January 7 - Book Report

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On January 7, 1896, Paul Laurence Dunbar sold or gave away seventeen copies of his recently published volume of poetry, Majors and Minors.  He was 23 years old and this was his second book.  It had been produced by a small Toledo, Ohio, printing company, which did not promote the book like a publishing firm would have.  Paul did much of the marketing and distribution work himself, writing down in a notebook the names of each recipient and the number of copies they received.

1 Mr. Boroff
1 Mr. Nevin
1 Mr. Loos
1 Mrs. Fields
1 Mr. Hartsell
1 Miss Greene
5 Dr. Tobey
1 Mr. Thatcher
1 Rebekah Baldwin
1 Major McMillen
1 Mr. Makeley
1 Mr. Cellarius
1 Mr. Williams


Notebook, January 2 - 25, 1896.  Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 4).

On January 7, a few significant names appeared on the list.  Dr. Henry Tobey and Charles Thatcher were two of Paul's early supporters in Toledo, and they helped arrange for the printing of Majors and Minors.  Rebekah Baldwin was a friend who lived in Washington, D. C.  Sales fluctuated during the weeks that Paul maintained the notebook:  only one book was sold on January 8.  Some buyers were influential in Dayton (such as educator Charles Stivers and historian Charlotte Reeve Conover) or outside of the area (like the actor Richard B. Harrison and novelist George W. Cable).  The notebook also indicates that Paul sent copies to newspapers;  Majors and Minors later received a favorable review in an Indianapolis paper.

Paul Laurence Dunbar has issued a volume of poems with the title "Majors and Minors."  He shows in his writings a wholesome interest in life and nature, and he has considerable facility in expressing himself.  Mr. Dunbar essays Western rural dialect with a fair degree of success.  A number of poems in negro dialect are really excellent, possessing the spirit and quaint humor of old plantation ditties.  Mr. Dunbar is a young man, but this little book contains nothing that he need be ashamed of.  His optimism and humor give qualities to his verses which it is a pleasure to find in the work of any writer.

"Majors and Minors."  The Indianapolis News (Indianapolis, Indiana).  March 11, 1896.  Page 5.