DECADES IN THE MAKING
In 1969, Gibbs Smith, then a student at the University of Utah, wrote his master’s thesis on Joe Hill, a Utah labor leader. His thesis was published by Grosset & Dunlap as the book Labor Martyr: Joe Hill. The book inspired a movie that went on to win the jury prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1971.
Building on the success and profits from the film, Gibbs and his wife, Catherine, founded a publishing company called Peregrine Publishers. The couple wanted to establish an independent company very different from “The Big Six” publishers that dominated at the time.
Their first office was in Santa Barbara, California, where they published four supplementary history textbooks for college classrooms. The company moved to Utah in 1973 and was renamed Peregrine Smith . Gibbs and Catherine poured their profits into the business and converted an old family barn built in 1916 into offices. Shortly after, they proudly published their first state history textbook,Utah’s Heritage, for seventh grade.
Without a sales force or a distribution network, the couple packed up their truck and traveled throughout the state to sell Utah’s Heritage to as many schools as possible.
When they proved successful, the company developed additional textbooks and slowly expanded in to new states and added new subject categories for the book trade, including home design, cooking, wilderness, and children’s books. As the company grew and changed, Gibbs never forgot sharing the barn with cows those first few years. He said, “You could hear them moo-ing through the walls…. People could hear them over the phone, too.” When he would explain the ruckus, the response on the other end of the line would always be the same: “You do what? From where?”
In 1993 , the company was renamed Gibbs Smith, Publisher. Over the years, they became an industry leader, creating books on interior design with high-end designers, launching a cookbook line (including a title on the New York Times bestseller list); and growing an impressive children’s list. It branched out over the years to include several imprints and brands, including 101 Things to Do With (2001), BabyLit (2011), LoveLit (2013), Flying Frog (now 7 Cats Press) (2019) and Spumoni (2020). Every addition had the same goal: to Enrich and Inspire Humankind.
On October 30, 2015, Gibbs and Catherine sold the first half of the organization to employees via an ESOP, ensuring their dream would pass to future generations.
Gibbs Smith passed away in 2017. Doug Pfeiffer, former PubWest President, noted that Smith had “been a vital part of the Western publishing scene. His reputation as a publisher of high-quality books and a contributor to the community of the book is an inspiration to all publishing businesses across the country.”
In 2022,the company name was simplified to Gibbs Smith. Despite its success in other areas, Gibbs Smith never left its beginnings as a social studies curriculum publisher. Gibbs Smith Education continued its focus on local students and teachers, developing state-specific programs for 35 states over the years and launching digital access as the internet became more widespread. In addition to state history titles, the education segment has recently published US history, world civilizations, and literacy products. It has also added multiple professional development publications and training options to its offerings for schools. Over the years, the segment has won accolades from teachers, students, and parents, as well as many awards from the Textbook & Academic Authors Association and state historical societies.
Independent, Employee-Owned, Mission-Driven
Today, Gibbs Smith is an employee-owned, mission-driven independent publisher and distributor. It positively impacts the communities it serves, including employee owners, local communities, and the book and education industries.
On August 31, 2022, Gibbs Smith ESOP purchased the second half of the company from Catherine Smith, co-founder and 50% share owner. The ESOP ownership ensures that every full-time employee of the company earns shares in the company and that the publisher can successfully continue on for multiple generations.
ESOP stands for Employee Stock Ownership Plan. It means that the employees collectively own 100% of Gibbs Smith. For our employees, being set up as an ESOP offers tax benefits, retirement gains, and a vested interested in the company that we all own.
The company still occupies that same barn office in Layton, Utah, plus a warehouse and distribution center in nearby Kaysville. In total, the company has more than 100 employee-owners living throughout the United States. Gibbs Smith now includes two segments: Gibbs Smith Book & Gift (which includes 7 Cats Press) and Gibbs Smith Education.
In addition to being a functioning ESOP, the company believes in taking care of our environment and the communities in which we live and work. We have a commitment to carbon neutrality and reduce what we can and offset what we are not yet able to. Our physical office facilities, business travel, production, printing, and outbound shipping are all carbon neutral. We support local businesses, schools, and arts organizations wherever our employees and readers are.
Works of Art
From home design to cookbooks to gift items to a plethora of children's and education titles, we strive to create and publish products that spark an interest and give people a platform to use their voices and tell their stories.
The unique combination of employee ownership and B-Corp status creates an environment that encourages the company to be mindful of the communities in which we participate.
Gibbs Smith strives to create a diverse and well-educated workforce. We provide thought leadership and growth opportunities to our employee owners.
Gibbs Smith endeavors to serve its local communities through book donations and service projects. We provide guidance and education for future authors and publishing professionals. We strive to make books available to all by partnering with charitable and educational organizations.
Publishing & Education Industries
Gibbs Smith boosts the industries to which it belongs. We support anti-banned book efforts and champion literacy efforts. We represent our company and values in organizations such as PubWest, BISG, ABA, MPIBA, etc.
Gibbs Smith promotes sustainability in printing and shipping methods and carbon neutrality.