William W. McKnight was born in 1874. His father was a physician in Granville, Illinois. The family purchased a home on W. Locust Street and moved to Normal in 1883. William held many different jobs from delivering the mail from Normal to Bloomington to delivering and writing articles for The Pantagraph.

Around 1895, McKnight opened a book and stationery store with his sister Hannah. The store was located at the corner of Broadway and North Streets in Normal. They shared the space with a drugstore. The McKnights sold tablets, pencils, stationery, and school supplies. In 1905, William purchased and installed a small printing operation the back room of the bookstore and produced outline maps of the continents.

The maps were sold to schools for one penny each. By 1924 the drugstore moved across the street and McKnight and McKnight was able to expand. They hired a person to draft the outline maps and became and efficient map producing business.

Soon after, Dr. Douglas C. Ridgley, Head of the Geography Department at ISNU, offered to edit all the maps produced by McKnight & McKnight for a royalty. The company had the largest listing of outline maps at more than four hundred. McKnight and McKnight began printing geography pamphlets written by Dr. Ridgley and other faculty members.

During and immediately after WWI the study of geography was important to the war effort because so many new nations were being created. The government wanted to learn all it could about customs, land, and food. McKnight and McKnight started producing textbooks and workbooks for the study of geography.

Hannah McKnight passed away in 1908 and another sister, Jennie immediately purchased her share in the store. McKnight & McKnight moved to the corner of Center and Market in Bloomington. The building was larger and allowed for the purchase of a large, single color offset printing press. The company no longer had to outsource printing.

McKnight & McKnight only published titles in certain subject areas including geography, music, and industrial arts. Printing industrial arts titles and textbooks was extremely useful during WWII when many people needed to learn techniques such as electricity, woodworking, printing, and welding. The government was a large purchaser from McKnight and McKnight.

William McKnight was one of the first publishing houses to use offset printing techniques for textbooks. This style of printing shortened the amount of time it took to print books and create reprints or new editions. At the close of the company’s 88th year, Macmillan Publishing Company acquired McKnight Publishing and moved its operations to Peoria, Illinois. Macmillan eventually joined with the Technical Textbook Division of McGraw-Hill and Bennett Publication to become Glencoe Publishing Company.

H. Harris Howeler was an award-winning book designer who partnered with McKnight and McKnight Publishing in the production of many of its books, gathered in this collection in boxes 7 and 8.

After graduating from the Art Institute of Chicago, he worked in a publishing company, taught, was an art supervisor, and a developer and 2 teacher of vocational art courses in Chicago. He operated a commercial art business which focused on book design, including the artistic creation of book jackets, as well as interior layout and type style selection. He continued this work into his seventies.

This collection contains various titles published and printed by McKnight and McKnight Publishing Company.