History of the Press in Columbia County, NY (Part 1)
From: Columbia County At The End of the Century
Published and edited under the
auspices of the Hudson Gazette
The Record Printing and Publishing Co.
Hudson, New York 1900


THE NEWSPAPER PRESS.
BY M. PARKER WILLIAMS.

The history of the Press of Columbia County, the birth of which was coincident with the incorporation of the City of Hudson, and intimately identified with the industries, enterprises, progress and political characteristics of the city and county, forms one of the most interesting and instructive chapters of our local history. The Hudson Gazette being the first newspaper established in Columbia county, and among the earliest in the United States, we necessarily devote to it a large portion of this chapter, which the important epoch it covers amply justifies.

THE HUDSON NEWSPAPERS.

We doubt if any city of its size in this or any other State has produced so many newspapers as Hudson, or suffered a heavier journalistic death-rate. Out of thirty-eight that have been established within the century, representing every shade of political sentiment, as well as religion, morals and literature, popular and prevalent during the period, there now survive only The Gazette and The Republican, with their daily issues; the Sunday Journal, established in 1886, and the Saturday Herald, established in 1900. In examining the files of newspapers of a century or half a century ago, it is not discoverable that in editorial or literary ability, make up, or tone of general public interest, or broadness of views, the newspapers of today have made great advancement, although marvelous improvements have been made in machinery and all the other appliances for the rapid making of the modern newspaper.

The Gazette. - The project of establishing a newspaper was the first question agitated when it was decided to found the city of Hudson in the early spring of 1785, and men of sufficient courage and enterprise for this undertaking were found in the persons of Ashbel Stoddard and Charles R. Webster, two young men who had been fellow apprentices in the office of the Connecticut Courant, at Hartford. They were without capital, but the lack of this was amply made up in vigor, enterprise, and that peculiar quality which Yankees denominate "push." In 1784 Mr. Stoddard had taken up his residence in the embryo city and established a small book store and printing office, at the south-east corner of Warren and Third streets, where is now located the American Express Company and Post-office. The Courant, from which young Stoddard had just graduated with "all the honors of the craft," was the leading journal of New England, and a power in the eastern section of the country. When the establishment of a newspaper in the new "land of promise" was suggested to him, he grasped the project with all the ardor of his youthful enthusiasm. In furtherance of this object, he secured the assistance of his former companion, Charles R. Webster, and after an amount of toil, perplexity and anxiety which publishers at this day, with all the modern facilities at command, can scarcely have a faint conception, the Hudson Gazette was launched upon the scantily occupied sea of newspaperdom on the 7th day of April, 1785. We can all imagine the sensation the appearance of the sheet created in the little community, and the compliments and encouragements which greeted the young publishers from the sturdy settlers who had left their sterile New England homes in anticipation of founding a great city in the beautiful valley of the Hudson. In these pages we reproduce in reduced size a perfect facsimilie of the first page of the first issue. It carries the reader back more than a century, and tells its little story of the period.

The first number was printed on a quality of paper quite superior to that generally used by the newspapers of that day, and the contents were highly creditable to the young journalists.

The birth of the Gazette was coeval with that of the city, and their interests have been closely identified from the beginning to the present time. The newspaper, like the city, had its early struggles, its periods of depression, its discouraging reverses, and its final triumphs. In founding the Gazette a century and a decade ago as a representative of the infant city, in a sparse settlement, surrounded by an almost undeveloped country, with no established routes of communication with the outside world, at a period when there was very limited postal service, and it was necessary for the publisher to employ postriders to deliver his paper to its few and remote subscribers, Ashbel Stoddard manifested a courage and public spirit equal if not superior to the greatest journalistic enterprise of the present day, when the elements of steam and electricity have become the ready servants of the press.

The circulation of the Gazette was at first small, and to facilitate both its delivery and their exchanges, the publishers at once established post-riders with Litchfield, Conn., where they exchanged with posts from Boston and Hartford. The post-riders made themselves a convenience to the public by the delivery of small parcels, for which they brought orders to the city. Mails were few. One mail per week was then received from the East, on Thursdays at 4 p. m. Mails from New York and Albany came by sloops in summer, and by stage in winter, on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, at 6 p. m. It was not an easy task for Mr. Stoddard and his assistant to produce a very spicy paper. Its delivery to subscribers for many years was announced by the carrier with a horn, which he blew as he circulated from door to door.

At the commencement of the second volume, Mr. Webster withdrew, and the paper was continued for many years by Mr. Stoddard alone, who greatly improved its typographical appearance and variety of contents.

In 1785 the office of the Gazette published a "Spelling Book, $1.80 per dozen; 1s. 9d. per single copy." Also "A plain and comprehensive English Grammar, grounded on the principles of the language, price 2s."; and "The art of speaking, with rules, and pieces and dialogues, moral, political and entertaining, price 30c." In 1814 it published "Stoddard's Columbia Almanack." The title page bears this inscription: "The fourteenth year of the nineteenth century, calculated for Latitude 42 degrees and 20 minutes North, and for the Meridian three degrees East of the City of Washington, the Capital of the United States. By Andrew Beers, Philom." This annual was continued for many years, and the later editions were computed "for the Meridian of Hudson."

In 1786 it commenced the publication of "Webster's Almanac." In the same year it published the first list of letters in the Post-office; the only name identified with any family now resident here was that of Win. G. Hubbel.

In 1787 it issued proposals to publish a monthly magazine of seventy-two pages. In the same year it called for pay from its country subscribers in the following touching language: "The Post-rider has ridden almost half a year, not asking for pay; he now requests payment in good merchantable grain of any kind, or flax at cash prices."

In 1789 it reduced its price to 10s., and then numbered several hundred subscribers. In 1790 it called for payment again, offering to receive "wood, boards, planks, staves, wheat, rye, Indian corn, flour, buckwheat, butter, cheese, lard, tallow, beef, pork, beeswax, wool, flax, worsted, cotton, linen, tow cloth, and all kinds of country produce."

In the month of February, 1793, the office was destroyed by an accidental fire during the night, of which the next issue gave the following account:

"The organization of the fire department being extremely deficient, there being no engines, no buckets, no water, no firemen, the fire was left to take its own course, and it accordingly raged, not only unchecked, but unmolested. Fortunately the night was calm, and the flames ascended directly upwards, to the very skies, carrying with them innumerable fragments of paper and burning books, blazing as they flew, filling the whole air with their fiery forms, and then descending in every direction, covering the town as with a shower of falling stars. Such a scene, so beautiful, was not easily forgotten."

This was Hudson's first fire. A liberal subscription by the citizens enabled Mr. Stoddard to re establish his business at once. On the 21st of March, 1793, he invites "those who had so generously assisted him at the late fire to meet at Mr. Gorden's tavern at 6 o'clock on the following Monday evening." "Gorden's" seems to have been the tavern of the place, as the Presidential Electors of New York met there in 1796 and cast the vote of the State for Adams and Pinckney, afterwards dining there.

Mr. Stoddard was growing old, as the best of men will, and rival newspapers springing up, the Gazette for a brief period languished. But, on the principle of "the survival of the fittest," the others died after a brief existence, and the old Gazette lived.

In March, 1824, a number of leading and public spirited citizens, of the Jeffersonian stripe of Democracy, raised a fund of some five hundred dollars, and purchased the Gazette establishment. Among these Spartan Democrats of seventy-six years ago, were Oliver Wiswall, Solomon Wescott, David West, Austin Stocking, Abner Hammond, Samuel Anable, Jehoiakin A. Van Valkenburgh, Rufus Reed, Moses Younglove, and Jeremiah H. Storm - all honored, names to the present day. John W. Edmonds, then a bright young lawyer, was secured as editor at the princely salary of three dollars a week, with Peter Sturtevant as publisher. In his salutatory, editor Edmonds thus defined his position which the readers of the Gazette will see is the identical creed of the Gazette today:

"It will maintain the doctrine that the minority ought in all cases to yield to the majority, and that the great object of the organization of a party is the advancement of principles and not men. It will support with all its power, regular caucus nominations, convinced that thereby the man is obliged to yield to the principle, and firmly believing that no other than good can result from a cause which placed such men as Jefferson and Madison at the head of our government,which has doomed the Adams Federalism to destruction, and which has preserved the triumphs of correct principles in National and State government."

Hiram Wilbur became the publisher in 1826, and Mr. Edmonds dissolved his connection with the paper soon after, taking up his residence in New York city, where he rose to high eminence in the legal profession and was elected Judge of the Supreme Court of the State.

In 1834 the Gazette passed into the hands of P. Dean Carrique, who conducted it with marked success until 1851, when he lost heavily in outside speculations, and the property was assigned to the late Stephen L. Magoun. It was published for a short time by Henry N. Hopkins. Mr. Carrique, at this writing, is still living, in good health and remarkable activity in his 87th year; he resides with his daughter at Brooklyn Heights, and attends regularly to business in New York city; on the street he does not appear to be a man of over 65. Mr. Hopkins enlisted in a Pennsylvania regiment during the early days of the Civil War, and met his death on the field, heroically battling for the cause of his country.

In 1857 on the 7th of September, M. Parker Williams and his brother, R. F. Williams, of Philadelphia, Pa., purchased the Gazette plant, and started the veteran journal on a new career of success and usefulness under the firm of Williams Brothers. In 1860 R. F. Williams retired from the firm and was subsequently appointed to the responsible position in the United States Army of Auditor of the Department of the Missouri, with headquarters at St. Louis, where he distinguished himself for executive ability and patriotic self-sacrifice. During the early period of the Civil War he died in the service of his country, with an honored personal, political and military record, which were duly inscribed on the records of the Department.

After the dissolution of the firm of Williams Brothers, the establishment was under the exclusive proprietorship of M. Parker Williams. In 1869 he purchased the old jail property in Central Square, and reconstructed it into a large and commodious publishing house, which he occupied until he sold his newspaper properties in 1896, and where the office still has its home.

About twenty of the earliest volumes of the Gazette, commencing with 1785, and the Centennial issue of 1885, are preserved in the State Library at Albany, and are often sought by students and historians.

Of all the editors, publishers and proprietors of the Gazette from its foundation in 1785 to 1896, only Mr. Carrique and Mr. Williams survive-one at the age of 87 and the other at 75. And the old Gazette still lives, enjoying its one hundred and fifteenth anniversary under its new corporate management.

The Daily Register. - In 1866, the Gazette having passed its eighty-first year, it was thought it had reached the mature age when it ought to support a family; consequently, on the 26th of May of that year, its first offspring, The Daily Register, was brought forth, a healthy and robust journalistic cherub, with an Associated Press franchise worth $8,000 in its pinafore, and it has thrived and prospered to the present time, annually increasing in circulation and influence. In establishing the Daily Register Mr. Williams admitted to partnership Charles C. Clark, under the firm of Williams & Clark. Three years later, in 1869, Mr. Clark withdrew from the firm and the paper reverted to the exclusive proprietorship of M. Parker Williams.

In 1896, on the first day of February, Mr. Williams having reached the age of seventy, and after half a century of active newspaper work, concluded he was entitled to a vacation, and sold his plant, including the building where the business was located, to a syndicate incorporated under the title of "The Record Printing and Publishing Company," (noticed further on) by which it has since been conducted.

The president of the company at the time of the purchase was Edwin C. Rowley, and the secretary and treasurer, Martin H. Glynn, with the following board of directors: James Purcell, Edwin C. Rowley, George J. Ganley, Levi F. Longley, Edward F. McCormick, Martin H. Glynn and Bernard H. Kennedy. Charles S. Hailes was selected as editor of the Register and Gazette, and Martin H. Glynn was made manager, which position he held until July 14, 1896, when he resigned to become editor of the Albany Times-Union. On Mr. Glynn's retirement the directors selected George J. Ganley, a practical printer and business man, to fill the office of secretary, treasurer and business manager, the responsible duties of which positions he filled until May 28, 1900, when he resigned to become an active partner with his brothers, Thomas F. and James J., in the book and stationery business of Ganley Brothers. On July 1, 1896, Edwin C. Rowley retired from the office of president and was succeeded by James Purcell, who held the office until July 1, 1899, when he was succeeded by Dennis H. Kennedy. In June, 1900, Thomas E. Mowry was appointed secretary, treasurer and manager, and Harry S. Dawley editor, with Fred J. Cook city editor. Mr. Dawley is an experienced newspaper man, having done editorial work on the Brattleboro Daily Times, New York Times, in Washington, and on the Troy Press and Budget. Mr. Mowry, who succeeds to the business management of the corporation, is an active, experienced and enterprising young man, well fitted for the duties he is called upon to perform.

The Balance. - In 1802, early in the year, the second newspaper was started in Hudson by Ezra Sampson, a Presbyterian clergyman; George Chittenden, a bookbinder, and subsequently a paper manufacturer at Stockport, then christened "Chittendenville," but now and for many years known as "Rossman's;" and Harry Croswell, a practical printer, who subsequently became one of the proprietors and editors of the Albany Argus, whose vigorous, firm and stalwart Democracy gave that paper the popular designation of "The Corner Stone of Democracy." The Balance was started as an "independent" newspaper, but within a few months became the organ of the Federal party, advocating confederation and limited sovereignty of the States. After an existence of less than two years it was discontinued.

The Bee. - In 1802, on August 17, the third newspaper made its appearance in Hudson, under the title of The Bee, published by Charles Holt, who had removed his modest plant from New London, Conn. It was a rabid Republican paper (as "Republican" in politics was then recognized, which signified "principles of a Republic," or "Republican form of government "). The Bee was conducted by Mr. Holt for eight years. In 1810 he sold the plant to Samuel W. Clark by whom it was continued until 1821, when it was discontinued.

The Wasp - In 1802, closely following the advent of The Bee, The Wasp made its appearance as a rabid political opponent; political feeling then run high, and between the two papers it appears to have been sting for sting and stab for stab. Judging from the files of the two papers before us it is still an open question which inflicted the greater sting or drew the more blood, but the "Wasp" was soon vanquished by the "Bee," and at the close of the campaign it died the natural death of venomous journals.

The Republican Fountain. - In 1806, on the 4th of December, a Temperance sheet was started in advocacy of the "Lewis branch" of the Democratic party, bearing the above title. It was continued until the close of the political campaign in November of the following year (1807) and died with the defeat of Lewis.

The Northern Whig. - In 1808, on the 5th of January, The Northern Whig was established by William Stebbins. In 1814 Mr. Stebbins was succeeded by William L. Stone. In 1818 Mr. Stone formed a partnership with Richard L. Cross, under the firm of Stone & Cross. In 1821 the paper passed into the hands of Wm. Stebbins, Jr., son of the original proprietor, who continued its publication until 1824, when it was discontinued or merged in the Republican. The Whig was neatly printed and ably edited, and took rank among the leading weekly newspapers of the period. We have copies of the papers before us. The issue of February 28, 1815, then published by William L, Stone, contains the Treaty of Peace with Great Britain at the close of the War begun in 1812. The Treaty is signed by James Madison, President, and James Monroe, Acting Secretary of State, and is dated Washington, Feb. 18, 1815. The Whig evidently did not favor the administration of Madison or indorse the terms of the treaty, for in a strongly written editorial of over two columns, it condemns the treaty in vigorous terms, from which we make the following extracts:

"The treaty of peace, concluded by the Commissioners at Ghent, and ratified by the President and the Senate of the United States, is now before the public. After all that has been said by the administration and their prints against Jay's Treaty, and also against Monroe and Pinckney's Treaty, of 1806, it was to have been expected that after spending two years, Mr. Madison's batch of Commissioners would have been able to give us a more masterly performance, than either Jay's or Monroe and Pinckney's treaty. But in this we are disappointed. The treaty has arrived. The mountain has long been in labor, and we can now contemplate the mouse at pleasure. But what is the treaty? To what does it amount? It is a treaty of Peace, and nothing more; and for even that we rejoice. And can it be, that after so much scolding about British Blockades, British Orders to Council, British Spoliations, British Impressments, &c., Mr. Madison's five-headed embassy after traversing almost the whole Continent of Europe in quest of a treaty, has at length been able to obtain nothing more than a bare cessation of hostilities, or in other words, an armistice? What has become of the mighty champions of Free trade and sailor's rights?' "

And also this:
"Alas, Poor Madison ! Among all the public demonstrations of joy which took place in this city in consequence of the termination of a war that every body hated, not a single compliment was bestowed on Mr. Madison. No one spoke in praise of him, not even the gilded insects who have been licking the crumbs from his hand. All showed a sovereign contempt for him."

The Columbia Magazine. - In 1810, Rev. John Chester, D. D., a Presbyterian clergyman, commenced the publication of a small literary magazine, which possessed considerable merit, but was too sectarian in character to achieve general popularity.

Spirit of the Forum. - In 1817 an association of ladies and gentlemen commenced the publication of a literary journal bearing the above title. It was amateur in character, and when the novelty of the enterprise wore off interest in the publication ceased, and its existence was brief and uneventful.

The Columbia Republican. - In 1820, on the 12th of September, Solomon Wilbur, jr., commenced the publication of the Columbia Republican, as a Democratic organ, the political designation of the party at that time being "Democratic-Republican," which embodied "popular government by the people," While the holding of slaves was lawful at that time, the privilege does not appear to have been highly appreciated. In the Republican of October 24th appears an advertisement from Refine Latting, a prominent farmer and merchant of Hillsdale, offering "one cent reward" for "a negro girl named Sal," who ran away from his premises, and "all persons are forbid harboring or trusting her under penalty of the law." Whether "Sal" was ever returned to her owner, and the reward paid, is not recorded.

In 1824, after the discontinuance of the Northern Whig, the Republican was purchased by Ambrose L. Jordan, a young lawyer, who changed its political character to that of the Whig party. Although a political organ, the Republican was conservative and liberal. During the political campaign of that year political parties were considerably mixed, and the Republican displayed at the head of its editorial column the Whig nominations: For governor, De Witt Clinton; lieutenant-governor, James Tallmadge; senator, Richard McMichael; assemblymen, Ambrose L. Jordan, Joseph Lord, Killian Miller. It also displayed with equal prominence, the names of the opposing candidates: For governor, Samuel Young; lieutenant-governor, Erastus Root; senator, Abraham Keyser; assemblymen, John King, Tobias L. Hogeboom, Elias Reynolds. The ticket headed by De Witt Clinton was elected.

The paper subsequently, in turn, was published by Ambrose L. Jordan and Allen Jordan, Charles F. Ames, Samuel Curtis, and Lawrence Van Dyke. In 1843 it passed into the hands of P. Byron Barker who continued its publication for one year, when it was sold to Joseph G. Palen and Allen Jordan, and published under the firm of Palen & Jordan.

In 1845 the establishment was purchased by William Bryan and John Moores, who conducted the business under the firm name of Bryan & Moores until 1851, when Moores retired and the paper passed to the control of Mr. Bryan. When the present Republican party was formed at the death of the Whig party in 1856, the Columbia Republican became the recognized organ of the party in Columbia county. January 1, 1862, Frank H. Webb, who had been connected with the Daily and Weekly Star, purchased a one-half interest in The Republican, and the business was continued by Bryan & Webb for fourteen years, Mr. Webb performing the duties of chief editor. On January 1, 1876, the partnership was dissolved, Bryan retaining the subscription list, title and good will of the newspaper, and Webb taking the plant, including type and machinery.

In 1876 the Weekly Star was merged in The Republican, and was conducted by Bryan & Goeltz, under the title of Columbia Republican and Weekly Star, until the death of Mr. Goeltz in 1877. On May 5, 1881, the name of Weekly Star was dropped, and Mr. Bryan took into partnership his son Henry R., forming the firm of William Bryan & Son. This connection continued until severed by the death of William Bryan on September 11, 1897, at the age of seventy-seven, when the proprietorship passed to his son, Henry R. Bryan, by whom it is now conducted.

The Messenger of Peace. - In 1824 a religious paper was started by Richard Carrique, a Universalist clergyman, father of P. Dean Carrique, who ten years later came into possession of the Gazette. Although Hudson was always regarded as a model of piety and purity, it did not appear to be a thriving field for strictly religious publications, and The Messenger of Peace survived less than twelve months.

[Continued in the Press of Columbia Conuty, Part 2.]


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