Philadelphia Feature


Lippincott Legacy

Joshua B. Lippincott, a descendent of Quakers, founded J.B. Lippincott & Co. in Philadelphia in 1836, selling a line of Bibles, prayer books, and other religious works. In 1849 the company bought Grigg, Elliot & Co., a publisher that traced its roots back to 1792, and in the 1950s Lippincott began publishing medical and nursing-school books. Lippincott's descendents went on to hold prominent positions in Philadelphia society and married into the family of Joseph Wharton, the founder of the Wharton School of Business. Harper & Row bought the company in 1978, and in turn sold it to Wolters Kluwer in 1990. Under Wolters Kluwer, J.B. Lippincott merged with Raven Publishers and, finally, in 1998, with Williams & Wilkins to form Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, a Philadelphia-based international publisher of medical information for doctors and nurses that continues today. The family was not without its tragedies: a lengthy April 7, 1911, article in The New York Times details the mysterious death of Craige Lippincott, Joshua Lippincott's son, at another of their residences on Rittenhouse Square (not the site of Lippincott House). Though the death was called a suicide in the account, Lippincott's distraught family was convinced he accidentally shot himself (he kept a loaded revolver in his bedroom because he did not have a watchman, according to the account). His son Jay recalled his father talking, earlier on the night of his death, about upcoming travel plans to Europe: "My father had everything in life possible to make him happy, and I can't see why he should take his own life," the Times quoted Jay B. Lippincott's deposition to the deputy coroner after the incident.

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