Saturday, May 06, 2006


I've finally finished my first last paper! It was about William Howard Doane, which I briefly mentioned below.

Doane intrigues me, as a larger-than-life person from the mid 19th century and into the Progressive Era. He was incredibly brilliant, making a huge fortune through his woodworking inventions and his business acumen. At the same time, he wrote over 2300 hymntunes, and many texts, too. He was friends with almost all the famous American hymnwriters of the day, including William Kirkpatrick, Robert Lowry, E.O. Excell, Hupert Main, Ira Sankey, Phillip Bliss, and many others. His closest working companion was Fanny Crosby, with whom he wrote the most hymns and with whom he maintained a steady correspondence. He is credited by early 20th century writers with helping to invent the American Christmas cantata, for he wrote many himself and many with Crosby, most about Santa Claus (some of my more favorite titles include Frost Queen and Santa Claus and Santa and the Fairies, both available at the Cincinnati Public Library).

My paper focused on hymns that he set with pictures of Christ in them. He had an interesting array of images, from "Safe on his gentle breast," to being "poor in spirit" like Jesus, being "gentle as a dove" like Jesus, to, conversely, "toiling on" like Christ, Christ whose "arm is our strength and shield" during battle, and Jesus as a strong leader through foes' attacks.

These latter three came from a hymnal published near the end of his career, Jubilant Voices for Sunday Schools. It seems as though Doane had views of Christ as both a gentle, loving friend, and a strong, awe-inspiring master. However, perhaps this latter came later in his life, as the Muscular Christianity movement continued and Doane continued his work with the Y.M.C.A. (he was a travelling singer for them in his younger days, and financially supported them in his later).

Doane was also a good businessman, seen by the incredible fortune he amassed and the huge amounts he gave to various charities and churches. Perhaps he used many different images to reach a wider audience, and subsequently sell more hymnals.

I think it might have been both—he did see Christ in differing lights (as many Christians have throughout time), and he was good at what he did. Is it possible to be incredibly capitalist and very pious at the same time? I think so...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Lance -

In response to your last line, about being capitalist and pious- you need to only consider the Baptist founder of Standard Oil, John D. Rockefeller.

<>< Ron Troup