William Doxey

William Doxey was born in England in 1844 and came to America in his twenties. His bookstore, fashionably located on Market Street in the Palace Hotel, was a center of the San Francisco literary scene in the mid-1890s. Today, Doxey is best known as the publisher of the famous literary magazine The Lark.

In 1892, Doxey hired a young man named Paul Elder as a clerk. Elder stayed on for five years, learning the book trade. By 1897 he felt secure enough to strike out on his own.

As Elder’s star rose, Doxey’s fell. The Palace Hotel shop closed in 1899, and he declared bankruptcy the next year. He moved to New York and published a few more books there, but that business failed as well. In 1909, he moved to Chicago to live with his son. In 1915, as Doxey’s health and finances declined, San Francisco booksellers and former clients contributed to a fund for his relief. His old employee Paul Elder directed the campaign. Doxey died in Chicago on 27 November 1916, age 72.

The balcony of Doxey’s bookstore in the Palace Hotel on Market Street, 1892. The man seated at right is almost certainly William Doxey.

Further reading: At the Sign of the Lark, by Robert D. Harlan. Book Club of California, 1983.