While in Toledo in the spring of 1895, Henry A. Tobey solicited enough pledges of support to offer Dunbar money to attend college. Dunbar wrote to his mother immediately afterwards. "Dr. Tobey and his friends want to lend me 400 or 500 dollars to spend a year in Boston at Harvard. I am going to take it."
In the fall of 1895, Tobey again invited Dunbar to Toledo to read at the State Hospital. This reading was, by many accounts, a triumph. One can only imagine the scene: the crowded "amusement hall" of patients, some disturbed, some perhaps murmuring, attendants scurrying about trying to maintain decorum, invited dignitaries and guests seated separately, an atmosphere tense and heavy with pathos. A piano off to one side, played by Tobey's talented young daughter Alice. It was an evening with such emotional power for Dunbar that it prompted him to compose a poem on the spot. He is reported to have remembered the evening this way:
"…while in Toledo, Ohio, I consented to recite at an entertainment given for the Insane. Before the recital, I requested the organist to play for me cardinal Necoman's favorite hymn, "Lead Kindly Light." The music and words, rushed through my brain in so maddening a way, blinding me to all outside influences, surging through my very heart and soul, until I could stand it no longer. I rushed off to my room, jotted down the very words of this poem, "Lead gently". When I returned to the recital to take the place assigned me on the program, I brought with me my newly fledged poem and read it before the audience." (Nov. 25, 1897)
After this momentous evening, in conversation with his Toledo hosts, Tobey and Thatcher, Dunbar expressed his wish to publish a second book on his own ashe did his first. Tobey and Thatcher immediately offered to underwrite the publication on terms that were far more favorable than what the Dayton printer had given Dunbar for Oak and Ivy. With Tobey and Thatcher's help, Dunbar's new book, to be titled Majors and Minors, was contracted with Hadley & Hadley Printing Co. Hadley and Hadley was not the largest printer in Toledo; they operated out of four floors of a building at 136 Superior St. that was located next to a feed lot. Most of its business seemed to be in catalogue and poster printing and a literary book was probably a first for the firm. Perhaps it was chosen because its owners were known as "enterprising and progressive business men" and the company a "progressive one." Though everyone struggled to get out the 1,000 copies before Christmas in 1895, the book appeared a few months later.
Henry Tobey, acting more like the author than the producer, was so eager to get hold of the new poems in printed form that he went to Hadley and Hadley's office, grabbed an unbound volume, and began cutting away pages with his pocket knife. After Majors and Minors was printed, Dunbar tried to sell his books in Toledo, but met with great resistance, as most whites considered him a salesman or agent. Tobey tried to shield his friend from his failure as a salesman and apparently sold copies in advance to friends with instructions to pretend to buy the copies from Dunbar.