The Gilbertson Company, Inc. was an American publisher best known for the comic book series Classics Illustrated. Beginning life as an imprint of the Elliot Publishing Company, the company became independent in 1942, before being sold to the Frawley Corporation in 1967. The company ceased publishing in 1971.
Russian-born publisher Albert Lewis Kanter (1897–1973) recognizing the appeal of early comic books, believed he could use the new medium to introduce young and reluctant readers to "great literature". In October 1941, with the backing of two business partners, he created Classic Comics for Elliot Publishing Company, its debut issue being The Three Musketeers, followed by Ivanhoe and The Count of Monte Cristo. In addition to the literary adaptations, the comics featured author profiles, educational fillers, and ads for the coming titles. In later editions, a catalog of titles and a subscription order form appeared on back covers.
By the time of Classics Illustrated #4, in 1942, the title outgrew the space it shared with Elliot, and Kanter moved the operation to different offices, changing the corporate identity to the Gilberton Company, Inc. Reprints of previous titles began in 1943. Wartime paper shortages forced Kanter to reduce the 64-page format to 56 pages, and, in 1948, rising paper costs reduced books to 48 pages. In addition to Classics Illustrated, Kanter presided over its spin-offs Classics Illustrated Junior, Specials, and The World Around Us. Between 1941 and 1962, sales totaled 200 million.
The publication of new titles ceased in 1962 for various reasons. The company lost its 2nd-class mailing permit, and cheap paperbacks, Cliff's Notes, and television drew readers away from the series. Kanter's last new title was Classics Illustrated #167 Faust (August 1962) though other titles had been planned. These titles appeared in the company's foreign editions.
1967 sale and demise
In 1967, Kanter sold his company to Catholic publication Twin Circle and its publisher Patrick Frawley, whose Frawley Corporation brought out two more titles but mainly concentrated on foreign sales and reprinting older titles. After four years, Twin Circle discontinued the line because of poor distribution. By the early 1970s, Classics Illustrated and Junior had been discontinued, although the Classics Illustrated branding would be used on one telemovie, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Since the series' demise, various companies have reprinted its titles.
- Classics International
- Classiques Internationales
- Elliot Publishing
- Famous Authors, Ltd.
- Gilberton Publications
- Gilberton World-Wide Publications
- Classic Comics (1941–1947) — Name-changed in March 1947 to Classics Illustrated with issue #35 (The Last Days of Pompeii).
- Classics Illustrated (1947–1967)
- Classics Illustrated Junior (1953–1971)
- Classics Illustrated Special Issue (1955–1962)
- The World Around Us (1958–1961)