Cincinnati’s Semi-Colon Club; Literary Group

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Charles Dickens stopped by the Semi-Colon Club on his visit to American in 1842. Many celebrated literary figures belonged, including the Lyman Beecher family.

Nobody really knows when the Semi-Colon Club was formed, but the general view is that it was around 1829. Cincinnati was a far-away western destination in those days, and many went west for excitement and adventure. A few of the old residents got together and with the input of some fresh faces (and intellects) from the east they started a literary group which held regular meetings. Some of the members are still remembered today.

Nathan Guilford

The first superintendent of schools in Cincinnati, Guilford, an attorney, also advocated a property tax and served on the committee for common schools in America. In 1829 he had published a monthly magazine, The Western Souvenir, which lasted for two years. He was a Unitarian and supported public funding for schools.

Dr. Daniel Drake and The Buckeye State

The most prestigious medical doctor in Cincinnati, Drake was an organizer of the Medical College of Ohio in Cincinnati,1827, and in the same year edited the Western Journal of the Medical and Physical Sciences. In 1846 he and other members of the Ohio Medical group founded the Ohio State Medical Society. He had a large home at 429 East Third Street, was a founding member of Christ Church, Cincinnati, and coined the term ‘buckeye’ for the state of Ohio. He was the doctor for the Lyman Beecher family.

Salmon P.Chase

Chase was a native of Hanover, New Hampshire and was left fatherless at the age of nine. He removed to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he became the United States senator from Ohio as well as governor, he became, after 1935, an anti-slavery advocate. He later became United States Treasury Secretary under Abraham Lincoln, and Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

Lyman Beecher, Harriet Beecher Stowe

Lyman and his daughter Harriet, had moved to Cincinnati so he could “win the west for protestantism.” He took the position of President of Lane Seminary and preacher at the Second Presbyterian Church of Cincinnati. He did not fare too well, losing a battle with pro abolition students which decimated Lane. Harriet taught in Cincinnati and the house that Lyman and his second wife Harriet lived in is now called the Harriet Beecher Stowe House and is open to visitors.

Other notable members were John and Samuel Foote (Beecher relatives); Judge Timothy Walker, founder of the Cincinnati law school; Judge James Hall, editor of the Western Monthly Magazine; Dr.Elizabeth Blackwell; novelist Caroline Hentz, and Ormsby MacKnight Mitchel, superintendent of the Dudley Observatory. Charles Dickens attended the Semi-Colon Club in 1842 on a visit to America.

Sources:

  1. Ohio History Volume 73
  2. The Autobiography of Lyman Beecher ed.Barbara M.Cross Belknap Press 1961