Daily Archives: January 14, 2012

Little Folks and Black Cats

A little window into the publishing world of turn-of-the-century Salem and Boston today.  I found it difficult to reconcile the very divergent titles of the prolific Salem publisher Samuel Edson Cassino until I uncovered the family history behind the family business.  The S.E. Cassino Company is best known for producing children’s literature, both periodicals like the long-running Little Folks.  The Children’s Magazine (1897-1923) and charmingly-illustrated texts like Edith Francis Foster’s Mary’s Little Lamb:  a Picture Guessing Story for Little Children (1903).

These publications contrast sharply with the other Cassino titles, issued in Boston rather than Salem, primarily scientific compendiums like the annual Naturalists’ Universal Directory.  It turns out that Samuel Edson Cassino, a trained naturalist who married into a prominent North Shore family and turned to publishing, focused on his own interests down in Boston and left the newer (and I suspect more profitable) branch of his business to his daughter Margherita Cassino Osborne, an 1899 graduate of Radcliffe College.  Margherita not only edited Little Folks and several other serial publications (and later put out her own children’s books) but seems to have managed all of the Salem publishing operations, along with her second husband Frank Wellman Osborne.  The Cassino catalogue acquired another–even more diverse–serial title in 1912:  the very interesting early science fiction Black Cat magazine, founded by Herman D. Umbstaetter in Boston in 1895.  The operation of Black Cat were moved from Boston to Salem (which must have seemed appropriate to everyone, as this was just when Salem was beginning to transform itself into “Witch City”), and was managed by Mr. Osborne until its demise in 1920.

The family business was certainly profitable but there’s a (relatively, materially) tragic chapter in the Cassino story as well:  their stately mansion on Lafayette Street, pictured below in 1910, was completely destroyed by the Great Salem Fire of 1914.

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