Argus Book Shop (Chicago, Ill.)

Hide Profile

The American book seller and publisher Ben Abramson was born in Lithuania in 1898, and immigrated to the United States with his parents after the turn of the century. The family settled in Chicago, where Abramson attended the Jewish Training School, a special academic and manual training program for underprivileged children of refugees. In 1916 he took a job as a clerk at the Economy Bookstore, where he learned enough about the trade to establish his own business, the Argus Book Shop, at 434 South Wabash Avenue in 1920. The shop moved to 333 South Dearborn Street in October 1928, and in February 1940 to 16 North Michigan Avenue. Abramson sold new and second-hand books, specializing in modern literature and rare books including fine bindings, first and limited editions, and private press volumes. In addition to selling books, he was a publisher and literary agent for several writers, and was the editor and publisher of Reading and Collecting: a Monthly Review of Rare and Recent Books, which he issued from 1936 to 1938. Also interested in the visual arts, he regularly exhibited prints and paintings in his shops, and in 1942 made a notable acquisition of more than 1,300 original wood blocks engraved by Thomas Bewick.

In 1944 Abramson closed his Chicago operations and moved to New York; on November first of that year he opened the Argus Book Shop at 3 West 46th Street. By 1947 he began to suffer what would become chronic health and financial problems. Acknowledging that much of his business was accomplished through the mail, Abramson moved with his daughter Deborah Benson Covington to Mohegan Lake, near Peekskill, New York, in April 1949. However, country life held little appeal and he returned to Chicago in March 1953 to reopen the Argus Book Shop at 218 South Wabash Avenue. Deteriorating health and financial situations continued to plague him there, and Abramson died by his own hand on July 16, 1955. He was survived by five siblings, his wife Mollie, and their daughter Deborah.

Throughout his career Abramson employed several assistants who interacted with patrons and authors in person and through the mail. One employee was George M. Dashe (1904-1984), who left Argus to open his Georgian Book Shop on South Michigan Avenue in Chicago in 1940.

From the guide to the Argus Book Shop correspondence, 1857-1955, 1930-1944, (Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Abramson, Ben. Ben Abramson correspondence, 1930-1940. Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
referencedIn Ben Abramson correspondence, 1930-1940 New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
referencedIn Lawrence Clark Powell papers concerning John Steinbeck, 1935-1941. Houghton Library
creatorOf Argus Book Shop correspondence, 1857-1955, 1930-1944 Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Abramson, Ben person
associatedWith Abramson, Ben. person
associatedWith Austen, John. person
associatedWith Bailey, J. O. (James Osler), 1903-1979 person
associatedWith Baldwin, Faith, 1893-1978 person
associatedWith Cost, March, d. 1973 person
associatedWith Dannay, Frederic, 1905-1982 person
associatedWith Davey, Norman, b. 1888 person
associatedWith Davies, Rhys, 1901-1978 person
associatedWith Derleth, August William, 1909-1971 person
associatedWith Douglas, Robin, b. 1902 person
associatedWith Eisenschiml, Otto, 1880-1963 person
associatedWith Fraenkel, Michael, 1896-1957 person
associatedWith Grant, Joan Marshall, 1907- person
associatedWith Hardy, W. G. (William George), 1895-1979 person
associatedWith Houghton, Claude, 1889-1961 person
associatedWith Maugham, W. Somerset (William Somerset), 1874-1965 person
associatedWith McFee, William, 1881-1966 person
associatedWith Miller, Henry, 1891-1980 person
associatedWith Morley, Christopher, 1890-1957 person
associatedWith Nin, Anaïs, 1903-1977 person
associatedWith Papé, Frank Cheyne, 1878-1972 person
associatedWith Paul, Louis, 1901- person
correspondedWith Powell, Lawrence Clark, 1906-2001 person
associatedWith Prokosch, Frederic, 1908-1989 person
associatedWith Rascoe, Burton, 1892-1957 person
associatedWith Sang, Philip D. person
associatedWith Sang, Philip D. Ownership. person
associatedWith Saroyan, William, 1908-1981 person
associatedWith Sinclair, Harold, 1907-1966 person
associatedWith Steinbeck, John, 1902-1968 person
associatedWith Tice, Clara, 1888-1973 person
associatedWith Walton, Evangeline. person
associatedWith Welch, Patrick. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Booksellers and bookselling
Publishers and publishing
Authors, American
Authors, English

Corporate Body



Ark ID: w6326ks2

SNAC ID: 19458017