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The Argus and other Democratic Contemporaries

The Argus and other Democratic Contemporaries image The Argus and other Democratic Contemporaries image The Argus and other Democratic Contemporaries image The Argus and other Democratic Contemporaries image The Argus and other Democratic Contemporaries image The Argus and other Democratic Contemporaries image The Argus and other Democratic Contemporaries image The Argus and other Democratic Contemporaries image The Argus and other Democratic Contemporaries image The Argus and other Democratic Contemporaries image The Argus and other Democratic Contemporaries image The Argus and other Democratic Contemporaries image The Argus and other Democratic Contemporaries image
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Elihu B. Pond bought the Michigan Argus on June 29, 1854. At the beginning of 1855 he prefixed the word Weekly to the title and began volume X with the first issue of the year.

Editor Pond's quarter century control of the Argus [III] covers the critical years from 1854 to 1880. The fifties were a period of amazingly rapid growth in every field, of violent political strife, economic expansion, and social maladjustment. Railroading and engineering of all kinds were making rapid strides; electricity was coming into its own, for the electric telegraph was spreading over whole nations and even between nations. It is not surprising that inventors canvassed every imaginable possibility. In 1857 the Argus carried a story of how the new process of electroplating was being "successfully" used to preserve pears by covering the surface with a thin copper coat. 1 Newspaper readers were being told of civil war in the territories, of the success of the first international cable, of the fast time being made by ocean steamers. The editor was advocating the use of artesian wells for piping water into houses and for use in fighting fires. German newspapers were springing up in the Northwest as the result of the great German immigration of the fifties. In all this bustle, people still had time to look back on the past and on their achievements proudly, and in 1858 Washtenaw County organized its first historical society. 2

Over this scene hung the shadow of the Civil War. The Argus and its Democratic editor supported Buchanan in 1856 and Douglas in 1860. Editor Pond commented in hostile manner on Helper's Impending Crisis, begged the Charleston convention not to approve the assumption that the Constitution carries slavery into the territories, and finally approved the position of the majority Democrats in not giving in to the Southern delegates by nominating their candidates. In May 1860 the Argus scoffed at the Republican candidate whose chief claim to distinction was having split three thousand rails, and in June rejoiced when Douglas was nominated by the majority Democrats at Baltimore. Volume XV, 1860, was originally to have been numbered from 1 to 52, but in the middle of the year Editor Pond decided to abandon this system and number the issues consecutively from the beginning, changing number 27 to number 755. At the same time the word Weekly was dropped from the title, and it became the Michigan Argus again for a few years.

The campaign of 1860 disappointed the supporters of Douglas, who was much more popular than the comparatively little known Lincoln was at the time. As soon as the election was over, feverish news began to come through from the South. On November 16, the Argus announced it was not yet alarmed. The following week, November 23, it was asking if we "have a President," and when Buchanan's annual message was read, the Argus was dissatisfied with it and with the President for not taking a vigorous stand towards the South. The Argus was equally dissatisfied with the "meaningless platitudes" of Lincoln's first inaugural, but it rallied to the support of the government when Fort Sumter was fired on.

The Argus approved the capture of Mason and Slidell and on December 27, 1861, commented as follows on the feeling in England:
Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria, died on the 15th. inst., of gastric fever. The Queen has something to think of at this time besides the importunate demands of her cotton and negro loving citizens for a war with the United States.

But when Lincoln released Mason and Slidell, the Argus had come to its senses and approved the act.

On January 2, 1863, Editor Pond, again added the word Weekly to the title of the paper, and it was the Weekly Michigan Argus until January 19, 1866. The war affected newspapers in the same way that it affected everyone: a rise in the price of commodities. Paper became more expensive and its quality deteriorated. The poorer quality of the paper on which the Argus was printed is very marked for the last two years of the war, beginning with the first issue of 1863.

As the war entered its final stage after the battles of Vicksburg and Gettysburg, the Argus continued its support of the war but opposed the arbitrary acts of the Administration, notably the suspension of the ,writ of habeas corpus. The Argus was opposed to the radical opposition in Congress led by Thaddeus Stevens, and it shied at their demand for political equality for the Negro. The Argus supported McClellan for the Presidency in spite of the charge that he was a "copperhead," and sneered at the "wisecracker" in the White House for his statement, "Don't swap horses while crossing a stream." Whether or not it was due to the influence of the Argus is, of course, a matter of debate, but McClellan carried Washtenaw by a vote of 3,836 to 3,632 for Lincoln. The second inaugural was greeted by the Argus like all the President's messages to Congress, as vague generalizations which did not give any information. But the paper joined in the whole country's horror at the assassination of Lincoln.

For the rest of 1865, quieter moods came over the country. Editor Pond wanted a street railway for Ann 'Arbor: Detroit is going to get one, why shouldn't we? In 1866 Ann Arbor's first real library association was organized; 3 there had been a subscription library as early as 1827, but it dissolved in January 1832. The Argus noted the improved appearance of the village since the dilapidated shed awnings in front of the business places were removed.

On September 7 the newspaper reported the passage of President Johnson through Ann Arbor by train. He did not stop, but many residents went to Detroit to hear him speak. The Argus approved the President's policy, but it was too well aware of his shortcomings and principally of the fact that he had betrayed the Democratic Party by accepting the Republican nomination - the Union ticket - to the Vice-Presidency in 1864.

In the same year, 1865, a local election was exciting much interest. Should the county build a new court house? Valuable records were being stored in a musty and dusty old fire trap, much too small for the needs of the day. A special election was called for November 30 to decide the issue. The cities of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti voted almost unanimously for it, while all the rural townships voted nearly as unanimously against it. The rural population being greater than the city population, the proposal was voted down. The town of Dexter thought this was an opportunity to acquire the county capital, so a subscription of forty thousand dollars was made by Dexter people to bring it there. The Argus sarcastically suggested putting the court house on wheels so every little village and hamlet could have it for a period. There was one drawback to this plan; the supervisors of Scio and Salem Townships had both said they wouldn't have the existing building if it were given to them. Washtenaw County and Ann Arbor had to wait another ten years before getting the much needed new court house, a magnificent Victorian structure. 4

In March 1867, Wendell Philipps spoke in Ann Arbor. He was scheduled to speak on "The Lost Arts," but when his hearers (including Editor Pond) were seated, the lecturer announced a change of subject and treated his helpless audience to a passionate speech in defense of radical Republican doctrines. Editor Pond expressed his indignation in the issue of March 15. In April changes were noted in the ownership of the Ann Arbor Journal, and in the same month the Argus declared against the eight hour day enacted by the Illinois legislature.

In 1868 the Presidential campaign filled the pages of the Argus, which supported Horatio Seymour of New York. In 1869 local affairs were given more emphasis: in February was chronicled the death of T. N. Ladd from overexertion while helping to remove the debris of his burned flour mill in Chelsea. He had at one time been owner and editor of the State Journal. In September it was noted that Rice A. Beal had purchased the Peninsular Courier and Family Visitant, an event which later proved fateful. In 1869 the public demand for an artesian well was met by the commencement of drilling on the courthouse square. The result was reported in February 1871-the drillers had reached a clear and sparkling spring of brine. After a little more drilling, the business was given up as hopeless.

1872 was Presidential election year again, disastrous for the Democrats despite great promise and high hopes. The Republican liberal movement was a godsend to them, but Horace Greeley was not. The Argus loathed Greeley, as did most of the Democratic newspapers, but the editor declared he would vote for him and support him if the Democratic convention saw fit to nominate him, which it did. This gave the Republican press an unusual opportunity of poking fun at Pond and the Democrats, for Greeley had all his life professed a hatred of Democrats. He was now asking for their votes, and it was fun to quote all the harsh things he had once said about them. It was a bitter choice for the Democrats between Greeley and Grant.

Pond remained with the Michigan Argus until October 16, 1874, and in the issue of that date he announced his retirement and the sale of the paper to Carr and Goulet. All that is known of them is that they were local printers, the former having been in the employ of the Argus for twenty years. This partnership controlled the paper until the issue of January 3, 1876, when Pond bought it back "in order to earn an honest living." It was finally sold on January 1, 1879, to John N. Bailey. 5 Pond died at his home at 524 South State Street on May 5, 1898. 6

Bailey continued the Argus as a Democratic newspaper. He had controlled it for only a few months when he began to urge the renomination of Tilden, partly as compensation for being cheated out of the Presidency in 1876. David Davis of Illinois, one of the men who secured Lincoln's nomination in 1860, seems to have had the support of a number of Democratic newspapers. The Argus, nevertheless, supported the regular candidate in 1880, Winfield S. Hancock of Pennsylvania. An amusing incident of this campaign was the letter of Robert Shankland, published in the Argus on April 2, 1880:
I saw a few weeks ago a statement in the Courier that Mr. Samuel Foster of Ann Arbor was in his 87th year, and had always voted the Republican ticket. Now, I, Robert Shankland, of the township of Salem, Washtenaw county, was born on the 3rd of November, 1791, and am now in my 89th year, and have always voted the Democratic ticket, and always will mean to until we have another Democratic President, if it is a thousand years. My father was a Democrat and a soldier of the Revolution. I became a voter at the age of 21, and voted for James Madison for President. I also voted for that hero, Andrew Jackson, which exhilarates my feelings now to think of. Mr. Courier, bring out your next man.

Not all the newspaper's interests were political. Some of them were social and dealt with problems of great social import. Many problems that we think of as acutely modern also bothered our predecessors. In the Argus of October 26, 1883, there are two modest lines embedded in the midst of a full column of local news: "It is rumored that there is one good looking female college student in town." 7

Bailey did not have the paper long before he changed its title from Michigan Argus to Ann Arbor Argus with the issue of October 17, 1879. This title it retained until long after Bailey had severed his connection with the paper in June 1886. Bailey then went to East Saginaw where he and E. S. Crawford established a newspaper called the Saturday Telegram.8 The most important local event chronicled by the Argus during Bailey's ownership was the arrival of the incandescent electric light in Ann Arbor. The machinery for the power arrived for installation in July 1884, and on Tuesday, August 12, townspeople turned on their lights for the first time.

In August 1884, it was reported that S. W. Beakes, having sold the Adrian Record, was canvassing Ann Arbor with regard to the possibility of establishing a daily paper. The project was dropped, but Beakes waited for his chance and bought the Ann Arbor Argus in June 1886.9 In the last week of October 1886 the new editor changed the paper to a six column quarto, put news articles on the first page, and began to use headlines for these articles. In September 1886, Edward J. Morton became associated with Beakes in the ownership of the Argus, this partnership continuing until February 1890, when Beakes again became sole owner. 10 Morton died February 6, 1892. 11

In January 1891, the Argus added a Tuesday issue, in addition to that of Friday, thus becoming a semi-weekly. This lasted until June of the same year, when new postal regulations stated that newspapers other than weeklies would have to pay the regular mail rate instead of the newspaper rate. This made the paper too expensive to operate, and it became necessary to drop the Tuesday issue. In February 1893, S. W. Curtis was associated with Beakes, and the firm became Beakes and Curtis. This combination lasted until January 5, 1894, when the firm became Beakes and Hammond, and the paper again became a semi-weekly, with a four page issue on Tuesday and an eight page one on Friday.

The Argus in the early nineties noticed two other publications:
Thought News, the new publication promised to be issued in this city last month, has evidently perished of inanition. It would have proven a heavy tax on the brains and purses of the backers. 12

Another publication was to be known as the Woman's Newspaper. It was announced to appear on February 22, 1895, and it was to contain contributions from "ladies of different societies and interests in the city." 13 No further reference to it has been found, so we cannot tell whether it materialized or not.

On February 18, 1894, L. W. Cole died in Adrian at the age of 81 years. 14 He had been connected with Argus II beginning in 1844 and had helped E. P. Gardiner establish Argus III in 1846.

When Beakes became postmaster of Ann Arbor in June 1894, he hired E. J. Smith of the Adrian Press to run the Argus for him. In April 1895, it was announced that the management had purchased a new mechanical typesetter, a Thorne machine, and in September E. J. Ottaway was appointed editor of the paper, 15 The firm of Beakes and Mingay was organized in April 1896. The following July the postal regulation regarding semi-weekly papers was again put into effect, and the Argus once more became a weekly.

This status it kept until October 1898, when a consolidation of the Argus, the Democrat, and the Ypsilanti Weekly Times took place, and the newspaper was given the cumbersome name Ann Arbor Argus-Democrat. The Democrat Publishing Company was organized to control it, and D. A. Hammond was elected president, Charles A. Ward, vice-president, and S. W. Beakes, secretary-treasurer. The size of the paper was increased to twelve pages, but it remained in its six column format. At various later periods, Eugene K. Frueauff and Hugh Brown were connected with the paper. When the Ann Arbor Daily Argus was begun in November 1898, the Argus-Democrat became a weekly reprint of selected news articles from the Daily Argus. The Argus-Democrat was leased some time shortly after this to the Ann Arbor Printing Company; after the expiration of the lease it reverted to the Detroit Publishing Company. S. W. Beakes gave up his interest in it and retired in October 1905. After Hugh Brown retired in January 1906, leaving D. A. Hammond in control of the paper, the title was changed to the Ann Arbor Weekly Argus, and this was retained to the end of its career. Along with the Daily Argus, it was sold by receiver Belser to the Ann Arbor News Publishing Company, an organization controlled by Frank P. Glazier, who continued it as a Republican newspaper until the end of 1907, when publication was suspended.

Although the Argus was the well established Democratic newspaper, it seems not to have been without Democratic competition. The earliest of these was J. M. Cole's Ann Arbor Journal. We have only the word of Chapin's Directory that near the close of its career, the Journal was a Democratic newspaper. This may be an error, but it is nevertheless possible, for Cole had been a Democrat, Seaman and Davis had been Whigs before they became Republicans, and they belonged to the moderate wing. After the Civil War, the moderates had the choice of joining either the radically controlled Republican Party or the Democratic Party, and many selected the latter.

There was, however, a Democratic paper in existence in 1868. It was called the Ann Arbor Democrat and was edited by H. E. H. Bower. Only one issue of this survives, volume I, number 4, dated August 27, 1868. This issue contains nothing but political news; there is scarcely a single item of local interest, but this is due to the fact that the country was in the midst of an important election. If this was a weekly regularly issued, the date of the first issue, counting back from August 27, would be August 6. A reference in the Argus in November shows that the Democrat was still operating at that time, but nothing else about it is known. 16

Ann Arbor seems to have had a Democratic paper early in the seventies; there is enough information to prove that it existed, but there seem to be no copies of it still remaining. On February 2, 1872, the Argus published the following notice:
A new Democratic paper is threatened because the Argus chooses to hold and express opinions of its own upon moral and social questions. Well, somebody besides ourself will have the bills to pay, that's all just now.

The paper was in incubation the rest of the year, and after it did appear, only the Courier took notice of it. From the brief mention of it there, we know that it was published for at least seven months, from December 1872 until June 1873 and probably longer.17 In May 1873, there was an attempted consolidation of the Argus and the new Democratic paper:
There seems to be a hitch in making the arrangements for the consolidation of the Democratic Journals; a tenth of the financial interest of one of them claims to be Republican and refuses to be sold out; and besides the old heavy logy editor who has worked five months for nothing claims that he was hired for a year and says he shall not quit until his time is up. 18

In June the Courier noted that the new Democratic organ took the city printing away from the Argus, which no doubt gave it a better lease on life. 19 Who the editor was, who backed it, or even what its title happened to be is not known. The Courier also noted the appearance of the first issue of the Ann Arbor Baptist early in October 1888. This paper ran for a short while. 20

At any rate, the Argus was the only Democratic newspaper in Ann Arbor in the summer of 1878 when plans were being discussed for publishing another one to be known as the Ann Arbor Democrat. Its prospectus was published in the Register on June 26. It was to be both a weekly and a daily publication, and Martin Clark was to be the editor. The first issue of the weekly paper came out on September 12, 1878, under the editorship of John L. Burleigh, who alleged that Ann Arbor needed a first class Democratic paper, a distinct slap at the Argus. In spite of the grounds for hostility, the Democrat got along very well with the Argus under Mr. Pond but not at all with Mr. Bailey, who was generally referred to as "the tramp." 21

3. John L. Burleigh, founder and editor of the Ann Arbor Democrat, one of the two post Civil War Democratic newspapers in Ann Arbor.

In January 1879, the Democrat consolidated with the Saline Standard, owned by B. F. Bower and Louis L. Liesemer, and the new firm became Burleigh, Bower, and Liesemer. This continued only until August, when Louis Liesemer sold out his interest to his father, H. Liesemer, and started Die Washtenaw Post, a German newspaper. 22 Burleigh bought out the Liesemer interest in November, and about the same time H. E. H. Bower bought out his brother's interest. 23 Very little distinguishes this newspaper during the first few years except that it started advocating the nomination of Winfield S. Hancock for President in 1882, two years after he was defeated for the Presidency by Garfield and two full years before the next campaign.

No daily Democrat was ever issued as far as we know, although there was at least one attempt to do so in the early summer of 1882. 24 H. E. H. Bower died on April 30, 1888, and the paper was managed alone by Burleigh until January 1893, when Bower's sister, Emma E. Bower, purchased his interest and continued the newspaper.

Emma Eliza Bower was a very interesting local leader of the women's rights movement. She finished Ann Arbor High School and was graduated from the Homeopathic Medical School of the University of Michigan in 1883. She practiced a few years without great success, for the public had not yet become accustomed to women in the medical field. She was an ardent feminist and engaged actively in the movement for woman suffrage. To further that purpose, she made a successful campaign to become a member of the Ann Arbor School Board at a time when women had not yet been given the vote. Considerable attention was attracted to her cause when she appeared to take the oath as board member with her bond signed by twenty women property holders who had all the qualifications of men bondholders but still could not vote. In September 1893, Dr. Bower was elected record keeper of the Ladies of the Maccabees, a position-which she held very capably until her retirement in 1929. She remained grand lecturer of the order until 1934. Her death occurred on October 11, 1937.

The improvement of the Democrat under Dr. Bower was quite marked, but as record keeper of the Ladies of the Maccabees, she had less time to devote to the paper, and in March 1894, Cora de Puy was engaged as editor, a position which she held for not quite a year.

The Democrat announced in August 1895 that it had stopped using "boiler-plate" on its two inside pages and was being printed in Ann Arbor in toto. Five months later the first half tone cut appeared. In August 1896, the Democrat noted the appearance of a monthly paper known as the Washtenaw Home Visitor, devoted to "news, fiction, agriculture, fashion, household, humor, and miscellany." It was edited by Edward H. Waples who was said to be a former editor of the Democrat.25 This is the only place where the connection of Waples with the Democrat is mentioned. The Courier in the issue of October 13, 1887, reported that Waples was going to take a partner by the name of Charles F. Meyers, start a job printing office, and enlarge the Home Visitor. These are the only references to this periodical, and no copies of it seem to be in existence.

In August 1896, Miss Bower sold the Democrat to the firm of Phillips and Parker, the owners of the Inland Press. 26 Under their control, it held the views of the "sound money" Democrats, that is, those who did not favor the "cheap money" politics of the radical wing. Ralph C. McAlister became editor in October 1896, and continued in this capacity until the sale of the paper in the following April to Charles A. Ward, who made it a "free silver" organ. In July 1897, the Democrat was being printed on the Times press and even had its offices in the same place. 27 The Democrat and the Ypsilanti Weekly Times were united in August 1898, and this arrangement lasted until the consolidation of the Argus and the Democrat two months later. The last issue of the Democrat was that of October 7, 1898.

Very little can be said in summarizing the career of the Democrat. It must have had some justification for existence, since it kept going for twenty years. It was very conservative in tone, in no way spectacular or unusual. It was no doubt at its best under the proprietorship of Emma Bower.


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