Newspapers and Editors of the Past and Present in Lawrence County, Pa



The early history of journalism in New Castle, as in most towns of its size, is largely a record of ups and downs, with a very liberal proportion of "downs," but with the growth of the city during the last quarter of a century there has come a corresponding security of foundation for newspaper enterprises, in the large increase in population and in the various manufacturing, commercial and social interests that spring up and are naturally evolved from the advancing prosperity of any considerable community included within the limits of civilization. All, or some, of these various interests, in some degree, enter into the life of each individual in the community, as forming a part of his daily environment; or, perhaps, in a closer relationship, as affording him his means of subsistence, and it behooves him, therefore, to keep in touch with passing events. The daily newspaper is the mirror in which one sees reflected all the kaleidescopic panorama of contemporaneous human life. It is the most universally read of all literature and the most universally appreciated. Each individual finds within its columns the latest news on the subject which interests him the most. The election of a president. the discovery of a new comet, or the downfall of a pugilistic champion are there all recorded with the utmost impartiality, and generally within an hour or two of the actual occurrence. It records not only that which is doing or has been done, but that which is to be done; and one sees foreshadowed within its pages many of the things or events to be in the near or distant future, from the proposed organization of a new fraternal society to next spring's fashions in millinery. Truly, were all men to be asked what modern convenience of life they would surrender with the greatest reluctance, not a few would reply, "The daily paper."

It is not our intention in this article to enter into a long, detailed history of all the newspapers that at one time or another have flourished in New Castle for a longer or briefer period, but simply to give an outline sketch of the early growth of journalism in the city, with a few words in regard to its present status, as exhibited in the admirable papers, which, in this first decade of the twentieth century, minister to the perpetual thirst for information characteristic of the up-to-date citizen, here as elsewhere. Much, if not all, of the in-formation herein given has appeared, at different times, in previous histories or in the local press, but doubtless it will be acceptable to the reader in its present form.

The first paper published in New Castle made its debut in the early part of December, 1826. The exact date of the first number is not known. It was called the New Castle Register, and was published by David Crawford, who formerly lived in Mercer. It was a five-column folio, issued once a week, the subscription price being $2 a year. Having no column rules, the columns were separated from each other by blank lines nearly a quarter of an inch in width. The office of the Register was situated near the west end of North Street, on the first floor of a log house standing on or near the present site of James A. Stevenson's residence. The paper was printed on a Ramage press, the woodwork of which was made by Joseph Emery. Like other presses of the kind, it had a wooden platen with metal face. The bed of the press was of stone, and is still in existence, serving as a hearthstone in a Third Ward dwelling. The impression was made by turning a screw, which required two pulls for every impression. When run by a good pressman it would print five or six quires an hour. No file of this paper is in existence, and only here and there can a copy of it be found. But as it was almost totally devoid of local news, there is little to regret that so few copies have been preserved. After being published for about two years, it was discontinued, and Mr. Crawford left New Castle and returned to Mercer, where he lived until 1831, when he came back to New Castle, bringing his family with him. George P. Shaw, a brother to the late Col. William H. Shaw, was editor of the Register.

About eight years after the suspension of the Register, a successor appeared in the New Castle Intelligencer, which was owned by a joint stock company, of which Major Ezekiel Sankey and Judge Robert W. Stewart were two of the principal members. It was published by John W. Cunningham, who resided in New Castle until his death, which occurred in December, 1864.

The editor of the paper was a young man named Henry E. Wallace, who came here in the summer of 1836 and opened the first law office in this place. After the Intelligencer suspended, Mr. Wallace went to Philadelphia, where he became a prominent lawyer, and was for many years editor of the Legal Intelligencer. Michael Weyand, for many years editor and proprietor of the Beaver Times, officiated in the capacity of "printer's devil" in the New Castle Intelligencer office. The first number was issued on August 18, 1836. It was a five-column folio and was printed on imperial paper. The columns were two and three-fourths inches wide. The short columns were sixteen and three-quarters inches in length and the long ones eighteen inches. The first and second pages consisted exclusively of reading matter, while the third and fourth pages were made up chiefly of advertisements, both home and foreign. The head of the paper was composed of heavy black-faced letters about a half inch in height. The office was situated on the northeast corner of Washington and Beaver Streets, over Thomas McCleary & Co.'s store. After the lapse of about two years the publication of the Intelligence was discontinued. What became of the press and type is not known, but it is not at all improbable that they were both used in printing the Western Sentinel and the Mercer and Beaver Democrat.

The publication of the Western Sentinel was commenced in August, 1837, and discontinued in December, 1838. making the period of its existence about sixteen months. It was a small four-page paper, with six columns to the page, and was edited by 0. C. Lockhart, an elderly gentleman, who afterwards resided on a farm near the town of Pulaski, this county. In politics it supported the Whig party.

From December, 1839, to August, of 1839, there was no paper published here. Since the latter date the people of New Castle have never known what it is to do without a local paper. The first number of the Mercer and Beaver Democrat, a five-column folio, was published on Wednesday, August 14, 1839. Notwithstanding its name, it was a Whig paper and was published at $2 a year. The advertising rates were $1 per square for the first three insertions and 25 cents for each subsequent insertion. The original proprietor of the paper was John Speer, who, after disposing of his interest to John B. Early, removed to Arkansas. When this change of proprietors was made we cannot say, but it is well known that Mr. Early was proprietor in September, 1840. 0. C. Lockhart, whom we have already mentioned as editor and publisher of the Western Sentinel, worked as a compositor on the Democrat. One of the principal writers on the Democrat was "Zip" Allison, who formerly lived in Beaver. "Zip" was an excellent writer and a young man of superior ability, hut unfortunately he was addicted to strong drink. In regard to religion he was what is commonly called a "free thinker." The Democrat was discontinued soon after the election of 1840, only sixty numbers having been published.

We must not omit to relate the singular fact that William D. C. Greene, one of the editors of the Democrat, after making a will and bequeathing his library to George D. Prentice, committed suicide by taking an overdose of laudanum. He died at the Washington House, on Washington Street, near Mill. He was a young man of considerable literary talent, and was unmarried at the time of his death. His rash act was probably due to intemperance, a vice more common in those days even than now.

The Mercer and Beaver Democrat was succeeded by the New Castle Gazette, the first number of which appeared on Friday, October 15, 1841. It was published by H. A. McCullough and William H. Shaw. The office was on the northeast corner of Washington and Mill Streets. The Gazette was a four-page paper, with five wide columns to the page, and was published at $2 a year. About two months after it was started McCullough sold his interest to John S. Winter. Shaw & Winter published it about one year, when Winter sold his interest to Shaw and went home to his father. Dr. John Winter, of Sharon. So unprofitable had been their business during the year that it was agreed that Winter should receive for his year's labor only $2, and he should receive that sum from his father, who owed a year's subscription to the Gazette. Mr. Shaw published the paper until 1845, when he sold his interest to Alexander Cameron. About the beginning of 1845 the Gazette was furnished with a new head and was changed to a six-column paper, without enlarging its size. The office from which it was issued was then on East Street. The publication day was Wednesday. The firm name was W. H. Shaw & A. Cameron. In the spring of 1846 the firm name was Cameron & Shaw and the publication day was Thursday. Some time during the summer or autumn of 1846 Mr. Cameron sold his interest to George P. Shaw, brother to William H. Shaw. The firm name then became W. H. & G. P. Shaw, and continued so until 1858, when George H. Shaw sold his interest to his brother and retired from connection with the paper.

On the 23d of August, 1849, the Gazette appeared in an entire new dress and enlarged to seven columns wide. The new head was in length equal to the width of five columns. Just prior to the publication of this issue the office had been removed to Crawford & Co.'s new building on the southwest corner of Jefferson Street and the "Diamond," over the postoffice and telegraph office.

In 1849 James M. Kuester came here from Pittsburg, and during the same year began the publication of a Democratic paper called the Lawrence Journal, and continued to own it until about the year 1862, then selling it to his son, G. D. Kuester, and Joseph Miller. The paper, having clanged its politics to Republican, had a hard time to exist and finally died for lack of patronage about 1870. We find a mention of it suspending publication September 1, 1861.

David Craig, who for a time had been associated with the Shaw brothers in publishing the Gazette, severed his connection in October, 1851. On July 1, 1852, the Gazette appeared in mourning for the death of Henry Clay, all the column rules of the second and third pages being turned.

The summer of 1852 seems to have formed the brightest and happiest period in the history of local journalism, judging from the number of pound cakes and bouquets presented to the editors.

The first number of the Cosmopolite appeared on November 25, 1853, H. P. W. Bay & Co. being the editors and proprietors. But three numbers were printed. The issues were made periodically, as three months intervened between the first and second number. This paper was superseded by the Coal City Item on January 5. 1856, with J. Sell Jennings as editor and proprietor. According to announcement in the paper, M. B. Glenn became associate editor in June, 1858. The Item was published weekly until early in 1860. The office was located in the second story of the building on the southeast corner of Washington and Mill Streets. George Henderson occupied the first floor as a dry goods and general store. In 1860 the stock of the Item was taken by Dr. Daniel Leasure, J. Sell Jennings, M. B. Speer and William M. Hunter, and a new company organized to publish the Coal City Chronicle. This paper was a semi-weekly and was issued from the "Old Stone Corner." In July of the same year, Mr. Hunter retired from the firm, his interest having been bought by Oscar O. Sutherland. In the same month J. Sell Jennings sold his interest in the concern to J. Walter Vincent, of New Wilmington, who remained with the company until April, 1861, when the publication of the paper was suspended, after the entire force of the office had enlisted for the war.

The first cylinder press to be operated in this city was brought here by J. M. Blanchard in 1853, and was used in printing the Promulgator, an Abolition paper. Some time during the next year Mr. Blanchard sold the paper to William F. Clark, of Mercer. He changed the name of the publication to the American Freeman. In 1857 E. S. Durban, who had been publishing a Democratic paper in Franklin, bought the office from Mr. Clark. He changed the name of the paper to the New Castle Courant and continued as editor and proprietor until about 1876, when the office was bought by J. H. Douglass. After publishing the paper a few years the latter turned the paper over to Mr. Durban who continued in charge of the business until early in the eighties, when Corson & Pryor bought the office. The Courant and Guardian, the latter then owned by a stock company, were consolidated and issued under the name of the Courant-Guardian. The office was afterward sold to a stock company, who enlarged and improved the plant and continued the publication under the name of the Herald until nearly three years ago, when the present owner, A. C. Dickinson, bought the plant.

On the 24th of August, 1854, the Gazette appeared for the second time in an entire new dress. From then until 1862 nothing worthy of particular notice took place in regard to the Gazette. On August 7, 1862, it suspended publication in consequence of its editor, Col. W. H. Shaw, having enter the military service of the United States. It was revived on May 18, 1864, appearing in a new dress. It was published as a Republican paper until about the middle of September, being then sold to a Democratic stock company for $1,500. Some of the principal stockholders were David S. Morris, D. M. Courtney, Lewis Taylor and S. W. Dana. Under this management the Gazette was edited by D. S. Morris until William S. Slack, of Philadelphia, took charge of it in March, 1865. At the time that Mr. Morris served as editor Thomas J. McCleary had charge of the mechanical department. The latter was succeeded by his brother, Joseph B., who continued as foreman as long as it remained in existence.

The Gazette and Democrat, one of the best newspapers ever published in New Castle, was forced to suspend publication about the middle of September, 1875, because the editor, William S. Black, could not collect money due him on subscription.

On the 3d of February, 1855, the Dew-drop, published by O. O. Sutherland and J. H. Gilliland and printed in the Gazette office, made its appearance. It lived but three months at the subscription price of 25 cents. It was intended for a humorous publication, but got into trouble on account of the too free use of a business man's name, and after the young editors had had an experience at court the publication suspended.

Thomp Burton was associated with Mr. Black in publishing the Gazette from January 1, 1867, until the next November. At intervals in 1868 and 1869 R. Gregor McGregor had charge of the editorial department, being succeeded by John F. Brown, who continued on the Gazette until July, 1872. On July 15, 1872, George W. Penn became connected with it as editor, and remained in that capacity until it suspended, on September 10, 1875. We must not omit to mention that in the beginning of January, 1867, the Gazette appeared in an entire new dress, and enlarged one column to each page. From this brief sketch it can be seen that the Gazette had a most eventful existence, being published first as a Whig paper, then a Republican paper, and lastly as a Democratic paper. It began as a five-column and died as an eight-column paper, aged thirty-four years.

In the latter part of 1867 or early in 1868 Thomp Burton started a paper called the Champion, in a room near the Washington Street bridge in the interest of Dan Rice, the showman, then a candidate for the presidential nomination. Owing to the bad health of the editor and the weakness of the candidate, the paper ceased to exist in a few months.

In 1867 David Sankey published the Journal, and during his ownership of several years wielded considerable power. Mr. Sankey was a forcible writer and was careless where the shots hit.

David Sankey & Co., publishers of the Lawrence Journal, suspended the publication about the first of June, 1874, because the owners were unable to secure a proper person to manage the paper. The subscribers who had paid in advance were given the Gazette and Democrat until their subscription had expired.

In 1870 Capt. R. G. Dill and William Platt began the publication of the Lawrence Guardian. After a few years of successful management they sold the paper to Dr. J. J. Wallace and G. W. McCracken, who continued its publication until it was sold to a company of politicians, who owned the office when the Guardian and Courant consolidated.

The Signal was first issued on the 15th of January, 1875, and suspended February 4, 1876. William H. Gault was its founder and editor.

The New Era, a prohibition paper, was started September 21, 1875, by James K. Frew, and its editor was James A. Gardner. The office was afterwards sold to Thomp Burton, who began the publication of the Paragraph.

In 1875 George W. Penn and E. C. Stone began publishing the Lawrence Paragraph in a room in the Henderson Block, and continued its publication until 1881, when Major William Gordon bought Mr. Stone's interest. The name of the paper was changed to the New Castle Democrat, the same as it is today. Mr. Gordon, in September of 1881, sold his interest in the paper to T. J. McCleary, the present editor and publisher. The latter bought Mr. Penn's interest in 1883, giving him the full control.

The first number of the Daily Index, a paper advocating the temperance cause, with William P. Miller and William J. Bannan as editors and proprietors, appeared on May 21, 1879, and existed until December 31st of the same year. A weekly edition of the same paper was published, the first number of which was issued May 19th, and ceased to exist December 8, 1880. The owners and publishers of the latter were: T. J. Gleason and William J. Bannan. The first issue of the Weekly News appeared on December 15, 1880, under the ownership of George E. Treadwell and William J. Hannan. The Daily City News was subsequently started and is still issued regularly under the management of Fred L. Bentz, who has been connected with the paper many years.



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Sources:

20th century history of New Castle and Lawrence County, Pennsylvania and representative citizens (1908), Pages 142-147

The Library of Congress

LCCN - Library of Congress Control Number
OCLC - OCLC Control Number
ISSN - Standardized international code





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