Who founded Barnes & Noble?

THE beloved Barnes & Noble bookseller is recognised countrywide – with the largest number of retail outlets in the United States.

Tracing back to 1873, Barnes & Noble continues to serve over 600 communities in all 50 states.

Who founded Barnes & Noble?

Barnes & Noble's began when Charles M. Barnes started a book business from his home in Wheaton, Illinois in 1973.

In 1886, a man named Gilbert Clifford Noble was hired to work at a newly established bookstore called Arthur Hinds & Company in New York City as a clerk.

This bookstore became known as Hinds & Noble.

In 1917, Noble bought out Hinds and entered into a partnership with William Barnes, son of his old friend Charles Barnes.

The name of the store was soon changed to Barnes & Noble.

William Barnes divested himself of his ownership interest in his father's business shortly before his partnership with Noble.

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His father's company would go on to become the Follett Corporation – the educational bookstore. 

In 1930, Noble sold his share of the company to William Barnes' son, John Wilcox Barnes.

Noble died in 1936, at the age of 72.

In 1932, during the height of the Great Depression, what later became the Barnes & Noble flagship store was opened on Fifth Avenue at 18th Street in New York City.

By 1940, the store was one of the first businesses to feature Muzak, and it underwent a major renovation the following year.

That decade, the company opened stores in Brooklyn and Chicago.

William Barnes died in 1945, at the age of 78, and his son John Wilcox Barnes assumed full control.

Following the death of John Barnes in 1964, in 1971, bookseller Leonard Riggio acquired the Barnes & Noble trade name and flagship bookstore in Manhattan, merging it with his own thriving bookselling business.

Within a few years, he had grown the Barnes & Noble Fifth Avenue store in New York City into "The World’s Largest Bookstore," with 150,000 textbook and trade titles.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Barnes & Noble made numerous acquisitions, adding new bookstores throughout the country.

In 1987, the company made its largest acquisition – 797 retail bookstores – when it purchased B. Dalton Bookseller, making Barnes & Noble a nationwide retailer overnight and the second-largest bookseller in America. 

Barnes & Noble became a publicly traded company in 1993, and continued to grow throughout the 1990s, adding an e-commerce website and publishing capabilities.

In August of 2019, Barnes & Noble was acquired by Elliott Advisors (UK) Limited (“Elliott”) and taken private. 

Elliott’s acquisition of Barnes & Noble followed its June 2018 acquisition of Waterstones, the largest retail bookseller in the UK.

As of 2020, the company operates 614 retail stores.

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