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Agnes DawsonMay 1 marks the hundredth birthday of Agnes Dawson, a mainstay of the Southern California book trade for over seventy-five years. Agnes’ career in the book world began when she met Muir Dawson in 1947. When they met, Muir and his elder brother, Glen, had recently taken over the management of Dawson’s Book Shop from their father, Ernest, who had founded the business in 1905. Agnes married Muir in 1948 and became immersed in the book trade: in a profile of Agnes in Zamorano Celebrates 90 (2018), Elizabeth Pomeroy explains that Agnes, Muir, Glen, and other Dawson’s staff traveled to Venice, to England, to Japan for the ILAB Congress, and to book fairs all over the world. By the late 1950s, Agnes was running the finances of Dawson’s, a role she maintained for nearly fifty years. She was more than the bookkeeper, however. According to her son, Michael Dawson, Agnes was “an unsung hero” of Dawson’s. “She understood the business, and she knew the clients,” Michael said, adding that Agnes was the “financial glue in the company.” It was Agnes who made, in Michael’s words, “possibly the single most important” business decision in Dawson’s history: she advised Glen and Muir Dawson to relocate the shop to the Larchmont neighborhood in 1968 after the closing of the downtown “booksellers’ row” location. At the time, Glen and Muir wanted to stay close to downtown Los Angeles. Much of the area they were looking for a new location never took off for retail business. Larchmont is a neighborhood west of downtown that already had a good commercial corridor surrounded by a residential neighborhood. Dawson’s moved just north of the established commercial corridor but enjoyed the name recognition of the area. The distinctiveness of the building, combined with off-street parking, made the new Larchmont location a well-known and well-loved location for Dawson’s customers and out-of-town book collectors. The move secured the viability of the business for the next 45 years. When the Larchmont shop opened, Agnes ensured adequate fanfare. She planned an opening event with food, cocktails, a speech by Larry Powell, and four hundred guests eager to celebrate a new chapter in Dawson’s Book Shop's story. 

During her long career in the book trade, Agnes has been a wise voice in business, an exceptional host, and a friend to many bibliophiles. Michael recalls that Agnes “had a whole universe of friends” that included Josephine Ver Brugge, Dorothy Drake, Marion Gore, Doris Harris, and Peggy Christian, with whom she often dined at book fairs. Michael also recalled the friendship between Agnes, Loraine Vosper (wife of UCLA librarian Robert Vosper), and librarian Roberta Nixon, whom he described as “movers and shakers” in the social life of the book trade. “People relied on them to make things happen,” Michael said. Agnes, who values the fellowship and had close ties to the Rounce & Coffin Club, has been an honorary member of the Zamorano Club, the ABAA, and the Book Club of California. She is also a lover of film and theater, a longtime supporter of the Mark Taper Forum, and a collector of cookbooks. Agnes was particularly interested in rarer material printed in California and California writers such as MFK Fisher. Her collection also features a number of books from which she would draw recipes for her own cooking.

If you would like to send birthday wishes to Agnes, you can do so at