Harper And Brothers , a firm of American printers and publishers, originally consisting of James, born in 1795, died in New York, March 17,1869; John, born in 1797; Joseph Wesley, usually called Wesley, born in 1801, died in Brooklyn, Feb. 14, 1870; and Fletcher, born in 1806. They were the sons of a farmer at Newtown, Long Island. At the age of 16 James and John were apprenticed to different printers in New York. Having concluded their apprenticeship, they established themselves in business, at first only printing for booksellers, but soon began to publish upon their own account. Wesley and Fletcher Harper were apprenticed to their elder brothers, and as they became of age were admitted as partners; and the style of the firm was about 1825 changed from "J. and J. Harper" to "Harper and Brothers." They soon became the leading publishers in America. In 1853 their establishment occupied nine contiguous buildings in Cliff and Pearl streets, filled with costly machinery and books. On Dec. 10 of that year the whole was burned to the ground, in consequence of a workman engaged in repairs having thrown a burning paper into a tank of ben-zinc, which he mistook for water.
Most of their stereotype plates were stored in vaults, and were saved; but the loss in buildings, machinery, and books amounted to $1,000,000, upon which there was only $250,000 insurance. The next day they hired temporary premises, and employed the principal printers and binders in New York, Boston, and Philadelphia in reproducing their books. Before the ruins of the fire could be cleared away the plans for their new edifice were prepared. It covers about half an acre of ground, extending from Cliff street to Franklin square in Pearl street, and, including cellars, the structure is seven stories high. It is absolutely fire-proof, and constitutes probably the most complete publishing establishment in the world, all the operations in the preparation and publication of a book being carried on under a single roof, and the regular number of employees in the premises being about 1,000 of both sexes. Besides the books published, they issue three illustrated periodicals: "Harper's Magazine," established in 1850, a monthly, devoted to literature and the arts; "Harper's Weekly," established in 1857, devoted to literature and topics of the day; and " Harper's Bazar," established in 1867, devoted to the fashions, literature, and social life. - James Harper was in 1844 elected mayor of the city of New York for the succeeding year, and he was subsequently put forward for the governorship of the state; but he preferred to conduct the business of the firm rather than engage in public life.
In March, 1869, while driving in Fifth avenue, his horses took fright, and he was thrown from his carriage; he was taken up insensible, and died two days afterward. Wesley Harper, who for many years had charge of the literary department, died after a long illness. After the death of his two brothers John Harper withdrew from active business; and the firm was reorganized by the admission of several of the sons of the original partners. These, after receiving a careful education, several of them at Columbia college, entered the house, each serving a regular apprenticeship in some branch of the business. The firm now (1874) consists of John Harper and his two sons, John Wesley, born in 1830, and Joseph Abner, born in 1833; Fletcher Harper, and his son Fletcher, jr., born in 1829; Philip J. A., son of James, born in 1824; and Joseph Wesley, son of Wesley, born in 1830.