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Laird & Lee was a Chicago-based book publisher known for its dime novel fiction and dictionaries. Its paperbacks were primarily distributed at railroads and newsstands instead of bookstores.[1] The firm was founded in 1883 by Frederick C. Laird (c. 1863 - ) and William Henry Lee (c. 1863- 1913). Lee bought out Laird in 1894. Their publications included the Pinkerton Detective Series (1887-1901).

After Lee died in 1913 without heirs to his $200,000 fortune, the firm eventually became a division of Laidlaw Brothers, which was a division of Albert Whitman & Company.[2][3][4]

Some mystery surrounded Lee's background, and upon his death it was reported that he was a light-skinned black, which if true would have made him one of the first black publishers in the United States.[5][6][7][8]

Authors published by Laird & Lee include Opie Read and Ignatius L. Donnelly.


  1. ^ Jung, Nathan. Maps for Mobile Audiences in the Creation of a Bestseller, Mediamorphosis: Print Culture and Transatlantic Public Sphere(s), 1880-1940 (2011)
  2. ^ Cox, J. Randolph. The Dime Novel Companion: A Source Book, p. 153-54 (Greenwood Press 2000)
  3. ^ (27 July 1913). Late Publisher Son of Slave, Sunday Chronicle (Paterson, New Jersey), p. 2, col. 4.
  4. ^ Stern, Madeleine B. Publishers for mass entertainment in nineteenth century America, pp. 177-78 (1980)
  5. ^ Laird & Lee, Inc., Chicago, Illinois, Quigley Collection of Children's Literature website, Retrieved October 12, 2012)
  6. ^ (28 July 1913). MANY SEEK LEE FORTUNE; But No Heir of Chicago Publisher Is Found -- Mystery in His Life, The New York Times
  7. ^ (5 August 1913). The Mystery of William Henry Lee: Who Can Solve Secret of Rich Man Who Tried To Speak on His Deathbed, Tacoma Times
  8. ^ (9 August 1913). William Henry Lee, Late Member of the Book Publishing House of Laird and Lee ..., The Broad Ax (Chicago)