The firm was founded as Doubleday & McClure Company in 1897 by Frank Nelson Doubleday in partnership with Samuel Sidney McClure. McClure had founded the first U.S. newspaper syndicate in 1884 (McClure Syndicate) and the monthly McClure's Magazine in 1893. One of their first bestsellers was The Day's Work by Rudyard Kipling, a short story collection that Macmillan published in Britain late in 1898. Other authors published by the company in its early years include W. Somerset Maugham and Joseph Conrad. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. later served as a vice-president of the company.
The partnership ended in 1900. McClure and John Sanborn Phillips, the co-founder of his magazine, formed McClure, Phillips and Company. Doubleday and Walter Hines Page formed Doubleday, Page & Company.
In 1910, Doubleday, Page & Co. moved its operations, which included a train station, to Garden City. The company purchased much of the land on the east side of Franklin Avenue, and estate homes were built for many of its executives on Fourth Street. Co-founder and Garden City resident Walter Hines Page was named Ambassador to Great Britain in 1916. In 1922 the company founded its juvenile department, the second in the nation, with May Massee as head. The founder's son Nelson Doubleday joined the firm in the same year.
In 1927, Doubleday, Page merged with the George H. Doran Company, creating Doubleday, Doran, then the largest publishing business in the English-speaking world. In 1946, the company became Doubleday and Company. Nelson Doubleday resigned as president, but continued as chairman of the board until his death on January 11, 1949. Douglas Black took over as president from 1946 to 1963. His tenure attracted numerous public figures to the publishing company, including Dwight D. Eisenhower, Harry S. Truman, Douglas MacArthur, Robert Taft, and Audre Malroux. He was a strong opponent of censorship and felt that it was his responsibility to the American public to publish controversial titles. Black also expanded Doubleday's publishing program by opening two new printing plants; creating a new line of quality paperbacks, under the imprint Anchor Books; attracting new book clubs to its book club division; opening 30 new retail stores in 25 cities; and opening new editorial offices in San Francisco, London, and Paris.
By 1947, Doubleday was the largest publisher in the US, with annual sales of over 30 million books.
Doubleday's son-in-law John Sargent was president and CEO from 1963 to 1978.
In 1967 the company purchased the Dallas-based Trigg-Vaughn group of radio and TV stations to create Doubleday Broadcasting. After expanding during the 1970s and 1980s, Doubleday sold the broadcasting division in 1986.
Nelson Doubleday, Jr. succeeded John Sargent as President and CEO from 1978 to 1985. In 1980, the company bought the New York Mets baseball team. The Mets defeated the Boston Red Sox to win the World Series in 1986 in a 7-game contest. By 1985, Doubleday & Company was seeing a decline in sales from 1980 and hired James R. McLaughlin, the head of Dell Publishing, a Doubleday subsidiary, to streamline and downsize. McLaughlin went on to succeed Doubleday in as President and CEO, with Doubleday becoming Chairman of the Board.
By 1986 the firm was a fully integrated international communications company, doing trade publishing, mass-market paperback publishing, book clubs, and book manufacturing, together with ventures in broadcasting and advertising. The company had offices in London and Paris and wholly owned subsidiaries in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, with joint ventures in the UK and the Netherlands. Nelson Doubleday, Jr. sold the publishing company to Bertelsmann in 1986 for a reported $475 million. The deal did not include the Mets which Nelson Doubleday and minority owner Fred Wilpon had purchased from Doubleday & Company for $85 million. In 2002, Doubleday sold his stake in the Mets to Wilpon for $135 million after a feud of the monetary value of the team.
In 1988, portions of the firm became part of the Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, which in turn became a division of Random House in 1998.
In late 2008 and early 2009, the Doubleday imprint merged with Knopf Publishing Group to form the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. In October 2008, Doubleday laid off about 10% of its staff (16 people) across all departments.
The following are imprints that exist or have existed under Doubleday: