Historical Albion Michigan
By Frank Passic

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Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.


Morning Star, May 23, 2004 pg. 20

It is always interesting to read books that have Albion connections. Last December 14 in this column we tackled the controversial book “Michigan’s Irish Hills.” This week we move to the other end of the spectrum to review a book that by its title would seem academically dull, but which has strong Albion connections. We are referring to a business class textbook entitled “Mayhew’s Practical Book-Keeping” written by a prominent 19th century educator, the Hon. Ira Mayhew (1814-1894). A native of New York, Ira came to Michigan in 1843 and was appointed as Superintendent of Public Instruction by Michigan Governor Felch. He served in that capacity for four years.

Ira served as the third principal of the Wesleyan Seminary of Albion (now Albion College) for fifteen months from 1853 to 1854. He was the first non-minister to hold that position. He left to return as Michigan Superintendent of Public Instruction in 1854. Ira returned to Albion at the end of his term in 1859 and in partnership with Samuel V. Irwin established the private banking firm of Mahyew & Irwin. This bank was later reorganized as the National Exchange Bank of Albion. Ira’s house in Albion at 604 E. Erie St. was built in 1857, and was included in the 1935 Albion Centennial tour of homes. It is presently for sale.

Mayhew established the Albion Commercial College in 1860. It was a local business school which of course used the Practical Book-Keeping book as its foundation. Classes were held on the third floor of the Peabody Block, located on the southwest corner of Superior and Erie Sts. Ira issued “College Scrip” currency for use in his school, and also a Civil War token dated 1863 which advertised his bookkeeping textbook. Those items have been previously covered in this column and the articles are re-published on the www.albionmich.com website.

During this period, Ira’s bookkeeping abilities caught the attention of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, who appointed him the official Internal Revenue collector from 1862 to 1865 for the Third District of Michigan. He also served as Albion village treasurer in 1859, and as Albion village president in 1860.

Ira moved his school to Detroit in 1869, where it continued as the Mayhew Business College. In 1883 it was sold to P.R. Spencer, which was acquired by the Goldsmith Business University in 1885, and merged in 1887 to become the Detroit Business University. Ira Mayhew served as the first president of the Business Educator’s Association, organized in New York in the early 1880s. He continued his teaching work into his later years, and was in charge of the bookkeeping department at Sprague University at the time of his death in 1894 in Detroit.

Ira is most remembered for his book “Mayhew’s Practical Book-Keeping,” first published in 1851. It contained instructions and lessons on how to keep household, farm and business finance books. Sections of the book focused on general bookkeeping practices, commercial calculations, double-entry bookkeeping, and the philosophy and morals of businesses. The book gained widespread use as a textbook in both public and private schools as well as in colleges. It became the standard textbook across the country on the subject. It was so popular that by 1873 it was in its 90th edition. Mayhew was also the author of other books, including “Means and Ends of Universal Education (1857),” “Manual of Business Practices,” “University Bookkeeping (1868),” and “Mayhew’s Reference Book of Business Knowledge (1889).”

The “Practical Book-Keeping” book yours truly owns is an 1875 edition. It is hard-cover, 228 pages long. The publisher was Nichols and Hall of Boston. There is an inside cover advertisement for Ira’s business school in Detroit. On page 5 is published his preface to the 60th edition which had been published in 1860, and a dateline stating “Albion, 1860.”

In looking through this book, there are several references to Albion or its citizens. On page 130 there is illustrated a sample check from the Exchange Bank of Albion in 1860 payable to W. H. Brockway, who happened to be the agent for Albion College. On the next page is found another check signed by the banking firm of Mayhew & Irwin, the latter of course being Samuel V. Irwin whom after Irwin Avenue is named. One name listed as an example in the ledger balances as a customer was Phineas Graves (p. 210), a founder of the Albion Public Schools and instructor at the Albion Commercial College. In browsing through the book I found a few of other “Albion-sounding” surnames such as: Boyd, Farley, and Hinman. Names used in the text were supposed to be fictitious of course. One name that caught my attention was Timothy Truthful.

From our Historical Notebook this week we present a photo of the cover of “Mayhew’s Practical-Bookkeeping.” If your ancestor was educated in secondary or seminary schools in the mid to late 19th century in this country, chances are good that they used this as one of their textbooks.

The cover of “Mayhew’s Practical-Bookkeeping.”


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