A publisher's hand: Strategic gambles and cultural leadership by Moses Dresser Phillips in Antebellum America
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
This study examines the life and business career of Moses Dresser Phillips (1813--1859), an important, but previously neglected, member of the Antebellum literary marketplace. If mentioned in discussions of Antebellum publishing at all, Moses Dresser Phillips is usually noted for choosing to create the Atlantic Monthly, one of his most distinguished achievements, or for deciding not to publish Uncle Tom's Cabin, one of his most costly errors. Although one of the most powerful figures in the literary marketplace, Phillips died in 1859 at age forty-six. Life dealt him a short tenure as a result of the stress caused by the Panic of 1857, an event over which he could play no controlling hand.;Phillips prepared himself well for an undertaking such as the Atlantic Monthly, having utilized personal and professional networks, listened to consumers through market offering and response, advertised widely, learned lessons, and exerted leadership on the important issue of slavery. A study of Moses Dresser Phillips not only reveals the powerful presence and enterprising strategies of this wise man, but also corrects the misconception that the intended and actual audiences for his Atlantic were simply highbrow in nature. Instead, the Atlantic Monthly was designed to attract and to provide leadership on "Literature, Art and Politics" for the constantly expanding wide audience of readers familiar with the Phillips, Sampson and Company imprint.;Chapter One of traces the life and influences on Phillips from his rural childhood through his early years as a bookseller and publisher in Worcester, Massachusetts. Chapter Two explores the creation and establishment of his new Boston firm, Phillips and Sampson. This chapter examines the young firm's means of self-promotion, its attention to new markets, such as the California gold miners, and the importance of celebrated figures, such as Edward Everett Hale and Ralph Waldo Emerson, who became involved with the firm through personal networks. Chapter Three is a synchronic study of one year, when, through wise choices and aggressive advertising, Phillips, Sampson and Company was frequently noticed in periodicals. Chapter Four studies the period from 1851 to 1856 when the Boston firm became a major force in the publishing world. This chapter explains why Phillips, Sampson and Company did not publish Uncle Tom's Cabin, and how this error transformed the firm into a supporter of the antislavery cause. Chapter Four also discusses the firm's choices and recruitment of important authors and analyzes the rhetoric of its advertisements. Chapter Five discusses the years 1857 to 1859, a time when Moses Dresser Phillips, wise with experience from years of dialogue with his audience, decided to exert leadership by beginning a periodical that was eventually named Atlantic Monthly.
© The Author
McMaster, MaryKate, "A publisher's hand: Strategic gambles and cultural leadership by Moses Dresser Phillips in Antebellum America" (2001). Dissertations, Theses, and Masters Projects. William & Mary. Paper 1539623386.