LEAVITT, GEORGE AYER

Copyright 2011-2018 John N. Lupia, III


George A. Leavitt was a well-known bookseller, publisher, auctioneer, and principal of one of New York City's top auction houses well known for selling rare books, art, antiques, autographs, coin, and stamp collections.

George Ayer Leavitt (1822-1888), was born on May 13, 1822, at Haverhill, Essex County, Massachusetts, son of  Jonathan Leavitt (1797-1852), a bookbinder, and Joan Ayer Leavitt (1795-). About 1825, the family left Massachusetts moving to New York City where Jonathan Leavitt entered into a partnership with his brother-in-law Daniel Appleton opening a publishing and bookselling business. That firm dissolved when Jonathan Leavitt opened a new firm with John F. Trow, called Leavitt & Trow.

George Leavitt studied and graduated from the nation's oldest incorporated private school, Phillips Academy, founded 1778, Andover, Massachusetts.

In 1842, he worked as a book dealer for Robinson & Franklin.

On March 9, 1850, he married Mary Catherine Cooley (1831-1912). They had seven children : Cooley Ayer Leavitt (1851-1874),  George Ayer Leavitt, Jr. (1853-1883), Henry Davis Leavitt (1855-1856), Catherine Davis Leavitt (1857-1954), William Edward Leavitt  (1858-1884), Warren Ransom Leavitt (1860-1872), and Louis Appleton Leavitt (1866-1866).

After his father's death in 1851, he continued the family firm.

In January 1852 he was a partner with John K. Allen in Leavitt & Allen,  publishers and booksellers holding auctions and began his first annual New York Trade Sales, 379 Broadway, corner of White Street

His father-in-law, James Ewing Cooley (1802-1882), a famous New York book dealer and publisher since 1833 had given Lemuel Bangs (1808-1887) his start, now suggested to his son-in-law, George A. Leavitt, that he join his business publishing and begin holding book auction Trade Sales. From this period on Leavitt became a widely known auctioneer.

Fig. Drawing of George A. Leavitt and 
Richard L. Delisser auctioning books in the Rooms, Broadway. Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, April 5, 1856 Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library. For Sale $150. Write john@numismaticmall.com

During the year 1856 he joined partners with Richard L. Delisser and the company changed to Leavitt, Delisser & Company at the same address.

From 1857-1860, the firm was called  George A. Leavitt & Company, 377-379 Broadway, New York.

In 1857, Delisser retired and James Munroe Alden took his place. Alden was formerly of the firm Alden & Beardsley, Auburn, New York.

Fig. Graphic illustrated cover of George A. Leavitt & Company, 377-379 Broadway, New York, postmarked September 12, 1857. The letter was written by Leavitt's business partner James Munroe Alden (1817-1901) to William Allen, Attorney, Auburn, New York, regarding a lawsuit. Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library. 
For Sale $450. Write john@numismaticmall.com

In 1860, he removed his auction rooms to 24 Walker Street, New York. By the end of the year he removed to 21 Mercer Street where he remained until 1862.

He joined the Army during the Civil War. The commercial paper held by southern businesses was now worthless and the book business became solvent.

In 1866, Leavitt rejoined a new partnership with his former partner John K. Allen and his brother Henry S. Allen naming the new firm Leavitt & Allen Bros.

From 1865-1867, he formed Leavitt, Strebeigh & Company in 1865  with Robert M. Strebeigh opening their New York Trade Sales Rooms, 498 Broadway.

Fig. 
Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library. For Sale $450. Write john@numismaticmall.com

From 1867-1871, he opened Clinton Hall Book Sale Rooms, Astor Place & 8th Street, New York.

In 1870, on the retirement of John K. Allen, the firm of  Leavitt & Allen Bros. became World Publishing Company. This firm dissolved in 1878.

From 1871-1884, he once again renamed the firm George A. Leavitt & Company, Clinton Hall Book Sale Rooms, Astor Place & 8th Street, New York.

In 1876, he hired Thomas Ellis Kirby (1846-1924), who worked in all departments especially in the Art Rooms.

From 1882-1883, he opened Leavitt Art Rooms, 817-19 Broadway.

From 1885-1892, he removed to 787 & 789 Broadway.

He died on December 18, 1888.

Bibliography :

New York Evening Post-New York City Deaths
Publisher's Weekly, December 29 (1888) : 10
George L. McKay (1937)


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