Emma Redington (Lee) Thayer (ca. 1874-ca. 1973) was the co-founder of Decorative Designers, a New York City based firm that
produced binding designs, dust jackets, book illustrations, and advertising material. She specialized in conventionalized
decorations and designed most of the bindings, did some lettering, and was successful at dust jacket illustrations. She also
published over sixty mystery novels as well as children's books. The collection consists of material related to the work of
Lee Thayer and the Decorative Designers (DD) including correspondence, taped interviews, articles and newsclippings related
to the life and career of Thayer, dust jackets and novels by Thayer, and photocopied bookplate designs, binding designs, and
dust jackets by DD.
Decorative Designers (DD) was founded by Henry W. Thayer and Emma Redington Lee, 1895; the New York City based firm produced
binding designs, dust jackets, book illustrations, and advertising material; employed a number of talented people including
Jay Chambers (1902-16) and used innovative operation methods such as dividing labor according to individual talents and presenting
publishers with design models printed on cloth; moved to Chatham, New Jersey (1921); after World War I, they shifted production
to dust jackets and advertisements; the company was dissolved in 1932.During the heyday of decorated publishers' bindings no other American designer produced as many book covers as The Decorative
Designers. Founded by Henry W. Thayer, a Brooklyn architect, and Emma Redington Lee, a young mural artist, in 1895, the firm
turned out binding designs, dust jackets, book illustrations and advertising material until 1932 when the company and the
marriage of Thayer and Miss Lee dissolved. Other graphic designers as talented and prolific as the Thayers worked for the
company at various times, the most important being Jay Chambers, who was with The Decorative Designers from 1902 through 1916.
The firm produced thousands of book covers at a rapid rate. The number of artists in the organization partly accounted for
this. Another factor in the success of the “DD's” was its efficient and innovative method of operation. Labor was divided
according to individual talents: Henry Thayer did lettering and handled business affairs, Lee Thayer (as his wife became known)
specialized in conventionalized decorations, Jay Chambers excelled at figure design, and so on. The separation of design and
sales functions increased output, as did the unique practice of presenting publishers with design models printed on cloth
in order to give a clear idea of the appearance of the completed book. Until 1921, when the Thayers moved the business to
Chatham, New Jersey, The Decorative Designers operated in New York City very near the publishing houses that constituted their
25 boxes (12.5 linear ft.)
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Department of Special Collections. Literary rights, including copyright,
are retained by the creators and their heirs. It is the responsibility of
the researcher to determine who holds the copyright and pursue the
copyright owner or his or her heir for permission to publish where The UC
Regents do not hold the copyright.
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