University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department

Dodd, Mead & Company Archive

1896 - 1974

Manuscript Collection Number: 250
Accessioned: Purchase 1991.
Extent: 2 linear ft.
Content: Correspondence, contracts, photographs, wills and probate documents, biographies
permission files, drafts, copyright documents, poems, printed programs and ephemera, clippings, and notes.
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: 1991-1992 by Anita A. Wellner.

for reference assistance email Special Collections
or contact:


The University of Delaware Library does not have information about copyright to works published by Dodd, Mead Publishing Company. Searchers are advised to contact the Copyright Office of the Library of Congress:


The University of Delaware Library holds only a small portion of the Dodd Mead Archives. Please carefully read the collection description in the Scope and Content Note below. The University of Delaware Library does not have any information regarding disposition of the remainder of the archive.

Table of Contents

Institutional History

The publisher, Dodd, Mead and Company, was begun in New York City in 1839 as the firm, Taylor and Dodd. Founded by Moses Woodruff Dodd and John S. Taylor, this firm published originally religious books. In 1840 Dodd bought out his partner and established the company as M. W. Dodd. The company was to evolve through two further changes in its name. In 1870, when Dodd's nephew Edward S. Mead took over the firm, the publisher became Dodd and Mead. In 1876 Bleecker Van Wagenen became a partner and the name was changed to its final form, Dodd, Mead and Company.

Obligations of the World to the Bible, A Series of Lectures to Young Men (1839) was the first book published by Dodd. Although religious works dominated the early publication lists of M. W. Dodd, by the 1870s Frank Dodd, the son of Moses Dodd, had done much to change the emphasis of the publisher to a more general list.

Early publications of popular fiction included Martha Finley's Elsie Dinsmore and Edward P. Roe's Barriers Burned Away. Edward S. Mead, a partner in Dodd, Mead, was also a writer for the company. He wrote a number of books for children and adults under the pseudonym Richard Markham. Through the 1890s and early 1900s Dodd, Mead and Company expanded publications to include a variety of British and American authors including: G. K. Chesterton, Jerome K. Jerome, H. G. Wells, Joseph Conrad, Paul Leicester Ford, George Barr McCutcheon, Hamilton Wright Mabie, and Agatha Christie.

In the late 1890s Dodd, Mead and Company introduced the work of a number of new poets including Robert W. Service, Bliss Carman, and Paul Laurence Dunbar. This archive is comprised of the contracts and correspondence between Dunbar, a prominent Black American poet, and Dodd, Mead. Dunbar's Lyrics of Lowly Life was published in 1896, followed by Poems of Cabin and Field (1899), Lyrics of the Hearthside (1899), and a novel, The Sport of the Gods (1902).

During the 1950s, '60s, and '70s Dodd, Mead and Company published a number of anthologies of Negro poetry, folklore, essays, stories, and humor. This archive contains contracts and permission files related to those publications. Some of the anthologies and their editors include: We Speak of Liberators (1970) and What We Must See edited by Orde Coombs, The Book of Negro Folklore (1958, 1969) edited by Arna Bontemps and Langston Hughes, 3000 Years of Black Poetry (1969) edited by Lomax and Abdul, The Book of Negro Humor (1966) edited by Langston Hughes, and The Harlem Renaissance Remembered (1972) edited by Arna Bontemps.

The business operations of Dodd, Mead and Company were suspended in March 1989 pending the outcome of arbitration with its fulfillment house, Metro Services Inc. By the end of 1990 the company ceased publications.


Gregory Ames, "Dodd, Mead and Company," Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 49: American Literary Publishing Houses, 1638-1899 (Detroit: Gale Research Co., 1986). pp. 126-130.

Calvin Reid, "Dodd, Mead Operations Suspended over Arbitration," Publishers Weekly, March 31, 1989. p. 11.

Biographical Notes

This archive contains publication files related to Arna Bontemps, Benjamin Brawley, Orde Coombs, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Langston Hughes, Alan Lomax, and Raoul Abdul. Also included is a draft for a contract with Alice Dunbar-Nelson and her letters to Dodd, Mead related to their publication of works by Paul Dunbar. Brief biographical notes on these authors follows.

Arna Wendell Bontemps, 1902-1973

Arna Wendell Bontemps, a member of the Harlem Renaissance group, was a black poet, anthologist, novelist, playwright, writer of children's books, and histories of black life. Arna Bontemps was born in Alexandria, Louisiana, on October 13, 1902. He was graduated from Pacific Union College in California in 1923. After graduation he went to New York to teach at Harlem Academy, where he became a contributor to the Harlem Renaissance.

His first novel, God Sends Sunday, was based on black history and published in 1931. Bontemps received an M.A. degree from the University of Chicago Graduate Library School in 1943 and six months later became a librarian at Fisk. Bontemps spent most of his career at Fisk, leaving only between 1966 and 1969 to teach literature at the University of Chicago and from 1969 to 1970 to curate the James Weldon Johnson Collection at Yale.

Dodd, Mead published a number of books by Bontemps, including The Book of Negro Folklore (1958, with Langston Hughes), The Harlem Renaissance Remembered (1972), and 100 Years of Negro Freedom (1961). Prior to his death in 1973, Bontemps was working on an autobiography to be published by Dodd, Mead.

Benjamin Brawley, 1882-1939

Benjamin Brawley, born in Columbia, South Carolina, in 1882, was a black clergyman, teacher, and historian. In addition to teaching English at several universities, he was noted for his works on the contributions of Negroes to literature. Books by Brawley include The Negro in Literature and Art in the U. S. (1918), A Social History of the American Negro (1921), Paul Laurence Dunbar (1936), and The Negro Genius (1937). He also edited Early Negro American Writers (1935). He died in 1939.

Orde M. Coombs, 1939-1984

Orde M. Coombs, born in St. Vincent, West Indies, in 1939, was a black writer and editor. After receiving his B.A. degree from Yale University in 1965 and a M.A. degree from New York University in 1971, he worked as an editor for Doubleday & Company and later for McCall Publishing Company. In addition to editing, he produced documentaries detailing West Indian culture, was an adjunct professor at New York University, and was a co-host for "Black Conversations," a talk show for WPIX-TV in 1975.

Orde Coombs wrote several books of nonfiction, including Do You See My Love for You Growing? (1972), Drums of Life (1974, with Chester Higgins, Jr.), Sleep Late With Your Dreams (1977), and Some Time Ago, A Historical Portrait of Black Americans from 1850-1950 (1980, with Chester Higgins, Jr.). He edited two anthologies published by Dodd, Mead, We Speak as Liberators: Young Black Poets (1970) and What We Must See: Young Black Storytellers (1971). In 1974 he edited Is Massa Day Dead? Black Moods in the Caribbean (1974) for publication by Doubleday. He died on September 1, 1984.

Alice Moore Dunbar-Nelson, 1875-1935

Alice Moore Dunbar-Nelson, born on July 19, 1875, in New Orleans, Louisiana, received a teaching degree from Straight University in 1892. She taught in New Orleans until she moved to Brooklyn, New York in 1897. Her first book, Violets and Other Tales, a collection of stories, was published in 1895. In 1898 she married the poet, Paul Laurence Dunbar, and moved to Washington, D.C. The marriage ended in 1902 with a legal separation. Paul Laurence Dunbar died in 1906.

From 1902-1920 Alice Dunbar was a teacher and administrator at Howard High School in Wilmington, Delaware. In 1916 Alice Dunbar married Robert J. Nelson, a journalist, politician, and civil rights activist. Dunbar-Nelson was active in Delaware and regional politics, civil rights issues, and the women's suffrage movement.

From 1920-1922, she and Robert Nelson edited and published the Wilmington Advocate, a progressive Black newspaper. Alice Dunbar-Nelson became a highly successful journalist, writing a syndicated column, and contributing reviews and essays to newspapers, magazines, and academic journals. She also continued to write stories, poems, plays, and novels until her death in 1935. Much of her work remains unpublished.

Paul Laurence Dunbar, 1872-1906

Paul Laurence Dunbar, born in Dayton, Ohio, on June 27, 1872, graduated from Steele High School in 1891. His first book of poetry, Oak and Ivy, was published in 1892 by the United Brethren Publishing House in Dayton. His second book of poetry, Majors and Minors (1895), was favorably reviewed by William Dean Howells in Harpers Magazine in 1895. This review introduced Dunbar's work to a larger audience and increased the demand for speaking engagements for Dunbar.

Much of his work, including Lyrics of a Lowly Life (1896) and his first novel, The Uncalled (1898), was published by Dodd, Mead. Dunbar's frail health deteriorated in the early 1900s and on February 6, 1906, he died at the age of 34.

Langston Hughes, 1902-1967

Langston Hughes, born in Joplin, Missouri, on February 1, 1902, became a chronicler of Negro life in America. He began writing poetry while at Central High School in Cleveland, becoming the class poet. He graduated from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania in 1929.

Between The Weary Blues (1926), his first book of poems, and The Panther and the Lash, published in 1967, he wrote over thirty books. In addition to poetry he wrote plays, short stories, novels, newspaper columns, translations, anthologies, television scripts, and even opera librettos. Dodd, Mead published several anthologies by Hughes, including Famous Negro Music Makers (1955), Famous American Negroes (1954), The Book of Negro Humor (1966), Book of Harlem (1958), and The Book of Negro Folklore (1958, with Arna Bontemps). Mr. Hughes died in 1967.

Raoul Abdul, 1929-

Raoul Abdul, born November 7, 1929, in Cleveland, Ohio, received a diploma from the Vienna Academy of Music in 1962. He also studied at Harvard University (1966), the New School for Social Research, the Cleveland Institute of Music, New York College of Music, and Mannes College of Music. As a concert and opera singer, he has performed in festivals and on tour. His writing has included his column, "The Cultural Scene," for Associated Negro Press and his work as cultural editor for New York Age. Dodd, Mead has published his 3000 Years of Black Poetry (1970, with Alan Lomax), The Magic of Black Poetry (1972), Blacks in Classical Music (1977), and Famous Black Entertainers of Today (1974).

Alan Lomax, 1915-

Alan Lomax, born January 31, 1915, in Austin, Texas, graduated with a B.A. from the University of Texas in 1936. He worked at the Library of Congress as an assistant in charge of the archives of American folk music (1937-42), as host of the "Well-Springs of America" radio show (1939-1944), as a producer and writer for the British Broadcasting Corporation (1950-1958), and as a research associate in the Department of Anthropology (1961-?) at Columbia University in New York.

He has written a number of books on American music with his father, John Avery Lomax, including American Ballads and Folk Songs (1934), Our Singing Country (1938), and Cowboy Songs (1937). Dodd, Mead published 3000 Years of Black Poetry which Lomax co-edited with Raoul Abdul.


Evory, Ann (ed.). Contemporary Authors. First Revision, Volume 29-32. Detroit: Gale Research Co., 1978. pp. 10-11.

Evory, Ann (ed.). Contemporary Authors. New Revision Series, Volume 1. Detroit: Gale Research Co., 1981. pp. 389-390.

Fuller, Sara S. The Paul Laurence Dunbar Collection: An Inventory to the Microfilm Edition. Columbus, Ohio: Ohio Historical Society, 1972. pp. 14-17.

May, Hal and Deborah A. Straub (eds.). Contemporary Authors. New Revision Series, Volume 25. Detroit: Gale Research Co., 1989. p. 81.

Murray, Tim. "Biographical Note." Alice Dunbar-Nelson Papers. Newark, Delaware: University of Delaware Library, 1991.

pp. 1-3. "Arna Bontemps, Writer, 70, Dies." The New York Times. June 6, 1973.

"Langston Hughes Called Fighter for Human Dignity." The New York Times. May 24, 1967. p. 32.

Scope and Contents Note

The Dodd, Mead and Company Archive consists of two linear feet of material, spanning the dates 1896-1974. The archive is comprised of correspondence, contracts, photographs, wills, probate documents, biographies, drafts, notes, copyright documents, poems, printed programs, ephemera, and clippings. This selection of the company files details the business arrangements between the publisher and various Black American authors.

Authors included in this collection are Arna Wendell Bontemps, Benjamin Brawley, Orde Coombs, Alice Moore Dunbar-Nelson, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Langston Hughes, Alan Lomax, and Raoul Abdul. The files for Bontemps, Coombs, Lomax, and Abdul consist primarily of the permission correspondence and other material related to the various anthologies which these writers compiled and edited for Dodd, Mead.

The Benjamin Brawley and Paul Laurence Dunbar files consists of contracts, correspondence, and copyright documents related to books published for these authors by Dodd, Mead. In the case of Paul Laurence Dunbar, the files include correspondence with various successors to Dunbar's literary estate as well as three poems written by Dunbar.

The Alice Dunbar-Nelson material is limited to documents related to her book, The Goodness of St. Roque and Other Stories and letters concerning the estate of her husband, Paul Laurence Dunbar.

These files provide insight into the publication process of the several anthologies and books included in this archive. From their correspondence with the editors and from the biographies which they contributed for the anthologies, insights about various Black poets and writers can be gained. In addition, the collection includes publicity files for Arna Bontemps and Langston Hughes which provide information about and photographs of the two writers.

The sections of the collection related to Paul Laurence Dunbar detail his publication and financial arrangements with Dodd, Mead through contracts and correspondence. The files also contain documents of copyright for various Dunbar books and information about the expiration of copyright for several items. There is also included significant correspondence regarding the succession of the Dunbar literary estate from the time of his death through the 1960s when Pauline Young (niece of Alice Dunbar-Nelson) was a recipient of royalties.

Arrangement Note

The arrangement of the Dodd Mead Archive reflects the order of the collection upon its acquistion, which was organized by author. Consequently seven series were created arranged alphabetically by name of the authors: Arna Bontemps, Benjamin Brawley, Orde Coombs, Alice Dunbar-Nelson, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Langston Hughes, and Alan Lomax (with Raoul Abdul). Within each of the seven series, material is arranged alphabetically by book titles. When biographical material or publicity files for a particular author are present, this material is placed at the end of a series.

The Paul Laurence Dunbar series is more complex and has been divided into four subseries. This first subseries consists of three original typescript poems written by Paul Laurence Dunbar. The second subseries consists of material related to particular books written by Dunbar. Within this subseries the arrangement is alphabetical by book title. The third subseries consists of material related to publications, motion pictures, recordings, plagiarism, or performances based on Dunbar's writings. This subseries is arranged alphabetically by title of the project. The fourth subseries consists of material documenting the succession of the literary estate of Paul Laurence Dunbar.

Series Outline

 I.   Arna Wendell Bontemps, 1957-1974                        

     1.  Autobiography [untitled], 1966                      
     2.  The Book of Negro Folklore, 1957-1959               
     3.  The Book of Negro Folklore, 1968-1969               
     4.  The Harlem Renaissance Remembered, 1972             
     5.  "Negroes Who Changed the American Cultural
         Image," 1964                                        
     6.  The Old South, 1972                                 
     7.  100 Years of Negro Freedom, 1957-1961               
     8.  Arna Bontemps Remembered, 1973                      
     9.  Arna Bontemps Publicity File, 1961-1974             

II.  Benjamin Brawley, 1917-1969                             

III. Orde Coombs, 1969-1971                                  

     1.  We Speak As Liberators: Young Black Poets,
     2.  What We Must See: Young Black Storytellers,

IV.  Alice Moore Dunbar-Nelson, 1899                         

V.   Paul Laurence Dunbar, 1896-1969                         

     1.  Poetry written by Dunbar, n.d.                      
     2.  Contracts, correspondence and copyright documents
         for works written by Dunbar, 1896-1958              
     3.  Contracts and correspondence related to published
         works, motion pictures, recordings or performances
         based on the writings of Dunbar, 1907-1969          
     4.  Wills, letters testamentary, certificates of
         probate court, and correspondence documenting
         the estate of Dunbar and the successors to that
         estate, 1903-1965                                   

VI.  Langston Hughes, 1936-1985                              

     1.  Book of Harlem, 1957                                
     2.  The Book of Negro Humor, 1965-1966                  
     3.  Famous American Negroes, 1952-1961                  
     4.  Famous Negro Music Makers, 1954-55, 1985            
     5.  Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington,
     6.  Publicity file for Langston Hughes, 1936-1969       

VII. Alan Lomax & Raoul Abdul, 3000 Years of Black Poetry,

     1.  Contract, 1969                                      
     2.  Permission Files, 1969-1971                         

Appendix.  List of books removed and cataloged for Special

+Contents List
+ Return to List of Manuscript Finding Aids by Title

This page is maintained by Special Collections
Last modified: 01/19/11
  • UD Library Special Collections  •   181 South College Avenue  •   Newark, DE 19717-5267  •   USA
    Phone: USA +1 302-831-2229  •   ©2014