About Harry Abrams

Harry N. Abrams, 1905–1979, publisher.

Harry Nathan Abrams was born in London and emigrated to the U.S. as a child. His father opened a shoe store in Brownsville, Brooklyn, where the family lived. When he opened a second, fourteen-year-old Harry left school to manage it. Despite his age, he was very adept as a salesman and an object of admiration for his customers as well as himself. Nevertheless, his father went bankrupt two years later and the family lost the stores. Encouraged by his mother, he attended the National Academy of Art and then the Art Students League, studying with painter John Steuart Curry. After first working for an art service, Abrams got a job with an advertising agency, where he began working with publishers, including the Book-of-the-Month Club. In 1936, he went to work for Book-of-the-Month Club and stayed until he started his own publishing company in 1949.

Harry Abrams was agressive and innovative. He used direct marketing. He made inexpensive paperback art books which sold well. Early on, he had imported books from Europe and had them translated into English. A few years later, his own original publications sold widely in Europe. The company became the largest publisher of art and illustrated books in America. Abrams retired from the firm in 1977 and began Abbeville Press with one of his sons.

Harry Abrams had started his eponymous firm with just $100,000 in capital. In the those first few rocky years, he gave Ismar David the work that would validate David’s employability to U.S. Immigration officials.

Posted in A