A family of publishers. Brothers Denis and James Sadlier, who founded the firm of D. & J. Sadlier, were born in Cashel, Co. Tipperary, Ireland (Denis in December 1816 and James in September 1821). They came to New York City in 1830 with their widowed mother, their father having died in Liverpool enroute to the U.S. They began publishing in New York City in the 1830s with a monthly serial edition of Butler's Lives of the Saints, followed in 1838 by a similar series on the Bible from plates of the 1829 Devereux edition (Utica, N.Y.). By the 1840s the firm was well enough established in New York to consider expanding its reach. James Sadlier established a branch in Montreal, and in 1846 was married there to Mary Anne Madden, born in County Cavan, Ireland, who became a well-known and prolific author, writing under the name Mrs. J. Sadlier.
The company continued to grow through the 1850 as the Catholic population of the U.S. and Canada increased through immigration. In 1853 the publisher and bookseller John Doyle left for California, and the Sadliers purchased his stock and rights. In 1857 the firm acquired the American Celt, a weekly newspaper founded by Thomas d'Arcy McGee, and changed the name to the New York Tablet. Many of Mrs. J. Sadlier's novels were serialized in the Tablet. Other writers who contributed were McGee himself and Orestes Brownson, after his Review ceased publication in 1864. James and Mary Anne Sadlier returned to New York from Montreal in 1860 to assist Denis, possibly because the Tablet needed their talents and energies. In addition to being noted for its editions of the Scriptures and for publishing translations of devotional works by leading figures of the church in Europe such as Orsini, the firm also began a line of Catholic school texts, including the Metropolitan Readers. In all, from the 1830s to the late 1890s, a total of 652 D. & J. Sadlier imprints appeared, the best known being the Catholic Directory, Almanac, and Ordo.
After James Sadlier's death in 1869, Mary Anne Sadlier wrote very little. Since her works had been a mainstay of the company's publishing list, this was a blow to the company's fortunes. Turbulent economic times in the country at large did not help. Although Denis and James each had a daughter who carried on the family's literary tradition, writing biographies and stories, several of their sons died fairly young, or else were not interested in the business. Denis died in 1885, and by the 1890s there was not much activity at the firm. The one bright moment in this decade came in 1895 when Mary Anne Madden Sadlier was awarded the Laetare Medal by the University of Notre Dame for her contributions to Catholic literature. Mary Anne Sadlier died in Montreal in 1903. Some of the remaining rights of D. & J. Sadlier, including the rights over the Catholic Directory, were sold to P. J. Kenedy in 1912.
Management of the Sadlier publishing business was taken over by William H. Sadlier, a nephew of Denis and James Sadlier, who was born in New York in 1846. William joined D. & J. Sadlier around 1860, and became a "traveling agent" for the firm. In 1874 he decided to start his own textbook publishing company. When he died very suddenly in 1877 at the age of 31, his young widow, Annie Cassidy Sadlier, resolved to carry on the company. Frank X. Sadlier, son of Annie and William, took over from his mother as president of the firm in 1909. At his death in 1939, Frank X. Sadlier, who had no children, was succeeded by his nephew, F. Sadlier Dinger, son of his sister, Rose Sadlier Dinger. He continued the family's catechetical and educational heritage, publishing numerou titles and programs to serve the needs of Catholic school children and children from public schools enrolled in parish catechetical programs. His suggestion of workbooks for teaching religion resulted in the Baltimore Catechism with Study Lessons by Dr. Ellamay Horan, and was followed by the groundbreaking On Our Way Series, written by Sr. Maria de la Cruz Aymes, S.H. The firm expanded into the public school arena with the 1972 acquisition of Oxford Book Company, Inc.
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