Publishing Research Quarterly

, Volume 34, Issue 4, pp 485–503 | Cite as

Culture and Commerce at a Postwar Publisher

Alexander Gode and Storm Publishers, 1945–1958
  • Rafael Chaiken


The tension between commerce and culture has long been recognized as characteristic of the publishing industry. Publishers seek to put forth quality works of cultural significance yet are constrained by the need to earn a profit. This article is a case study of how this conflict played out at a postwar New York City company, Storm Publishers. Storm was a one-person operation run by Alexander Gode-von Aesch, a German immigrant best known for his work as a linguist and translator. Gode founded the company in 1947 to publish The End Is Not Yet, a pacifist novel by the German playwright Fritz von Unruh. Storm went on to publish a diverse array of scholarly and trade books until it was dissolved in 1958. The article analyzes how Gode pursued a number of strategies—relying on personal connections, developing relationships with celebrities, purchasing advertisements, soliciting reviews, cutting costs, generating subsidiary rights income, and sheer tenacity and audacity—in order to compete with larger and more established Manhattan publishers. It argues Gode harbored a contradictory attitude toward the culture–commerce dichotomy, asserting that his aim was to distribute quality works that could not make a profit while at the same time publishing books aimed at bolstering his balance sheet and lamenting others’ lack of sales. As the first history of Storm Publishers, the article sheds light on the midcentury New York publishing industry and how a small firm sought to claim a place in the postwar intellectual economy.


Storm Publishers Alexander Gode-von Aesch History of book publishing Postwar book publishing Book publishing in New York City 



I thank Susan Gauss for extensive discussions regarding this project and for expert mentorship as the University at Albany History Department’s graduate director. Stephanie Long, Colleen Moriarty, and Ron Reagan, my colleagues in the program, provided feedback on an earlier draft. At the university’s M. E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and University Archives, Brian Keough and Jodi Boyle delivered invaluable research assistance. I am grateful to Robert Snyder for providing insightful comments on this work at the 2015 Researching New York Conference. Finally, I thank my parents, Michele and Seth Chaiken, for their constant support.


  1. 1.
    Abel R, Graham G. Immigrant Publishers: The Impact of Expatriate Publishers in Britain and America in the Twentieth Century. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers; 2009.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    American National Biography Online.
  3. 3.
    Appadurai A, editor. The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 1986.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Coser LA, Kadushin C, Powell WW. Books: The Culture and Commerce of Publishing. New York: Basic Books; 1982.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Greco AN. The Book Publishing Industry. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge; 1999.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Kronacher A. Fritz von Unruh: A Monograph. New York: Rudolph Schick Publishing; 1946.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Krueger H. Malinche, or, Farewell to Arms. New York: Storm Publishers; 1948.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Lane M. Shapers of culture: the editor in book publishing. Ann. Am. Acad. Pol. Soc. Sci. 1975;421:34–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Lehmann-Haupt H. The Book in America: A History of the Making and Selling of Books in the United States. 2nd ed. New York: R. R. Bowker; 1952.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Madison CA. Book Publishing In America. New York: McGraw-Hill; 1966.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Miller LJ, Capitalists R. Bookselling and the Culture of Consumption. Chicago: University of Chicago Press; 2007.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Nettl P. National Anthems (Translated by Alexander Gode). New York: Storm Publishers; 1952.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Potter CN. Who Does What and Why in Book Publishing: Writers, Editors, and Money Men. New York: Carol Publishing Group; 1990.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    ProQuest Historical Newspapers: New York Times.
  15. 15.
    Storm Publishers Records, 1940–68 (GER-090). German and Jewish Intellectual Émigré Collection. M. E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, University at Albany.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Tebbel J. Between Covers: The Rise and Transformation of Book Publishing in America. New York: Oxford University Press; 1997.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    von Unruh F. The End Is Not Yet: A Novel. New York: Storm Publishers; 1947.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rafael Chaiken
    • 1
  1. 1.State University of New York PressAlbanyUSA

Personalised recommendations