Category Archives: Newspapers

Happy Sesquicentennial, Wellington Enterprise!

Exactly one hundred and fifty years ago today (September 19, 1867) the inaugural issue of The Wellington Enterprise was published by editor James M. Guthrie. Over the past four years, I have written more than six thousand words on the history of our hometown newspaper. If you would like to learn more the Enterprise, check out some of these earlier posts:

To read about the very first issue of the Enterprise ever published, click here.

For a complete nineteenth-century history of the paper and its editors, click here (part one) and here (part two).

For biographical information specifically pertaining to co-editors John and Mary Hayes Houghton, click here.

To learn more about the type of printing press used in the Enterprise offices while the Houghtons were editors, and to see a video of the press in operation, click here.

To see the very first color issue ever printed by the paper, click here.

Happy birthday, Wellington Enterprise! Here’s to a few more centuries in operation.

 

 

Advertisements

Christmas in July

“The Wellington Enterprise,” 12-21-1898, pg. 1. Original object held in the collections of the Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland, Ohio. Photo by author.

On this day devoted to outdoor celebrations in sunshine and heat, I decided to celebrate something a bit different. I’ve written at some length about the history of The Wellington Enterprise over the course of the nineteenth century. (Posts can be found here, here and here.) A few months ago, when I made a research visit to the Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland, one of my purposes was to look at a specific issue of that newspaper dated December 21, 1898. I believe it is the first issue of the Enterprise ever to use color printing.

The December 14th edition announced the special publication: “Our Christmas Number. Next week’s number of the The Enterprise will be the Christmas, and will be issued next Monday. It will consist of eight pages, including a specially designed cover, printed in colors. This as well as the inside pages will be of good quality of book paper, all stitched together on our wire stitcher, and will be by far the handsomest holiday paper ever put out in the city. It will not be a conglomerated mass of advertising daubed on paper, but a neat, distinctive, attractive portrayal of great bargains. Such work as this office takes pride in producing…” (pg. 4).

The owners of the paper at that time, brothers operating under the name French Printing Company, had only run the business since 1897 but had very soon gone into financial receivership. They tried a number of schemes to increase circulation, including reducing the paper from eight pages to four but printing it twice per week. This experimentation with color seems to be have been another such attempt to increase advertising dollars and make the company solvent. The plan failed and the newspaper was sold to a small stock company formed expressly to save it, just after the turn of the century.

Enjoy the sunshine and warmth of this Independence Day, dear readers. Do not give a thought to the cold and snows that will be here before we know it.

“The Wellington Enterprise,” 12-21-1898, pg. 7. Original object held in the collections of the Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland, Ohio. Photo by author.

“The Wellington Journal”

Main entrance of the Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland, Ohio. Photo by author.

Main entrance of the Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland, Ohio. Photo by author.

I recently visited the Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland, Ohio and was able to work with some of the wonderful materials in their History Center Research Library. The WRHS collects genealogy resources, unpublished manuscripts and printed items such as early newspapers. In addition to seeing hand-written documents related to the Wellington [Ladies] Literary Society, created in the 1840s and 1850s, I was also able to handle something very rare indeed: a mid-century newspaper called The Wellington Journal.

Fifteen years before the launch of The Wellington Enterprise–and nearly a decade before The Lorain County News was initially co-published in Oberlin and Wellington–the Journal was likely the village’s first printed news sheet. It seems to have started in March, 1852. The WRHS has only two issues in its possession; the earlier of the two is dated April 1, 1852, and enumerated as volume one, number four. The only other identified copy in existence (in an archival collection, at any rate) is held by the American Antiquarian Society in Massachusetts, which is renowned worldwide for its early American newspaper collection. That issue is also from 1852, though the newspaper is believed to have been in business until 1854.

Masthead of "The Wellington Journal," August 12, 1852. Original object held in the collections of the Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland, Ohio. Photo by author.

Masthead of “The Wellington Journal,” 8-12-1852. Original object held in the collections of the Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland, Ohio. Photo by author.

The Journal was a folio, meaning a large, single sheet of paper printed with four pages of text and folded in the center. The later issue in the WRHS holding is dated August 12, 1852 and was at some point torn completely down the fold, leaving behind only the first and second page of the paper for researchers. This is especially unfortunate given that page three of folio newspapers usually contained local news, and page four generally featured local advertisements.

The paper was edited by a man called George Brewster, and an associate, later promoted to “general agent,” by the name of L. S. Griswold. But ownership of the periodical appears to have changed hands fairly soon after its launch. The earlier issue proclaims the Journal to be “Published every Thursday morning by Brewster and Baker,” but just four months later the masthead instead lists “J. S. Reed & E. Boice–Proprietors.” John Reed was a local merchant who drowned in the Black River in 1855. Eli Boies was a doctor who practiced with Dr. Daniel Johns in the village; he was also deeply opposed to slavery and in 1858 participated in the Oberlin-Wellington Slave Rescue. (I am working on a post right now about their wives, Jerusha Benedict Reed and Lydia Kellogg Boies, which will go up during Women’s History Month.)

"The Wellington Journal," 4-1-1852, pgs. 2-3. Original object held in the collections of the Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland, Ohio. Photo by author.

“The Wellington Journal,” 4-1-1852, pgs. 2-3. Original object held in the collections of the Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland, Ohio. Photo by author.

I was left with an interesting question after reviewing the contents of the papers. The April issue was printed and sold from an “Office over Barker’s Store, Corner of Broadway.” By August, the printing office was located on the “corner of Main and Norwalk Streets.” Are these the same location? The name Broadway, referring to a wide thoroughfare, was often used for the main street through a community. But clearly by August of 1852, Main Street was so-called. There is also a reference in an advertisement for E. S. Tripp’s business to his “Shop on Mechanic Street.” So the names of the two most prominent routes through Wellington seem to have been established by 1852. Certainly by the time of the earliest village map I have seen, dated 1857, those names were used. Where, then, were Broadway and Norwalk Streets in 1852?

Every question, even one that is answered, leads to another. It is, at once, the joy and misery of historical research.

“A Rare Chance for the Girls”

I have been doing a great deal of research into the earliest settlers in Wellington of late, which by necessity leads me back to Massachusetts in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. I happened to run across the following letter to the editor, which was purportedly first directed to the Newburyport [MA] Herald in 1836. It then “went viral” and was republished in multiple other newspapers, including the Barre [MA] Gazette and the Newark [NJ] Daily Advertiser.

Letter from Luther W. Day of Wellington, Ohio published in the "Barre [MA] Gazette," 2-12-1836, pg. 4.

Letter allegedly from Luther W. Day of Wellington, Ohio published in the “Barre [MA] Gazette,” 2-12-1836, pg. 4.

Was Luther Day a real person? An (admittedly cursory) examination did not turn up any evidence of him in the 1830 or 1840 Wellington censuses. In 1830, Day would supposedly have been just sixteen years old. The census that year listed only the name of the male head of household; no one named Day is included, but it is theoretically possible that the teenager could have been living in another man’s home. By 1840, four years had passed since the letter was published. Day could have relocated, or died. He does not appear in the extant burial records of Wellington’s Pioneer Cemetery, nor those of Greenwood Cemetery.

Assuming for a moment that he was not the creation of an imaginative eastern newspaper editor, I love the idea that Day was living in rural Ohio, reading a Kentucky newspaper, and apparently saw a reprinted article from a Massachusetts periodical that inspired him to begin a quest for a mail-order bride. Also fascinating is his assertion that “there are no girls in this place.” Did Luther have any inkling of how widely published his earnest entreaty became? Did it lead to his finding “a good girl, not over 25 years of age” to marry? It seems unlikely, but I hope for his sake that it did.

UPDATE: I have been unable to locate anyone called Day in the Wellington corporation tax records for the years 1834, 1835 or 1836. I went so far as to spot check the surrounding communities. John Day of Pittsfield paid taxes on three head of cattle in 1836, but apparently owned no land. Someone who seems to be called Lucy Day owned more than 1,800 acres in Penfield. I found no Luther W., from Huntington to Camden to Brighton to Rochester. I think Farmer Day may be an amusing hoax.

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. 187).

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 1915. “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.

Stop the Presses!

Engraving of a Country Campbell Printing Press.

Engraving of a Campbell “Country” Press. “The Wellington Enterprise,” 12-12-1883, pg. 2.

Very brief post tonight to share something cool. I have long been curious about the day-to-day production of a nineteenth-century newspaper. I am somewhat familiar with letterpress printing, having taken a few classes over the years. But the mechanics of turning out The Wellington Enterprise on a weekly basis have always felt rather mysterious to me. In the course of doing research, I discovered an editorial in an 1883 issue of the paper, while John and Mary Houghton were still the publishers, announcing the installation of a “new improved Country Campbell Printing Press.”

It was, they bragged, “conceded to be one of the best, if not the very best, ever invented for job and newspaper offices where the circulation does not exceed a few thousand…These presses are the simplest built, give absolutely perfect register and are unequalled for strength and durability” (12-12-1883, pg. 2). The first commercial linotype machine, which would revolutionize print publication, would not be purchased by the New York Tribune for three more years, so this was state-of-the-art technology for a small-scale operation.

The costly capital investment was clearly preparation for a dramatic expansion of coverage at the Enterprise. Just three issues later, on January 2, 1884, the newspaper changed for the first time in its history from a four-page (folio) to an eight-page publication. It would remain eight pages for the rest of the century, with the exception of a brief “experiment” in printing a four-page issue twice each week, which lasted only from July to August of 1897.

I happened to run across a short video–less than one minute–of a “Campbell Country Cylinder Newspaper Press” in action. It appears identical to the engraving above. You can see the video here. Enjoy!