Moses Dresser Phillips and His World




     Moses Dresser Phillips (1813-1859) was the senior member of Phillips, Sampson and Company, a very successful Antebellum publishing firm, and the founder of The Atlantic Monthly.

     Phillips, Sampson & Company was one of the most prominent publishing firms in Antebellum America, and the firm’s fame and wide distribution network are two of the main reasons why its periodical, The Atlantic Monthly became so well known. At the 1857 founding dinner for his firm’s yet unnamed periodical, Phillips made a statement to the esteemed authors present which said, in part, “none of you, not one of you, knows what the American people like to read a well as I do.” (Edward Everett Hale has published three different versions of this quote, but this is the one that I like best) While, as Hale noted, those at the table knew that Phillips’s statement was the truth, I have read accounts of scholars over the years who have thought this to be an arrogant remark.

     This site will help to recreate Phillips's life and career, shedding light on the authors and book trade members he worked with, as well as the books his firm published. It will help to reveal what his world was like, what tough decisions he had to make, what publishing strategies he had, and what he would have known about the Antebellum literary marketplace by the day of the Atlantic Monthly dinner in 1857,

     In addition, the site will allow users to examine his publishing strategies during the aftermath of the Panic of 1857, a stressful time in the book world during which he managed to keep his firm and The Atlantic Monthly afloat.

     Unfortunately, both Charles Sampson and Moses Dresser Phillips passed away in 1859, at the ages of forty-two and forty-six. The Atlantic Monthly lived on after Phillips, its founder, died, but Phillips, Sampson and Company did not.

     This site will provide a way for users to learn about and understand an important firm which has, sadly, been forgotten. In addition, through the books that the firm published, users have a window into the social, cultural, business, and political history of the United States during the Antebellum period.

     The site has exhibitions about Moses Dresser Phillips, the authors he published and sometimes interacted with, Phillips, Sampson and Company Authors and Their Imprints, by year, and Phillips, Sampson and Company Genres. There are collections of items for the authors and the imprints.

     The content on this site is based on my dissertation and my continuing work on Moses Dresser Phillips and his Boston publishing firm, Phillips, Sampson and Company.

This is a link to the WorldCat site for my dissertation

McMaster, MaryKate
A Publisher's Hand: Strategic Gambles and Cultural Leadership by Moses Dresser Phillips in Antebellum America
(Ph.D. dissertation, College of William and Mary, 2001)
Copyright - MaryKate McMaster, 2001



This site began in Fall 2016 as part of the Introduction to Digital Humanities course in the Digital Public Humanities Certificate Program at George Mason University.

Copyright - MaryKate McMaster,  2016


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.