortment of bindings.

The events of World War I dominated the 1910s. The 1914 assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo touched off hostilities in Europe. Although President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the United States neutral and attempted to maintain peace, a preparedness movement swept the nation from 1915-1916.

The interception of the Zimmerman Note–an attempt by Germany to form an alliance with Mexico against the United States–forced President Wilson and Congress to declare war in April of 1917. A month later, Congress passed the Selective Service Act to allow the drafting of soldiers. War ended with signing of the Armistice Treaty in November of 1918. A Peace Conference followed in Paris, ending with the signing of the Versailles Treaty in June of 1919. However, Congress refused to ratify the treaty.


Alabama's Own in France
(Eaton & Gettinger, 1919)

Thanks to the war and industrialization–particularly mass production of the automobile–the United States came to be seen as a world power. American pop culture became a hot commodity as other countries adopted U.S. fads and fashions. Travel on luxury ocean liners was the rage but occasionally ended in tragedy, as in the cases of the Titanic and Lusitania.

Social dancing still was a craze, particularly the controversial tango. America found its first dance stars in Vernon and Irene Castle. Silent film stars emerged in Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, and Douglas Fairbanks. Vaudeville boomed. Popular music included compositions by Cole Porter, Irving Berlin and George Gershwin, as well as World War I-inspired songs such as “Keep the Home Fires Burning” and “Over There.”

War stories also dominated the literature of the time. Mr. Britling Sees It Through by H.G. Wells, Over the Top by Arthur Guy Empey, Rhymes of a Red Cross Man by Robert W. Service, and Edward Streeter's Dere Mable were among the best-selling books with war themes. Other popular books of the 1910s included The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett), Wildfire (Zane Grey), and Tarzan of the Apes (Edgar Rice Burroughs). Poetry-lovers enjoyed the work of Ezra Pound and Robert Frost.

Individual states already had begun to pass “dry laws.” The passage of the 18th amendment (Prohibition) in 1919 set the stage for the “Roaring Twenties.”


View all books from 1910-1919 in PBO database

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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.

May, Ernst R., and the editors of Life. War, Boom, and Bust : 1917-1932 , vol. 10 in The Life History of the United States. New York: Time Inc., 1963.

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