Walter Goldwater
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Walter Goldwater
Walter Goldwater
Born(1907-07-29)July 29, 1907
Harlem, New York, USA
DiedJune 24, 1985(1985-06-24) (aged 77)
New York City, NY, USA
EducationCity College of New York
Alma materUniversity of Michigan
Years active1930-1985
EmployerSelf (owner)
OrganizationUniversity Place Book Shop
Known forfounding University Place Book Shop, co-founding Dissent
Eleanor Lowenstein
Parent(s)Dr. Abraham Goldwater

Walter Goldwater (1907-1985) was the antiquarian who worked briefly at International Publishers before founding University Place Book Shop in Manhattan, part of "Book Row." He was also a co-founder and publisher of Dissent magazine and a noted tournament chess player.[1][2][3][4][5][6]


Walter Goldwater was born on July 29, 1907, in Harlem, New York. His father, Dr. Abraham Goldwater, was a radical and knew prominent black activists including W.E.B. DuBois. In 1927, after starting college at the City College of New York, he graduated from the University of Michigan.[2][6]


Early in his career, Goldwater worked for Alexander Trachtenberg (here, in Moscow, Fall 1922) of International Publishers.

Initially, Goldwater took clerical jobs to support himself.[2]

In 1930, Goldwater joined International Publishers, "the most prominent communist publishing organization in the United States," run by Alexander Trachtenberg.[2][6]

In 1931, Goldwater and his wife Ethel, who had joined him in studying Russian, traveled to Moscow, USSR. There, they helped set up the Cooperative Publishing Society of Foreign Workers. Both then worked there as translators and editors. Goldwater was a critic of Stalin, which landed him in trouble with authorities, after which the Goldwater's returned to New York in early 1932.[2][6]

In 1932, Goldwater opened University Place Book Shop on "Book Row" at 821 Broadway at 12th Street[3] (or at 69 University Place[6]) with a loan from his uncle Jack Biblo (of Biblo & Tannen bookstore) of $600[3] (or his uncle Abe Sugarman[6]).[7] The bookstore specialized in African, African-American, and Caribbean (West Indies) literature as well as used, old, and rare books.[4][6] Other specialties included chess, Russia, and radicalism.[2][3][6]

In 1933, Arthur Spingarn, brother of NAACP founder Joel Spingarn, started a standing order for books by African-American authors.[2][6]

Around 1932 or 1933, Whittaker Chambers tried to recruit Goldwater to open a bookstore near Columbia University to serve as a meeting place for Communist (Soviet) underground agents as well as mail drop. Upon checking with the Communist Party USA at its headquarters on Union Square, he found the idea rejected by the Party because his knowledge of the Russian language looked suspicious.[2][8] Others whom Chambers tried to recruit in the same period included: Herbert Solow, David Zabladowsky, Diana Trilling, and Robert Cantwell.[9]

Goldwater purchased an estimated ten thousand "little magazines" (e.g., Bibelot, Black Cat, Yellow Book, and Philistine) from nearby Pratt bookshop. Over time, he sold these to universities, including Yale University and the University of Connecticut.[2][6]

Goldwater helped found the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America and collected books printed in the 15th century.[1][4][6]

In 1950, Goldwater published a new edition of W.E.B. DuBois' Black Reconstruction.[2][6]

Goldwater helped found Dissent with Irving Howe (here, University of Michigan, 1967-1968)

In 1954, Goldwater joined Irving Howe and others in founding Dissent magazine.[6] He published the magazine for 15 years.[6]

He collected and wrote about collecting Incunabula, which he later had auctioned by Swann Galleries before his death.[2][6]

Personal life and death

Goldwater married Eleanor Lowenstein (died 1980) was also an antiquarian. She ran the Corner Book Shop (102 Fourth Avenue at 11th Street) which specialized in cookbooks.[4][6] They had two children.[1]

Goldwater and his friend Dwight Macdonald formed the bases for two characters in Mary McCarthy's 1949 novel The Oasis.[2]

Goldwater was a "formidable" chess player who competed in New York tournaments and also served as president of the Marshall Chess Club in Greenwich Village.[1][2][4] He proudly lost to chess champion Bobby Fischer.[6]

In later life, Goldwater helped broker manuscripts and collections regarding labor and the left to universities, particularly the Tamiment Library at New York University.[4]

In 1993, Goldwater gave a long interview to the Dictionary of Literary Biography Yearbook, in which he recounted all the booksellers he had known in his life.[6][10][11][12]


In his will, Goldwater left University Place Book Shop to long-time employee William French, who ran the shop from 1985 to 1988.[1][2][4][6] French had started working at the bookstore in 1960.[2] He left books to the New York Public Library and its Schomberg Center.[2] University Place Book Shop closed in 1995, mostly due to rising costs and a debt of $64,00 0 in unpaid rent.[2] French sold remaining books to New York University.[6]


  • Radical Periodicals in America, 1890-1950 (1977)[6][13]
  • "New York City Bookshops in the 1930s and 1940s: The Recollections of Walter Goldwater," Dictionary of Literary Biography Yearbook (1993)[10][11][12]


  1. ^ a b c d e Greer, William R. (28 June 1985). "Walter Goldwater". New York Times. p. D16. Retrieved 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Mondlin, Marvin; Meador, Roy (2004). Book Row: An Anecdotal and Pictorial History of the Antiquarian Book Trade. Carroll & Graf Publishers. ISBN 9780786713059. Retrieved 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d McDade, Travis (2015). Thieves of Book Row: New York's Most Notorious Rare Book Ring and the Man Who Stopped It. Oxford University Press. p. 189 (fn32). ISBN 9780190239718. Retrieved 2020.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g "University Place Book Shop records, 1930-1994". Columbia University. Retrieved 2020.
  5. ^ Lipman, Samuel (1991). "Walter Goldwater". The New Criterion (Volume 9). Foundation for Cultural Review. Retrieved 2020.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u Dickinson, Donald C. (1998). Dictionary of American Antiquarian Bookdealers. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 78. ISBN 9780313266751. Retrieved 2020.
  7. ^ Thomas Jr., Robert Mcg. (18 June 1998). "Jack Biblo, Used Bookseller For Half a Century, Dies at 91". New York Times. p. B11. Retrieved 2020.
  8. ^ Kock, Stephen (2004). Double Lives: Stalin, Willi Munzenberg and the Seduction of the Intellectuals. Enigma Books. p. 24. ISBN 9781929631209. Retrieved 2020.
  9. ^ McDade, Travis (1997). Whittaker Chambers: A Biography. Random House. ISBN 9780307789266. Retrieved 2020.
  10. ^ a b Goldwater, Walter (1993). New York City Bookshops in the 1930s and 1940s: The Recollections of Walter Goldwater. Dictionary of Literary Biography Yearbook. Retrieved 2020.
  11. ^ a b Goldwater, Walter (1993). New York City Bookshops in the 1930s and 1940s: The Recollections of Walter Goldwater. Dictionary of Literary Biography Yearbook. Retrieved 2020.
  12. ^ a b Goldwater, Walter (1993). New York City Bookshops in the 1930s and 1940s: The Recollections of Walter Goldwater. Dictionary of Literary Biography Yearbook. Retrieved 2020.
  13. ^ Goldwater, Walter (1977). Radical Periodicals in America, 1890-1950: A Bibliography with Brief Notes. With a Genealogical Chart and a Concise Lexicon of the Parties and Groups which Issued Them A Bibliography with Brief Notes. University Press Book Shop. p. 56. Retrieved 2020.

See also

External links

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