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Wilbur Dick Nesbit (1871-1927) Papers, 1896-1948

Identifier: MS53

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Scope and Contents

The Wilbur Dick Nesbit Papers, comprising ten boxes and an oversize folder, are arranged in four categories: biographical material, correspondence, literary works, oversize material and photographs.

The biographical material includes several "curricula vitae", clippings, obituaries, and various publications in which Nesbit's name appeared.

The correspondence is divided into seven subcategories: personal, house, clubs and organizations, advertising, investments, business and publishers'.

The personal correspondence is almost entirely family, the most interesting being that to Mrs. Nesbit from her husband shortly after their marriage.

The house correspondence is almost entirely between Nesbit and Tallmadge and Watson concerning the building of Nesbit's new house on Sheridan Road in Evanston. The magazine, "The Western Architect," has photographs of the finished structure.

The correspondence relating to clubs and organizations includes programs, poetry, and pamphlets. Material concerning Nesbit's various affiliations is arranged alphabetically by club or organization. The Forty Club and The Indiana Society have the most material.

The advertising correspondence includes copy, both printed and in draft.

The investment correspondence is limited, but includes several letters about "Girl of My Dreams" for which Nesbit wrote the lyrics.

The business correspondence mainly deals with literary rights, permission to publish, and speaking engagements. Because the filing system used by Nesbit changed, some personal and advertising business is included for the years, 1923-1927.

The correspondence with publishers is mainly comprised of a large amount of material concerning the Volland Company, including typescripts of verses and mottoes for which Volland paid Nesbit royalties. The Buzza Company and Volland Company conducted an acrimonious corresĀ­pondence with Nesbit, 1923-1925, regarding which of the two companies held an exclusive contract for his work.

The literary works are preceded by a list of his published poems, 1900-1917, made by Nesbit. His poems are in typescript, alphabetized by title, A`Y. Greeting card verses, jokes, prose pieces, drafts and correspondence relating to his After Dinner Speeches are among the literary works.

The oversize material includes a few song lyrics, poems written in memoriam, James Whitcomb Riley, a plot survey and house plans and a copy of The Western Architect, Dec., 1915, illustrating the work of Tallmadge and Watson. Finally there are many photographs of Nesbit and his family, both identified and unidentified.


  • 1896-1948


Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on use of the materials in the department for research; all patrons must comply with federal copyright regulations.

Biographical / Historical

Wilbur Dick Nesbit was a mid-western poet, newspaper columnist, humorist, toast master and advertising pioneer.

The son of John Harvey (d. 1923) and Isabel (Fichthorne) Nesbit (d. 1921), he was born in Xenia, Ohio, September 16, 1871. He attended the public schools of Cedarville, Ohio, until 1888, then worked as a printer's devil before moving to Anderson, Indiana, and the Herald in 1889. After a stint as city editor of the Muncie News, he began his advertising career with an Indianapolis clothing firm, then held various jobs at the Indianapolis Journal.

From 1899 to 1902 he was a feature writer, using the pseudonym Josh Wink, for the Baltimore American. By 1903 he had moved to Chicago where he wrote the "A Line o' Type or Two" column and a Sunday page for the Chicago Tribune. He later wrote the "Innocent Bystander" column for the Chicago Evening Post. He contributed a page per week to a syndicate and his "Sermons in Song" poems appeared in many periodicals. He published over thirty books, mainly of poetry, from 1903 to 1929, including The Trail to Boyland (Indianapolis, 1904), The Land of Make-Believe and Other Christmas Poems (New York, 1907), A Friend or Two (Chicago, [1910]), Value of a Smile (Chicago, 1913), I Sat in Lodge with You (Chicago, 1916), and The Paths of Long Ago (Chicago, 1926). He edited a book of toasts, The Loving Cup (Chicago, 1909, [7th ed.]), collaborated with the cartoonist C.A. Briggs on two books, and in 1927 published After Dinner Speeches and How to Make Them (Chicago). He composed innumerable mottoes, greeting card verses, and song lyrics, including those for the successful musical comedy "The Girl of My Dreams." He eulogized James Whitcomb Riley, whose homely and nostalgic style he emulated in his own verse. He was perhaps best known for his poem "My Flag and Yor Flag" which was published in 1917.

His literary work paralleled a career in advertising in Chicago, first with the Mahin Company in 1910, and later (c. 1916) with the Wm. H. Rankin Company as vice-president and copy staff supervisor. He wrote not only copy, but enthusiastic articles about advertising as a profession such as "The Human Appeal in Advertising." He also wrote First Principles in Advertising (New York, 1922). During World War I he was midwest publicity director of the 3rd Liberty Loans campaign.

Nesbit took an active role in many clubs, civic, and fraternal organizations, and was much in demand as a toast master and after-dinner speaker. He belonged to the Chicago Press Club, the Ohio Society, the Little Room, the Chicago Athletic Association (he edited the CAA's publication The Cherry Circle), the Arts Club, the Midday Club, the Cliff Dwellers, the Forty Club (a Bohemian dinner club of which he was president from 1908-1927), the Indiana Society, the University Club of Evanston, the Glenview Club, the Masons, and the Columbia (Indiana). For the Indiana Society, a congenial Chicago affiliation of prominent men of Hoosier birth and background, he compiled biographies of members in his book Whose Hoosier (Indianapolis, 1912), wrote and acted in the society's programs, served as its chief justice, and served as president in 1923. As a member of the society he was associated with George Ade, the writer and actor, and John T. McCutcheon, political cartoonist of the Chicago Tribune. He was a 33-degree Mason and wrote poems and articles with Masonic themes.

Nesbit married Mary Lee (Mamie) Jenkins, daughter of Dr. and Mrs. J.H. Jenkins of Shelbyville, Indiana, in 1899. Their first son, Richard, was born in 1901, in Baltimore, and their two other sons, Robert and Wilbur, in Evanston, where they lived first at 723 Colfax Street before building, in 1914, a Tallmadge and Watson house at 2501 Sheridan ROad (this house has since been moved twice and is now at 2749 Euclid Park Place). Nesbit died suddenly on August 20, 1927. Mrs. Nesbit continued to live in Evanston until 1947. She died in East Orange, New Jersey, on December 8, 1953, at age 78.


10 Boxes

1 folder

Language of Materials



Wilbur Dick Nesbit was a midwestern American poet, newspaper columnist, humorist, toast master and advertising pioneer. His papers contain biographical material, correspondence, literary works, and photographs.


The Wilbur Dick Nesbit papers are organized into: biographical material; correspondence (personal; house; clubs and organizations, in alphabetical order; advertising, in alphabetical order, plus "investments"; business, in chronological order; and publishers, arranged by company and date); literary works (poems in alphabetical order, plus miscellaneous other materials); oversize material.

Custodial History

Duplicates have been discarded, and a booklet on George Ade cataloged for Special Collections.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Unknown. Found in underground storage.

Guide to the Wilbur Dick Nesbit (1871-1927) Papers, 1896-1948
Ellen V. Howe; transcribed by Nick Munagian, 2020-04-02
December, 1981
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Library Details

Part of the Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections Repository

Deering Library, Level 3
1970 Campus Drive
Evanston IL 60208-2300 US