William H. Doane

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William Howard Doane

Birthdate: (83)
Birthplace: Preston, Connecticut
Death: 1915 (82)
Immediate Family:

Son of Joseph Doane and Frances Doane

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Immediate Family

About William H. Doane

There is scarcely a place on earth where civilization has pushed its way that the influence of Dr. Doane has not been felt...

It is one of the marvellous things of this age that the work of man, if it be meritorious, may have an influence on the whole world. If he invents a valuable tool or machine, its use is not limited to any one country. If he writes a beautiful story or song, it is translated into many languages, and its echoes go from lip to lip "the earth around."

Thus it is with the music that Dr. Doane has written; it has been carried to all lands where music is enjoyed, and translated into almost all tongues. While some of the millions who sing his music may not know his name, yet the consciousness on his part that he has added to their happiness, and furnished to their emotions wings on which are borne their praises and petitions to our common Father, should be glory enough for him. Almost any of us would be content to say, "Now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace," could we take such a view of the influences of our work.

William Howard Doane was born February 3, 1832, in Preston, Connecticut. His father was head of the firm of Doane & Treat, cotton manufacturers. At the early age of fourteen years he was the chosen leader of the choir of Woodstock Academy, a Congregational school, where he had been placed by his father. During the last year of his stay there he was converted. His mother being a Baptist, he united with that church at Norwich, Connecticut.

In 1847, he became a clerk in his father's office, and three years later engaged himself with the firm of J. A. Fay & Co., manufacturers of woodworking machinery, whose principal office was then at Norwich, Connecticut. In 1860 he became the managing partner of the firm, with headquarters in Cincinnati, where he has since resided. At the death of the senior partner, the firm became an incorporated company, of which he was made president. It is one of the most extensive businesses in its line, having connections in many of the principal mercantile centers of the world. With such large business interests in his charge it would seem remarkable that he should have gained such eminence in music. But music was in him and it must find expression. It would not be smothered, hence at every stage of his career we find it asserting itself.

He composed his first piece of music in his sixteenth year. In 1852 he was conductor of the Norwich Harmonic Society. In 1862 his first book appeared, entitled, "Sabbath School Gems," followed in 1864 by "Little Sunbeams," and in 1867 came that notable book, "Silver Spray," which perhaps was the most popular Sunday-school book of its day. Then followed, in 1868, "Songs of Devotion," for use in churches, which was very popular.

He then became associated with Rev. Robert Lowry in many musical works, most of which were issued by Messrs. Biglow & Main, New York.

Dr. Doane is justly celebrated on account of his Christmas cantatas. He fairly popularized the Christmas cantata business by the issue of one entitled, "Santa Claus," some years ago. The circulation of books bearing his name has been world-wide, and the copies sold are counted by the millions.

Dr. Doane is of medium height, nervous temperament, and rapid in all of his movements; always cheerful, warm-hearted and generous. Coupled with his educational attainments and ripe business experience he is a lover of home, church, and country that has endeared him to lovers of American institutions wherever he is known.

He has a beautiful residence on Mount Auburn, one of the Cincinnati hills, where he lives in happiness with the wife of his youth (she being the daughter of his father's former partner), and two accomplished daughters.

His study, or music room, is a unique feature of his home. It is as complete in all respects as taste, culture, research, and money can make it. As you enter it, over the door in the transom is wrought in ground glass in musical characters the opening strains of "Home, Sweet Home." On the ceiling inside, at various points, are frescoed bits of celebrated musical compositions beautifully and artistically arranged. Fine pictures, mostly of musical subjects, adorn the walls, with a most extensive collection of antique instruments from Egypt, Mexico, Burmah, Japan, Africa, Russia, Turkey, and Syria, some of which are said to be several hundred years old. And there is a grand pipe organ, run by a water motor, and over the organ, in fresco, four measures of the "Hallelujah Chorus."

There are also pianos, a cabinet organ, harp and all modern instruments. The library is exceptionally fine, and one of the largest in the country, containing vellum manuscript dating from the eighth century, facsimiles of the original score of Handel's Messiah, and original manuscript and autographs of nearly all the old masters, including Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Mozart, Handel, Meyerbeer, and also Dr. Lowell Mason, Dr. Thomas Hastings, Wm. B. Bradbury, Dr. Geo. F. Root, P. P. Bliss, Rev. Robert Lowry, and other American composers.

Dr. Doane is an active member of the Mount Auburn Baptist Church, Cincinnati, and for several years has been superintendent of its flourishing Sunday-school, one of the largest in the city. Some time since he and his family spent nearly two years in Europe, visiting the Holy Land, the occasion being the exhibiting of some of his machinery at an European exposition, on which, by the way, he took the highest award. The Mount Auburn Sunday-school gave a "welcoming" service on his return. It was a splendid affair. The schoolroom was tastefully decorated, and on the platform sat a large floral ship named the "Majestic," in honor of the one that had brought the Doctor and his family over the ocean on their return, and when he came in they all — little and big — gave him the Chautauqua salute, and proceeded with a specially prepared service that was unique and beautiful. The demonstrations were universal and hearty, and showed that their superintendent had a warm place in their hearts.

Dr. Doane is a liberal man. Among his benefactions are "Doane Hall" and Doane Academy of Denison University; and he and the late Mr. John Church, of the John Church Co., donated from the receipts of the "Silver Spray" money to purchase the large pipe organ in the Y.M.C.A. Hall in Cincinnati. The organ is called "Silver Spray." Dr. Doane is an active member of the Y.M.C.A., and one of its active supporters.

He writes his music at home [in the] evenings. Yet he carries his little note-book with him, so as to be prepared to note down, wherever he may be, the inspirations that may come to him. His style of music is peculiarly his own, and shows great versatility of talent.

Dr. Doane has compiled some forty books, and has written about twenty-three hundred songs, ballads, cantatas, etc., also a number of vocal and piano pieces in sheet form. Some of his most popular pieces are: "Safe in the Arms of Jesus," "The Old, Old Story," "Pass Me Not," "A Few More Marchings," "More Love to Thee, O Christ," "Every Day and Hour," "Rescue the Perishing," "Near the Cross," "Draw Me Nearer," "Will He Find Us Watching," and many others.

In 1875, Denison University bestowed upon him the title of Doctor of Music.

While the Doctor is well advanced in years, he is still active and enthusiastic. May he live long to fill his important place at home, and to contribute of his talent and genius to his larger field — the world. [Dr. Doane died in 1915.]

Copied by Stephen Ross for WholesomeWords.org from Biography of Gospel Song and Hymn Writers by J. H. Hall. New York: Fleming H. Revell, ©1914.

Doane, (president of a Cincinnati firm manufacturing woodworking machinery), found time to compose more than 2,200 hymn tunes and compile more than forty collections. He is particularly known for his musical settings of hymns by Fanny Crosby (1820-1915), such as: "I am thine, O Lord" (1875), "Jesus, keep me near the cross" (1869), "Pass me not, O gentle Savior" (1868), "Rescue the perishing" (1869), and "To God be the glory" (1875). Doane also composed the tune to Elizabeth P. Prentiss'... hymn, "More love to thee."

 Fanny Crosby, the leading poet of the gospel hymn movement, was a remarkable blind Methodist teacher from New York who wrote some 8,000 hymn texts (the exact number is uncertain).  A recognized popular secular poet before she turned to writing hymns, she incorporated in her hymns such words of sentiment found in the popular song of her day as gentle, precious, and tenderly.  In addition to her hymns set by Doane, other texts of Crosby [are] still in use.

[SOURCE: Eskew, Harry & Hugh T. McElrath, Sing With Understanding; An Introduction to Christian Hymnology; Broadman Press; 1980; pg.177]

                            *  *  *  *  *

From the Doane Family History, Vol.I; pp.481-487 (picture on pg.483):

 After attending the village school and graduating from Woodstock Academy in 1848, he entered upon his business career in the countingroom of Doane & Treat, Cotton Manufacturers, at Norwich, Conn. About three years later he took charge of the books and finances of J.A.Fay & Co., whose main office was then in Norwich, and his superior business ability was so manifest and so practically recognized by his employers that, in 1856, he was sent to Chicago to superintend the western branch of their business.  In 1860 he became a partner in the concern and, on the death of Mr. Fay, in 1861, he became the manger of its general interests, with offices at Cincinnati, where he has since resided.  The growth and extension of this business concern, whose shops were located on Front and Johns streets, Cincinnati, in 1852, are recognized as having been extensive factors in the development of that city, and through the period of his long residence there Mr. Doane has been everywhere hailed as one of Cincinnati's most prominent manufacturers and business men, as well as the builder and successful manager of the largest concern of its kind in this country, of which he was the active head until he retired from the business on its recent consolidation with another enterprise.  During these years Mr. Doanes' genius for inventing had manifested itself, and he had originated many new pieces of machinery and made numerous improvements on machinery already in use, which made him as valuable to the company in its mechanical department as in its business offices.  The machinery he has invented and manufactured is everywhere in use, and the name of W.H.Doane, inventor and manufacturer, is known in every American and European manufacturing center.  His long experience in this business has afforded great opportunities for study, and it may be said there is no higher authority than he on the state of the art in this line.  He has contributed, perhaps, more than any other one man to the success of the wood-working machinery industry, a fact recognized by honors at home and abroad.  A distinction, which is rarely given to a citizen of a foreign nation, was conferred upon him in 1889, when, at the Paris Exposition, he met the manufacturers of Europe on their own ground and, in competition with the leading manufacturers of his class of the world combined, carried off the "Grand Prix," and was himself decorated with the cross of the Legion of Honor, by the government of France.  He is a director in many enterprises and a fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the American Society of Mining Engineers, American Geographical Society, American Society for the Advancement of Science, American Archaeological Society, a Chevalier in the Legion of Honor, France, etc.
 It truly takes a man of strong mind and great force of character to lead successfully two lives at the same time.  With large business interests on his mind, it seems remarkable that Mr. Doane should have attained great eminence in music, but he is well and popularly known throughout America and Europe as an excellent composer of music, expecially Sunday-school music.  He had high and noble aspirations, and the work that he has accomplished, in his avocation of writing Sunday-school music, has been of far greater benefit to mankind than he ever could have accomplished by giving himself up entirely to

business. The musical genius that was in him would not be stilled, although frowned upon by his father, who always objected to "musical desires" and insisted that a "musical man" was not good for anything, yet the boy's genius asserted itself at every stage in his career and made him prominent in musical circles while still young in years. When very young he would be placed in a chair to sing songs for visitors, such as "Sweet land of rest for Thee I sigh," "Praise ye the Lord," "Before Jehovah's awful Throne" and "Where now are the Hebrew Children?" At six years of age he attended his first country singing school. Being too small to sit with the singers, he took a seat in the corner and listened while they learned the "Fa-sol-la" of those primitive days. An older brother and sister being among the favored ones, in due time the singing master came to the Doane family mansion to stay all night; with violin in hand he proceeded to try their voices. After the older ones had concluded their trial exercises, little Willie stepped up to the master and said "try me." In the kindness of his heart the teacher did so. After the effort, he said with surprise, "Why, this little fellow has it perfect." And so this "little fellow" was placed among the alto singers, though he could but just read. He progressed rapidly, and at twelve years of age he played the flute in the village choir. A little later he was the owner of a violin, a present from his Uncle Treat, afterwards his father-in-law. At thirteen the growing lad was ready for the big double bass fiddle, which he used in the same village choir. At fourteen years on going to the academy at Woodstock, he was appointed leader of the academy choir and during his whole course of instruction led the singing. At sixteen he rented an old-fashioned seraphine which he afterwards bought and played upon in the church. In the years of 1848-9, he led the choir of the Baptist church in Voluntown, Conn. About this time he began to study music under the best teachers of the day. During these years of patient study he taught many singing schools, having at one time as many as seven, one for each evening in the week. In 1852-3-4, he was conductor of the Norwich Harmonic Society and conducted many musical conventions in various localities. In 1848 he wrote his first piece of music, entitled "The Grave beneath the Willow" and dedicated it to his school friend and playmate Miss Fannie M. Treat. A pretty little romance ended when Miss Treat became Mrs. W.Howard Doane. Early in his career, Mr. Doane wrote songs and glees and was by taste and ambition directing his mind to classical compositions. At this

time a remarkable religious experience led him to consecrate his talent to Sunday-school music. He had been repeatedly asked to write "hymn-tunes" but like many other musicians had an aversion thereto. At length, in 1862, he was taken sick with heart disease and by his physician's direction went to Plainfield, Conn., for his health, remaining several months. When returning home, apparently improved in health, he had a very severe relapse and came near dying on the cars. With his wife he left the train at Lockport, N.Y. While there the conviction of his duty to write sacred melodies pressed upon him and viewing his physical condition, and considering his neglected duty, he solemnly vowed to the Lord, that, if spared, time and talents should be devoted to His service in this work. From that day he began to mend and was soon entirely recovered. The vow then made has been sacredly kept. He is always making music. From the songs of birds and the floating strains that fall upon the ear, he catches inspiration. Upon the cars or in the boat, he thinks out melodies. Mountain roads, stage coaches, carriages, -- all become for him a study. A large number of special songs have been written for notable gatherings and some of his most popular pieces have been born upon the wing. While crossing the White Mountains (from Glen to Crawford House) on top of a stage-coach, he composed "The Old, Old Story," and on that same evening it was sung, for the first time, in the parlors of the Crawford House, by H.Thane Miller and others of the party. "At the Joppa Gate" was written in 1890, soon after passing through that celebrated gate at Jerusalem. "Safe in the Arms of Jesus" was written on the train between Philadelphia and New York, and first sung that evening in the parlors of the St. Denis Hotel. In 1867, while attending the American Institute Fair in New York city, "More like Jesus" was written for W.C. VanMeter, then of the world-renowned Howard Mission, later of Rome, Italy, who came to see him in order to obtain an original tune for the coming anniversary (a few days hence) of his mission. Mr. Doane did not have any hymns and so told him. Just then a boy entered the room bearing a letter addressed to W.H. Doane. Upon opening it he found the hymn, "More like Jesus," and the following note:

Mr. Doane:  I feel impressed to send you this hymn; may God bless it! Fanny Crosby.
 The tune, as it is now sung all over the world, was quickly composed and first used at the Howard Mission Anniversary.  On the first opportunity Mr. Doane went to see the writer of the hymn.  he found her in an upper story in a tenement house.  She was poor and blind. As he announced his name she said, "I thought you would come."  On learning her condition he handed her a twenty dollar note and when she heard the amount she exclaimed, "Oh! that is too much!  My rent is just due, and this more than pays it!  The Lord sent it!"  This was his first introduction to Fanny Crosby.  She has since written many,

many hymns for W. Howard Doane; among them are "Pass Me Not," "Rescue the Perishing," "Draw Me Nearer," "Every Day and Every Hour," "Tell it with Joy," "A Few More Weary Marchings," "The Prodigal Child" and scores of others which are endeared to Christian hearts all over this and other lands, some of which have been translated into more than twenty different languages. The peculiar charm of his music is its devotional character. he never publishes a tune which does not move his own heart. His idea of music for church and Sunday-school is to praise God and approach Him in prayer, not merely to display vocal culture. His first book Sabbath School Gems appeared in 1862, followed by Little Sunbeams in 1864 and in 1867 came that notable book Silver Spray, which has had the phenomenal sale of over 300,000 copies. A little later he and Rev. Robert Lowry were associated as joint editors of the following works, which were issued in quick succession: Pure Gold, Royal Diadem, Temple Anthems, Tidal Wave, Brightest and Best, Welcome Tiding, Glad Hosannas, Fountain of Song, Glad Refrain, Joyful Lays, Bright Array, etc. Mr. Doane edited Songs of Devotion and The Baptist Hymnal, which have been generally adopted by the churches of the Baptist denomination. His later books are: Sunny Side Songs, Songs of the Kingdom, Notes of Gladness, etc. Since 1868, his name has been associated as author with many musical works and a considerable amount of song and ballad music. He fairly popularized the Christmas Cantata, by the issue of one called Santa Claus; and his other contributions of this class, St. Nicholas' Visit, Night of Glory, Immanuel, Frost Queen and Santa Claus, Santa Claus and the Fairies, The Wise Men of the East and many others have found great favor. The circulation of books bearing his name has been world-wide and the copies sold are counted by millions. In 1875, Dennison University bestowed upon Mr. Doane the degree of Doctor of Music. His study or music-room is an unique feature of his beautiful home "Sunny Side" on Mt. Auburn, in Cincinnati, which home is as complete in all respects as taste, culture, research and money can make it. In the transom over the entrance to the study is wrought in ground glass in musical characters, the opening strains of Home, Sweet Home. On the ceiling inside are frescoed bits of celebrated musical composition, beautifully and artistically arranged. Fine paintings, mostly of musical subjects, adorn the walls and here is enshrined his wonderful collection of antique musical instruments, representing nearly every country on the globe, among which are seen instruments from Herculaneum, Grecian lyres, Shepherd pipes from near Jerusalem, Abyssinian drums, Tom-toms, Rams' Horns and about everything that has added to music since its birth in the creation, besides pianos, harps and other modern instruments. Here is also a grand pipe organ run by water motor and over it, in fresco are four measures from the Hallelujah chorus. The library is one of the finest of its kind in America containing vellum MSS. dating from the eighth century, facsimiles of the original score of Handel's Messiah and original MSS. and autographs of nearly all the old masters and modern composers. It is here in his home, amidst such surroundings, when relieved from business cares in the evening that most of his music has been written; yet he is never without a little note book in which to jot down, wherever he may be, the impressions that come to him.

 At the close of the Paris Exposition, Mr. Doane and his family spent two years in a tour of Europe, Africa and Asia Minor, visiting first Spain, thence to the historic places of Italy.  Leaving Italy, the land of the Pharaohs was visited and the mysterious Nile was ascended as far as the first cataract.  From Egypt they passed through the Suez Canal to Palestine, across the Lebanon Mountains, to Damascus, thence to Beyrout in Syria and from there to Smyrna, Athens and Constantinople.  The Bosphorus and Black Sea were sailed through, Russia, Finland, Denmark, Norway and Sweden, Holland, Austria and the British Isles were visited ere the wanderers returned home, laden with new instruments of music to add to the immense collection at Sunny Side.
 While at school at Woodstock, Mr. Doane went regularly every Sunday two miles to the Baptist church, the church of his mother's faith.  In the spring of 1847, a revival was held by pastor Elder J. Payne, and the little walk of four miles after the day's recitations to and from the place of meeting was cheerfully done by this young man.  At one of these metings he was converted and immediately commenced an active part in religious work.  Two fellow students, a Baptist and a Presbyterian, with himself formed an active co-partnership and held meetings in the Academy during which time some fifty or sixty were led to Christ.  Four years later he was baptized and received by the Rev. Frederick Dennison into the fellowship of the Central Baptist church at Norwich.  He is now an active member of the Mr. Auburn Baptist Church in Cincinnati.  The secret of his success is, every minute well employed.  Busy every day he is busier every Sunday.  Bethesda Mission, which he superintends and largely supports, claims the early morning hours, then church at 11 a.m. and at 3 p.m. to the Church Sunday-school, of which he has been superintendent for more than thirty years.  He is very fond of children with whom he is a great favorite, and it is worth an effort of a long journey to hear him lead them in singing.  He is known as a most liberal man and his benefactions have been neither few nor stinted.  Prominent among them is Doane Library Hall, given to Dennison University in 1878.  With the late John Church, he donated the large pipe organ in the Y.M.C.A. Hall in Cincinnati, it being called Silver Spray Organ, as it was purchased with some of the revenue from that singing book.  In 1894 he gave the $40,000 Academy Hall to Dennison University, which has been named Doane Academy in his honor.  None but his intimate friends know of the hundreds of gifts given each year to the poor, and all of the income from his music and much from his business are devoted to christian work.  He is an active worker and generous supporter of the Y.M.C.A. and gives his support to every measure for the general good.  He owns a cottage upon spacious grounds at Watch Hill, R.I., where he spends the summer months each year, and entertains distinguished guests.
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William H. Doane's Timeline

February 3, 1832
Preston, Connecticut
Age 82