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The Early Republican Papers

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The most coherent political force of the mid-nineteenth century was the anti-slavery movement. It gradually gained momentum in the twenties and thirties, and by the forties it had spread everywhere in the north. The original organ of the abolition party was the Michigan Freeman, published in Jackson. It went to pieces late in 1840 or early in 1841. The Signal of Liberty, begun in Ann Arbor to take its place, first appeared on April 28, 1841. It was published by the "Executive Committee of the Michigan Antislavery Society," and N. Sullivan printed it. Its columns during the whole period of its existence were devoted almost exclusively to the slavery question. The first issue of the second volume, dated April 25, 1842, carried the names Theodore Foster and Guy Beckley as editors, and T. N. Calkins was engaged to print it. This arrangement lasted until March 1843, when Beckley and Foster purchased Calkins' establishment and became their own printers.

On January 30, 1843, the Signal of Liberty informed its subscribers that the paper on which it was printed was manufactured in Ann Arbor by C. N. Ormsby, and on page three of the same issue is Ormsby's advertisement. This is the earliest extant reference to the local manufacture of paper for press use. The mill was no doubt in operatian before 1843. J. Jones and Sons were operating the Ann Arbor Paper Mill as early as 1839 or 1840. 1 Ormsby became associated with Jones sometime before August 1842, at which date the two were advertising for "swingle tow" to be delivered at the Ann Arbor Paper Mill. 2

With the issue of March 24, 1845, the printers were arganized as Beckley, Foster, & Co. On January 19, 1846, the printing came under the direction of Foster and Dell, with Foster and Beckley continuing as editors. Guy Beckley took leave of the paper in a letter published in the issue of April 20, 1846, and died on December 26 of the following year. 3 Theodore Foster became sole editor. Foster and Dell continued printing the paper. Urgent demands for the payment of overdue subscriptions, and a rise in the price of the paper from $1 to $1.50, and finally to $2 per year, indicate financial difficulty. The last extant issue is that of April 17, 1847. The paper planned to cantinue, but whether it actually did or not is uncertain. McCracken says that it "submerged in the winter of 1847." Foster then went to Lansing and later was editor of the Lansing State Republican for a short while. He was the first superintendent of the Michigan Industrial Schaal for Boys. 4 The account book of the Signal of Liberty was eventually deposited in the Michigan Historical Collectians, and the subscription list is certainly a roster of the anti-slavery leaders in Michigan. Included on the list was the only subscriber in Lower Saginaw, now Bay City, James G. Birney.

The Signal on May 22, 1843, took notice af another local publication, the Literary Messenger:
This is the title of a new paper, published in Ann Arbor semi-monthly, at one dollar a year, Wm Pitt Glover, Editor. It is devoted chiefly to miscellaneous and literary topics. It is handsomely printed, and contains a large amount of reading matter for the price. The second number will be issued next Wednesday.

No copies of this are known to exist, and no other information is available concerning it or its editor.

Although Ann Arbor's abolitionist newspaper had collapsed, the anti-slavery movement had not. In the middle fifties it destroyed the Whig Party entirely, and in the election of 1860, as the core of the new Republican Party, it split the Democrats and captured the Presidency but gained control of neither the House nor the Senate until the secession of the Southern states.

The course of the Whig papers paralleled that of the Whig Party. Shortly after McCracken, a last-ditch Whig, sold his Washtenaw Whig to Lorenzo Davis and J. M. Cole in April 1855, they changed its title to the Ann Arbor Journal and Washtenaw Whig to indicate their conversion to Republicanism. The issue of August 29 called for a Republican convention at Kalamazoo and carried an article on the history of the Republican Party since the Jackson meeting of 1854. On October 3 they dropped and Washtenaw Whig from the title, and the remnants of whiggery disappeared. In 1856 the Journal was chronicling the civil war in Kansas and the Fremont meetings. On July 21, 1858, Lorenzo Davis severed his connection with the paper, and E. C. Seaman took his place, the proprietors now being Seaman and Cole.

Ezra C. Seaman was principally a lawyer. He practiced in Detroit before engaging in the newspaper business in Ann Arbor, probably a side line for him, and it is as a lawyer that we have a word picture of him:
In person he was rather tall and gaunt, being about five feet ten inches in height and weighing about 160 pounds, with an erect carriage, broad-shouldered and raw-boned. His features were strongly marked, with keen black eyes, a cleanshaven face, and large hands and feet. His head was large and broad; in later years quite bald, and his hair and complexion were light, and he generally wore a black, clawhammer coat, and a tall silk hat. While agreeable and pleasant in social intercourse, his conduct at the bar was the very reverse. There his manner was aggressive and dogmatictwo peculiarities which made him rather unpopular with his legal associates. 5

One issue of the Journal was almost completely given up to the speech of Abraham Lincoln at the Illinois State Republican convention held on June 16, 1858. The Lincoln-Douglas debates were noted during the rest of the year, but only Mr. Lincoln's speeches received any consideration in the Journal. 6

The paper reported on May 16, 1860, that the New Yark and New England delegates to the Republican convention at Chicago passed over the Michigan Central through Ann Arbor at two o'clock Monday afternoon, May 14. A small crowd gathered at the station to see the special train of several coaches containing about three hundred people. The May 23 issue of the Journal announced Abraham Lincoln's nomination and its support of his candidacy.

The Journal was not a radical Republican paper. It tended to favor the Lincoln Administration, but it was not until May 14, 1862, that it defined its position editorially by pledging its heartiest support. This was a platform distinct from the radical Republicanism of the Peninmlar Courier and Family Visitant, which had been started the previous year. The Journal usually ignored the constant attacks of the Courier, but on February 11, 1863, it was spurred to anger and evened up the score in a reply in which it called the Courier a "miserable little croaking abolition sheet."

The last extant issue of the Journal is that of June 24, 1863, although the paper continued for several years. The Argus of April 26, 1867, reported that Seaman and Cole had dissolved their partnership, leaving the latter as sale proprietor. A Mr. Rathbun was editor at that time and was to continue in that capacity. Chapin's City Directory for 1868 lists the Ann Arbor Journal as a Democratic paper with J. M. Cole as editor and proprietor. 7 Other than this we know only that Mr. Cole died in Jackson on September 28, 1906, at the age of 87 years. 8

Ann Arbor's second Republican paper grew out of a politically neutral paper started by McCracken in July 1857, after the disastrous "Fillmore and Donelson" venture the previous year. It was called the Local News and Advertiser, and McCracken's own history of it is as follows:
This paper has the right to record its own history, so far as it has transpired. The writer, in July last, finding himself with a printing office on his hands) and discovering, as he thought, a legitimate opening for such a paper, started the News and Advertiser as an independent sheet, devoted mainly to home affairs. It may claim a further notice at the hands of some future chronicler. 9

It actually was neutral in politics as long as McCracken operated it, which was not for long, as he sold it on August 10, 1858, to Lorenzo Davis, formerly associated with Cole in the publication of the Ann Arbor Journal. Davis made it a Republican paper. Thus it was McCracken's unhappy fate to see both his newspapers converted into organs of a party with which he never sympathized. 1O Between Ann Arbor ventures, McCracken seems to have been publishing the Ypsilanti Herald in Ypsilanti. 11 He made another attempt to establish a newspaper in Ann Arbor. Its prospectus was published in the Argus of July 11, 1862, but if it ever got beyond that stage, no copies are known to exist, and no further reference to it is found. But he did publish an anti-Republican campaign paper in 1864 entitled Shrapnel, 12 In the early seventies, he was editor of the Detroit Leader. 13 To complete the political wandering of this interesting person, it may be added that he became one of the outstanding supporters of the Prohibition Party in the early seventies and ended up in the Greenback Party in the late seventies and early eighties. 14

The Local News and Advertiser became a Republican sheet under Davis in August 1858. Beginning with January 4, 1859, Davis enlarged the paper and called it the Ann Arbor Local News. In August 1860, E. A. Burlingame became associated with Davis, and the title was changed to Michigan State News. This paper, like the Journal, was moderate Republican in politics. It did not desire a war with England over the Trent affair, and it approved the course of the Administration in releasing Mason and Slidell. 15

Burlingame's association with Davis lasted only through the issue of January 15, 1861. The latter remained sole owner and proprietor as long as the paper was published. Sometime between March 14 and April 28, 1865, Davis changed the title to the Weekly Michigan State News. The latest extant issue is that of June 1, 1867, although there is evidence that it was still being published in the spring of 1868, at which time the office was at 48 South Main Street, in Krause's block. It was still a Republican newspaper, 16 On April 2, 1868, the Courier noted that the News had not appeared for two weeks owing to the illness of the editor, and on April 23 it published an obituary of the News. In its place was to be a paper edited by Joseph Warren, but this apparently never materialized.

During 1859, a local general store was getting out its own advertising sheet under the name Maynard, Stebbins, and Wilson's Advertiser. It was a quarterly but was very irregular in appearing. Only one issue of it is known to exist, that dated October 1859, and it has only a few articles in it, one of which is entitled "Our City Newspapers." It was written at the time when McCracken had just sold the Local News to Davis and when Seaman had taken Davis' place on the Journal.
The Local News has changed proprietors. It was started under rather unfavorable auspices and being neutral in politics could not reasonably expect political patronage, so that 'most men predicted it would be short-lived, but owing to the energy, economy and perseverence of the proprietor it was kept up, and for his imprudence in trying to court favor of parties abroad by praising what try to be rival places of Ann Arbor, and occasional snarling about his neighbors, schools, etc., which we attributed more to Mc's ill health than to natural peevish disposition, it would have undoubtedly been ascertained well enough to have induced him to hold on, but he wisely, as we think, sold out to Elder Davis, whose course as an Editor, of sustaining his neighbors by holding up to public view their good qualities and of doing all in his power to build up our city and county, is sure to cause him sufficient patronage to warrant his future success.
The Journal has changed too, somewhat, Mr. Seaman having purchased the interest of Mr. Davis and become the editor. Some think it has added to its ability by the change but it certainly has not to its popularity, for Mr. Seaman's disposition for fault-finding and general censoriousness has already showed itself, and we fear will so often be repeated that his subscribers will gradually give it up and subscribe for one of the better natured ones. He commenced to follow in the footstep of Mc., by an overt attack upon our Union School, or rather one or two of the teachers, which, if continued would surely have used him up, but as part of the school board are now men after his own heart, we hope he will have no. further occasion to find fault. The Argus seems to pursue the even tenor of its way, being well supported by advertisements and a good long subscription list, while Pond's good-natured manner of keeping an eye to the profits will make him continue to be careful to say nothing to offend even if he should never (like Davis) seek objects to praise.

It should be added that Maynard, Stebbins, and Wilson's Advertiser was printed on Davis' press.

The third Republican paper, destined to have a long and interesting career, was the Peninsular Courier, founded and edited by C. C. Clarke, Jr., and W. D. Wiltsie. Volume I, number 1 was issued on June 18, 1861, and in the introductory remarks it said nothing at all about its politics. But it very soon showed its sympathies with the radical wing of the Republican Party by taking the part of Fremont against Lincoln in the controversy that broke out later that year over Fremont's incompetence and maladministration. In December it called loudly for war with England in preference to giving up Mason and Slidell and termed the Lincoln Administration too easy-natured. In January 1862, it swallowed the release of the two Confederate commissioners with a graciousness more external than genuine.

With the issue of December 24, 1861, D. C. Holmes was associated with Clarke and Wiltsie in the firm of Clarke, Wiltsie, & Company. Beginning on February 25, 1862, Holmes' name appeared on the head with the others. For the first two months of 1862, the Courier owned the equipment of the Ypsilanti Herald and joined both papers as the Peninsular Courier and Ypsilanti Herald. The Herald was restored as a separate publication in March. In April the Courier came out in favor of Sumner and the radicals. In July the visit of Millard Fillmore, former President of the United States, to his brother Calvin in Scio was chronicled.

2. Dr. Alvin W. Chase, proprietor of a Republican newspaper in Ann Arbor and author and publisher of the famous «Dr. Chase's Receipt Book" that went through so many editions.

In August, Clarke bought out the interests of Wiltsie and Holmes, both of whom enlisted in the army. Dr. Alvin W. Chase bought the Courier from Clarke in May 1865.17 The first extant issue under the new owner, that of June 21, 1866, bears the title Peninsular Courier and Family Visitant. In November 1866, Dr. Chase employed John L. Knight to edit the paper. In December, the death of Earl P. Gardiner, founder of Argus I, and the appearance of a new paper under Charles G. Clarke, Jr., were noted. The paper was to be known as the Commercial Advertiser and Monthly Insurance and Real Estate Record. How long a career it had in print is not known.

Nothing is known about Dr. Chase himself from the files of his paper, for they are unfortunately not extant. But E. B. Pond has some interesting editorial comments in the Argus illustrating his relations with the doctor:
Our self-righteous down street contemporary, who, in the excess of his egotism and piety, imagines it his province not only to regulate the great affairs of State, the minute affairs of the Church, and the gestures of public lecturers, but also the business of his neighbors, reads the Press of this and other cities occasional lectures on the subject of advertising etc. Now we neither take all the medicine we advertise, read all the books, nor buy all the "gift jewelry" or other wares; nor do we recommend our readers to do so. Neither do we think them so thick-headed as to take medicine they do not need simply because we advertise it, or to expect to get rich by investing $1 in some "gift-enterprise" because an advertisement makes glowing promises. The Courier may have such an ignorant and gullible set of readers -it would be natural if it should have -and if so, its editor does well to be cautious in the mental diet it doles out to them either in his reading or advertising columns. 18

And later:
In the Argus of last week we discussed the needs of our city as to reservoirs and water; and in connection advised against a proposed exchange of the lots owned by the city, comer of Huron and Fifth Streets, for another location. The article unfortunately acted emetically upon a quack-electric-steam doctor down street, resulting in a discharge at ourself and the Argus, through his organ with a long name, of a column and a half of slime. Not choosing to convert a matter of public policy and interest, into an occasion for a duel of blackguardism, or to waste time to kick at every cur that barks at our heels, we trust that our readers will excuse us from "answering a fool according to his folly." 19

In April 1867, Knight was forced to retire because of illness, and Dr. Chase seems to have done his own editing until June, when he obtained the services of Allen Campbell. Campbell left at the end of 1868, being followed from January to June 1869 by Clarke again, whose place was taken in July 1869 by William Wines.2o At this time we first hear of the printing establishment being located at 39 North Main Street. 21

In June 1867, the Courier began to advocate the nomination of Schuyler Colfax of Indiana for President on the Republican ticket of 1868 and scoffed at the claims of General Grant. In July the paper was objecting to the appointment of a person of unorthodox faith, a Unitarian, to the chair of history in the University of Michigan, and there was quite a rumpus, but the regents refused to back down, and the famous Charles Kendall Adams was given the position. 22 The Courier was opposed to the eight hour day for labor but was in favor of woman suffrage. 23

In 1869 Dr. Chase sold his printing and medicine business, including all the rights in the famous Receipt Book, to Rice A. Beal of Dexter. The purchase price is said to have been $65,000.24 Its career under his ownership will be taken up later.

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