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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

Printing Presses Came Early To Ohio Frontier

Dallas Bogan on 29 July 2004
Dallas Bogan, Warren County, Ohio and Beyond (Bowie Maryland: Heritage Press, 1979) page 374
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

What would we do without our daily or weekly newspapers? Although television has taken over as a huge media success, the newspaper and its coverage still has a large hold on our lives. The writer this week shall focus on the history of the early printing presses in Ohio.
The large towns of the early Nineteenth Century such as Dayton, Springfield, Columbus and Cincinnati can trace their newspaper publications back to the very early times of the organization of the State, before and shortly after. Chillicothe has long claimed to give itself the prestige of publishing the first newspaper east of the Allegheny Mountains. This claim has gone unchallenged.
The Scioto Gazette (first publication in 1792) was in existence when Springfield, Dayton and Cincinnati were but mere trading posts. News of their families and neighbors along the Atlantic seaboard, and news of the events of the old World were printed. Seven years prior to the appearance of The Gazette, Ohio boasted a printing press. The press was used largely for commercial purposes and did not for several years serve as a publisher of news.
A year after the Chillicothe newspaper was founded; Cincinnati took her place in the newspaper field, it having the distinction of publishing the second newspaper in Ohio. In 1793 an old press of the Ramage pattern (now exhibited in the Smithsonian Institute at Washington) was floated down the Ohio River to Fort Washington, now the site of Cincinnati. On this press was published the Queen City's first "recognized" newspaper, "The Liberty Hall."
In 1806, a Lebanonite of the highest distinction, John McLean, learned the old Ramage press was for sale. Racing against time, he caught the first stage to the Queen City for the express purpose of purchasing it. His success was assured, and in a few weeks the primitive old machine was installed in the City of Cedars. That same year, the old press began striking off the first edition of The Western Star, a newspaper that still carries the excellent tradition that it was founded on. It is at present time the oldest weekly newspaper in Ohio.
Among the first editors of the Star which received national attention in pursuance of their editorial work, were the distinguished names of: Nathaniel McLean, a brother of the founder; A.H. Dunlevy, Wm. H.P. Denny, Dr. James Scott, Judge George R. Sage, and Hon. Seth W. Brown.
The revelation of the first printing press in Lebanon was achieved some time before the appearance of the press in Hamilton, Dayton, Urbana, Springfield or Xenia. Advertisements and announcements were sent from these cities to The Western Star to be inserted for publication. All the "job work" for those towns was struck off on the old wooden Ramage press. It outgrew its usefulness in time and near the close of the Civil War, it was sold and removed to a western State.
The press was worked with a bar, which required a long, hard days labor to print as many as 300 copies of a small-sized newspaper. Lines of type in those days consisted of thin splints of wood, similar to those used for the seats of chairs. The type was inked with pelt- balls, since the use of rubber for printer rollers was unknown.
McLean used that pioneer piece of machinery to implement a flourishing business. In 1808, he secured a contract with the Shakers to print a rather large volume entitled, "Christ's Second Coming." The work was completed by the end of the year and some of the books were bound by hand at Lebanon.
Other early publications off the old press were: an almanac for the year 1812, with weather calculations by Matthias Corwin, Jr.; "The Ohio, or Western, Spelling Book," which was printed by A. Van Fleet in Lebanon in 1814. The same author printed and published the same year a volume entitled, "The Ohio Justice and Township Officers Assistant." In 1822, a monthly magazine known as the "Ohio Miscellaneous Museum" was issued from the Star office. The first four publications were a valuable relic in the library of the Mechanics Institute in Lebanon.
In 1826, The Ohio State Journal and Columbus Gazette inserted in their publication a complete list of Ohio newspapers published at the time. The list goes as such: The State Journal, at Columbus; The Ohio Monitor, at Columbus; The Western Statesman, at Columbus; The Ohio Repository, at Canton; The Scioto Gazette, at Chillicothe; The Western Star, at Lebanon; The Patron, at Delaware; The Clintonian and Xenia Register, at Xenia; The Western Pioneer, at Springfield; The Mad River Courant, at Dayton; and The Register at Eaton.
Cornelius Van Ausdale, the first merchant of Eaton, has been given the honor of being the originator of the first newspaper in the county seat and in the County of Preble. The Western Telegraph was created in 1817. In 1819, Van Ausdale made the acquaintance of Judge Samuel Tizzard, who along with Van Ausdale, was a member of the Ohio Legislature.
Judge Tizzard had learned the trade of printing with his tenure at The Scioto Gazette office in Chillicothe. A friendship immediately developed between the two, and at the end of their terms in 1820, chaperoned by Van Ausdale, Judge Tizzard traveled to Eaton and became impressed with the newspaper. The Judge had been seeking to purchase an enterprise of this sort. He promptly bought the equipment of the then defunct Western Telegraph, and published the first number of The Eaton Weekly Register.
Dayton was not far behind Lebanon in the journalistic field. The first paper to be printed in the Gem City was known as The Repertory, which was printed on a single sheet consisting of foolscap paper, eight by twelve inches. William McClure and George Smith printed it on a small hand press. The first publication was printed September 18, 1808, and the last printing was issued on December 4, 1809. The press used was considered a marvel for the time period. It was brought from Pennsylvania and its construction was entirely of metal. The news contained in The Repertory consisted of but a few paragraphs, word from Europe being three months old at the time of publication.
Springfield at this time was still making peace with the few remaining Indians. The wilderness had not yet been conquered and a new town site was still in the planning stage. However, in 1817, with growing progress being made in the new town, a newspaper was established, the name of the first publication being, The Farmer. Prospering for a brief period, it soon became disorderly. A temporary break in its publication was reestablished under the name of The Republic, and respectively, The Republic Times, The Press Republic, and the Daily News.
Springfield, though being late in the development of a newspaper, had another enterprise that was established as a manufacturer of woolen goods. The plant suffered financial difficulty and was soon taken over by Jacob W. and William Hill. It was modified and was made into a paper mill. This change in hands soon implanted Springfield with the first paper mill in all this part of the country. It furnished much of the paper on which our pioneer publications were printed.
The writer has tried to describe in a brief moment the beginnings of the newspaper business in Ohio. Although many of the leading publications in the United States have combined their efforts because of financial strappings, there will always be a place for printed news and gleanings of local insight.

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