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Abner D. Doubleday (1829-1903)

Civil War Soldier and Paper Manufacturer


Mistaken Identity

abner-doubleday-300
Abner D. Doubleday, c.1880s

In 1929, the Kalamazoo Gazette published an article with the headline: “Cousin of former local man was originator of first game called ‘baseball.’” For the first two decades of the twentieth century, it was assumed that Captain Abner D. Doubleday, a local businessman and Civil War soldier, had been the man who first organized a baseball game in Cooperstown, NY. But as the article reported in 1929, Doubleday’s son Fred corrected the official record, stating that his father was born ten years prior to the 1839 game, making it unlikely that a ten year-old Abner was baseball’s modern day founder. It was later determined that the likely inventor was a cousin of Abner’s who shared the same name, and who also fought in the Civil War (there is quite a bit of debate as to the exact role General Doubleday had in founding modern day baseball). Despite being posthumously stripped of the inadvertent distinction, Kalamazoo’s Doubleday and his sons would leave their mark on the commercial history of Kalamazoo.

Abner Demas Doubleday was born on 9 March 1829 in Otsego County, New York. He arrived in Kalamazoo in 1866, a year after resigning from the Union Army, with which he fought valiantly from 1863 to 1864. Prior to the war, from age 17 to 22, Doubleday worked as a teacher. He then enrolled at Oberlin College, Ohio, for several years of study before returning to New York to engage in mercantile pursuits. Poor health drove him to engage in farming before the outbreak of war in 1860. Abner joined the Union Army in 1863 following the death of his brother Ulysses, leaving behind business and farming to “pick up the sword” in honor of his fallen brother. A year after the conclusion of the war, Doubleday left New York for Michigan, settling a farm on 200 acres of land in Alamo, Township. He then relocated to the city of Kalamazoo, settling along the old plank road (Douglas Avenue).

Doubleday’s Addition at the corner of W. North (aka “Rapids”) and Douglas Avenue, 1890

By 1890, Doubleday had platted several lots along Douglas Avenue, south of Alamo Road. His land would eventually be sold off and developed into a part of the West Douglas Neighborhood north of Mountain Home Cemetery. Doubleday was married to Maria R. Casler of Springfield, New York, in 1857.

Doubleday Bros. & Co.

Formed in 1898 by Doubleday and his two sons, Ward and Fred, Doubleday Bros. & Co. was a derivative of an earlier bindery begun in 1844 called the Kalamazoo Publishing Company. While founded during his life, Abner passed away in 1903, leaving the operations of the business to his sons. By the early 1900s, the local paper industry had exploded, laying the groundwork for a healthy blooming of related products.

“The company manufactures blank books, printers’ supplies and a general line of fine stationery, and does an extensive business in county, city and bank work, its chief concern being to keep its output up to a high standard of excellence and meet all demands promptly and in the spirit of the utmost business fairness and enterprise.”

Biographical History of Kalamazoo County, Michigan, p.288

Doubleday & Bros. Co., 1957. Kalamazoo Valley Museum Collection

The company’s early 20th century locations included facilities at 304-308 N. Burdick Street and 241 E. Michigan Avenue. The company grew to be one of the largest producers of office forms in the state of Michigan. Many of the company’s customers were local government agencies who were always in need of various forms. A destructive fire gutted their downtown building in 1948. In 1958, the firm moved to 1919 E. Kilgore Road, remaining there until 1999, when they located the firm westward to Oshtemo Township. Ward departed the company in 1911 to start Doubleday-Huber-Dolan Co. The two companies would eventually merge in 1966, and a year later, the business would be acquired by Standard International Corporation (later named Standex Inc.), a firm based in Massachusetts. Product diversification, including the manufacturing of voting machine equipment, ballots, accounting systems, legal forms, traffic tickets, packing slips, office supplies and furniture kept the local business successful as the economics of paper manufacturing changed over time. The company was eventually bought by Fidlar Companies (now Fidlar Technologies), an Iowa-based company. In 2002, the company sold its business-forms unit.

 

Written by Ryan Gage, Kalamazoo Public Library Staff, January 2024

Sources

Books

Compendium of history and biography of Kalamazoo County, Mich. Illustrated
Fisher, David & Frank Little, Editors
Call Number: H 977.417 F53

Reminiscences and new horizons: a booklet to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of Doubleday Bros. & Co (1948)
Call Number: H 686.2 R388


Articles

“Cousin of former local man was originator of first game called ‘baseball'”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 15 May 1929

Fidlar-Doubleday to relocate to Portage
Kalamazoo Gazette, 10 December 2005, page A5, column 1


Local History Room Files

Subject File: Doubleday Bros. & Company

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