Friday, December 31, 2010

Will W. Slater (1885-1959) as Publisher

Hymnal publishing among the Churches of Christ in the United States has typically been undertaken either by the major periodicals (once upon a time, it was dominated by Gospel Advocate east of the Mississippi and Firm Foundation west of the Mississippi), or by individual efforts that caught on and generated a series of publications, such as Great Songs of the Church (Elmer L. Jorgenson), Sacred Selections (Ellis J. Crum), and Songs of the Church (Alton Howard).

Few individuals within the Churches of Christ, however, published as many hymnals and song collections as William Washington Slater (1885-1959), best known as the writer of "Walking alone at eve."(PFTL #716) His publishing career is even more interesting because of the region in which he spent most of his career, western Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma; all of the publishers mentioned above, except for Jorgenson, emanated from the Old South. Additionally, his career is of interest because of his multifaceted approach to the music business, embracing a music "normal" (teacher education school) in addition to singing schools, songwriting, and hymnal publishing. I have collected a bibliography of his publications that may be viewed at Worldcat.org which gives a catalog description of each and tells what libraries own them. In the rest of this post I will try to coordinate what I found in this list with what I have been able to find about Slater's biography.

Slater and the Eureka Publishing Company, 1906-1922

Slater was born near Ozark, Arkansas, about 40 miles east of Fort Smith and the Oklahoma border (right off today's Interstate 40). Around 1890 the Slater family moved about 25 miles east of Fort Smith to Sallisaw in Indian Territory (today Oklahoma). He was baptized into Christ at age 16, and soon committed himself to serving the church through both music and preaching. In 1906 he began an association that would prove to be a landmark in his career: he joined Stephen Jesse Oslin in Stigler, Oklahoma, about 30 miles southwest of Sallisaw.(Harp, "Slater")

Oslin was a Methodist minister with a seemingly limitless energy; he edited the local newspaper, the Eureka Messenger, founded the Eureka Music Normal and Eureka Publishing Company, wrote numerous gospel songs, and published several collections of hymns.(Cyberhymnal) The 1905 date given by Cyberhymnal for the founding of the "Eureka" business enterprises may refer to their establishment at Stigler, Oklahoma, but a search of WorldCat.org reveals the gospel songbook Eureka Echoes published by the Eureka Publishing Company as early as 1903, with the location given as "South McAlester, I.T." Prior to 1906, the city of McAlester, located nearer the center of the southeast quadrant of present-day Oklahoma, was two separate communities, McAlester and South McAlester.("McAlester") One of the Eureka songbooks is online at Google books: http://books.google.com/books?id=gQAwAQAAIAAJ.

In a letter written on company letterhead, dated 15 December 1912, Slater is titled the "co-principal [of the Eureka Normal School of Music], a member of the board of directors and representing the Eureka Publishing Co., Stigler, Okla." Slater's duties with Oslin's company included teaching 18-day singing schools, music teacher normals, and even primary school sessions.(Slater 1912) In an advertisement for a singing school, held in 1912 or later, Slater is called "teacher, writer and author for the Eureka Publishing Company." It was around this time, as well, that he began his preaching career.(Harp, "Slater") My grandmother, Oma (Thatcher) Hamrick, born in 1901 in the same area of Arkansas as Slater, and later living in the same area of Oklahoma, remembered him as a well-known songleader and singing-school teacher.

In 1914, Eureka published The gospel of Christ in song, with Will Slater as the sole author. In 1916 he was co-editor with a group including Oslin and Frank Grammer, another songwriter from the Churches of Christ with whom Slater would work again. I have been unable to discover when the Eureka Publishing Company ceased operation. There was a legal dispute in 1916 with the First National Bank of Stigler over a promissary note in the amount of $1,012.50, which the Eureka Publishing Company contended had been drawn by its treasurer without the authority of the president and secretary.(Banking Law Journal) It is unclear what effect this had on the company. In 1918 Slater moved to Fort Smith, Arkansas, where he would remain many years.(Harp, "Slater") There are a few hymnals from 1921-1922 under the Eureka Publishing Company imprint from Mena, Arkansas (about 80 miles south of Fort Smith, along the Arkansas-Oklahoma border), suggesting some change in operations; I have found no further publications from the company past this date .

  • Slater, Will W. The Gospel of Christ in song. Little Rock, Ark: Christian Pilot Pub. Co.; Stigler, Okla.: Eureka Pub. Co., 1914. 122 hymns.
  • Slater, Will W., Cole, J. A., Grammer, Frank, & Oslin, Stephen Jesse. The Christian hymnal. Stigler, Okla.: The Eureka Publishing Co., 1916. 136(?) hymns.
  • Oslin, Stephen Jesse, Grammer, Frank, and Slater, Will W. Eureka sacred carols: for use in all religious gatherings. Mena, Ark.: Eureka Music Co., 1921. 157 hymns.
  • Manly, Loren, and Slater, Will W. The Eureka glory songs : an excellent collection of sacred songs, for Sunday schools, revival meetings and all church work and worship. Mena, Ark.: Eureka Music Co., 1921.
  • Oslin, Stephen Jesse, Riley, J. C., and Slater, Will W. The Eureka golden melodies : an unexcelled collection of sacred songs, for sunday schools and all church work and worship. Mena, Ark: Eureka Music Co., 1922.

Interlude in Oklahoma, 1925-26

In 1925 Slater joined with Frank Grammer and Eugene M. Borden in editing Herald of Song, no. 1 (not to be confused with the music magazine published by Eugene M. Bartlett) for Borden's Herald of Truth periodical in Oklahoma City (unrelated to the later radio/television program of the same name). This collaboration with Borden, an important evangelist in the Churches of Christ in that region, was followed the publication of Borden's Spiritual melodies by "Mrs. Will W. Slater" in 1926. This imprint was from Elk City, Oklahoma, a town at the western end of the state (about 50 miles east of the Texas panhandle, along present-day Interstate 40). Also in 1926, Slater began serving as the "located preacher" for the Church of Christ in Bartlesville, Oklahoma.(Adams Blvd.)

  • Borden, Eugene M., Slater, Will W., & Grammer, Frank. Herald of song, no. 1. Oklahoma City, Okla: Herald of Truth Association, 1925. 164 hymns.
  • Borden, Eugene M. Spiritual melodies. Elk City, Okla.: Mrs. Will W. Slater, 1926.

The Slater Music Company (Fort Smith, Arkansas), 1929-1938

Slater founded his own publishing concern in Fort Smith, the Slater Music Company. Worldcat.org reveals eight publications under this imprint from 1929-1936, and another five dating from 1936-1938 simply published by "W. W. Slater." It is unclear why the "Slater Music Company" imprint ceased to appear after 1936; but while the 1938 city directory of Fort Smith shows that the Slater family lived at 810 South 14th (with Will's occupation listed as "evangelist"), there is no business listing of Slater as a music teacher or publisher.(Calvert, 443) There was also apparently some hiatus in his residence at Fort Smith, since the 1930 U.S. Census shows Slater in Texarkana, Arkansas.

A few of the hymnals from this period also bear the imprint "Christian Worker Publishing Co., Wichita, Kansas." The Christian Worker periodical was at that time edited by Homer E. Moore,(Harp, "Moore") and is one of the longest-lived publications among the Churches of Christ in the U.S.; my father, Bill Hamrick, edited this paper for about two years in the 1980s. Among Slater's collaborators during these years in Fort Smith were Frank Grammer and Flavil Hall from Georgia and Walter E. Howell from Tennessee.

  • Slater, Will W. Hymns of love: A superior collection of sacred songs covering every phase of church work, young people's meetings, class and singing societies. Fort Smith, Ark: Slater Music Co., 1929. 190 hymns.
  • Slater, Will W. Church and revival songs: A superior collection of gospel songs for use in Sunday schools, church worship and revival meetings. Fort Smith, Ark: Slater Music Co.; Wichita, Kan.: Christian Worker Pub. Co, 1931.
  • Slater, Will W. Praise him in song. Fort Smith, Ark: Slater Music Co., 1932. 180(?) hymns.
  • Slater, Will W. Work and worship: An all-purpose book, suitable for church worship, revivals, young people's meetings, and every phase of religious services. Fort Smith, Ark: Slater Music Co.; Wichita, Kan.: Christian Worker Pub. Co., 1933.
  • Slater, Will W. Song evangel: A superior collection of spiritual songs and hymns for use in Sunday schools, church worship and revival meetings. Fort Smith, Ark: Slater Music Co., 1934. 96(?) hymns.
  • Slater, Will W. Gospel chimes: An all-purpose book, containing a superior collection of sacred songs, suitable for church worship, revivals, young people's meetings and every phase of religious service. Fort Smith, Ark: Slater Music Co., 1934. 196(?) hymns.
  • Slater, Will W., Gaines, J. W., & Grammer, Frank. Songs of praise and devotion: A superior collection of sacred songs. Fort Smith, Ark: Slater Music Co., 1936. 199 hymns.
  • Oslin, Stephen Jesse, et al. The eureka sunlight glees: for use in singing schools, literary schools, conventions and musical societies ; containing an excellent and varied collection of sacred and secular songs. Fort Smith, Ark.: Slater Music Co., 1904. [Note: This is almost certainly a reprint of the work published by the Eureka Publishing Company in 1904.]
  • Slater, Will W. Triumphant songs: A superior collection of spiritual songs and hymns for use in bible schools, church worship and revival meetings. Fort Smith, Ark: W. W. Slater., 1936.
  • Slater, Will W. Service songs: A collection of sacred songs, both new and old, suitable for every phase of Christian work and worship. Fort Smith, Ark: Slater, 1937. 195 hymns.
  • Slater, Will W., Payne, Johnie., & Hall, Flavil. The church hymnal: A selection of sacred songs suitable for every phase of church work and worship. Fort Smith, Ark: W.W. Slater, 1938. 241 hymns.
  • Slater, Will W. Songs we love: A collection of sacred songs, both new and old, for Christian worship. Fort Smith, Ark: Will W. Slater, 1938. 191 hymns.
  • Howell, Walter E., & Slater, Will W. New songs of praise: A superior collection of sacred songs, both new and old, suitable for every phase of church work and worship. Fort Smith, Ark: Will W. Slater, publisher, n.d. 189 hymns. [Note: I am placing this here because it matches the “Will W. Slater” imprint found in his publications from Fort Smith, ca. 1937-1938. The title might refer to the 1936 Songs of praise.]

Another Oklahoma Interlude, 1939-1941

From 1939-1941 Slater's hymnals were published from Henryetta, Oklahoma, a town about midway between Fort Smith, Arkansas, and Oklahoma City (along present-day Interstate 40). Among his collaborators during this period was Rue Porter, one of the most important evangelists among the Churches of Christ in the Oklahoma-Missouri-Arkansas area.

  • Slater, Will W., & McCord, Earl E. Victory songs: A collection of sacred songs, both new and old, suitable for Christian work and worship. Henryetta, Okla: W.W. Slater, 1939. 196 hymns.
  • Slater, Will W. Praise and revival songs: A superior collection of spiritual songs and hymns for use in Bible schools, church worship and revival meetings. Henryetta, Okla: Will W. Slater, 1940. 111 hymns.
  • Slater, Will W. Songs of truth: A collection of sacred songs, both old and new. Henryetta, Ok: Will W. Slater, 1940. 193 hymns.
  • Slater, Will W. Choice Gospel melodies. Henryetta, Okla: Slater, 1940. 222 hymns.
  • Porter, Rue, & Slater, Will W. Crowning praise no. 2: A selection of sacred songs, both old and new, suitable for every phase of church work and worship. Henryetta, Okla: Will W. Slater, 1941. 194 hymns. [Note: Crowning praise “no. 1” has not yet been found.]

Fort Smith and Fort Worth, 1942-1948

Slater's publications from 1942 to 1948 bear imprints from either Fort Smith, Arkansas, or Fort Worth, Texas, but it is unclear whether he lived in one of these cities, or managed his business from Henryetta, Oklahoma. He had a Fort Worth address by 1950,(Gospel Guardian, 1950) but once again his whereabouts are unclear; he also had a post office box in Hydro, Oklahoma (west of Oklahoma City along Interstate 40, about halfway to the Texas panhandle).(Gospel Guardian, 1953)

  • Oslin, Stephen Jesse. The Eureka harmony method. Fort Worth, Tex.: Will W. Slater, 1922? 96 p. [Note: The cataloger questioned the date, and this is probably a reprint. I am suggesting that it may have been published much later since Slater did not publish under his own name until the late 1920s, and not from Fort Worth until much later.]
  • Slater, Will W. Hymns of praise: A selection of sacred songs for every phase of church work and worship. Fort Smith, Arkansas: Will W. Slater, 1942. 229 hymns.
  • Wallace, E. E., & Slater, Will W. Gospel tidings: A superior collection of sacred songs, both new and old, suitable for every phase of church work and worship. Fort Smith, Ark: Will W. Slater, 1944. 189 hymns.
  • Slater, Will W. Gospel songs and hymns: A superior selection of sacred songs suitable for every phase of church work and worship. Fort Worth, Tex; Fort Smith, Ark.: W.W. Slater, 1944. 302 hymns.
  • Slater, Will W. Song evangel no. 2: a selection of gospel songs and hymns especially suited for revival meetings and Lord's day worship. Fort Smith, Ark: Will W. Slater, 1944. 111 hymns.
  • Slater, Will W. Songs of joy and gladness: A collection of sacred songs, both new and old, suitable for every phase of church work and worship. Fort Smith, Ark: Will W. Slater, 1948. 188 hymns.
  • Slater, Will W. The Church hymnal no 2: A gospel hymnal suitable for every phase of church work and worship. Fort Worth, Tex: W.W. Slater, 1948. 236 hymns.

Fort Worth, Texas, 1949-1958

From 1949 to the end of his life, Slater's hymnals bear a Fort Worth, Texas imprint. Several times they also bear the imprint of "James L. Neal, Springdale, Arkansas." Springdale is between Rogers and Fayetteville in the northwest corner of Arkansas; perhaps the arrangement with Neal took the place of Slater's publishing interests in Fort Smith. Neal was the publisher of a periodical, The Gospel Age.(Halbrook)

  • Oslin, Stephen Jesse, J., Slater, Will W., & Brumley, Albert E. The Eureka sunlight glees: a complete treatise on the rudiments of music. Fort Worth, Tex: Will W. Slater, 1949. 64 p. & music. [Note: reprint of an earlier work.]
  • Slater, Will W. The crown: A collection of sacred songs, both new and old, suitable for every phase of church work and worship, young peoples meetings and singing schools. Fort Worth, Texas: Will W. Slater and Son, 1949. 188 hymns.
  • Slater, Will W. Songs we love no. 2: A collection of sacred songs, both new and old, for Christian worship. Fort Worth, Tex: Will W. Slater; Springdale, Ark.: James L. Neal, 1950. (188 hymns)
  • Slater, Will W. Songs we love, no. 2: A collection of sacred songs, both new and old, suitable for every phase of church work and worship, young peoples meetings and singing schools. Fort Worth, Tex: Will W. Slater; Springdale, Ark.: James L. Neal, 1950. (192 hymns)
  • Slater, Will W. Spiritual melody songs: A collection of sacred songs, both new and old, suitable for every phase of church work and worship, young peoples meetings and singing schools. Springdale, Ark.: James L. Neal, 1951. 188 hymns.
  • In Slater, Will W. Joyful praise: A collection of sacred songs, both new and old, suitable for every phase of church work and worship, young peoples meetings and singing schools. Fort Worth, Tex: W. W. Slater; Springdale, Ark. : James L. Neal, 1952. 193 hymns.
  • Slater, Will W., Neal, James L., & Slater, Graden. Hymns of praise and devotion: A Gospel hymnal suitable for every phase of church work and worship. Fort Worth, Texas: Will W. Slater; Springdale, Arkansas : James L. Neal, 1952. 302 hymns. [Note: Graden Slater was Will Slater’s brother.]
  • Slater, Will W. Sacred praise: A gospel hymnal suitable for every phase of church work and worship. Fort Worth, Tex: Will W. Slater, 1955. 240 hymns.
  • Slater, Will W. Charming bells: our 1956 all-purpose book. Fort Worth, Tex: W.W. Slater, 1956. 192(?) hymns.
  • Slater, Will W. Gospel melody songs: our 1957-58 all-purpose book. Fort Worth, Tex: Will W. Slater, 1958.

I hope that this can at least serve as a starting point for understanding the career and contributions of this busy, prolific Christian man. Though none of his songbooks achieved the kind of multi-generational legacy found by a few of their better-known competitors, he was a tireless proponent of the service of singing for God's glory.

References:

Harp, Scott. "Will. W. Slater." Restoration historyhttp://www.therestorationmovement.com/slater,ww.htm.

"Stephen Jesse Oslin." Cyberhymnal. http://www.hymntime.com/tch/bio/o/s/l/oslin_sj.htm

"McAlester." Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture.
http://digital.library.okstate.edu/encyclopedia/entries/M/MC001.html

Slater, Will W. Letter to T. B. Larimore, 15 December 1912. T. B. Larimore Collection, box 1, Dixieland College material. Abilene Christian University Center for Restoration Studies. http://www.bible.acu.edu/crs/ItemDetail.asp?Bookmark=1056

"Note not executed in accordance with corporate by-laws." Banking Law Journal 33 (1916), 743-745. http://books.google.com/books?id=yX5MAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA743

Harp, Scott. "Homer E. Moore." Restoration historyhttp://www.therestorationmovement.com/moore,he.htm

Calvert's Fort Smith city directory, 1938. Dallas, Texas: Polk, 1938.

"History." Adams Blvd. Church of Christ. http://www.adamsblvd.org/history.htm

"News." The Gospel Guardian 2/18 (7 September 1950). http://www.wordsfitlyspoken.org/gospel_guardian/v2/v2n18p16.html

"News." The Gospel Guardian 4/50 (23 April, 1953).
http://www.wordsfitlyspoken.org/gospel_guardian/v4/v4n50p14.html

Halbrook, Ron. "Theron N. and Lennis Bohannon honored." Truth Magazinehttp://www.truthmagazine.com/archives/volume30/GOT030174.html

9 comments:

  1. Hi, I am Will's grandson and enjoyed this article very much. Thanks for writing and posting it.

    David Slater
    Nashville

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  2. David, I think we met in Nashville several years ago, when I taught music history/theory at Lipscomb. Thanks for reading, and I'm glad you liked it. My grandmother was from that northwest Arkansas/northeast Oklahoma area, and remembered fondly the times when Will Slater led singing at gospel meetings and other events.

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  3. Hi David - my own ancestry search has led me to you. I am the great-nephew of a gentleman named G. C. (Grover Cleveland) Adams. Allegedly he was published in: Eureka-Soul Winner (Collection of Sacred Songs for Religious Gatherings) Copyright 1916, Eureka Normal School of Music, Est. 1886, Incorporated 1912. The title of his work was "We'll Understand it All By and By." He also allegedly taught at the Eureka Normal School. I did not find "Eureka-Soul Winner" in the Worldcat Bibliography, nor do I see it listed in your Blog above. Does any of this ring any bells with you? Does the song title "We'll Understand it All By and By" appear in any of the other hymnals you mention?

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    Replies
    1. Fred, Sorry to take so long responding. I have had trouble with spammers and have set the comments to come to me before they post, which means they are delayed until I get a chance to look at them. I can't find the "Eureka Soul Winner" in my notes, but there is a G.C. Adams song in this book:

      http://hdl.handle.net/2027/uc1.32106001350120

      It's no. 110. There may be more that I missed. Thanks for reading, and good luck with your search. I hope to get up to Mena, Arkansas this summer, maybe I will find out more then.

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  4. Awesome! This song you're sharing is a song our family didn't know about!

    But, bummer about not finding "Eureka - Soul Winner." Here's the deal: G.C. Adams held the copyright of a song entitled "We'll Understand it All By and By," that again, was allegedly published in the priviously mentioned "Eureka" songbook.

    According to family lore, it was written in 1905, and copyrighted in 1916. The song opens with, "Tempted and tried we often do wonder, Why it should be thus all the day long; While there are others living about us, Never molested tho living wrong." etc. - and then the chorus goes: "Further along we'll know all about it, Further along we'll understand why; Cheer up my brother, live in the sunshine, We'll understand it all by and by."

    And if you're familiar with the song, "Farther Along," copyrighted in 1937 by Stamps-Baxter Music Co., then you realize this is the missing link in the history of that song!!!

    "We'll Understand it All By and By," was allegedly also published in a songbook entitled, "Gems of Praise" from the Western Music Co., Box 745, Ada, Oklahoma in 1924. (I have a copy of the sheet-music from a page from this book - but not the book itself.) The really interesting things are: The first two verses of the two different titles are virtually identical. The chorus is identical except for "Further" vs. "Farther." And last, but by no means, least, the melody is completely different!

    I would love to get my hands on one of these hymnals that would prove this history. Do you have any ideas on how I might find them?

    I will also be happy to send you .pdfs of what I have for your perusal.

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  5. Fred,

    This might be what you are looking for:
    http://ifphc.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=research.showArchiveDetails&ArchiveGUID=0f3c9dc4-a1b8-42f7-b63c-98d50103647a

    I wondered about a possible relationship between those songs! Wouldn't be the first time an earlier song was passed around by word of mouth, and people forgot who wrote it.

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  6. Hi my name is Sheri and i have The Church Hymnal number two and it's copyright is 1948 compiled and edited by Will W Slater can you tell me more about this book Thanks

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  7. Hi my name is Sheri and i have The Church Hymnal number two compiled and edited by Will W Slater copyright is 1948 can you tell me more about this book Thanks

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  8. Hello my name is Jeff. After cleaning out my parents home recently I found "The Crown" published and sold by Will W. Slater and son, Publishers, Sylvania Station, Fort Worth 11, Texas. It was copyrighted in 1949. My parents have been members of the Church of Christ for over 70 years so it was not a surprise to find this book. Going through it I have found a few songs that I like. I have searched for more information about them but have found nothing. The one in particular is "Won't you come?" written by WW Slater and composed by Calvin Curtis. If anyone has information I would greatly appreciate it.

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