Early Life and Career
Oliver Ditson was born in Boston, Massachusetts, of Scottish ancestry, on October 20, 1811. His parents lived near the home of Paul Revere at the lower end of Hanover Street.
In 1823, just out of grammar school, Oliver became an employee of Col. Samuel H. Harper, father of J.C.D. Parker, the organist and composer. Col. Parker owned a book store on Washington street, near Franklin Street in Boston, and kept in addition to his regular stock a few pieces of music. At the time the Waverley novels were making their appearance and Col. Parker was republishing them as rapidly as they could be gotten from England.
Oliver left the bookstore to master the printer’s trade. About 1834, fire destroyed the store of Col. Parker. With what was saved he moved with his now indispensable young friend into a wooden building on Washington street, near School street, and later took a single counter in the famous ‘Old Corner Bookstore,’ then kept by William D. Ticknor in the gambrel roofed building erected in 1712, at the northwest corner of Washington and School streets. At this location, in 1834, the firm of Parker & Ditson was formed. Mr. Ditson was then twenty-three, and changed it into a music store.
In 1840, Ditson bought out Col. Parker’s interest and carried on the business of music seller and publisher under the name of Oliver Ditson.
He acquired the Oliver Ditson and Company moniker in 1857 when he began collaborating with John C. Haynes on what would become the John C. Haynes & Co..
Ditson's company published the first American edition of Haydn's The Creation, "Jingle Bells" and "Darling Nelly Gray", as well as most of the works of the Hutchinson Family - though Ditson refused to publish "Get Off the Track" due to its abolitionist sentiment.
In 1858, Ditson purchased Dwight's Journal of Music, a serious musical journal.
During the American Civil War, Ditson released a number of popular songs, including "Battle Hymn of the Republic" and "Tenting on the Old Camp Ground".
Theodore Presser purchased the Ditson catalogue in 1931.
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