Personal correspondence between Watson and friends and authors; business correspondence and records; and audio and videocassette recordings of readings at the bookstore and records documenting the events held there and the relationships between the owner, the authors, and clientele.
Of note are letters and clippings pertaining to the closing of the store and the audiocassettes of various readings. Correspondents include Ray Blount, Jr. Watson, shy and insecure as a child, was dubbed "Madame-Nose-in-Books" by her father because she preferred to Books N Company her time reading rather than socializing.
She was born and raised in a Greenwich, Connecticut family which included one older brother and four younger sisters. She was educated in public elementary schools until age 12, then sent to a private boarding school and Sarah Lawrence College where she majored in early childhood education.
As early as her senior year she and her friends discussed dreams about owning a bookstore. Watson married in her senior year and had a son very shortly after. After graduation her new family moved to Grosse Point, MI, but neither her marriage nor time in the Midwest was to last very long.
Divorcing at age 26, Humana Company Size returned to New York as a working single mother. Alex Sanger, the grandson of birth-control proponent Margaret Sanger, was an attorney at that time later he became President of Planned Parenthood.
They married in December 21, Privately she uses her married name: Jeannette Sanger. In the mid's Watson underwent surgery to correct a congenital condition of the hip, which required a year's recovery, giving her the time to consider her dream plans for a bookstore.
Her father, Thomas Watson, Jr. She began looking for a person with whom to go into business. The name of Burt Britton, highly regarded among booksellers in the city, was frequently suggested as the best choice. Watson felt that his knowledge of contemporary Omega Risk Solution Security Company matched her knowledge of the classics. After several meetings with her, he agreed to join in the venture.
A location for the shop was found in a prime spot, on Madison Avenue in the 70's, directly next door to the Whitney Museum of Art. The space included two floors of about 1, square feet each, and a basement of about square feet. The old brownstone was in very poor condition and major renovations had to be completed before it would be occupant-ready. Watson's idea was for the store to be a salon, to have the cozy, comfortable, lived-in atmosphere of a writer's hangout. She intended to sell literary fiction, poetry, and signed books; no self-help or do-it-yourself books or the popular fiction and best sellers that are often found in chain stores.
Informal readings soon gave way to formal events. But lax financial management and internal conflicts were creating serious problems underneath the surface. Problems between the two partners came to light when Britton did not make the expected appearance at the first anniversary party. Watson admits that she didn't pay enough attention to the business side of the shop and allowed critical financial mistakes to be made that first year, which created tensions between partners.
Bookkeeping practices were sketchy, and no plans had been Books N Company to hire a bookkeeper to keep track of finances or stock. An advisor was brought in to help guide the business practices, and he made many sound suggestions that helped, but they weren't enough to circumvent serious financial problems.
Watson realized she had to make serious changes to keep her dream afloat. She decided to buy out Burt Britton and run the shop herself. By January he and Watson came to an agreement dissolving the relationship. Her father offered to buy her overstock, store it on his property and as she was able, she would buy it back from him. As part of their agreement, an auditor would come in to check the account books on a regular basis.
Tight control over the inventory was essential and limits were set on the amount of stock to be purchased at any one time. This gave Watson time to strengthen her business sense and fine tune job responsibilities.
Watson offered clerk Peter Philbrook the manager's position; she gave the responsibility of buying to another employee.
As the business grew, Watson introduced several functions to promote it. She very much wanted to showcase new writers and gave many their first readings. It gave its first formal reading on January 9, with the advent of The Foundation, which Watson created to sponsor regular weekly readings and other special events. A salaried coordinator for the series was hired Barbara Penn and paid out of Foundation money, which was partially raised by charging admission to the events.
However the pressures of additional readings and charging admission for them did not sit well with Watson. After five years Watson suspended the Foundation and ran the reading series herself, free of charge, as a regular function of the store. Readings often had themes such as celebrations of particular writers or favorite subjects.
In the mid's Watson was advised to buy the Madison Avenue building to have a bit of business security. The relationship between the new landlord and tenant was cordial. Some minor facilities problems were taken care of in a timely manner by the museum.
By this time independent bookstores, already negatively affected by the economic downturn, were suffering financial losses due to the rapid growth of G Miller Company superstore. The severe rise in rent put additional stress not only on the shop, but on Watson too, who was already funneling personal monies into the business to keep it in the black.
The Whitney Museum of Art director David Ross, an acquaintance of Watson's who was aware of her situation, proposed that the museum and the store become partners in earlywith the museum absorbing the staff and inventory of the bookstore.
Watson was offered a five-year employment contract as manager. She was very interested in the proposal and pursued the idea, but negotiations stalled in late spring when the museum stopped answering her calls or responding to letters. In October of The Whitney broke its silence and informed Watson that the partnership offer was withdrawn. Watson, who had explored and depleted other options already, decided it was time to close the shop and move on to other things.
The article quoted Watson as saying, "We just cannot afford to pay the rent. The Whitney Museum of Art took the brunt of much criticism from the literary world and the general public alike, as it appeared that the museum was maliciously bent on putting the shop out of business. The article generated a loud public outcry. Many newspapers featured frequent opinion pieces and articles updating the public about the situation.
Watson, the shop and its activities became the focus of television news reports and radio interviews. Several private citizens came forward offering to raise funds to keep the store open. It was, in the end, Jeannette Watson's decision to close the economically struggling store after twenty years. The final reading was held on May 15, with Edna O'Brien reading from Down by the River and a big party celebrating the anniversary.
The collection documents very strongly the social and intellectual life that was the heart of the store, fostered through its public events, readings, and the relationships developed between the owner and her clientele, both authors and the book-buying public. It documents less strongly the business of buying and selling books. It does not include the financial records, which would tell the underlying story of the dissolving of the Watson and Britton partnership, the part her father played in the enterprise, the problems with the Whitney Museum and the subsequent decisions made by Watson.
Correspondents include: Ray Blount, Jr. Vitarius, and Ted Wilentz among many other names. It may be of interest to note here that the file for Burt Britton contains only an unsigned copy perhaps a draft of his termination agreement with Watson. The General Files include general correspondence; correspondence with related businesses, publishers, and philanthropic organizations, invitations, staff memos, clippings, anniversary books, poetry and poetry-related events.
Financial records include the list of names considered "House Accounts" those who were able to receive a discount on purchases, which were labeled "C2" accounts by the storesome expense reports, income tax returns for five non-sequential years, customer invoices, operations statements and a few other odd files. The "Readings" sub-series includes introductory remarks, party plans, and other miscellaneous items for readings from to Box 8, folder 8, titled "Doodles," contains cartoon drawings of scenes from a bookstore, usually drawn on the backs of event invitations.
They are probably the work of a talented employee who usually focused his or her attention on Peter Philbrook as a subject, though occasionally honored others. There are five diaries and one single page ripped out of a diary.
Watson records very brief entries, usually just a few lines on any given day. Some of the diaries have information, such as names and opinions, edited out by Watson herself; she scribbled over words.
Sometimes their purchases or a conversation were also noted. The diary c. The first few pages are loose and it Books N Company to have pages missing. It appears to begin in determined by reference to the space shuttle explosion. Though the entries are made within a ten-year time Books N Company, entries are actually broadly spaced within those ten years. The last recorded date is January 23, It is the longest of the diaries, and records numerous stories about the comings and goings of the store, the events held there, and particularly Watson's experiences and her feelings towards the clientele or staff, the events, and the general happenings in around her shop.
There are several references to her family in this volume, especially her son Ralph, and her father, Thomas.
Watson heavily edited this volume. The scrapbooks include snapshots of authors, audiences, and the shop in general color, and black and white ; small posters or flyers, clippings from newspapers and magazines about the various events held there or the bookstore itself, or The Foundation for the Arts, and gossipy items about who has Books N Company seen there; and invitations to various readings. They also include guest lists, schedules for the season, introductory remarks for readings, postcards, and correspondence.
They include the respective invitations and photographs. The span dates for each volume are included in the container list; some of the volume dates overlap and materials within the volumes are not necessarily in exact chronological order. Volume 4 contained many loose 8x10 black and white photos, which were removed to a folder in Box Box About three-quarters of the images are black and white, 8x10 format, though there is one box of oversized prints, both black and white and color, and a number of smaller snapshots.
Though readings were a featured event at the store as early asaccording to Watson, they were not recorded prior to Over works were recorded on 79 audiocassettes. Several special events, such as a celebration of a specific publishing house or benefit for a particular cause, feature multiple authors or readers. Descriptive entries capture the name of each author and the title of the book from which the author read. If a poet read from a collection of poems, titles of individual works are often, but not always, captured.
These instances are noted in the audiocassette database description see Appendix B.
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