Saturday, November 9, 2019

Zanesville's Meredith Business College

Postcard of Meredith Business College
postmarked June 1906

Zanesville’s much-respected Meredith Business College graduated its last class on May 13, 1971. The thirty graduates were among nearly 20,000 men and women who had received a business education over a 104-year history.

Meredith Business College was named by Reuben Leslie Meredith, the son of Thomas Meredith and Jane Knight, who was born in Sandusky, Ohio on November 14, 1862. A brief resume of R. I. [sic] Meredith  appeared in the January 1913 issue of The Phonographic World and Commercial School Review—“the magazine for stenographers”. Meredith’s educational career began in 1881 at the Western Reserve Normal School* where, at the age of 19, Meredith became a teacher of penmanship and drawing. However, teaching must not have satisfied him, as he spent the next six years trying out non-education careers. He worked three years for the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad, two years as a traveling salesman (selling we don’t know what), and then studied law for one year. Apparently none of these jobs appealed to Meredith as much as teaching: He became the “proprietor” of the Sandusky Business College, a job he held for six years before moving to Zanesville in 1896 to take a position with the Zanesville Commercial School.

Zanesville Business College advertisement, 1886

The Zanesville Commercial School evolved from Small’s Business College, a private school which was established in Zanesville in April 1866 by two business teachers J. C. Small of Chicago and J. S. Dinsmore of Cincinnati. The new school, located in the Black’s Music Hall building at 3rd and Main,  offered courses in penmanship, bookkeeping, commercial law, and a short-hand system called “phonetics”. Within two years of opening, the popular school had expanded its course offerings to include arithmetic, grammar, phonography [taking dictation from a recording], and mechanical drawing. This was about the time that Small and Dinsmore quit the college; the new owners, J. W. Roll and F. M. Choquill, changed the name to Zanesville Business College.

This Zanesville Business College advertisement appeared
in the Times Recorder  on June 9, 1900, a few months
before the merger with Reuben Meredith's new school
Between 1876 and 1896, when R. L. Meredith came to town, the Zanesville Business College changed owners several more times, all the while expanding its course offerings to include instruction in new and improved shorthand methods, and in new contraptions such as the “type writer”. Under C. C. Kennison’s leadership, the business college touted itself as a “complete institution for thorough and practical instruction in all pertaining to that business education which qualifies young men and women for self support and the practical duties of life.”

In 1894, Emilie Boyd Saumenig, a court stenographer and graduate of Ohio Wesleyan College in Delaware, Ohio, assumed ownership (along with Milo B. Dunn) of the Zanesville Business College. When Reuben Meredith joined the Zanesville Business College two years later, he quickly joined Suamenig as a partner in the school’s operation.
Meredith Business College advertisement, 1906

Meredith's death was front
page news in Zanesville

Reuben Meredith established the business school named for himself on April 20, 1900, and four months later bought out Emilie Saumenig’s rights to the Zanesville Business School. Merging his new school with the older one, Meredith could claim for his college the respected reputation and long history dating back to 1866. By 1903, the Meredith Business College was granted permission by the State of Ohio to confer degrees on its graduates and to issue them diplomas.

The Meredith Business College moved several times over its remaining years. When Meredith established his new school, he located its offices and classrooms on the top two floors of the Schultz Building at 5th and Main. Four years later, the school relocated to the fourth and fifth floors of the Times Recorder Building on S. 5th St. After Meredith’s death (February 1, 1926), his successor, D. P. McDonald, moved the college to two floors of the Fritz Building  on N. 6th St., and then finally to a building of its own at 55½  N. 5th St. Sadly, that historic building was razed; a tile in the sidewalk is all that is left to commemorate the location of one of the oldest and most highly respected business schools in the United States.

*A normal school was a two-year teacher-training institution. Many normal schools evolved into four-year colleges; Western Reserve Teachers Seminary (or normal school) became Case Western Reserve University.

Chuck Martin, “Meredith Business College Trained Many Local Residents”; The Times Recorder, May 13, 1995, p. 13.

The Phonographic World and Commerical School Review, vol. XLI, no. 1, The Phonographic World Company, Publishers, New York City

“R. L. Meredith: Prominent Citizen Passes From Life”, Times Recorder, February 2, 1926, page 1.

“Meredith College to Close Doors”, Times Recorder, January 7, 1971, page 22.

A list of June, 1905 graduates and where they were employed after graduation can be found at

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