AbeBooks: The Bobbs-Merrill Journey: From Oz to America’s Kitchens: Indianapolis is rarely associated with the publishing industry but this Midwestern city gave us Bobbs-Merrill – a pioneering firm that published numerous books of importance. There was time when a Bobbs-Merrill book could be found in the vast majority of American homes.
It all began when Samuel Merrill purchased an Indianapolis bookstore and then decided to begin publishing books in 1850. Samuel died in 1855 and his son Samuel Merrill Jr. took over. He guided the company through the Civil War, and a series of name changes reflecting various business partners, including Merrill, Meigs, and Company and Bowen-Merrill Company. Finally, in 1903, the company settled on the name Bobbs-Merrill in honor of the company’s long-serving director William Conrad Bobbs.
The turn of the century marked Bobbs-Merrill’s transformation from small press to publishing powerhouse. This rapid growth came with the printing of several works by fantasy writer L. Frank Baum whose 1900 book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and its many sequels, became ingrained in American culture. In addition to early Baum works, Bobbs-Merrill published James Whitcomb Riley, Ayn Rand, Richard Halliburton, and the 1929 Pulitzer-winning novel Scarlet Sister Mary by Julia Peterkin.