Brothers and Sisters in the Teacher Collection of Running Press

The Stuart Teacher collection of Running Press material (Ms. Coll. 1209) augments the full story of the Running Press (told in the Running Press records; Ms. Coll. 727),  a successful independent publishing house based in Philadelphia. Yet while it presents a fairly complete picture of thirty years (circa 1972-2002) of Running Press business, the collection has a lovably miscellaneous quality about it, with some documents that have quite little to do with the Press. Mixed in among the sales reports, business travel itineraries and legal documents that illustrate the company’s foundation and growth, are different sorts of documents- greeting cards, photo albums and gifts- that tell another story, about family.

This photograph (circa 1948) shows the Teacher brothers with Larry on the left and Stuart on the right.

This photograph, circa 1948, shows the Larry Teacher (left) and Stuart Teacher (right).

Stuart “Buz” Teacher founded Running Press in 1972 with his brother, Lawrence (“Larry”). The company started small, reprinting works that were in the public domain and appealed to New Age-y interests in craftsmanship and environmentalism. Running Press was successful and able to expand without taking on risky projects, thanks largely to the brothers’ complementary styles of management and close collaboration. In 1994, Larry Teacher retired from the company and that same year Running Press was surprised by the unanticipated success of Sisters, a book of photographs and essays by Sharon Wohlmuth, Larry’s wife, and Carol Saline. Yet as advantageous as this bestseller was for Running Press business, it was destructive to the relationship between the Teacher brothers. First, Saline and Wohlmuth signed with Doubleday instead of Running Press to produce Mothers & Daughters, a sequel to Sisters. Then, a month before Mothers & Daughters was scheduled to go on sale, Running Press released Daughters and Mothers, at a significantly lower price. Wohlmuth, perhaps rightly, interpreted this competition as a vengeful jab from her brother in law, and Larry Teacher sided with his wife rather than his brother. In 1997, Stuart and Larry got into a bitter argument after which they stopped speaking for years. The irony that Sisters, which celebrates love between siblings, so completely soured relations between the Teacher brothers, was not lost on news reporters who told the story of Larry and Stuart’s estrangement in The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Magazine.

Stuart and Larry Teacher in front of the Bullitt building at 125 South 22nd Street. Larry is holding one of the tiny books from The Miniature Editions, a popular imprint Running Press created in 1981.

Stuart and Larry Teacher in front of the Bullitt building at 125 South 22nd Street. Larry is holding one of the books from the Miniature Editions, a popular Running Press imprint created in 1981

Before their falling-out, Larry and Stuart Teacher purchased a beautiful (if deteriorating) townhouse at 125 South 22nd Street. This carved brownstone building was commissioned by John Christian Bullitt, the creator of the Philadelphia City Charter, in 1889. Over the course of a long restoration of the property some documents were recovered from the house itself: a few photo albums (early twentieth century), a notebook (circa 1866), report cards and letters (1908-1921) and a wedding invitation (1909) left behind by previous residents. These artifacts are included in the Teacher collection of Running Press, and when I first browsed through them they struck me as incongruous or at least anachronistic with the rest of the material because they had nothing to do with Running Press or the Teachers.

 

 

 

Chubby (standing) and Margery.

Chubby (standing) and Margery.

However, as I got to know the collection better, these papers seemed increasingly relevant to the rest of the collection. The photo albums are full of black and white pictures of two little girls, identified in captions as “Chubby” and “Margery.” There is something very touching about these pictures- they’re steeped with the same sense of sororal love as the photographs in Sisters.

 

 

 

The sisters, a few years later.

The sisters, a few years later.

Another set of documents found in the house pertains to three brothers, Theodore, Ellison and Eugene Lammot, who were placed in foster care by the Home Missionary Society (HMS) of Philadelphia in 1907. These papers are mostly reports from representatives of the Children’s Bureau who visited the Lammots in their foster homes in rural New Jersey and Delaware. According to the reports, the Lammot boys were pretty happy in their foster homes, but the accounts aren’t completely rosy: one dispatch noted that Eugene and Ellison (ten year-old twins, who were placed in the same foster home) missed their sister. Though the particular circumstances could hardly be more different, the split in the Lammot family still reminded me of the familial rift between Stuart and David Teacher.

The Teacher collection of Running Press is made up of a wide range of materials, united with each other in various ways and to various degrees. Strangely, the documents that are arguably the most dissimilar from the rest of the collection in terms of date and subject matter (those found in the building on 22nd Street) have the most in common with it thematically. The collection within the collection reflects some of the same underlying themes of the Running Press materials as a whole: familial love, hardship, separation and connectedness.

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