Seth Kaller, Inc.

Inspired by History

Other African American History Offerings


Other Civil War and Reconstruction Offerings


Fisk University Co-Founder John Ogden Asks Merriam Publishers if the Gift of a Pictorial Dictionary Was Meant for Him or the University
Click to enlarge:
Select an image:

In this brief note, Ogden thanks the famous Springfield, Massachusetts dictionary publishers the Merriams for a gift of a copy of their Pictorial Dictionary. Ogden references one “Mr. Gamble” as having stated that the volume was intended as a personal gift, but notes that the dictionary has “the name of our institution inscribed upon, or rather in it, from which I infer you intended it for the institution.” He then asks the Merriams to “decide the quarrel.”

JOHN OGDEN. Autograph Letter Signed, to George and Charles Merriam. Nashville, Tenn., Oct. 18, 1869. 1 p., 8½ x 5¼ in. On Fisk University letterhead.

Inventory #24172.01-.02       SOLD — please inquire about other items

Historical Background

John Ogden, co-founder and first President of Fisk University, was a noted abolitionist and a pioneer in African-American education. The university was founded by Ogden and the Reverends Erastus Milo Cravath, and Edward Parmelee Smith, all members of the northern American Missionary Association. Established as the Fisk Free Colored School, the institution opened its doors in 1866, barely six months after the end of the Civil War. It was one of the first colleges for freedmen to operate in the former Confederacy, and is the oldest higher education institution of any kind in Nashville, Tennessee.

Ogden’s letter is accompanied by a printed circular describing the available courses of instruction and prices for tuition and boarding. Dated in print “Nashville, Tenn., September 9, 1869.” The circular notes that “Classes in Vocal Music, Penmanship and Gymnastics will be organized each term and taught free of charge.” The famous Jubilee Singers were organized at Fisk two years later, in 1871.


Old folds as expected, small spot of darkening, else Fine; circular with two faint fold-lines, still fresh and bright.