I noticed this building when walking down 9th Ave. at 30th St. in New York City. Another blog, Fading Ad Blog by Frank H. Jump also has a couple of pictures of a different side of the building, with the left and right sides of text under the top reversed. Under the top sign, it reads “The Stratford Press” on the left and “The American Book Bindery” on the right. I can’t make out the sign on the very bottom, in a smaller font “Book… xxxxxxxx”
I intend to find out some more information about this building, but for now it serves as a reminder of the prestige and money that the press, bookbindery, and publisher once had.
On November 13,2008, Matthew Murphy sent me the following information. Thanks Matt!
A History of Book publishing in the United States / by John Tebbel. New York : R.R. Bowker Co., 1972-1981 [4 volumes]:
“The experiences of one well-known plant, American Book-Stratford Press, illustrates the kind of expansion that was occurring. The founder, Louis Satenstein, had come to the United States from Russia in 1889, and in ten years was the owner of a small shop, the American Book Bindery, which he soon combined with the Stratford Press. In the resulting rapid expansion, his three sons came to run the business– Sidney, Edward S., and Frank. Louis himself died in 1947, at 72.
Three years after his death, the company bought the Cornwall Press and Bindery, and then in the same year, the Knickerbocker Printing Corporation, an acquisition that was the largest in American bookmaking history at the time. Knickerbocker had been the property of the Putnam Family, begun and directed by George Putnam’s father, Bishop Putnam. Moved to New Rochelle in 1891, the plant was the victim of waste and bad management decisions, although it set high standards for the industry, and in 1930, Putnam sold its interests. It became American Book-Knickerbocker Press in 1950, with Sidney Satenstein as president, and his brother Edward as Vice President and treasurer.
By 1959, it was turning out 100,000 books a day, and by 1963, having reverted to its former title, American Book-Stratford Press, the organization was employing more than 1,600 employees in seven plants who were producing nearly 150,000 hardcover books every day. In 1967, the company built entirely new facilities, including a modern bindery, at Saddle Brook, New Jersey. One of its four bindery lines could make 6,000 books per hour, perfect-bound, soft- or hardcovered. That made it one of the largest book manufacturing plants in the world …” Volume IV, p. 455-456.
“One major manufacturer that found itself in trouble and skillfully climbed out of it was American Book-Stratford Press. In 1968 the family-controlled Manhattan firm had bought a neighboring company, H. Wolff Book Manufacturing Co., which had run out of family members who could carry it on. AB-SP made further acquisitions, and in the boom period was working hard to expand its services. When the market softened, in the early seventies, and costs increased, the firm suffered losses. It was able, however, to employ a bankruptcy procedure that permitted management itself to reorganize and arrange settlements. Accordingly, the firm dropped some nonmanufacting activities; the staff cut their own budgets; publishers cooperated by maintaining their orders; debts were paid; and–the major theraputic step–the firm consolidated all of its production work into its Saddle Brook, New Jersey plant, …” Volume IV, p. 460-461.
So it appears likely the building at 406 W. 31st St. was one of those plants that might have been sold off in the 1970’s… It was, according to the Department of Buildings (via PropertyShark) built in 1914, and altered in 1983 to suit it’s current uses.
The American Book-Stratford Press is still extant, and have offices at 302 5th Ave. here in Manhattan, with their manufacturing plant still at 95 Mayhill St., in Saddle Brook, NJ. (according to Google Maps.)