G. & C. Merriam Company.

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G. & C. Merriam Company, established by George and Charles Merriam in Springfield, Massachusetts, publisher and reviser of Noah Webster's American Dictionary beginning in 1847.

From the description of G. & C. Merriam Company archive, 1797-1978 (bulk 1830-1892). (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 702160972

From the description of G. & C. Merriam Company archive, 1797-1978 (bulk 1830-1892). (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 78909801

Company founded in 1831 in Springfield, Mass. by brothers George and Charles Merriam. It is best known for its publication of Noah Webster's dictionary.

From the description of G. & C. Merriam Co. records, 1833-1867. (Hartford Public Library). WorldCat record id: 168111452

Booksellers in Springfield, Massachusetts, George and Charles Merriam owned and operated a successful press that sold a variety of publications. The most well-known and popular of these was Webster's Dictionary, on which the Merriam brothers bought the copyright in 1845 from the firm J. S. & C. Adams, which had purchased it after Webster's death in 1843. Today the Company exists as Merriam-Webster; it continues to publish editions of Merriam-Webster's Dictionary.

From the guide to the G. & C. Merriam Company Collection, 1833-1852, (Amherst College Archives and Special Collections)

The origins of the G. & C. Merriam Company were in a business begun in 1797 by Ebenezer and Daniel Merriam in West Brookfield, Massachusetts. Daniel's sons, George and Charles, served an apprenticeship to their uncles, then moved to Springfield in 1831, where they became booksellers and publishers of schoolbooks, Bibles, and law books, particularly Joseph Chitty's Pleadings .

When Noah Webster, renowned for his American Dictionary of the English Language (first published in 1828), died in 1843, his heirs sold the unbound sheets of the 1841 edition of the dictionary to the firm of J.S. & C. Adams, which soon found the two big volumes hard to sell. G. & C. Merriam purchased it from Adams, and at the same time gained the right to publish revisions, making them the owners of the American Dictionary. The Merriams then moved to publish a revised and enlarged edition in one volume at $6 a copy. The chief editor of the revision was Chauncey Goodrich, professor at Yale and son-in-law to Noah Webster, who was aided by a core group of experts in their fields. The Webster heirs fought the low price of the dictionary, but the Merriams contended that the price would broaden the market and make it a fast seller. The new edition, An American Dictionary of the English Language (New Revised Edition) appeared in 1847, and was an immediate success.

The business grew: well versed in business affairs, the Merriams became masters of the art of promotion, with agents in the field, slogans ("Get the Best"), printed advertisements of all forms, and testimonials gathered from famous men of the day. This was due in part to the stiff competition from Joseph Worcester's Universal and Critical Dictionary of the English Language (1846). Worcester had worked with Noah Webster on the abridged edition of 1829, and had then struck out on his own, publishing Worcester's Pronouncing and Explanatory Dictionary in 1835. With the publication of the now revised American Dictionary in 1847, the era of the "war of the dictionaries" was born. The Merriams, learning that Worcester was working on a third edition, immediately began preparing a new printing of the 1847 edition, to appear in 1859. It was enlarged with new words and supplements, a section of synonyms, and especially illustrations, which were added at the last moment, when it was learned that the Worcester dictionary was including them. Ultimately, the 1859 printing of the Webster dictionary reached publication before Worcester's, and thus was able to claim the distinction of being the first illustrated American dictionary.

The Merriams then worked on creating a completely new edition of the Webster dictionary, selecting Noah Porter, a professor and later president of Yale, as the principal editor, and H.O. Houghton & Co. as their printers. This edition was published in 1864 and was entitled An American Dictionary of the English Language, Royal Quarto Edition, Unabridged .

Between 1864 and 1892, when the firm incorporated under the name G. & C. Merriam Company, four new editions and numerous supplements were published: the 1879 edition, that included a biographical supplement; the 1882 edition, prepared for the subscription trade, that contained a history of the United States; the 1884, that included a gazetteer of the world. Finally, in 1890, the first Webster's International Dictionary, an unabridged dictionary, edited by Loomis J. Campbell, was issued, containing 175,000 listings, 56,000 more than in the 1864 revision. In 1900 a further supplement was published, and in 1909 a revised dictionary was published ( Webster's New International ).

In 1877, Charles Merriam, aged 71, sold his interest to Ivison, Blakeman, Taylor & Co., who placed Orlando M. Baker in the firm as their representative. The firm incorporated in 1892, changing its name to The G. & C. Merriam Company. In 1904 Homer Merriam, who was serving as president, retired and was succeeded as president by Orlando M. Baker, who died in 1914. He was followed by H. Curtis Rowley, who was succeeded by Orlando Baker's son, Asa G. Baker. Asa Baker was succeeded in 1934 by Robert C. Munroe. In 1982, many presidents later, the company was renamed Merriam-Webster, Incorporated.

Chronology of the Early History of G. & C. Merriam Co.:

1797 Ebenezer (1777-1858) and Daniel Merriam (1771-1823) start a business in West Brookfield, Massachusetts under the name of E. Merriam and Company, apprenticing Daniel's sons, George and Charles.

1823 Daniel Merriam's death. Name of the firm changed to E. and G. Merriam.

1831 George and Charles and their brother-in-law Mr. Little move to Springfield, Massachusetts, where they establish a printing office and bookstore by the name of Merriam, Little & Co.

1832 Mr. Little leaves the firm, and the name changes to G. & C. Merriam in April.

1856 Homer, brother to George and Charles, becomes a partner, although the name of the firm remains unchanged.

Further information on the history of the G. & C. Merriam Company may be found in Robert Keith Leavitt's Noah's Ark, New England Yankees, and the Endless Quest: A Short History of the Original Webster Dictionaries, with Particular Reference to their First Hundred Years as Publications of G. & C. Merriam Company . Springfield, Massachusetts: G. & C. Merriam Company, 1947.

From the guide to the G. & C. Merriam Company archive, 1797-1978, 1830-1892, (Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Houghton Mifflin Company contracts, 1831-1979 (inclusive) 1880-1940 (bulk). Houghton Library
creatorOf A.L. Van Gendt (Firm). Trade catalogs of booksellers, 1881-1968. University of California, Santa Barbara, UCSB Library
creatorOf G. & C. Merriam Company. [Letters from Amherst, Mass., correspondents] Amherst College. Library
creatorOf G. & C. Merriam Company. G. & C. Merriam Co. records and correspondence, 1833-1871. Connecticut Historical Society
referencedIn Gordon Lester Ford papers, 1830-1910, 1850-1869 New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
creatorOf G. & C. Merriam Company archive, 1797-1978, 1830-1892 Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
referencedIn Jay, Arthur B. [West Brookfield historical papers : Merriam family] / [compiled by Archie B. Jay]. Central Mass Regional Library System
creatorOf G. & C. Merriam Company. Correspondence with Theodore Dreiser, 1917-1929. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
creatorOf Webster, William G. (William Greenleaf), 1805-1869. William Greenleaf Webster papers, 1820-1865. New York Public Library System, NYPL
creatorOf Gove, Philip Babcock, 1902-1972. Papers, 1892-1973 (bulk 1930-1973) Univerisity of Wyoming. American Heritage Center.
creatorOf G. & C. Merriam Company. Correspondence to Van Wyck Brooks, 1958. University of Pennsylvania Library
referencedIn Miscellaneous autograph documents, 1287-1938. Houghton Library
creatorOf Ford, Gordon Lester, 1823-1891. Gordon Lester Ford papers, 1830-1910, bulk (1850-1869). New York Public Library System, NYPL
creatorOf G. & C. Merriam Company. Letters to William Harvey Wells, 1852 Apr. 14 and 1873 June 3. University of Chicago Library
referencedIn William Greenleaf Webster papers, 1820-1865 New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
creatorOf G. & C. Merriam Company. G. & C. Merriam Co. records, 1833-1867. Connecticut Historical Society
referencedIn Martha Dickinson Bianchi correspondence concerning publication of the poetry of the American poet, Emily Dickinson:, 1881-1943 (inclusive), 1925-1937 (bulk). Houghton Library
creatorOf G. & C. Merriam Company Collection, 1833-1852 Amherst College Archives and Special Collections
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Amherst College. Class of 1837. corporateBody
associatedWith Beaman, Warren Harrison, 1813-1901. person
correspondedWith Bianchi, Martha Dickinson, 1866-1943 person
associatedWith Bliss, Edwin Elisha, 1817-1892. person
associatedWith Case, Lockwood, and Co. corporateBody
associatedWith Case, Tiffany & Co. corporateBody
associatedWith Clark, S. W. 1810-1901. person
associatedWith Coleman, Lyman, 1796-1882. person
associatedWith Colton, Simeon, 1785-1868. person
associatedWith Dickinson, Edward, 1803-1874. person
associatedWith Dickinson, Noadiah Smith, 1815-1876. person
associatedWith Ellsworth, William Wolcott, 1791-1868. person
associatedWith Ford, Gordon Lester, 1823-1891. person
associatedWith Goodrich, Chauncey, 1817-1868. person
associatedWith Goodrich, Chauncey A. 1790-1860. person
associatedWith Gould, George Henry, 1827-1899. person
associatedWith Gove, Philip Babcock, 1902-1972. person
associatedWith Hanks, S. W. 1811-1889. person
associatedWith H.O. Houghton & Company. corporateBody
associatedWith H.O. Houghton & Company. corporateBody
associatedWith H.O. Houghton & Company. corporateBody
correspondedWith Houghton Mifflin Company. corporateBody
associatedWith Howland, Warren S., b. 1798. person
associatedWith Hunt, William Worthington, 1796-1837. person
associatedWith J.S. & C. Adams (Firm) corporateBody
associatedWith Lyman, Chester Smith, 1814-1890. person
associatedWith Merriam, Charles, 1806-1887. person
associatedWith Merriam, George, 1803-1880. person
associatedWith Nims, H. B. person
associatedWith Palmer, William Randall, 1822-1880. person
associatedWith Porter, Noah, 1811-1892. person
associatedWith Porter, Noah, 1819-1892. person
associatedWith Rowley, Arthur Merriam, person
associatedWith Storrs, E. W. person
associatedWith Tinker, Martin Amos, b. 1821. person
associatedWith Webster, Noah, 1758-1843. person
associatedWith Webster, William, 1801-1869. person
associatedWith Webster, William Eugene, 1831-1862 person
associatedWith Webster, William G. 1805-1869. person
associatedWith Wells, William Harvey, 1812-1885. person
associatedWith Wheeler, William A. person
associatedWith Wheeler, William Adolphus, 1833-1874. person
associatedWith Whipple, Frederick C., 1813-1871. person
associatedWith Whipple, William Ward, 1813-1889. person
associatedWith White, Samuel Newell, 1815-1896. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
United States
Booksellers and bookselling
Booksellers and bookselling
Publishers and publishing
Publishers and publishing
Encyclopedias and dictionaries
English language
English language

Corporate Body

Active 1797

Active 1978




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