In 1895, a seed of industry was planted in newly-founded Caldwell, in the infant state of Idaho. Albert E. Gipson moved his family from Colorado to establish a publishing company. The name and emblem of William Caxton, England’s first printer, was adopted out of respect for Caxton’s reputation as a printer, writer, historian, and free press proponent.
In 1913, Caxton acquired the Western Book and Manufacturing Company of Logan, Utah. The Idaho company became the exclusive printing and binding company west of Kansas City.J. H. Gipson said the company did not intend to become a book publisher, but rather drifted into the publishing field. Early on, Caxton printed a few books for aspiring authors, mostly paper bound.
Most publishers were then located in the eastern US. Gipson realized it was hard for new writers, particularly those from the West, to attract the attention of eastern presses. His idea was to give writers assistance–printing their books and distributing them to reviewers. “Probably the real reason was that all of us love books and wanted to have some part in making them,” Gipson said.On March 17, 1937, a paper stock room caught fire. Workers were unable to put out the blaze. By evening the plant was gone, including books and company records. But Caxton soon was back in business, using local presses in rented buildings. Within sixty days a new building was completed–the structure that still houses the business offices.
Gipson made good on his pledge. Several Caxton authors, including Vardis Fisher and Ayn Rand, received international recognition for their work.The Caxton publishing department has produced some of the best-known titles in Western Americana. Two books, Yellow Wolf, and Hear Me, My Chiefs! first published a half century ago, are still in print today. The two volumes are considered foundation books for any study of the Nez Perce Indians and that tribe’s epic attempt to flee to Canada in 1877.
Today Caxton continues to release new titles about people, places, and events that shaped the West. BYU-Idaho’s Special Collection has a large collection of titles published by Caxton throughout its history, including the books shown above.
Logo from caxtonprinters.com