THE PRESS OF MICHIGAN - A FIFTY YEARS’ VIEW
By S. B. McCracken
(Read at the annual meeting, June 3, 1891)
We have proposed a fifty years’ view of the press of Michigan. If we extend the period by a decade no question of the propriety will be interposed. Sixty years ago I think there was but one newspaper published in Michigan outside of Detroit; namely, the Oakland Chronicle, at Pontiac, published by Thomas Simpson. Simpson was a character in his way, and besides his proper name he was known far and near as “Lixabogee.” The name smacks somewhat of Indian origin, although whence derived is uncertain. As a boy living with my father’s family in the woods near Pontiac at the time, I remember his paper very well. It was the first newspaper that I ever saw. It was discontinued in the early thirties, I think by reason of financial embarrassment, and Simpson removed to Saginaw where he died some years after.
My own immediate connection with printing dates from the year 1837, as an apprentice in Pontiac at the age of thirteen. There were then two papers published there, Democratic and Whig. In the summer of 1838 a third paper was established - the Jacksonian - by Charles M. Eldredge and Solomon W. Denton. They had been employees on the “Oakland Hearld,” where my first work was done, but changes in that office had left them and me out, and I engaged with them. They had little or no money. Eldredge came to Detroit and gathered up some old type and a Ramage press. Upon getting their plant ready for work they required a strap for the press, and in the absence of money or credit with which to buy one they utilized a piece of bed cord.
It will not be expected that I will trace the history of particular persons or journals, but in passing let me place a brief epitaph upon the tomb of Charley Eldredge. He was a man of liberal education, and had acquired a fair knowledge of the practical work of printing. He was a man of fine mind and womanly kindness of heart. These qualities made him generally beloved, while a naturally frail frame and a physical infirmity in one of his limbs commanded a deserved sympathy. He was one whose kindness I have always remembered with gratitude, and whose goodly counsel and instruction, imparted at an impressible period of my life, have not, I hope been wholly profitless. His name is connected with the proceedings of the Masonic grand lodge of Michigan, early in the decade of 1840. He has rested in peace these many years.
It gives me pleasure also, in passing, to refer to Farmer’s History of Detroit, as presenting a most valuable resume of the press history of that city from the earliest times. Some of the county histories also furnish full details of press history for their respective counties. A compilation of the history of the press of the State was proposed several years since under the auspices of the State press association, and some preliminary action was had, but I am not aware that any progress has been made in the matter.
The mention of the Ramage press gives occasion to describe briefly that primitive printing machine, of which, at the time I write, there were a number in the State. The frame and platen were of wood. The bed piece was a marble slab fitted into a wooden frame or carriage. The pressure was applied by a lever and screw. The platen was but half the size of the bed, so that two pulls were required to print one side of a four or five column paper. These were the distinguishing features of the Ramage press as differing from the more modern hand lever press. The description is necessarily addressed to printers, who will understand the technical terms use.
While on the subject of presses, I think I am correct in saying that the first power press brought to the State was a Hoe drum cylinder, bought by Bagg & Harmon, of Detroit, and first used by them in printing the revised statutes of 1846. It was subsequently taken to Lansing and used there for the State printing, and in course of time was purchased by the Lansing Journal, and so far as I know is still used in that establishment. The first rotary press introduced into the interior of the State, other than at Lansing, was a small jobber taken to Saginaw by Perry Joslin about the middle of the 1850 decade. Prior to the introduction of the rotary presses, the country printer printed everything, from his newspaper to a visiting card, on his single hand press.
The editor of the olden time differed from him of the modern school. The future editor was supposed to be born when the boy took his first lessons in the art of printing. The printing office was the editor’s Alma Mater. To graduate as an editor was the destiny of the “devil.” to use a term that is bandied in derision, but which has a legitimate place in the craft, for when the earlier printers were supposed to be in league with the fabled prince of the lower regions, their apprentices, grimed as may be supposed by contact with the accessories of their trade, were regarded as veritable imps or representatives of the devil one himself. The editor was therefore, the embodiment of every requirement from the editor down and from the devil up. He was type setter, job printer, foreman, business manager and pressman, as well as editor, and did not shrink from the duties of roller boy upon occasion. In some parts of the country, although I believe the system was never introduced in Michigan, when the weekly issue was out, the editor mounted a horse and distributed the papers to his subscribers through the country.
The printer’s apprentice usually boarded with his master and slept in a bunk in the office. He was required to do the office chores, to cut and carry up the wood for the use of the office, and to carry the papers in town, and in many cases he was required to cut the wood and do other chores at the house also. If in addition to this he did what was expected of him in the way of legitimate office work, he underwent a discipline not necessarily connected with his calling, and the opportunities for reading, if improved, were supposed to fit him for the editor’s chair.
The representative newspaper of fifty years ago was a folio sheet, say twenty by twenty-eight inches, five columns to the page. Few families at that time took more than one paper, and this was supposed to contain the news of the world at large - foreign, domestic, congressional, legislative and local. Besides which it was expected to have in each issue editorials on leading topics, especially in behalf of the party in whom interest the paper was published. This of course pre-supposes a knowledge of political history on the part of the editor. And then the readers usually looked for a story each week, a poem, and a column on agriculture. The collating of news and general matter, and the writing of editorials, was generally done by the editor at his house in the evenings, as during the day he was expected to do his share of the mechanical work. Sometimes the oldest apprentice helped him out in his multifarious duties, and proved himself a better editor than the editor himself. A space in the paper was usually held open for the latest mails, and those who will examine files of old papers will find them adorned in many cases with the picture of a pen in a scroll bearing the word “postscript,” or a horseman at full speed winding a post-horn. The latest news was looked for under these vignettes.
I suppose we are never exactly satisfied with the things that we see around us. The young look froward to the good time coming, while those advanced in life are apt to look back and think that things were done better when they were young. The press of fifty years ago could not supply the demand of the present time, and anything in the nature of a comparison implying similarity, and having reference to the periods divided by the half century, would be absurd. But yet there are some characteristics of the press of the past that command our reverence and admiration. The editors were men of convictions. They were decidedly partisan. In their discussions of the political questions and in their treatment of political opponents, they dealt hard blows. In the advocacy of their own party and its candidates they seemed rather inspired by a sentiment of chivalry than by a hope of pecuniary reward. They seemed to regard themselves as the responsible guardians of the public weal. To have accepted a retainer or a benefice that would have implied any deviation from the path of duty as thus understood, would have been regarded as rank corruption.
“Here shall the press the peoples’ rights maintain,
Unawed by influence and unbribed by gain,”
was a favorite motto of the time, and not without its meaning. While public measures and public men were spoken of in terms of vigorous criticism, the foibles and misfortunes of persons were passed over, and even scandals, except when connected with grave crimes or with tragic consequences, were regarded, if not beneath the dignity of journalism, at least not within its legitimate scope. Sensational journalism, would have been held disreputable and degrading.
While business men patronized the papers of both parties more or less in the way of advertising, every person was expected to prefer his own party paper in all cases where the patronage to be dispensed was to go to but one paper. Democratic stockholders in WHIG papers, or vice versa, was a thing unknown, and a proprietary representing in its personnel one political creed, with the editors representing another, would have been looked upon as monstrosity. In short, the leading thought with the newspaper was, that it was the vehicle of opinions rather than an article of commerce, and that to maintain its character and consistency, it should avoid even the appearance of evil. This sentiment arose as a necessary counterpart of the inflexible character of the political creeds of the day. Those who know anything of the bitter partisanship of the anit-masonic period can well understand how its spirit should be perpetuated when parties came to divide on other lines.
I believe it to be true that where men pass that period of their lives in which impressions are the most strongly made, in devotion to some handicraft or to some favorite pursuit, they acquire for it a respect that colors their whole life and character. As they respect their calling, so will they respect themselves, their fellows, and their environment. In times past, as before stated, the editor was supposed to be of necessity a development from the rudimentary stages of the typographic art. The instances in which men not thus trained became editors were comparatively rare. While, therefore, the editor may not have been a classical scholar, yet the school in which he was trained gave him a fund of general information and a technical knowledge that fitted him for the work that he was to do, and equally important, a sense of the responsibility and dignity of his office. That his good intentions sometimes sadly depressed the scale when weighed against his financial returns, may be accepted as evidence that with so much else to learn, he failed in one essential element of all trades.
The ethics of the trade demanded an adherence to given lines in the artistic makeup of the paper. Displayed advertisements and grotesque cuts were not allowed. Nor were advertisements in the form of ordinary reading matter permitted in connection with reading matter. The first departures from this rule were in the form of what was called “special notices” immediately preceding the advertisements. The editor sometimes volunteered a “puff,” but it must be of his own coinage, and not furnished to hand.
I trust that I have not become over-warmed with enthusiasm in speaking of the early press. I am possibly writing more of the ideal than of the actual in all cases. The press of the past was not perfect by any means. Its faults should not be overlooked. In one respect, at least, it bore a taint that was not to its credit. A custom of speaking bitterly, malignantly and abusively of opponents and of competitors in the same field, was not inaptly characterized as “the leprosy of the press.” But a ready explanation of this trait is to be found in the environment of the time. Party spirit was at its height. The editors of the day were molders of public opinion. Their weapons were thoughts, clothed in terms vigorous if not always the most elegant. An intense individualism breathed through their columns. That they sometimes aimed their batteries recklessly and ruthlessly, was in the order of sequence in which they moved. The press of today shows a marked reformation in this respect. But with the personalities that formerly marked as well as marred the press, has departed much of that individualism that gave to it its flavor and relish.
About the year 1835 and immediately following, a larger class of papers came into existence. The smaller in size were, say twenty-two by thirty-two inches, and the larger about twenty-four by thirty-six. The introduction of iron hand lever presses made this practicable, and the organization of political parties, and the building of new towns, created a demand for them. Men who were interested in the growth of the towns, and those who were aspirants for political advancement, would combine in buying an outfit, and would make an offer to some printer to come and publish a paper for them. This was a good arrangement for the capitalist and the politician, but not usually a good thing for the printer. The supposition was that with the start thus given the paper, it could be published until the development of the country created a field for it that would make its business profitable. But the depression that followed disappointed these expectations. The business of the localities was not sufficient to sustain papers of the size that had been undertaken. In some cases the papers were discontinued, the plant remaining idle. In others the publishers struggled on. The advertising patronage was meager, and the printer could not afford to put in type each week matter enough to fill the paper. Hence he would allow advertisements to run long after their time. This of course demoralized the market. In making a contract the advertiser would say, as a reason why he should be given nominal rates, “why, you want something to fill your paper.” Contracts were freely made at thirty dollars per year for a column, and in many cases at twenty dollars. Compounders of patent medicines at the east took advantage of the situation and made contracts at much lower rates. These contracts were settled through the local druggists, by which means the terms became known, and still further demoralized the home market.
During the early part of the decade of 1840, eastern periodicals began to come in competition with the local press, and the press itself gave them their chief advantage. Tempted by the offer of an exchange in consideration of publishing a long prospectus (which he could run through the year to help fill his paper) the local publisher became the agent for telling his readers that they could get a paper vastly cheaper and better away from home than he could make for them at home. The local press therefore suffered by comparison in the estimation of those who should have been its supporters. Few publishers but would have sold their entire circulation for so much ready money as would have paid for a year’s supply of white paper. But for the small amount of job printing that came to hand, for which the printer was enabled to command fair prices, many a local paper would have gone by the board. A standing advertisement at the head of many papers read like this: “Wood, and all kinds of country produce wanted on subscription at this office.” Notwithstanding which the printer was usually short, both of wood and produce. It was a rare thing to see a man come into the office and pay his subscription in cash. So that the country printer’s path was not a flowery one, and was made none the more so by being told, on presenting his bill to the man who was three or four years in arrears, and who insisted on a deduction, that he “only subscribed for the paper in the first place to help it along.”
With the improvement of the country and the gradual recovery from the former period of depression, the latter portion of the 1840 decade was more favorable to the press, yielding fairly living, though not, as a rule, remunerative returns. There may be said to have been a continuing prosperity from this time to the war period, which we shall make the starting point for some subsequent comments.
There is one element that vitally effected the financial interests of the local press that should be mentioned in this connection. The speculative movement that marked the 1830 decade brought eastern capitalists to the State in large numbers as purchasers of government lands. The reaction and the period of depression that followed, left these lands practically valueless for the time being, their owners in many cases preferring to abandon them rather than be to the trouble and cost of keeping track of them and paying taxes. These lands were returned as delinquent for taxes each year, and were advertised and sold. The publication of the delinquent tax lists in the several counties was a bonanza to the papers selected for the purpose. The job was worth scarcely less than three hundred dollars in any county, and in some counties it was worth five times that sum. It was cash in a lump, and formed the basis of a small fortune for a number of publishers.
Up to 1842 the treasurers of the several counties were the dispensers of this patronage, but in that year the law was so changed as to place it in the hands of the auditor general. The State administration was then democratic, and as the treasurers in a number of the counties were of opposite politics, the democrats were charged with having made the change for the political reasons, so as to give the entire patronage to the democratic press. I cannot speak with absolute certainty, but I am strongly inclined to the opinion that this change was from the county to the State system of dealing with delinquent taxes, that has since at various times been a subject of controversy. The effect of the change was to strengthen the democratic press, which was thus enabled to sustain itself in most of the counties, while the WHIG papers that had enjoyed the patronage were in many cases compelled to suspend, although in some cases their publishers experienced a change of heart concurrently with the change in the law. In many counties there were no papers published, the resident population not being sufficient to maintain a paper regularly. The non-resident lists in these counties were correspondingly large, and their publication the more profitable, and in these cases it was quite common for some neighboring printer to establish a paper temporarily. This practice led to the enactment of a law providing that a paper must have been regularly published for at least six months before it could be designated to publish the tax lists. The democratic papers enjoyed the perquisite until the political change in 1854, since which time it has fallen to the republicans. The last change in the State administration, however, again turns the scale.
Taking the war period as a starting point, although the process was observable before that time, there has been a change in the character of the personnel of the press. With the development of the advanced or high school feature of our educational system, the printing office as an educational agency came to be less regarded. The ambition that had formerly looked to the printer’s art, sought expression through the schools. The development of the country gave a comparative plenty of financial means that men were willing to invest in the enterprises that promised positions of influence to themselves or to their sons. The requirements of the trade also demanded large resources for mechanical outfit. Expensive machinery had become an indispensable factor in this as in other lines of industry. Young men with only a practical knowledge of the trade for a capital were unable to command the necessary mechanical outfit to enable them to become publishers. The so-called distinction between capital and labor was observable in this as in other industries. Men in many cases became publishers and editors without the previous mechanical training that had formerly been regarded as essential. In some cases, too, the press received the over-flow from other professions. The functions of the editor, that formerly implied all that we have enumerated, have hence to a great extent become divided, the editorial and business departments having been divorced from the mechanical, while in the larger establishments the three departments form a clearly defined trinity. Journalism has become essentially a commercial pursuit. I am far from intimating that the press of today fails to a proper estimate of its relation to society, or of its responsibility as a guardian of the public weal. But its tone is made necessarily responsive to the counting room, which in many cases governs it entirely, while the editor is mere hireling. While it cannot be said that the press of today fails in the mechanical make up of its reading columns, the modern style of advertising testifies more clearly than anything else could do that its presiding divinity is labeled “commerce.” Many of the Sunday papers of the day aim to cover the whole field of literature. But however excellent their literary character may be, it loses its relish when placed beside the hand-bill of some enterprising dealer in ready made clothing. And one could feel little inspiration to sip the nectar of the gods and distill it in the form of a poem, that is to be sandwiched between the portrait of an oyster and a monkey with a cigar in his mouth.
But the newspaper press is not alone in the custom of giving prominence to extraneous matter in the form of advertisements designed primarily for commercial gain. Our eastern magazines of the highest pretensions carry on their exterior the trade mark of the cormorant commerce, and we are compelled to remove a world of rubbish before we can reach the marrow.
The use of “ready print” matter, so-called, is a growth of the past thirty years. This plan would scarcely need to be enlarged upon with a view to a present understanding of it, but we are writing for the future as well as for the present, and with the improvements and changes of method that the future may bring, the commentator at the end of the next half century who shall write a fifty years’ view, may be at a loss to know what “ready print” means. There are in Detroit, Chicago, and other large cities, establishments whose exclusive business it is to furnish to local papers, sheets ready printed on one side, containing a digest of the general news of the day, and such miscellaneous matter as will fill one side of the paper. The sheets are forwarded in this form to the offices of publication, where the other side is printed, containing local and other matter, local advertisements, etc. these printed sheets are furnished at a very small advance over the actual cost of paper, so that papers are published much more cheaply than where the entire matter is put in type at the office of publication. This system has been a great advantage to local publishers. It is not only a direct saving in the matter of expenses, but it cuts away an amount of dead space that they would otherwise have to fill with advertising at ruinous rates, thus enabling them to put better prices on the space at their disposal. The plan has also led to a very great increase in the number of papers published, as local papers are now found in every town of a few hundred inhabitants - places that could not support a paper but for the economy of manufacture that the ready print method affords.
Another method that is already supplanting the ready print to some extent is the use of plate matter. The facility with which stereotyping is now done, makes it possible to reproduce, in the form of plates, matter that is once put in type, very quickly and very cheaply. These plates are sent by express to local publishers, and are made up with other matter, and printed on their own presses. Plates that will make a page of an ordinary newspaper are furnished for about a dollar and fifty cents. The same matter, if put in type at the office of publication, would cost from six to eight dollars.
But both the ready print and the plate method are destructive of a certain individuality that formerly characterized the newspaper. Under the old system, when the editor took up an exchange, he was at once brought face to face with the brother editor through whose manipulation it was brought to light. Editors became acquainted with each other without ever having met. Even the selections reflected the presonal tastes, tendencies and peculiarities of the editor by whom they were made. But under modern methods the newspaper has lost much of its distinctive flavor, and (to use a vulgar comparison) has become much like “restaurant hash” - it all tastes alike when it has any taste at all. The press of the large cities is not exempt frm this feature in the use of what is called “syndicated matter,” or matter furnished from a common source concurrently to papers in different cities.
The distinctively local press has undergone an almost total transformation. Fifty years ago, as the vehicle of news, it held a corresponding relation to the stage coach as a vehicle of transit. The stage coach was the best medium known for the purpose of travel, as the weekly or local newspaper was the best known medium for disseminating intelligence. But the railway has taken the place of the stage coach, and has evolved the omnibus as an adjunct. The metropolitan press as a disseminator of general news, has kept even pace with the railway, and holds a corresponding relation to it, which the local press is relegated to a mere omnibus service. But it is doing its best to fill the bill on this line. Local happenings are given much more fully than under the old regime. And this seems the field which the local press is destined to occupy, and to which it must of necessity be mainly confined. And yet, there is one direction in which the voice of the local paper may and should be heard. The local editor is not debarred his right to think, and he may do his readers and the public at large a service by well-considered editorials on popular topics, and the columns of the metropolitan press may be enriched by their reproduction.
The use of display headlines for news matter dates back less than thirty-five years. They were somewhat in use in the Detroit dailies prior to 1860, and as to their use by eastern dailies before that time my knowledge is deficient. The division in the democratic national convention in 1860 gave a marked stimulus to the practice, which received its full development during the war. While it is a typographical blemish, it is a feature of journalism that newspaper readers would now be unwilling to dispense with. The economy of time to the reader is beyond computation. A person familiar with the general drift of affairs will absorb the marrow of an entire newspaper page in a few moments by a glance at the headlines. They are an index to those things in which the reader may feel an interest, while as to the other things they admonish him to pass them by.
Cuts, including portraits and cartoons, as illustrations of reading matter in the daily press, are wholly modern. They are a feature also in plate matter now so largely used by the weekly and local press. Considered in connection with the display headlines, they suggest how much more readily impressions are conveyed by the newspaper column than in times past. It is an expression frequently and flippantly used, that we are living in a fast age, but it is none the less a vital fact that should have dignified recognition as among the potencies of the closing decade of the century. Our mission is that of the chronicler rather than the prophet, but who shall place a limit to the capabilities of the human mind in its concurrent development with those physical agencies and devices upon which and through which it acts? The centuries comprised by our calendar seem to have reserved their grandest fruition to be precipitated within the half century of which we write, and who shall say that the next century may not dwarf this most marvelous of epochs? Let us, in fancy, contemplate the time when intelligence shall be transmitted electrically, and thrown upon the consciousness as a panorama. Language is but a clumsy contrivance for conveying thought. The mind can comprehend thoughts and facts much more rapidly than they can be conveyed by this method. When the device shall be evolved that shall convey thought as a flash of light, it will find the human mind prepared for its advent.
We could not dismiss our theme without some reference to the telegraph in its relation to the press. The local press cannot be said to have been affected in any way appreciably by the telegraph. The railroad has had more to do in this particular. It lays down the daily papers so quickly at the door of the hamlet that the occupation of the local weekly print as the purveyor of general news is gone. The telegraph may be said however to be in a great measure the life of the western daily. Without the telegraph, and with the railroad as a distributing agent, the dailies in the cities removed from the eastern centers, would be, with reference to eastern journals, very much in the same position that the local ress is with reference to the western daily. But the telegraph gets ahead of the railroad, and transmits intelligence to all points where a daily can be maintained, and the dailies thus become the distributing agents within the range of their circulation.
The railway and the telegraph together have been the principal agents in bringing about the transformation in journalism that is traceable during the half century. There must be added to these agencies however the facility of manufacture by means of improved appliances, to which we shall briefly advert further on. A single thought however upon those twin agents of modern civilization, the railway and the telegraph. Those persons who are at and below the age of twenty-five years have observed both in their present stage of development. How few are there however who realize that they are both a development of the past fifty years. There were some short lines of railway in operation more than fifty years ago, but the development of the system, as such, has been substantially within that time. We cannot dwell upon its vastness, and can only invite the thoughtful to its contemplation.
The telegraph is even more recent. It is not necessary in this connection to be exact as to the time when the first successful line was constructed, but as late as 1846 a miniature telegraphic apparatus was traversing Michigan and presented as an evening show to the curious. Ten years later than this the system was so imperfect that the reports to the Detroit papers frequently failed. The dispatches were meager at best, and were carried under a special head which was frequently followed by the announcement: “No report - line down.” The man of fifty may reflect that at the time of his nativity the railway was but in its swaddling cloths, and the telegraph, which now encircles the world, was not born.
A single word of comparison as to printing machinery. Less than fifty years ago the hand lever press was the most approved printing apparatus in use in Michigan. Two hundred impressions per hour was a fair average of its capacity. The modern newspaper press turns out papers printed on both sides and ready folded, as fast as a person can count, and the forms may be duplicated by stereotyping to any number and placed on additional presses, the work of stereotyping occupying but a few minutes.
The typograph is a wholly modern device for doing the work of the compositor, but just now being introduced into some of the larger offices. It is claimed far it that with one operator it will do the work of three ordinary compositors. Its entire adaptability to the work is yet to be proven. Admitting that it will accomplish all that is claimed for it, we may be permitted a word of speculative inquiry as to its effect upon the local press and the smaller establishments generally. The tendency of all modern industrial economies is to concentration - to a massing of forces. There need be no question as to the value of the typograph to large establishments, where continuous use will keep them in the best working order, and where regular practice will make the operator expert in their handling, presuming that its work can be made practical. But to the smaller offices, where one would scarcely be used more than two or three days in a week, and with probably no more than one person who would know how to operate it, with this one person liable to be absent or disabled at any time, it seems the reasonable presumption that the typograph would prove a detriment rather than a help. On the other hand, the advantage that they will give to the larger establishments will enable them to compete still more disastrously with the local press. It will still further show the process of the industrial revolution of the past fifty years, by which local mechanics in nearly every branch of industry have been driven out by factory and machine made commodities, of which the railways are the convenient distributing agents.
My recollection of efforts to form a State association of editors and publishers goes back to about the year 1845. In the years immediately following there were similar efforts. There are records of those meetings extant in newspaper files of the time, but it would require a good deal of labor to look them up. A publishers’ convention was held at Jackson, October 8, 1857, at which a publishers’ association was formed. An adjourned meeting for the purpose of a more complete organization was appointed to be held in Detroit on the first Thursday of December following. A very successful meeting of the association thus formed was held at Ann Arbor, March 23, and 24, 1858, which was quite fully reported for the Detroit Advertiser, by Henry S. Clubb. One feature of the gathering was an interesting address by J. O. Balch, a printer and editor of the old school; and an evening banquet, participated in by the members of the association and citizens, is among the pleasant recollections of the event. The present State association is of more recent date, and its records will be a guide to the future chronicler.
In the year 1840, according to the Sixth United States census, there were in Michigan but thirty-three periodical publications of all kinds. In 1850, there were fifty-eight publications, with an aggregate output, each issue, of 52,690 copies, and an annual output of 3,247,736 copies. The corresponding figures for 1860 were 118, 128,848, and 11,696,596, respectively. In 1870, 211, 253,744 and 19, 686, 978. In 1880, 464, 620,947 and 46, 659,470. The census figures for 1890 are not yet published, but there are now over six hundred periodical publications of all kinds in the State. In 1840, there were in the whole United States, but 1,631 publications, so that Michigan, with her population in round numbers of two millions, has at this time nearly, if not quite, two-fifths as many publications as there were in the United States in 1840, with a population of seventeen millions. And considering the larger size of the publications of the present time and the number of outside publications that came into the State, it is safe to say that the people of Michigan absorb as large a quantity of reading matter as the people of the whole country did fifty years ago.
In closing, let me pay a brief tribute to some of the men whose life work was begun as apprentices, and who, as editors, have done honor to the profession that should rank with the most honorable.
Going outside of Michigan, it would be a sacrilege to pass over without mention the patron saint of the typographic art in the United States, Dr. Benjamin Franklin. Coming down to a later date, Horace Greeley is perhaps the best representative of the conscientious, fearless and vigorous printer-editor. Next to him may be mentioned Thurlow Weed, editor, politican and diplomat. Very many men who have filled the highest positions of honor and trust in the country have been advanced to them through and from the printer’s art and the editor’s chair, including Schuyler Colvas, elected vice president of the United States in 1868. But we may not extend the list.
The editor oldest in continuous service in Michigan is Aaron B. Turner, of the Grand Rapids Eagle, who did the entire typographical work on the first issue of that paper, and on Christmas day, 1844, worked off the first number on a hand press.* of others who have seen a continuous service of more than forty years may be mentioned Don C. Henderson of the Allegan Journal, Harvey B. Rowlson of the Hillsdale Standard, Francis H. Rankin of the Flint Citizen, L. W. Cole of the Albion Mirrow, and Levi T. Hull of the Constantine Mercury, while competing with them on the same line are E. R. Powell of Stanton, W. W. Wollnough of Battle Creek, and others that might be named.
Of the retired editors, probably the oldest in years and in commencement of services, is Henry Gilbert, of Kalamazoo, who established the Kalamazoo Gazette about the middle of the 1830 decade. Nest to him is George W. Pattison, now of Detroit, who established the first paper in Grand Rapids, “The Grand River Times,” in 1837. The memories of both Mt. Pattison and myself are taxed to recall the following: Albert Chandler, of Coldwater; E. B. Pond, of Ann Arbor; C. V. DeLand, of Jackson; Merrills H. Clark, formerly of Grand Rapids, and later of Washington, D. C.; Jabez Fox, now a clergyman in Washington; Henry S. Blubb, formerly of Grand Haven, and later ministering to a congregation in Philadelphia; E. W. Barber, of Jackson; Milo D. Hamilton, now of Washington, D. C., and A. W. Hovey, of Pontiac.
We reserve for the close the longer list - those who have gone over to the majority. Among them we find names well known in the early history of the State. Col. Daniel Munger, a Chesterfield in manners and an encyclopedia in politics, author of “Political Landmarks;” John H. Harmon, the influential politician, whose last days were not his brightest, and who was wont to say somewhat bitterly, in his epigrammatic way, “the best use you can put an old man to is to take him out and shoot him;” Sheldon McKnight, who pioneered the route to the upper peninsula; Morgan Bates, twice elected lieutenant governor of the State ; E. G. Morton, of Monroe, a State senator; John N. Ingersoll, of Owosso and Corunna, also a State senator. Others of the old regime, well known in the ranks of the profession, were John P. Sheldon, George L. Whitney, Henry Barnes, E. J. Roberts, Wm. Harsha, Ray Haddock, George Dawson, Henry Starkey, and Cornelius Wendell, of Detroit; W. F. Storey, of Detroit, later of Chicago; Volney Hascall, of Kalamazoo; Henry C. Bunce, Seth Lewis, and J. O. Balch, of Marshall; George W. Ranney and R. S. Cheney, of Jackson; Thomas M. Ladd and E. P. Gardiner, of Ann Arbor; Moses Hawks and C. B. Bassett, of Allegan; R. W. Jenney, of Flint, and Jacob Barnes, of Detroit and Grand Rapids.
There are others, both living and dead, equally worthy of mention with those I have named, but whom memory does not now suggest. For any failures or omissions I hope the living will not blame me - the dead I know will not. Let those of us who, in the journey of time, have neared the broad river whose farther shore is invisible, await the approach of the phantom ferryman serenely and with patience. Whether, at the journey’s end, we shall be greeted by those who have gone before and who await our coming, or memory be forever drowned in the waters of Lethe, we cannot certainly know. Standing here today on this historic ground, we may at least plant a spray of laurel to the memory of a class of men who in their day contributed in no small degree to the growth, the development, the culture and the grandeur of the State.
*Some recent newspaper mention (March 1892), give to D. Cook, of the Niles Mirror, the credit of fifty yeas continuous editorial service.
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