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Collection of G. & C. Merriam material


Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts [Contact Us]3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

G. & C. Merriam, bookseller and publisher, was established in 1831 by brothers, George (1803-1880) and Charles (1806-1887) Merriam, in Springfield, Massachusetts. Primarily, the firm sold schoolbooks, Bibles, and law books. In 1843, G & C. Merriam purchased the unbound sheets of Noah Webster's 1841 edition of American Dictionary of the English Language along with the rights to publish revisions. With Chauncey Goodrich and a team of experts, G. & C. Merriam published a new edition in 1847. This volume was in direct competition with Joseph Worcester's Universal and Critical Dictionary of the English Language, which resulted in what became known as the "dictionary wars."

G & C. Merriam continually revised the dictionary with illustrations (1859), biographical supplements (1879), a history of the United States (1882), and a gazetteer of the world (1884). In 1890, Webster's International Dictionary was published.

In 1864, G. & C. Merriam incorporated under the name G. & C. Merriam Company; and in 1992, the company was renamed Merriam-Webster, Incorporated.

This collection documents, to a limited degree, the operations of G. & C. Merriam (1831-1864) and the G. & C. Merriam Company (1864-1892) through correspondence, financial records, and advertising. The bulk of the collection consists of letters written to G. & C. Merriam regarding orders for books, payment issues, and shipping details. While many books were ordered, letters largely relate to Noah Webster's American Dictionary of the English Language and law publications such as Joseph Chitty's Pleadings. Letters deal primarily with business, but reflect on the country and the times in which the letters were written, mentioning a Yellow Fever outbreak in Mobile, Alabama; missions in Siam and Malta, and the Merriams' religious faith. Letters sent during the Civil War frequently mentioned the war and hopes for a better society and were often written on patriotic stationary.

The collection also contains a small amount of receipts and promotional materials. Printed cards with adages produced by G. & C. Merriam probably served as a form of advertisement. Each card has "G. & C. Merriam Springfield, Mass." printed at the bottom. In addition to biblical quotations and adages, the cards, which appear to have been designed to hang, also include treatises on "The art of living together," "Rules of table etiquette," "Make your wife your bar-keeper," "How to ruin a son, how not to do it," and "The street school." This material is highly religious and/or moralistic.

This collection was acquired in multiple purchases from 2017 to 2024.

Sold by Eclectibles (Tolland, Connecticut), 2015-2017, 2019.

Sold by Robert C. Meyers (eBay), 2017.

Sold by David Katz, 2017.

Sold by DeWolfe and Wood, 2018.

Sold by Paper History, 2019.

Sold by L & T. Respess Books, 2019.

Sold by Rulon-Miller Books, 2019, 2024.

University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
Finding Aid Author
Donna Brandolisio (2017) and Holly Mengel (2024)
Finding Aid Date
2017 and 2024 May 21
Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research use.

Use Restrictions

Copyright restrictions may exist. For most library holdings, the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania do not hold copyright. It is the responsibility of the requester to seek permission from the holder of the copyright to reproduce material from the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts.

Collection Inventory

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A. H. Andrews & Co., letter regarding an order, Chicago, Illinois, 1866 August 24.
Box 1 Folder 32
A. Hutchinson & Co., letter requesting bill, Springfield, 1848 September 20.
Box 1 Folder 33
A. J. Barnes & Burr, letter regarding orders and commenting on the Civil War, New York, 1862 May 17.
Box 1 Folder 60
A. L. Bancroft & Company, letter regarding orders and blanks, San Francisco, California, 1872 June 7.
Box 1 Folder 1
B. B. Mussey and Company, letter regarding order, Boston, Massachusetts, 1831 July 21.
Box 1 Folder 34
Blelock & Company, letter regarding orders, New Orleans, Louisiana, 1867 January-March.
Box 1 Folder 2
Bliss, John, letter regarding ink, Tolland, Connecticut, 1835 December 22.
Box 1 Folder 35
Bogel, William, letter regarding an order, written on a printed circular for Franklin Drug Store, Franklin, Louisiana, 1856 March 8.
Box 1 Folder 31
Brown, Taggard, and Chase, letter regarding order and shipping, written on printed advertisement, Boston, Massachusetts, 1858 October 5.
Box 1 Folder 36
Carter, William, letter regarding payment, Boston, Massachusetts, 1857 November 3.
Box 1 Folder 37
Chadwick, Albert G., letter regarding an order, Westfield, Massachusetts, 1845 July 9.
Box 1 Folder 50
Chandler, J. H. (John Hassett), letter requesting dictionaries for his mission in Siam, Boston, Massachusetts, 1854 January 25.
Box 1 Folder 3
Chapin, H. W., letter regarding errors found in publications, Boston, Massachusetts, 1871 October 18.
Box 1 Folder 38
Cheesebrough, Amos S., letter regarding ordering catalogs, Westfield, Massachusetts, 1837 January 30.
Box 1 Folder 51
Cubbedge & Brother, circular announcing co-partnership of J. B. Cubbedge and R. W. Cubbedge, Savannah, Georgia, 1853 October 1.
Box 1 Folder 63
Davis, E., letter regarding an order, Westfield, Massachusetts, 1842 January 3.
Box 1 Folder 52
Dodd, Edward M. (Edward Mills), letter requesting dictionary for a mission in Malta, Bloomfield, New Jersey, 1853 July 9.
Box 1 Folder 4
Dorr, Howland, & Co., letter regarding shipment of orders, Worcester, Massachusetts, 1833 June 11.
Box 1 Folder 5
D. T & J. B. Morton (booksellers and druggists, letter regarding orders, 1869 August 8.
Box 1 Folder 6
E. and L. Merriam (Firm), letter regarding orders, West Brookfield, 1841 February 12.
Box 1 Folder 7
Ellsworth, William W. (governor of Connecticut from 1838-1842 and son-in-law of Noah Webster), letter regarding comparing dictionaries and the Civil War, Hartford, Connecticut, 1861 January 21.
Box 1 Folder 1
Fiske, William, letter requesting a correction in a coffin plate, Braintree, Massachusetts, 1858 March 18.
Box 1 Folder 39
Fisher & Lowrance, letter regarding pricing, Columbia, South Carolina, 1868 March 29.
Box 1 Folder 9
Gillet, Ralph, letter regarding orders for Ellington School, Ellington, Connecticut, 1844 June 15.
Box 1 Folder 40
Gould & Lincoln, letter regarding a payment, Boston, Massachusetts, 1851 January 23.
Box 1 Folder 11
Goodrich, Chauncey, letter regarding orders written on printed list of books, Burlington, Vermont, 1837 September 19.
Box 1 Folder 10
Hagen, Albert D. (Vermont State Geologist Office), letter regarding the "dictionary wars," the Geology of Vermont, and the Civil War, Proctorsville, Vermont, 1865 February 6.
Box 1 Folder 60
Hale, David, letter regarding paper samples, Rockville, Connecticut, 1846 May 1.
Box 1 Folder 41
Holden, J. S., letter reporting his new role as acting agent and reporting the theft of his library by soldiers, Dayton, Ohio, 1861 November 19.
Box 1 Folder 62
Hoyt, John C., insurance claim for dictionaries damaged in shipping on board the Asa Eldridge, 1859-1860.
Box 1 Folder 12
Independent Order of the Odd Fellow, letter (signed by William H. Barnes) regarding pricing, written on printed advertisement, 1870 April 11.
Box 1 Folder 13
Ives, Matthew, Jr., letter regarding an order, Westfield, Massachusetts, 1836 May 12.
Box 1 Folder 53
J. H. Simmons & Company, letter regarding an order, Petersburg, Virginia, 1858 January 6.
Box 1 Folder 14
Leavitt, Strebeigh & Co., circular advertising the Trade Sale of Books, Stationery, Stereotype Plates, etc., New York, New York, 1870.
Box 1 Folder 28
Little, B., letter regarding an order, Westfield, Massachusetts, 1834 December 9.
Box 1 Folder 54
M. Thomas & Sons, Auctioneers, circular announcing the Forty-First Philadelphia Trade Sale, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1853 June.
Box 1 Folder 63
M. C. Younglove & Company, letter regarding an order, New York, New York, 1857 September 17.
Box 1 Folder 15
Merriam & Cooke, letters regarding orders, West Brookfield, 1841-1843.
Box 1 Folder 16
Merriam & Mirick, letter regarding an order, Greenfield, 1847 March 9.
Box 1 Folder 55
Mirick, Charles A., letter regarding stereotype blocks, West Brookfield, Massachusetts, 1843 October 18.
Box 1 Folder 55
Northrup, B. G., letter regarding payment for dictionaries, Saxonville, Massachusetts, 1850 January 26.
Box 1 Folder 64
Parrish, A., letter regarding an order, Westfield, Massachusetts, 1838 January 1.
Box 1 Folder 56
Pease, Erastus, H., letters regarding orders, Albany, New York, 1837-1843.
Box 1 Folder 17
Randall, J. K., letter thanking G. & C. Merriam for donation for the "sufferers of Mobile" (probably Yellow Fever), New York, New York, 1853 September 16.
Box 1 Folder 18
Samuel & William Wood, broadside advertisement announcing "Books Published," New York, New York, 1852.
Box 1 Folder 65
Sanborn & Carter, letter regarding order, Portland, Maine, 1852 March 12.
Box 1 Folder 43
Schwarz, Louis (importer), letter regarding order, New Orleans, Louisiana, 1866 October 20.
Box 1 Folder 19
Sessions Lane & Company, letter regarding a payment, Brimfield, Massachusetts, 1843 April 6.
Box 1 Folder 57
Small, Robert, letter and advertisement regarding Hale's Plea for the Crown, by Sir Matthew Hale, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1846 September 17.
Box 1 Folder 66
Smith & Whilden (agents for Southern Baptist Publishing Society), letter regarding orders, Charleston, South Carolina, 1856 April 28.
Box 1 Folder 20
Smith, Edward (publisher), letter regarding orders, Burlington, Vermont, 1934 October 31.
Box 1 Folder 8
Smith, H. B. and J. S. Hull, letter regarding an order, Westfield, Massachusetts, 1852 January 1.
Box 1 Folder 58
Smith, N. F., letter regarding an order, Williamstown, Massachusetts, 1867 September 6.
Box 1 Folder 42
Smith, Rufus, letter requesting a dozen "Intelligent Readers," Holland, 1840 May 18.
Box 1 Folder 44
Stickney, John N., letter regarding paper supply, Rockville, Connecticut, 1847 May 10.
Box 1 Folder 45
T. & J. W. Johnson, letter regarding orders for law books, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1851 November 3.
Box 1 Folder 46
Thayer, Merriam & Co., advertisements and catalogs, 1882, undated.
Box 1 Folder 67
Towsley, L. B., letter to Merriam regarding his son's membership to the American Sunday-School Union, written on printed "Occasional Paper No. 11), 1856 June 13.
Box 1 Folder 21
Truman, Elizabeth Davis, letter regarding order and receipt, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1847 November 2.
Box 1 Folder 22
Turner, Edward, letters regarding orders, Stockbridge, 1851 January.
Box 1 Folder 23
Voorhies, John Stevens, letter regarding order for law books, New York, New York, 1851 July 26.
Box 1 Folder 47
W. & S. B. Ives, letter regarding advertising, Salem, Massachusetts, 1848 March 24.
Box 1 Folder 24
Webster's Dictionary, letters (seven) regarding orders or payment, 1861-1862.
Box 1 Folder 61
Weed, Jared, letter regarding a mortgage and Miss Clapp, Petersham, Massachusetts, 1848 September 30.
Box 1 Folder 59
Williams, W. Thorne, letter regarding sales of dictionary, Savannah, Georgia, 1855 January 17.
Box 1 Folder 48
Wilson, Hinkle & Co., circular with special price-list for the Eclectic Education Series, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1875.
Box 1 Folder 29
Wortham & Cottrell, letter regarding payment, Richmond, Virginia, 1858 August 12.
Box 1 Folder 25

G. & C. Merriam receipts, 1840-1859.
Box 1 Folder 26
G. & C. Merriam, printed adages, Bible quotes, and instructions for living well, 1870-1879.
Box 1 Folder 30
G. & C. Merriam, printed advertisement describing list of books, published, Springfield, Massachusetts, 1867.
Box 1 Folder 49
Merriam, Chapin & Co., receipts, 1851-1855.
Box 1 Folder 27

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