The History of New York State
Book 12 Chapter 21, Part 4

Editor, Dr. James Sullivan

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Pam

 

The first newspaper to be published in Albany was the "Gazette," a name much used for the first half century of newspaper history. James Robertson printed the first copy in November, 1771; the last within a year. At this time Albany was the second city in the State to have a regular newspaper. The mortality of the early papers was very great, and little advantage would come from examining tombstones. There were two new-sheets of the Regency period which deserve notice because of the men who controlled them and their effect upon the political destiny of the state. Jesse Buel, Connecticut Yankee, became a printer's devil at the age of fourteen, apprenticed as a journeyman printer. In 1797 he began the publication of the "Troy Budget," and after later establishing papers in Poughkeepsie and Kingston, he came to Albany and started the "Argus" in 1813. Judge Buel (he was appointed Judge of the court of Common Pleas of Ulster County in 1808) sold the "Argus" after editing it for seven years. Judge Moses I. Cantine and I. Q. Leake purchased the plant; the next year the "Argus" was made the State paper and it was off on its career as a party organ, one of the most powerful of that period.

Edwin Croswell succeeded Judge Cantine as editor and one of the proprietors of the "Argus" in 1821, under the urging of such men as Martin Van Buren, Benjamin F. Butler, and Judge Duer, then leaders of the Democratic party in the State. Edwin Croswell, before long, was a power in the politics of both State and Nation. As a political writer his only rival was Thurlow Weed. A contemporary said of Croswell: "As a party political editor he has few, if any, superiors in the Untied States . . . . . His style of writing is more polished than that of most American journalists; indeed, it is somewhat remarkable that a man educated to business pursuits should acquire so nice and cultivated a literary taste, and a style so pleasing and perspicuous." In to the political aspects of his life we need not go except as it bore on journalism. This grew out of a desire to retain political patronage, which to him was bound up in the Sate printing contract, which was more often a symbol than a profit. At a later time, when the fight with Weed was at its height, the "Argus" took the contract for the State's printing without pay, although even this did not prevent Weed's getting a later contract at a good price.

Thurlow Weed is the great name in Albany journalism as it was in politics. He was the State "boss," and probably hoped to extend his reign over the Nation in Johnson's time. The triumvirate of Weed-Seward-Greeley was exceedingly powerful while it remained intact. The later addition of Raymond and his "New York Times," led to the loss of Greeley and probably cost Seward the nomination for the presidency over Lincoln, although weed was instrumental in both forming and in keeping a wide control of the Republican party. His political career has been discussed elsewhere in this work. It is right, however, to realize that is was as a dominant journalist that he accomplished many of his political feats.

Thurlow Weed wanted to be a sailor as a boy, and it was not until he turned to the life of a printer that he found a task which engaged his whole interest. He wandered through much of the State before settling down in Albany, being connected with the "Tocsin" of old Scipio; worked in Onondaga Hollow, Utica, and Rochester among other places. It was at the latter town that he made the political ties which influenced his later life. Anti-Mason agitation seized hold on the State even to the extent of becoming the basis of apolitical party. It was as an anti-Mason organ that the "Evening Journal" of Albany was started in 1830 with Thurlow Weed as its editor. It soon became a Whig organ, and as that party passed into history, supported the Republican organization. For forty years Mr. Weed was devoted to journalism. Whatever else he may have been he was an ardent journalist, taking great pride in the calling. His appointment as State printer over his rival, Edwin Croswell, probably pleased him as much for what the office stood for in the printer's world as for its political power. It is said that the last time he ever set type was on November 8,m 1854, when he "seized a 'stick' and himself threw into brevier" the expressive sentences: "Let the eagle scream! Myron H. Clark is elected." He made of the "Albany Evening Journal," second only to the "New York Tribune," the leading party journal; in the State. He aided Horace Greeley in his notable rise as an editor and National figure. Raymond and the "Times" of New York probably came into being because of Weed, and he contributed editorial to this newspaper in after years. One said of Thurlow Weed: "Everything written by him affords evidence of a powerful mind. . . . . .Every blow he strikes is felt. Few editors in America possess more of party tact than Weed. He afforded evidence of being by nature a great man. He has risen from an obscure situation in life to eminence, and in all the positions which he has occupied he ash discovered new resources of mind fully adequate to those powers requisite to meet the exigency." Even Horace Greeley, after his bitter quarrel with Weed, could write of him, "He was for twenty years the most sententious and pungent writer of editorial paragraphs on the American press." Such was Thurlow Weed, apprentice, journeyman, printer and editor. At his death, in 1882, the political dominance of the press was beginning to wane, and the editor returning to his original place of a purveyor of the news.

Of the hundred of newspapers established in Albany during the long period from 1771, three now hold the field among the dailies. The "Knickerbocker Press," a combination of the "Daily Press" of 1870 and the "Knickerbocker" of 1843, made in 1877, is the morning paper of the city and county. It has a circulation of 36,000 and is edited by Lynn J. Arnold, Jr. The "Albany Evening News,' started by Knickerbocker Press interests, later acquired the "Journal" and in a away is through it a direct descendent of the famous "Evening Journal" of Weed. It is published by the "Knickerbocker Press," and is under the same editorship. It competes for the primacy of the evening journals with the "Times-Union," edited by Dan Carroll. Each as a circulation in excess of 40,000. The "Times-Union" is a combination of the "Albany Morning Times," found in 1856, and the "Evening Union," established in 1882. The two papers were purchased by J. H. Farrell in 1891 and consolidated under the present title. One of the most notable of the "Times-Union's" owners was Martin H. Glynn, former governor of the commonwealth, who retained his direction of the "Journal" until its sale in recent year to Hearst interests. Governor Glynn was graduated in law but found journalism rather more to his taste, and to it devoted his attention with great skill and success.

Journalism in Buffalo.--Buffalo, the early metropolis of the western part of the State, and one of the first of its cities to pass beyond the village status, was also one of the first in the section to have a newspaper.

In 1811, the Salisbury brothers, Smith H. and Hezekiah, founded the "Gazette" and on October 6 issued the first number. This was the only newspaper in Western New York with the exception of one established in Batavia in 1807. For that matter the number of papers published in the State outside of New York and Albany, was very small. Utica had one, the first to be printed west of the capital; there was another at Manlius in Onondaga County; the Batavia publication; and the "Ontario Repository" printed by James D. Bemis at Canandaigua. This about covers the list of those in the field. One can but admire the courage of the Salisburys in starting such an enterprise at this time, for war was in the air and Buffalo was in the danger zone. It will be recalled that the village was burned in 1813, but the owners of the "Gazette" had been wise and removed their plant to Harris Hill. The Salisburys and their new sheet are memorable for several things. The brothers not only started this second of the newspaper of the western section of New York but opened the first bookstore west of Canandaigua. The "Gazette" is credited with bringing about the change in the name of the village from Buffaloe to Buffalo; brought the first printing presses to this part of the State, later introducing the first power press used in the town. It was the progenitor of the present "Courier-Express." An almost complete file of the "Gazette" is preserved in the Buffalo Public Library.

After many changes in name and ownership it merged as the "Courier" in 1846, and during Civil War times published weekly, evening and morning editions. In 1897 the paper was sold to William James Conners who consolidated it with the "Record" as the "Courier-Record." Two years prior to this, Mr. Conners had purchased the "Buffalo-Inquirer" of which Leslie Thom was editor, and make Samuel G. Blythe, the well-known special writer, editor-in-chief. The "Inquirer" was issued as a one-cent morning paper, the only one in the city. Its popularity was immediate and its advancement rapid. The name was changed to the "Record" in 1897, and later in the year combined with the "Courier," as has been mentioned; the "Record' part of the title being dropped the next year. The "Express" originated in 1845 and had a reasonably happy career for the half century it existed as a separate journal. It was absorbed by the "Courier" in 1905, and under the present combination title has been issued as the Conners publication to the present time.

Samuel L. Clemens (Mark Twain) was connected with the "Express" in 1809, but his peculiar ability did not seem to lie in the direction of the routine of a newspaper office. The two Clapps, A. M. and H. H., the Mathews, father and son, owned and edited the "Express" during the greater part of its life under that name. Joseph Warren came from the "Country Gentleman" to the "Courier" in 1854 and guided its destiny for two decades. Mr. Warren was a recognized leader of the Democratic party in the western section of the State. James Warren, for many years the publisher of a descendent of the "Gazette," was prominent in the Republican party. Roswell Haskins; Professor Ivory Chamberlain, later editorial writer on the "New York Herald"; Thomas Kean, the critic; Henry W. Faxon, writer of ability; and many others were of the long line of editors and writers of the newspapers of buffalo of the older days. Many served an apprenticeship in the Buffalo newspaper offices to pass on to metropolitan sheets, for the larger cities always have drained the up-state press of many of its choicest journalists.

The "Courier-Express" whose ancestry has been traced, has the largest circulation of any State paper outside of New York City. The figures for 1927 are given as 118,000 for the daily edition, and for the Sunday circulation was 154,000. It is edited by W. J. Conners, Jr., son of the founder. William James Conners, Sr., was a native of Buffalo who began his business life when but a boy freighting on the Great Lakes. He met with unusual success as a contractor for freight handling, purchased many cargo carries, becoming very wealthy. The running of a newspaper was to him a hobby, but he put into it not only the means he had accumulated, but much of the same energy and courage which characterized his other activities. He soon had one of the most wide-awake of the newspapers, and one of the best printing plants in the State.

The "Buffalo times," with a present circulation of well over 100,000, is owned and edited by the man who founded it in September, 1879, Norman E. Mack. Norman Mack was born in West Williams, Ontario, Canada. While still but a lad he started the "Detroit Saturday Advertiser," selling it a year later and removing to Buffalo. He founded the "Jamestown Gazette" in 1878 and conducted it for two years before selling. Meanwhile he had established the "Buffalo Sunday Times," issued a daily morning edition in 1883, but changed to an afternoon paper in 1887. Norman Mack has been conspicuous in the Democratic political field of both State and Nation since he funded the "times," and has been the State chairman of that party for nearly a quarter of a century. His ability as an editor and financier has placed his paper among the foremost in New York State.

The third principal daily of Buffalo is the "News," the most widely circulated evening paper of the city. It was established in 1873 by Edward H. Butler, father of the present editor, E. H. Butler, who succeeded him in 1914. The older man learned as city editor of the "Daily Times" of Scranton, Pennsylvania. He came to Buffalo just before setting up the "News," with which he was so successful. There had been several failures in the attempts to give the city a Sunday paper, and it was as the "Sunday Morning Times" that Mr. Butler made his start. Within three years it had a circulation exceeding that of all other Buffalo issues. Encouraged by this success in1880 he tried the experiment of publishing a penny daily under the title "Evening News," and it is in the evening field that the "news" now holds the lead. The "News" in the days when newspapers guided politics instead of reported them, was a most influential Republican sheet, and was instrumental in bringing about the election of many a candidate for high office. It may be said of the publications of Buffalo as a whole, that they have been of a distinctively high grade, and wielded a commanding influence in the affairs of Western and Central New York.

Rochester.--Journalism in Rochester, particularly in its early phases, is full of tales of the mergers which characterize the progress of the newspaper in the State. Even today, its principal journals are of the hyphenated type which so puzzle the foreigner. The daily with the largest present circulation (81,000) is named the "Democrat-Chronicle & Herald." Then there is the "Journal & Post-Express," a Hearst publication and the "Times-Union," one of the Frank E. Gannett series, the latter with a circulation of 70,000, the former of 41,000. All of them have absorbed numerous journals, the "Democrat-Chronicle & Herald" being the most notable in this respect. Augustine Dauby seem to have been the pioneer in the newspaper field, starting a "Gazette" in 1816 which he soon sold and which came to an early end in 1827. Everard Peck, a native of Connecticut, established the "Rochester Telegraph" in 1818, evidently with large ideas of news, since he chose for its title a word long afterward given to the Morse invention. Possibly the literal meaning of the word attracted him, "Far-writing." This weekly is worthy of note if only for the fact that Thurlow Weed was closely identified with it when serving his apprenticeship and later, and also because contrary to custom in New York, this journal under the title the "Advertiser" retained its identity and name longer than any other newspaper in the State west of Albany. During the most of its half century it was the principal news sheet of the town and city, and for a great part of that time the leading Democratic journal.

Thurlow Weed came to Rochester in 1822 with a family on his youthful hands seeking work of any kind. He found it running the press of the "Telegraph." His ability soon led him into the editorial department, the control of which he assumed in 1824, a year before he purchased the plant. He issued the paper as a semi-weekly until he sold out to go to the "Albany Evening Journal" in 1827. Already he had begun to wield an influence in the Whig party, and had been elected a member of the Assembly in 1825. Weed never lost his liking for Rochester, which profited greatly from that affection.

The "Democrat-Chronicle" was the hyphenated title give to the two papers bearing those names when they were combined in 1870. The "Democrat" was an outgrowth of an anti-Masonic sheet of 1828, and as the "Monroe Democrat" gave its support to William H. Seward in 1838, and to William Henry Harrison in his campaign for the presidency tow years later. The "Chronicle" owed its start to one of the factional quarrels which so often rent the politics of that day, and was intended to be a rival of the "Democrat." The enterprise, although well edited by peck, Collins, and Henry Daniels, all of whom won names for themselves as journalists in after years, failed to be profitable and was absorbed by its opponent. The third member of the present triumvirate, "The Herald," started with the backing of a corporation, and entered the field in 1879 to give the city a better, it was hoped, daily and Sunday newspaper. It soon neglected the political bias of its first years, and when absorbed by the "Democrat-Chronicle" ha attained a wide circulation, especially in the county for the people were beginning to tire of party organs. The present combination of all three of these journals of ancient birth and influential existence is the most read newspaper of this section of New York. Fred S. Todd was the general manager in 1927.

The "Times-Union" traces its origin to the "Appeal," a five column, four page paper of 1877. It was issued as a mouthpiece of the striking printers of that day, and half of its space was used in the statement of their grievances. It sold for a penny, tool hold on the popular fancy and was promptly taken over by Louis A. Esson and published as the "Times," later as the "Evening Times." Holding somewhat to its original character, it became recognized as the advocate of the rights of the people. Much of this flavor is still retained by the present "Times-Union," edited by Frank Gannett.

When William Randolph Hearst desired a journal in Rochester he found the very sober and solid "Post-Express" ready to end his fold. This paper dated from 1859, and was christened under the name "Times" but soon changed to the mentioned title. It went through many hands before becoming established as a favorite of those liking their news served to them in highly ornamented dishes. The "Post-Express" also specialized on local antiquarian information; its back numbers have a decided value to the historically inclined.

In Syracuse the "Post-Standard," edited by W. P. Baker; the "Herald," edited by John B. Howe; and the "Journal-American," a Hearst paper, each have a circulation of about 600,000 and cover the daily newspaper situation in that city. Syracuse was picked by many wise newspaper men as a "Coming city" when a canal was projected for that neighborhood. On April 2, 1823, the first newspaper made its appearance known as the "Onondaga Gazette." Under various names it managed to survive until it came into the hands of Lewis H. Redfield, who made a real and lasting hews sheet of it. Preceding this publication, Evander Morse, in 1816, started another "Onondaga Gazette" with the poet-author William Ray as editor. The name was shortly changed to the "Journal" by which title it was bought by Vivius Smith, consolidated with other papers and issued in 1829 as the "Standard" of Syracuse. Vivius Smith was one of five brothers of a Berkshire family which produced three generations of journalists. Vivius was the strong political writer of the family; his brother, Silas F., the business man. It was the latter who introduced the first distinct local news department into the journals of the town, and it was as the editor of this new paper, the "Daily Journal," that Carroll E. Smith, son of Vivius, rose to national repute as an editor. He was also a political power as was his father.

The "Standard" now crowding the century mark, and really dating from 1816, in combination with the "Post" which was born of a political faction fight of 1894, now form the "Post-Standard" of today. So many journals have been absorbed by these two papers in their combined history of 140 years only an accountant could total them. The marriage of the present pair took place in 1898.

The "Journal-American" is even more a combination of youth and maturity. The "journal" was a direct descendent of the "Gazette" of 1823, and suffered all the vicissitudes that afflicted the newspapers during the period preceding the Civil War. It survived fire and disaster, changing politics and money panics. In 1844 it issued the first daily paper which endured. For sixty-five years there was a weekly, semi-weekly or tri-weekly "Journal"; for an even longer time it was a party organ. In 1906 it became an independent in politics; and also a penny paper, then becoming the style in the United States. It published the first directory of Syracuse, in 1851. In 1924 it was purchased by William Randolph Hearst, and with American added to it, is now the most widely circulated of the city's newspapers.

The :Herald" was the pet child of a poverty-stricken graduate from the editorial force of the "Journal;," Arthur Jenkins, and began life in a shop rented with borrowed money. The first "Herald" came out on January 15, 1877, and for several years the next issue was often in doubt. It not only lived but eventually was setting apace hard for others to keep. It introduced many of the innovations in newspapers as they were developed in larger cities. Jenkins saw the advantages to be gained from the printing of syndicate articles; he published the first "comic strips" in Syracuse; the rotogravures supplement was another of his introductions. Arthur Jenkins died in 1903, being succeeded by his daughter, Mary E., who has since managed the "Herald" with much inherited ability. For thirty years, Dr. John B. Howe, has been the editorial writer, one of the best known as one of the premier editorial writers of the State.

The history of the press in the cities and towns of New York is full of similarities and repetitions, and the material involved is voluminous. The almost simultaneous settlement of the territory of the State west of Albany offered many opportunities to the pressmen to start a weekly in each new community. The opening of the Erie Canal gave each greater impetus to the establishment of papers. These numerous sheets were dependent upon advertising or politics for support, so that journalism soon became allied with the forces which desired to control the affairs of the State this was not an unmixed evil, for it led to the development of the editor as something more than a gatherer and arranger of news, and this period which extended over half a century saw rise of many whose names are held in remembrance as the "giants" in the journalism of that day. The editor of the "new school" of more recent times maybe less known politically, but is more untrammeled in his writings. And the newspapers of the cities of the up-State section are no longer party journals but conveyers of the news. Altogether the history of the press has completed the circle and returned to the place where they are fewer, with an influence that is more nearly local. In many respects their importance has been greatly increased.

Modern conditions have also brought about a great reduction in the number of journals. There were, in 1910, fifty-two newspapers published in the State outside of metropolis; the number today is probably smaller. In 1926 the circulation of these fifty-two or fewer was just in excess of 1,000,000. Buffalo accounted for more than a third of this circulation, Rochester a fifth, Albany a tenth, Syracuse a bit less than the capital city. The "Utica Observer-Dispatch" circulated in 1927 a daily average of 28,000. Utica puts forth the claim to having had the first newspaper in the State west of Albany, the "Whitestown Gazette" of July 11, 1793. The "Observer-Dispatch" traces its lineage to a paper of the first name issued for the first time in 1817 by Elipsaph Dorchester, a much quoted and influential editor. It was rated second only to the "Albany Argus" in its political power in the days of the Albany Regency. Its present circulation is 38,000. In Schenectady, another of the "Gazettes" of the olden days has come down to the present and retains the original title. It is edited by Dudley T. Hill, and had a circulation in 1927 of 23,000. The Watertown "Standard," edited by Robert Bowman, and published by Addison B. Parker, circulated 17,000 copies; the Elmira "Star-Gazette," one of the Frank E. Gannett group, had 25,000; the Kingston "Leader," 8,000.

 

The History of New York State, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc., 1927

This book is owned by Pam Rietsch and is a part of the Mardos Memorial Library

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

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