Show and Tell

Glass pharmaceutical bottle labelled, "Wooster & Adams. Wellington, O." Author's collection.

Glass pharmaceutical bottle labeled, “Wooster & Adams. Wellington, O.” Likely manufactured in the early 1880s. Author’s collection.

My little one began pre-school last week. As we were scrambling around looking for a “show and tell” item, I was inspired to write this post. The glass bottle pictured above stands just three inches high. It has seams running down its sides, indicating that it was blown in a mold, most likely in the late nineteenth century. The embossed lettering on the front of the vessel reads, “Wooster & Adams. Wellington, O.” This fragile object is a tiny memento of a businessman who worked on Liberty Street (later West Herrick Avenue) for nearly four decades.

Erwin Wright Adams was born October 1, 1849. He was the only boy among Gideon and Bertia Adams’ seven children, twin brother to Ermina Fowler Adams. He was, therefore, brother-in-law to Noah Huckins twice over, as Huckins married Erwin’s older sister, Ellen Victorine Adams, in 1866; after the sudden death of Ellen and their infant daughter, Maud, Huckins later married Ermina. She was a decade his junior.

Erwin Wright Adams (1849-1929).

Erwin Wright Adams (1849-1929).

According to a family genealogy I discovered, Erwin allegedly studied medicine under Dr. John Houghton. In 1879, he entered into a partnership with Arthur Wooster to operate a pharmacy on Liberty Street called Wooster & Adams. (The storefront is today occupied by a chiropractor’s office.) The Wellington Enterprise was filled with promotional announcements and advertisements as the store opened in October of that year. “We ask the attention of our readers this week to the following new advertisement. Wooster & Adams, druggists and dealers in fancy goods, notions, etc. New store. New goods, and every thing [sic] in No. 1 order. Keep watch of their space each week,” the paper encouraged (10-30-1879, pg. 3).

Advertisement for Wooster & Adams. "The Wellington Enterprise," 11-6-1879, pg. 2. Photo by author.

Advertisement for Wooster & Adams. “The Wellington Enterprise,” 11-6-1879, pg. 2.

Local historian Robert Walden knew the druggist and his wife, Mary Emma Mallory Adams. Walden described one of his early jobs purchasing tickets on behalf of other residents for performances at the Opera House, which were sold through Adams’ drug store for many years. I have also referred previously to Walden’s writings about the Adams homestead on North Main Street, a very early brick residence that remained in the family for over a century. Erwin and Mary Emma married in 1876 and lived in the house for more than fifty years. Mrs. Adams sold the property ten years after her husband’s death in 1929. It was sadly demolished in 2012.

Mary Emma Mallory Adams (1855-1943), photographed ca. 1913.

Mary Emma Mallory Adams (1855-1943), photographed ca. 1913.

Walden noted that “Mr. Wooster disposed of his interest to Mr. Adams and moved to California. This drug store, since the erection of the Vischer block, has always been located there, passing to the ownership of Eldo Lehman upon Mr. Adams’ death” (Notebook, #A69). The pharmacy did pass into Lehman’s ownership, but the transfer occurred twelve years before Erwin Adams died. The front page of the newspaper proclaimed: “Mr. E. R. Lehman has purchased the drug business conducted by Mr. E. W. Adams on West Main street for the past 30 years. Mr. Lehman has been in Mr. Adams’ employ for a long time, and is a very thorough and active druggist. THE ENTERPRISE is pleased to hear of his purchase and wishes him the best of luck” (9-12-1917). Lehman later served as mayor of Wellington.

There is at least one more remnant of the shop still remaining in the village. On the second floor of the Southern Lorain County Historical Society, “The Spirit of ’76” Museum, is a gorgeous carved wooden wall cabinet that was reportedly salvaged from the Adams drug store. If you are in Wellington, you should visit the museum and have a look at it. It is one of thousands of objects in the collection with fascinating stories to show and tell.

Wooden wall cabinet, reportedly from Erwin Adams' drug store, held in the collection of the Southern Lorain County Historical Society, "The Spirit of '76" Museum. Photo by author.

Wooden wall cabinet, reportedly from Erwin Adams’ drug store, held in the collection of the Southern Lorain County Historical Society, “The Spirit of ’76” Museum. Photo by author.

Milestone

"Wellington, O. Birds Eye View." Postcard printed in Germany for A. H. Binder. Author's collection.

“Wellington, O. Birds Eye View.” Postcard printed in Germany for A. H. Binder. Author’s collection.

One year ago today, I began to publish this blog. At the time, I was concerned that I didn’t have enough to say to sustain such a project over the long term, and that the content probably wouldn’t appeal to a broad audience. I am amazed that I am still finding things to write about. I am even more astonished by the scope and scale of the readership. Never in my wildest dreams would I have guessed that more than 13,000 visits to this page would happen in the past year, coming from more than sixty countries around the world. And the fact that nearly eighty people want to know every time I publish a new piece is both humbling and somewhat mystifying to me.

Earlier in the summer, I had ambitious plans for approaching this anniversary. I was hoping to complete enough posts that I would arrive at my one-hundredth today. Alas, life got in the way. Shortly after returning from a lovely holiday, I had a small accident that left me in an arm sling and walking cast. Reduced mobility has made it surprisingly difficult to get the simplest tasks accomplished, and blogging has fallen by the wayside for the time being. Today is thus my ninety-fifth post.

I have the research completed at present for at least four more essays, and about a half-dozen ideas that would require some additional fleshing out. I continue to work on projects including: the digitization of the Wellington Village Council and Ordinance Records (with the Wellington Genealogy Group); a detailed issue list of every nineteenth-century edition of The Wellington Enterprise; and later this year I hope to begin indexing all the Wellington notices printed in the Lorain County News between 1860 and 1873.

My sincere thanks to everyone currently reading this. As always, I welcome your comments (click “Leave a reply” at the top of any post) and suggestions for future topics.

The Buckeye Union

"Minutes of the Buckeye Union, Wellington, Lorain County, Ohio." Private collection. Photo by author.

“Minutes of the Buckeye Union, Wellington, Lorain County, Ohio.” Private collection. Photo by author.

I hope everyone is enjoying a restful summer. I am just back from a few weeks on holiday, and slowly returning to daily life. This post seemed like a gentle transition into new research and writing. I recently had the opportunity to examine the small volume pictured above. Like John Case’s daybook, it is a slender little quarter-bound book measuring eight inches long by six-and-a-half inches wide. From January 1858 to March 1859, this was the official record of a local club named the “Buckeye Union.”

Though the group referred to itself as a literary society, it also functioned as what we would today call a debate club. For each meeting, a question was proposed and members were divided into affirmative and negative responses. (Positions were initially assigned, but the membership later voted “that the speakers be allowed to speak on the side which they may choose.”) Discussion topics included pressing social issues of the day such as whether capital punishment ought to be abolished; whether slavery ought to be abolished, or the Union dissolved; whether intemperance killed more than the sword; and whether “the Indians have more cause to complain of the whites, than the Negroes” (3-9-1858). More abstract topics such as whether steam power had been a greater benefit to mankind than printing technology, or whether all laws ought to be obeyed, right or wrong, were also disputed.

In addition, the group held “exercise” meetings, in which members were asked to offer short essays or poems of their own composition–the literary mission of the society. The titles are wonderful. “Do you take the Papers; a Dialogue” was offered by Leverett Webster and Henry Houghton on February 9, 1858. Luther Herrick described, “Three Days in the Life of Columbus,” two weeks later. On March 15, 1858, Alice Houghton performed, “The Frog. A Comic Song.”

Inscription on the endpaper of Buckeye Union minute book. Private collection. Photo by author.

Inscription on the endpaper of Buckeye Union minute book. Private collection. Photo by author.

Members included almost as many women as men, though it took several months before a motion was approved “that the ladies be invited to participate in the discussions, and business of the society” (3-9-1858). Thirty-six individuals signed the Buckeye Union’s formal constitution. Many of their family names will be familiar to regular readers of the blog. I thought it would be worthwhile to include them in full; this is the order in which they are recorded in the minutes, with males and females in side-by-side columns.

  • Lucius Herrick
  • Orrin Betts
  • Chas. T. Clifford
  • Albert C. Houghton
  • Frederick H. Phelps
  • Luther Herrick
  • Leverett Webster
  • Chas. E. Manchester
  • Edward F. Webster
  • Henry W. Houghton
  • Roswell C. Adams
  • John Serriage
  • Andrew J. Clifford
  • Edwin W. Houghton
  • Clinton Fisher
  • Philander Smith
  • E. C. Beach
  • Frank Case
  • Charles Bowers
  • Henry W. Webster
  • Frank Warren
  • Francis Serage
  • Franklin Clifford
  • Laura Hamilton
  • Alice M. Houghton
  • Ellen Lyons
  • Julia Spear
  • Harriet Clifford
  • Mary Serriage
  • Lois Adams
  • Adaline Clifford
  • Mary Lyons
  • Angeline Clifford
  • Angelia R. Houghton
  • Laura Clifford
  • Hattie Warren

Young Hattie Warren–she was only fifteen or sixteen years old at the society’s formation–would later become Wellington’s first female physician, Dr. Harriet Warren. Her future colleague, Dr. John Houghton, did not settle in Wellington until after his graduation from Baldwin University in 1860, but was clearly entering a community filled with familiar faces; Houghtons alone made up almost 15% of Buckeye Union membership.

Though I have not been able to research every member of the society, I am particularly curious to know if all the females were young and unmarried. Presumably, a married woman with children and household duties would have less time for leisure pursuits outside the home. Harriet Warren was a teenager, as were twins Adeline and Angeline Clifford (born 1842) and their older sister, Harriet (born 1840). Interestingly, Harriet Clifford married fellow Buckeye debater Frederick Phelps in 1863.

The society was a winter diversion; attendance, and the writing preparation necessary for participation, was not practical during the warmer months of the agricultural growing season. In March of both 1858 and 1859, the group formally adjourned until the following November. “[T]he memory of the pleasant evenings we had spent together in pursuit of knowledge, rendered us almost unwilling to bow to stern necessity” (3-23-1858). But if the Buckeye Union reconvened in the late autumn of 1859, the minutes do not reflect that. Fifty-four handwritten pages are followed by an equal number of blank leaves.

“Plain Justice”

"Camp Denison, above Cincinnati O., on the banks of the Miami River, first used by General Cox as a recruiting camp, and later in the war as a permanent camp of instruction in the West." Etching by Frank Leslie, "Leslie's Weekly Illustrated" (1862). Image from Wikipedia Commons.

“Camp Denison, above Cincinnati O., on the banks of the Miami River, first used by General Cox as a recruiting camp, and later in the war as a permanent camp of instruction in the West.” Company C, 7th Ohio Volunteer Infantry trained at Camp Dennison from May 6 to June 26, 1861, before departing by train for the eastern border of Ohio and what was then Virginia. Etching by Frank Leslie, “Leslie’s Weekly Illustrated” (1862). Image from Wikipedia Commons.

“Congressman S. H. Williams has introduced a bill in the house of representatives to correct the military record of N. Huckins of Oberlin. Mr. Huckins served more than ninety days, while the record does not show this fact” (Oberlin News, 7-19-1916, pg. 5).

I first came across this brief notice very early in my research on Canadian Noah Huckins. At the time, I knew virtually nothing about his life prior to settling in Wellington, Ohio. I had located his name in the 1890 United States Census of Union Veterans and Widows of the Civil War. (Most of the federal census documents for that year were destroyed in a later fire, but some veterans’ data for approximately half the states–Kentucky through Wyoming–survives.) That entry told me that Noah Huckins was a musician in Company C, 7th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Date of enlistment was given as June 20, 1861 and date of discharge September 20, 1861, for a total service time of three months.

Noah Huckins, ca. 1860. Image used courtesy of Baldwin Wallace University Archive.

Noah Huckins, ca. 1860. Image used courtesy of Baldwin Wallace University Archive.

Huckins was a private in Company C, also known as “Monroe’s Rifles.” The company was comprised almost entirely of Oberlin College faculty and students, and was nicknamed in honor of Ohio state senator James Monroe (1821-1898), a professor at the college and ardent abolitionist and reformer. Because of its strong ties to the school and the local community, “Monroe’s Rifles” received extensive coverage in the Oberlin newspaper, the Lorain County News, as its young soldiers made their way to training camp and thence into conflict.

I had so many questions about this period in Huckins’ life. Why did a student from Baldwin University join an Oberlin College company? Why did he join at all, given that he was from Canada and had not been in this country very long? Was he truly a musician, or was that a clerical error? (I found this mystery particularly interesting, given that his daughter, Ibla, later attended the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music.) The brief period of service indicated on the census schedule always struck me as strange; I am not an expert in military history, but three months seemed like too brief a time to train, let alone utilize, a raw recruit. When I first saw the 1916 notice at the top of this post, I  thought perhaps it was the answer to that particular question, i.e. Huckins did serve longer than three months, but the military record was somehow incorrect.

Recently, I learned about a company called American Civil War Ancestor. They conduct research at federal, state and local records facilities in the Washington D. C. area, including the National Archives and the Library of Congress. I sent in a request form and within a few weeks I was sifting through nearly 170 digital files, all the paperwork associated with Noah Huckins’ Compiled Military Service Record and his Pension Record. What an interesting and complicated tale they tell.

Huckins was just twenty-one years old when he left his junior year at Baldwin University to enlist. He was mustered into Company C at Camp Taylor in Cleveland on April 25, 1861. The company’s term of service was three months, as no one believed that the rebellion would last very long. According to his official service record, Huckins was mustered out at Oberlin on August 18, 1861. The remarks field indicates, “Declined entering 3 years service. Was furloughed at Camp Dennison. June 14, 1861.” That short, hand-written notation would cause Huckins a great deal of trouble a half-century later.

Physical description of Noah Huckins from his Compiled Military Service Record. Throughout the documents, Huckins eyes are listed as blue, grey and hazel; his height estimates vary by some four inches.

Physical description of Noah Huckins from his Compiled Military Service Record. Throughout the documents, Huckins’ eyes are listed as blue, gray and hazel; his height estimates are equally inconsistent.

In 1915, the now-elderly hardware salesman was living in Oberlin when he was notified that he was being dropped from the veterans’ pension roll “on the ground that he did not render ninety days service during the Civil War.” In an attempt to reduce the swelled ranks of pensioners from the Civil War (the largest such cohort in American history) and the Spanish-American War, the government passed a bill saying that veterans were required to have served a full ninety days to receive monies, and that any furlough time did not count toward that ninety days. They then set about reviewing files and canceling the pensions of many “three month” veterans.

Both Huckins and his classmate John Baldwin, Jr. had been members of Company C’s regimental band. When the company’s three-month enlistment was drawing to a close in 1861, it was reorganized as a three-year company and all the soldiers were asked to reenlist. Most did, but some–including Huckins and Baldwin–did not. Those who did not choose to “re-up” were furloughed in June and allowed to return home, because the rest of the company was about to start marching into what is today West Virginia.

Noah Huckins fought the revoking of his pension fiercely. His argument was simple: he had served more than his alloted ninety days, because he and Baldwin had remained with the company after the other “three month” soldiers went home. The two men were detailed with the band to accompany “Monroe’s Rifles” as they left Camp Dennison by train for a long march from Bellaire, Ohio through Clarksburg, Weston, Glenville, and eventually Sutton, Virginia. (The western portion of Virginia did not became a separate state until June 20, 1863.) It was only on August 2nd, at Sutton, that Huckins and Baldwin were finally allowed to leave military service and make their way back to Ohio. They were officially mustered out at Columbus on August 18th.

Example of Huckins and Huckins hardware store letterhead, from Noah Huckins Pension Record correspondence.

Example of Huckins and Huckins hardware store letterhead, from Noah Huckins Pension Record, Case #1080455.

Huckins wrote repeatedly to the Commissioner of Pensions, and submitted at least six sworn affidavits from former comrades-in-arms (four of whom were also classmates at Baldwin University), as well as character testimonials from Oberlin business associates. He even had the Adjutant General of the State of Ohio write to the pension review board to avow that Ohio had no record of any furloughs granted to Private Huckins during his period of service. Huckins went so far as to note in one letter, “I was paid in full for ninety days service, although I had in fact served ninety-eight days” (2-13-1915, pg. 2). By my calculation, he served 116 days from enlistment to discharge, or 100 days if his time after leaving Sutton is subtracted. The pension review board believed that Huckins had been furloughed and “subsisted himself from and after June 14, 1861, and never thereafter returned to duty” (Statement of Facts, 4-9-1915, pg. 1). By their count, he had served just fifty days. The cancellation of benefits was upheld.

Even after the final decision of the review board had been rendered, Huckins continued to pursue the correction of his military record through the legislative process. What he wanted, he wrote in a letter to the Commissioner of Pensions dated May 15, 1915, was “plain justice in this matter.” The latest correspondence in his Pension Record dates to May 1920, a little more than a year before his death at age eight-two. If the matter was ever resolved in his favor, there is no evidence of it in his military files.

This is a thorny issue. On the one hand, I do not believe it is right for the government to rescind benefits it has pledged to supply, particularly to veterans. The justification for the cancellation seems particularly suspect. On the other hand, even if Huckins was telling the absolute truth about his tour of duty, he served a little over three months of his life in the Union Army. Two-thirds of that time was spent training on Ohio soil. So far as I can tell, Huckins never came near any actual fighting; Company C did not have its first engagement of the war until three weeks after he left Sutton. The aged veteran acknowledged that he was paid the going rate of $13 per month for his military service, for a total of $39. Prior to the pension stoppage, he had received steadily increasing checks for 128 consecutive months, or nearly eleven years. During that time, when he had a very successful hardware business and was living in a house described as “one of the handsomest” in Oberlin, he collected something like $1,600 in “invalid” benefits, describing himself on one form as “unable to earn a support by manual labor by reason of: general disabilities attendant upon old age and eye sight” (Declaration for Invalid Pension, 4-1-1904). Whether this was a deliberately misleading claim on Huckins’ part, or simply the verbiage required of all applicants, I do not know.

Even after immersing myself in this man’s life for so long, I often still feel like I know nothing about him.

An Entertaining Sheet for an Enterprising Town, Part II

"Campbell's Country Press, with rack and screw and table distribution, tympan nipper, and reel rods in the cylinder." From an illustrated catalog of the Campbell Printing Press and Manufacturing Company, printed ca. 1873. Reprinted in "A Catalogue of Nineteenth Century Printing Presses," by Harold E. Sterne. Oak Knoll Press and the British Library (2001), pg. 31.

“Campbell’s Country Press, with rack and screw and table distribution, tympan nipper, and reel rods in the cylinder.” From an illustrated catalog of the Campbell Printing Press and Manufacturing Company, printed ca. 1873. Reprinted in “A Catalogue of Nineteenth Century Printing Presses,” by Harold E. Sterne. Oak Knoll Press and the British Library (2001), pg. 31.

The October 5, 1876 issue of The Wellington Enterprise contained the first masthead to bear the name “Houghton.” In my personal opinion, the nine years that followed represented a kind of golden age for the newspaper, a period of attractive design, engaging written content, and–luckily for John and Mary Hayes Houghton–exciting events in the history of the town. Those elements combined to produce a periodical that is a joy to read.

Initially, Dr. John Houghton purchased the paper with a partner, D. A. Smith. Smith had worked for the Enterprise, under John Clippinger Artz’s management, several years prior to buying it. He was a “practical printer” responsible for the mechanical department of the paper, i.e. the compositors (typesetters) and press operators. Houghton had editorial duties while also continuing to run his drug and stationary shop. The first major change effected by the two men was to relocate the Enterprise office from the Rininger building on Mechanics Street (now East Herrick Avenue) to the second floor of Houghton’s building on South Main Street, allowing him daily oversight of both his businesses.

J. W. Houghton's drug, book and stationery store, formerly located on the west side of South Main Street. Photo 970885 of "Wellington Family Album" Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

J. W. Houghton’s drug, book and stationery store, formerly located on the west side of South Main Street. Photo 970885 of “Wellington Family Album” Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

Houghton and Smith’s partnership was fairly short-lived. In January 1878, Houghton wrote an editorial explaining that due to “impaired health,” Smith had been advised by his doctor to “seek some more congenial clime.” He had therefore sold his interest in the Enterprise to Houghton, who changed the editorial masthead to reflect his status as sole publisher of the paper. He also took the opportunity to add a co-editor to the banner: M. H. Houghton, his wife. “This will make no change in the editorial department of the paper,” his announcement stated, suggesting that Mary had been involved from the moment of purchase. Mary was a respected journalist in her own right, who had a biographical sketch included in the 1897 encyclopedia, American Women: A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of the Lives and Achievements of American Women During the Nineteenth Century. Though she was characterized in that volume as an “editorial assistant” to her husband, he later wrote in a family history that she was his “assistant editor” and “contributed the larger share of copy” (Houghton Genealogy, pg. 142).

One of the delights of reading the Enterprise in this period is that there are numerous glimpses into the day-to-day mechanics of running the operation. For example, the community news columns often included notices about the young men and women working as compositors for the paper. We know that C. W. Votaw, son of a Congregational pastor from Berea, set type in 1880. James F. Stephenson stayed at the paper for only four months in 1881 before returning to his hometown of Leesville, Ohio. E. Alberta Ladd lasted longer than her co-worker James; she had been at the Enterprise for a year before leaving to be married on Christmas Eve of 1881. Andy Thompson spent ten months composing pages before departing for Iowa in the fall of 1883.

Another unexpected window into the workings of the Enterprise office occurred on the night of January 30, 1881, when fire broke out in the block of buildings lining the west side of South Main Street. Several were destroyed or heavily damaged and Houghton’s building was in ongoing danger of burning. In their haste to empty the threatened structures of their contents, local residents did unintentional damage to type already set and paper carried out into the cold and wet of a winter night. “[E]verything but presses and boiler were scattered and in the street, it did not look as though there would be any ENTERPRISE this week. Not a line of copy was ready for Monday…Our printers made every step and every moment count in making it possible to publish a paper this week, and, with one pencil free to begin scribbling, by afternoon of Monday a beginning was made…” (2-3-1881, pg. 3). The newspaper was available on its normal day, Thursday.

Like virtually all proprietors of small-town newspapers, the Houghtons struggled with subscribers who did not pay and local business people who sent job printing work out of town. But their responses to such challenges were often couched in gentle humor. Compare the following notices. The first was written by John Houghton: “Will some of our subscribers who expect to pay their subscriptions in wood bring us some 18inch [sic], seasoned, finely split stove wood and oblige the impecunious editor who hasn’t a solitary stick left” (9-21-1881, pg. 3).  The second was written by Enterprise editor E. L. French in 1897: “Pay up your subscription, we can’t run a newspaper on wind and promises. You have had the paper and we want the money” (9-22-1897, pg. 5). Houghton appears to have followed the old adage about catching more flies with honey than with vinegar.

The Houghtons made substantial financial investments in the Enterprise, including the purchase of a Campbell Country Press in 1883 (see illustration above). This higher-capacity machine, powered by steam, enabled the transition of the paper from a “folio”–one large piece of paper printed with four pages of text and folded in the center to produce a four-page newssheet–to an eight-page weekly. Given that the paper probably had fewer than three hundred subscribers in the 1880s, the new press was as much an investment in the job printing and advertising side of the business as in the production of the newspaper itself.

A Paragon paper cutter. Image curtesy of Paper Lovely.

A nineteenth-century Paragon paper cutter, still in working order today. Image courtesy of letterpress shop Paper Lovely.

John Houghton’s health was always precarious. In 1885, he and Mary made the decision to sell the Enterprise. They ran the same advertisement in every issue of the paper through the months of April and May that year. It offers a wonderfully detailed inventory of the office equipment at the time of transition. “For Sale. The Wellington ENTERPRISE office, with all its machinery, type, fixtures, stock, circulation, good will, etc., etc. The presses are nearly new and capable of doing first class work. The office is well stocked with job type; has a good outfit of wood and metal type for poster work; new Paragon paper cutter; plow paper cutter, card cutter and many things necessary to a well equipped newspaper and job office…The office is heated by steam and run by steam power; is conveniently fitted and located…” (pg. 4).

By his own recollection, John Britton Smith assumed control of the Enterprise on June 8, 1885. He continued to print the newspaper from the second story offices of John Houghton’s building. To my mind, Smith has less of a personal presence within the text of the newspaper; there are also fewer notices that reveal a behind-the-scenes view of the operation. In 1893, Britton wrote that he had no reason to find fault with any of his subscribers so far as payment was concerned, but that Penfield readers were especially prompt in paying; if true, that would make Britton unusually lucky among rural editors of the period. It was also during Britton’s ownership that Charles Horr died, resulting in the sale of an apparently impressive three hundred copies of his obituary issue.

John Britton Smith (1845-1924). A native of Cardington, Ohio, Smith is buried in Lakewood Park Cemetery, Rocky River, Ohio. Photo from Cardington-Ohio-Heritage.com.

John Britton Smith (1845-1924). A native of Cardington, Ohio, Smith is buried in Lakewood Park Cemetery, Rocky River, Ohio. Photo from Cardington-Ohio-Heritage.com.

On January 20, 1897, Britton published his “Valedictory” editorial, in the same issue in which the French Printing Company first appeared on the masthead as proprietors of the newspaper. Britton indicated that his reason for leaving was a desire to locate elsewhere, though he added, “Having spent the time in Wellington very pleasantly, it is with extreme regret that I sever my connection with this place” (1-20-1897, pg. 4). Just below, a separate notice announced that subscribers to the Courier would now be receiving The Wellington Enterprise instead, because the new owners were consolidating both papers into one. The adjacent community notice page featured a reprint of a piece from the Norwalk Chronicle; it also announced the consolidation but added, “Editor French while a novice in the business, seems to know how to get up a good readable paper” (pg. 5). Like Enterprise founder James Guthrie, E. L. French’s ultimate problem would not be starting up with a paper, but sustaining it long-term.

The French Printing Company, comprised of two brothers, began in 1894. Two years later, E. L. and A. E. French bought a Wellington paper called the Courier. (I suspect this is The Cheese-City Courier.) In 1897, they purchased the Enterprise and merged the two publications, while also expanding the advertising and job printing capabilities of the operation. They seem to have expended a great deal of money very quickly, relocating the offices of the paper to the ground floor of the Sheldon building at 201 North Main Street (currently home to the local historical society) four months after acquiring the Enterprise. “We now have three large, well-ventilated and well lighted rooms, conveniently arranged and easily accessible from the street…we have four presses and a three horse power gas engine. Two of the presses are cylinders on one of which we print the newspaper and the other is used for book and large poster printing. The other two presses are used for small commercial work. To the rear of these rooms is the large composing room…We have in this room one of the largest and best assortments of book and job type and material in this part of the state…” (5-26-1897, pg. 4).

But the company quickly ran into serious financial trouble. By this point, the subscription price of the paper had fallen to just $1.00 per year, though few people seem to have paid even that. Angry editorial comments pepper the columns during the French ownership period, including the one I quoted above. The new owners must have know they were in difficulties from the start; they even tried a short-lived plan that first summer to print the paper twice each week, as a folio edition once again. The experiment failed and the Enterprise passed into receivership–that is to say, corporate bankruptcy–by September, just nine months after the French brothers took over. Wellington mayor George Couch was appointed receiver, and his name appeared in that capacity in the paper until the end of the century.

Boston Power Wire Stitcher. From "American Printer and Lithographer," vol. 65 (1917), pg. 11.

Boston Power Wire Stitcher. From “American Printer and Lithographer,” vol. 65 (1917), pg. 11.

The struggling publishers placed the blame squarely on their reading public. “[W]e have become thoroughly convinced that a newspaper cannot be operated without money. It is no wonder that the paper was obliged to pass into the hands of a receiver, with such a large number of delinquent subscribers, many of whom are from one to three years in arrears…” (12-22-1897, pg. 4). They offered special discounts for those who brought their accounts up to date, as well as so-called “clubbing” rates for those who took the Enterprise and another paper of their choosing from virtually anywhere in the country. And they heavily promoted their job printing capabilities: “[A] large quantity of new and modern type and fixtures were added with a new engine, power wire stitcher, perforator, paper cutters, etc., so at this time, the Enterprise plant is one of the most thoroughly equipped of any country newspaper in the state, and is well prepared to do job and catalogue work in a workman-like manner…” (1-4-1899, pg. 4). It was all to no avail. By the start of the twentieth century, a small stock company was formed to purchase the Enterprise from the failing French brothers; a young attorney by the name of Robert Walden was briefly employed as the paper’s interim editor.

In a back corner of the Southern Lorain County Historical Society–the very rooms once occupied by the French Printing Company and Enterprise offices–is a small Chandler & Price press and some miscellaneous printing plates. The manufacturing company was founded in Cleveland in 1881, but the press appears to be a “New Series” hand-fed jobbing platen, meaning it was made sometime after 1911. Though this particular object dates to the twentieth century, its size and heft gives a tiny sense of what the rooms might have been like in the late nineteenth century. It must have created a bustling, noisy, industrial workplace when two large cylinder presses and two smaller job presses such as this were all running at the same time.

Chandler & Price "New Series" jobbing press. Photo by author, used courtesy of the Southern Lorain County Historical Society, "The Spirit of '76" Museum.

Chandler & Price “New Series” jobbing press. Photo by author, used courtesy of the Southern Lorain County Historical Society, “The Spirit of ’76” Museum.

The linotype machine revolutionized production of newspapers when it was first used by the New York Tribune in 1886. No daily newspaper in the world had more than eight pages before its introduction, due to the constraints of setting type by hand. Interestingly, John Houghton’s son, Elmer Seymour Houghton, began his own newspaper career as a “printer’s devil,” or apprentice in his father’s composing room, but ended it after many decades as a linotype operator at the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Just forty miles southwest, the Enterprise was still hand-set until Walter Cole took over as its owner and editor in November 1918. Despite all the changes of the preceding half-century, the same basic production process used by James Guthrie when he began the newspaper shortly after the Civil War was still being employed in Wellington as World War I drew to a close.

An Entertaining Sheet for an Enterprising Town, Part I

Female compositors (i.e. typesetters) at work for The Brethren Publishing Co. in Ashland, Ohio, late nineteenth century. Photograph owned by the Smithsonian Institution and reprinted in Richard-Gabriel Rummonds' "Nineteenth-Century Printing Practices and the Iron Handpress," Oak Knoll Press & The British Library (2004), vol. 1, pg. 434. In 1873, "The Wellington Enterprise" advertised for female compositors at its downtown office.

Female compositors (i.e. typesetters) at work for The Brethren Publishing Co. in Ashland, Ohio, late nineteenth century. Photograph owned by the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution and reprinted in Richard-Gabriel Rummonds’ “Nineteenth-Century Printing Practices and the Iron Handpress,” Oak Knoll Press & The British Library (2004), vol. 1, pg. 434. “The Wellington Enterprise” is known to have employed female compositors at its newspaper and job printing office in the 1870s, 1880s, and 1890s.

“It is no easy matter to make a success of a country newspaper, either financially or otherwise. It requires constant effort which the public fail to appreciate. A newspaper in a town is entirely different from a regular business, it is a thing in which all are interested, and without which nearly all would be lost, especially when they desire to use it as a medium through which to let their wants be known, give special notices, make important announcements, etc. We feel that the Enterprise is entitled to and deserving of your support in all its departments, subscription, advertising and job work…Come and help make it a success in the future as in the past, only more so” (The Wellington Enterprise, 1-4-1899, pg. 4).

When James M. Guthrie first came to Wellington, Ohio with the intention of starting a town newspaper in the late summer of 1867, he was no stranger to the printing business. He was already the publisher of at least three newspapers, namely The Reveille of Westerville, Ohio; and The Student and The Golden Era, both of Delaware, Ohio. Within six months of launching The Wellington Enterprise (first published September 19, 1867), Guthrie was apparently “completing arrangements” for the creation of a fifth newspaper, this one in nearby Oberlin. Though the man seems to have had a talent for starting businesses, his ability to maintain operations long-term is less certain. Guthrie left–perhaps fled–Wellington, reportedly over financial difficulties, in July 1868 and nearly ended the Enterprise before it had reached its first anniversary.

Financial difficulties were virtually “standard operating procedure” for the small town newspaper of the nineteenth century. A limited population of subscribers, who sometimes shared papers with family and neighbors, and sometimes did not bother to pay their subscriptions, was the bane of nearly every rural publisher. (Small-town business advertisers were also notorious for being in arrears on their payments, and adding insult to injury by sending printing jobs to larger, cheaper operations in nearby metropolitan areas.) By one scholarly estimate, a newspaper of the period required about 1,500 subscribers before it could make a modest profit; most rural operations had subscription lists numbering in the low hundreds. The Enterprise reportedly had some two hundred subscribers within a few weeks of its start. When Charles Horr died a quarter-century later, the paper sold three hundred copies of the issue containing his obituary, and commented on that fact in print, suggesting a higher-than-usual volume of weekly business (10-17-1894, pg. 5).

Starting a small-town newspaper “from scratch” could be an expensive undertaking in the 1800s. It is said to have cost anywhere from $400 to $1,500, depending on the size and complexity of the proposed operation. Would-be publishers often did not have that kind of capital, so had to secure loans or offer services in exchange for cash upfront. When Guthrie arrived in the village, he rented a room “over Brainard’s Grocery” and furnished it with “press, type and fixtures” (The Lorain County News, 9-10-1867, pg. 3). Whether Guthrie already had this equipment and relocated it from another of his newspapers, or used borrowed money to purchase it, we do not know. He was said at the time to have “pledges of patronage and…assistance in the way of capital” but what that might entail was not specified (LCN, 9-4-1867, pg. 3). Some thirty years later, in a published reflection on its own history, the Enterprise recorded that Guthrie “succeeded in securing from the business men a loan of some $600 to be paid back in advertising…[he] then moved a part of his newspaper plant from Delaware to Wellington” (1-4-1899, pg. 4).

The Washington press, described by printing historian Stephen O. Saxe as "by far the most successful hand press in America...Washington presses were seen in printing offices all over the country; they were the most popular iron hand press, by far" (Saxe, "American Iron Hand Presses" (1991) pgs. 43, 45. We do not know exactly what type of equipment James Guthrie first used to print "The Wellington Enterprise" in 1867. But in 1866, MacKellar wrote that iron handpresses "are now restricted to country papers of small circulation" (quoted in Rummonds, pg. 103). Image from Saxe, pg. 42.

The Washington press, described by printing historian Stephen O. Saxe as “by far the most successful hand press in America…Washington presses were seen in printing offices all over the country; they were the most popular iron hand press, by far” (Saxe, “American Iron Hand Presses” (1991), pgs. 43, 45). We do not know exactly what type of equipment James Guthrie first used to print “The Wellington Enterprise” in 1867. But in 1866, printer manual author Thomas MacKellar wrote that iron handpresses “are now restricted to country papers of small circulation” (quoted in Rummonds, pg. 103). Wood engraving by John DePol, from Saxe, pg. 42.

I don’t know exactly where Brainard’s grocery store was located, nor do I know what type of printing press Guthrie was operating. Very likely it was a cast iron handpress. He had the assistance of at least one employee, John Clippinger Artz, who served as “foreman of the paper.” This meant that in theory Guthrie did the editorial writing and business management, while Artz performed the actual printing. In such a small office, however, both men presumably performed any task necessary to get the paper out on time.

In 1867, the country was still recovering from the recently ended Civil War, and was in profound transformation in many ways. One of the more fascinating (and unsung) changes in progress involved the composition and availability of paper. Historically, Western paper had been made by pulping fabric rags of cotton and other natural fibers, which produced a high-quality, long-lasting, and comparatively expensive paper. Rags–and therefore, rag papers–were becoming increasing hard to procure in early nineteenth-century America, at the same historical moment that national literacy rates were increasing and a demand for printed materials was rising. As thousands of newspapers and magazines began across the U. S., the need for cheap and abundant paper exploded. Manufacturers began experimenting with all sorts of organic materials to try and create such a product; by the 1860s, wood pulp was being widely substituted for rags. The resulting paper was not as aesthetically pleasing nor as long-lived, but it served the immediate needs of publishers. Newspapers that had been densely printed and confined to four pages (in fact, a single large sheet of paper printed with four pages of text and folded in the center to form a so-called “folio”) for want of paper, could now be larger in overall dimension, more numerous in pages, and more spacious in design. Interestingly, a notice in the Lorain County News in 1868 may show Guthrie on the hunt for cheap paper for his most recent periodical: “J. M GUTHRIE, Editor of the Wellington Enterprise, has recently entered into a partnership in order to secure Wood, prefering [sic] that method to taking it on subscription. With his lady he has been sojourning in New York State, and promises on his return to drive the quill with unabated vigor” (2-12-1868, pg. 3).

Undated image of five living editors of "The Wellington Enterprise." John Clippinger Artz is seated on the far left; next to him are Dr. John Houghton and Henry Fifield. Walter Cole (l) and Robert Walden (r) are standing. Photo 970460 of "Wellington Family Album" Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

Five living editors of “The Wellington Enterprise.” John Clippinger Artz is seated on the far left; next to him are Dr. John Houghton and Henry Fifield. Walter Cole (l) and Robert Walden (r) are standing. The image is undated but must have been taken between November 1918, when Cole became editor of the paper, and January 1920, when Fifield died. Photo 970460 of “Wellington Family Album” Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

There is a huge gap in the extant issues of the Enterprise from December 1867 to September 1872. It is unclear exactly when and under what conditions Guthrie departed and Artz took charge. The Lorain County News reported that Guthrie had left Wellington, and three to four hundred dollars in unpaid debts, by July 1868. “Many disappointed creditors…are making uncomplimentary remarks concerning him to the effect that he is a swindler, a rascal, and unworthy the confidence of any community” (7-15-1898, pg. 3). Certainly by 1869, when the first edition of George P. Rowell & Co.’s American Newspaper Directory was published, J. C. Artz was listed as both editor and publisher for the Enterprise, “established 1867″ (pg. 91).

Artz’s newspaper office was on the second floor of the so-called Rininger building, the three-story brick Italianate that stood on the corner of Main Street and Mechanics Street (now East Herrick Avenue). Exactly what sorts of technological advancements or expansions to the business Artz made, I do not know. He did advertise to hire “Two Girls to learn to set type” in April 1873. It was fairly common after mid-century, particularly in larger urban environments, for women to be employed as compositors, i.e. typesetters, though they were more often engaged to do job or book printing. Newspaper typesetting was considered particularly exacting and stressful work, especially in city papers that had daily publication deadlines to meet. Competition for the newspaper positions was therefore more intense, as they were better paid than job and book work (Rummonds, pg. 44).

Building known as both the Rininger Block and the Horr Block, which burned in the early twentieth century. Formerly located on the northern corner of Main Street and Mechanics Street (now East Herrick Avenue). Image must have been taken after 1882, as the tin cornice of the second Rininger store is visible on the right side. Photo courtesy of the Southern Lorain County Historical Society, "The Spirit of '76" Museum.

Building known as both the Rininger block and the Horr block. Formerly located on the northern corner of Main Street and Mechanics Street (now East Herrick Avenue), it burned in the early twentieth century. “The Wellington Enterprise” was located in this building from at least 1873 until 1876. I suspect, however, that Guthrie’s second floor office and Artz’s were one-in-the-same, which would put the publishing operation here from 1867 to 1876. Photo courtesy of the Southern Lorain County Historical Society, “The Spirit of ’76” Museum.

On September 28, 1876, J. C. Artz announced via editorial that “our connection with the paper and office is severed,” because he had just sold the operation to Dr. John W. Houghton and D. A. Smith, “a practical printer, who graduated from the ENTERPRISE office some half-dozen years ago” (pg. 2). Artz received an appointment to the railway mail service and therefore left the newspaper under positive circumstances. No evidence of financial difficulties surrounds his departure, despite the fact that the reduced cost of wood-pulp paper and subsequent increased competition from regional and urban newssheets had driven the Enterprise’s subscription price down from $2.00 per year under Guthrie to $1.50 per year under Artz. It would drop another third by century’s end.

In Part II, I will examine the “golden era” of the Enterprise under the ownership of John and Mary Hayes Houghton; the tenure of John Britton Smith; and the brief and sadly unsuccessful attempt of the French Printing Company to make the newspaper and job printing office profitable, an experiment that resulted in bankruptcy and the sale of the paper at the turn of the twentieth century.

John Case’s Daybook

Daybook once belonging to tanner John S. Case, used primarily from 1836 to 1838. Private collection. Photo by author.

Daybook once belonging to tanner John S. Case, used primarily from 1836 to 1838. Private collection. Photo by author.

I had the totally unexpected pleasure of handling this little gem over the weekend. I was asked whether I could determine its original owner, and what its purpose might have been. The volume is about six inches wide by seven-and-a-quarter inches long. It is bound in a style called “quarter binding,” meaning that only its spine is enclosed in leather; the rest of the book is covered in decorative marbled paper.

The contents of the volume reveal it to be a daybook, a type of accounting ledger. An artisan or merchant shop owner would often record day-to-day business transactions in a daybook, and then later post them to a (more formal) business ledger. This particular daybook has entries relating primarily to the manufacturing of footwear in Wellington from 1836 to 1838.

The owner’s name was hiding in plain sight, upside down on the pastedown of the back cover. The endpapers apparently served the double purpose of testing the author’s pen flow, as they are entirely saturated in inkblots. (The first American patent for a steel-nibbed dip pen was issued in 1810 but they were not widely used until at least the mid-1840s; this volume was likely written with some type of quill pen.) But the name is still legible and denotes the book as belonging to “John S. Case / Wellington / Lorain C. / Ohio.”

Inverted view of back flyleaf, John S. Case daybook. Private collection. Photo by author.

Detail of back pastedown (inverted), John S. Case daybook. Private collection. Photo by author.

I was familiar with Case’s name, because he sold land to Noah Huckins and Charles Horr on which they erected an ice house and ice harvesting pond in 1881. I wrote a post about that back in November, which featured a map detail showing Case’s property in the 1870s. The lot north of the road includes a structure labelled, “Tannery.” Case’s entry in Commemorative Biographical Record of the Counties of Huron and Lorain, Ohio (1894) confirms his occupation: “In November, 1829, he came to Lorain county, and commenced the tanning business, in 1830, in the town of Wellington, opposite where the ice house now stands, and successfully operated the same until some twelve or fifteen years ago, when he retired from business” (pg. 897).

John S. Case. "Commemorative Biographical Record of the Counties of Huron and Lorain, Ohio" (1894), pg. 895.

John Seward Case. “Commemorative Biographical Record of the Counties of Huron and Lorain, Ohio” (1894), pg. 895.

Case situated his tannery on Liberty Street (now West Herrick Avenue)  for the same reason that Huckins and Horr later wanted to locate there: access to the creek that ran across the west side of town. Tanning, which is treating animal skins to create leather, is a very labor-intensive process that uses huge quantities of water. It is also a very smelly process, which explains why tanneries are usually found well away from populated areas.

The daybook is a “who’s who” of early Wellington. Couches, Wadsworths, Lovelands, Manleys, Herricks, Footes, Wilcoxes and deWolfs fill the pages. Dr. Daniel Johns was a regular customer. Case performed services including making and mending shoes and boots–also called “brogans”–for men, women and children. He replaced soles and heels, and most frequently described his own creations as “thick” and “heavy.” This was not delicate or sophisticated cobbling; Case was making rugged items for a village that had been unpopulated wilderness less than twenty years before. He also fashioned and fixed leather articles including animal harnesses, bridles, and even fire bellows.

Interior view of daybook owned by John S. Case, showing entries for July 1837. Private collection. Photo by author.

Interior view of daybook owned by John S. Case, showing entries for July 1837. Private collection. Photo by author.

The entries in the daybook follow a regular structure. They are recorded chronologically by the date the request for work was received. The client name comes first, followed by a description of the service (e. g. “1 pr shoes for girl” or “soleing + heeling your wifes boots”). The majority of entries are followed by the notation “Dr,” which in this context does not mean doctor, but rather “debitor.” The fee assessed for the work is listed in the right column; once payment in cash or kind was received–which could sometimes occur long after completion of the job–the left column was marked “Paid” or “X.”

Since specie was comparatively scarce in Ohio in the 1830s, it was not at all unusual for customers to settle their accounts with goods, instead of or in conjunction with cash. On May 1st, 1838, for example, David Howk discharged $0.94 of his debt “By five pts molasses.” His entry was duly marked “Cr” for “creditor.” There is at least one example (June 16, 1838) of Case accepting a “palm leaf hat + ribband” as partial payment. Palm leaf hat manufacture is often cited as a primary example of “outwork” widely engaged in by early nineteenth-century women and girls in their homes, so this hat might represent a Wellington woman’s contribution to her household economy through her own labor.

At some point after the daybook was full, it began a kind of second life as a mini-scrapbook. Someone pasted newspaper clippings, mainly poems and amusing anecdotes, over many of the pages in the first half of the volume. I attempted to trace the source(s) of the clippings, but without much success. Most do not look to me like the fonts and layout styles used in The Wellington Enterprise. One clipping had a mention on its reverse of “Dr. Field” taking over as editor of the newspaper, The Evangelist; Henry Martyn Field assumed that role in 1854. Two of the pastings are poems by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, both of which were first published in 1866. A receipt lodged in the binding from Runnels & Manchester Insurance of Cleveland is dated July 26, 1881. I have a strong suspicion that it was Case himself, or at least someone in his family, who reused the precious paper of the no-longer needed accounts. The one clipping in the volume that does seem to come from the Enterprise–a portion of an advertisement for A.G. Couch’s cabinet factory is visible on its reverse–is an undated mention of “Lieut. F. S. Case [1838-1887], son of J. S. Case of this place.” While it is unfortunate that these pastings cover some of the earliest pages of the daybook, one could argue that being repurposed as a scrapbook quite possibly saved this historical document for posterity.

Interior view of daybook owned by John S. Case, showing entries for December 15, 1836. Note that the right leaf is completely covered in newsprint. The darkening of the leaf on the left was caused by the acidic newsprint and the glue used to adhere it, which was probably animal-based. Private collection. Photo by author.

Interior view of daybook owned by John S. Case, showing entries for December 15, 1836. Note that the right leaf is completely covered in newsprint. The darkening of both leaves was caused by a combination of acidic newsprint, animal-based hide glue, and subsequent molding. Private collection. Photo by author.

John Seward Case died in late 1896, aged 88 years, and is buried in Greenwood Cemetery with his second wife, Lucinda A. Ely Case. The present owner of the daybook is not sure how he came to acquire it, and there is no obvious clue within the volume, beyond the later newspaper clippings I have already described. However this little time capsule managed to survive the past eighteen decades, I am glad I got to make its acquaintance.

Headstone of John S. and Lucinda E. Case, at Greenwood Cemetery, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

Headstone of John S. and Lucinda E. Case, at Greenwood Cemetery, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.