Erie County, Pennsylvania

History of Erie County, Pennsylvania 1884

by Samuel P. Bates, 

Submitted by Gaylene Kerr Banister


Chapter XXV - Newspapers


The newspapers of the county are twenty-seven in number, of which eighteen are published in Erie, as follows: Dailies -- Dispatch, Observer, Herald, Leuchtthurm. Weeklies -- Dispatch, Observer, Herald, Sunday Gazette, Weekly Gazette, Leuchtthurm, Sunday Graphic, Weekly Graphic, Advertiser, Sonntagsgast, Lake Shore Visitor, Zuschauer, and Jornal de Noticias. Monthly -- Star of Liberty. Of these, the Leuchtthurm, Zuschauer and Sonntagsgast are printed in German, and the Jornal de Noticias in Portuguese.

Early Newspapers
The earliest newspaper printed in the county was the Mirror, started in Erie by George Wyeth in 1808, to advocate "Federal Constitutional-Republican" principles, whatever that may have meant. It was ten by sixteen inches in size, and the subscription price was $2 per year. The editor was not firm enough to refuse contributions from irresponsible writers, and in consequence of the publication of one of an offensive character found it convenient to abandon the enterprise and leave the town between two days. In 1812, the Northern Sentinel appeared, with R. J. Curtis as editor. It was discontinued at the end of a year, but revived in 1816 under the name of the Genius of the Lakes. John Morris was the publisher and Mr. Curtis the editor. The title was again changed to the Phoenix, and finally to the Reflector, and the paper was printed in Erie till 1819 or 1820, when it was removed to Mayville, N. Y., where it lived but a short time. Meanwhile, another journal had sprung into existence. This was the Patriot, founded in 1818 by Zeba Willis. It ran a course of one year in Erie, when the office was moved to Cleveland, and became the basis of the Herald of that city.

The Erie "Gazette"

The first paper in Erie that came to stay was the Erie Weekly Gazette, established on the 15th of January, 1820, by Joseph M. Sterrett. It was issued from a log building on the west side of French street, two doors north of Fifth, and was in size 17x21 inches, which was large for a back-country paper of that time. Mr. Sterrett was assisted in the editorial conduct of the paper at various times by James Buchanan (not the President), J. Hoge Waugh, John Riddell, and others. The Gazette supported Andrew Jackson in 1824, but when John Quincy Adams was elected by the House it became one of his heartiest supporters, and from that time fought the Democratic party under all the names assumed by the opposition -- Anti-Masonic, Whig, Free-Soil, Republican, etc. John Shaner was associated in its publication from 1835 to 1842, when J. P. Cochran and George W. Riblet took control. In 1845, Mr. Sterrett resumed charge, and on the 10th of September, 1846, he associated I. B. Gara with him, who edited the paper till May 3, 1865, when it was sold to S. A. Davenport. The latter not being a practical newspaper man was obliged to turn over the management to others, and it had numerous editors during the period between 1865 and 1873. Among them were E. L. Clark, John R. Graham, R. Lyle White, James Hendricks, B. F. McCarty, and perhaps others. On the 5th of June, 1873, the Gazette was purchased from Mr. Davenport by F. A. Crandall, who retained possession until February 1, 1882, when he disposed of his interest to W. G. McKean, the present editor and proprietor. Mr. Crandall started the Saturday Evening Gazette March 20, 1875, and changed it to the Sunday Morning Gazette on the 17th of June in the same year. During its middle age, Hon. Gideon J. Ball and William Kelley were frequent contributors to the Gazette. Altogether, Judge Sterrett's connection with the paper extended over a period of forty-five years. The Gazette was located some twenty years on the third floor of Rindernecht's block, at the corner of State and Fifth streets. From there it moved to Eichenlaub's block, on State street, between the Park and Seventh street, and finally to its present location in the Welsh Block, on French street, opposite the Reed House.

Horace Greeley worked as a journeyman in the office of the Gazette during the winter of 1830-31.

The Erie "Observer"
The course of the Gazette during the anti-Masonic excitement which sprang up about 1829, led to the establishment of the Erie Weekly Observer as an organ of the opposite side in politics. The means for starting it were contributed by P. S. V. Hamot, Joshua Beers, Daniel Dobbins, Edwin J. Kelso, Robert Cochran, Smith Jackson and several others, all members of the Masonic order, and warm political friends of President Jackson. It was issued on the 29th of May, 1830, from the second story of a building on the northwest corner of French and Fifth streets, only two doors from the birthplace of its political rival. The first editor was T. B. Barnum, who was succeeded in 1832 by H. L. Harvey. The latter printed a specimen copy of a daily in 1836, but the encouragement received was not sufficient to warrant its continuance. The paper passed into the charge of Thomas Laird in the spring of 1837, into that of Hiram A. Beebe in the spring of 1839, and finally, in 1840, J. M. Kuester and W. McKinstry became proprietors. It may be inferred from these frequent changes that the paper was not in a healthy condition financially, and this appears to have been the case; for Mr. Kuester failed, and the office passed into the hands of E. D. Gunnison as receiver. During a few weeks of the time it was in Mr. Gunnison's charge, William A. Galbraith tried his hand as editor, but he was glad to quit the work for the more congenial profession of the law. In May, 1843, the office was purchased by A. P. Durlin and B. F. Sloan, under whose management it acquired more prosperity than ever before in its career. These gentlemen tried the experiment of a semi-weekly for a few months in 1849. Mr. Durlin withdrew from the concern on the 26th of January, 1856, and was immediately succeeded by M. M. Moore. This partnership continued until January 1, 1859, when Mr. Moore retired. On the 1st of January, 1861, Mr. Sloan sold the office to Andrew Hopkins, brother of Hon. James H. Hopkins, of Pittsburgh. This gentleman disposed of it to Benjamin Whitman and James I. Brecht on the 17th of January, 1862. Their partnership continued until April 1, 1865. Mr. Whitman then became sole proprietor and remained such until December 1, 1878, when the office was purchased by Robert B. Brown, formerly of the Clarion Democrat. The latter started the Daily Evening Observer on the 15th of October, 1881. From the day of its first issue, and under all the changes in its management, the Observer has been Democratic in politics. During the last twenty years, the office has had three different locations -- first, in the frame building on State street, opposite the Custom House; second, on the third floor of Rosenzweig's block; third, the present one, in the Noble Block. A Daily Bulletin was printed at the Observer office for W. H. Harris, during the first month or two of the war for the Union.

The Erie "Dispatch"

In 1851, a small paper, named the Dispatch, was started at Waterford by Joseph S. M. Young. When the railroad war broke out, it took such a lively part on the side of the "rippers," or "anti-railroad men," that their leaders induced Mr. Young to remove his office to Erie, where he might have a wider field. This he did in 1856. In a short time after the removal, the office was completely destroyed by fire. Its friends clubbed together and bought Mr. Young new material, which gave him a great advantage over his competitors, whose presses and types were inferior by comparison, and the office quickly secured a large patronage. During 1861, a daily was started, which was only continued a few months. The office was purchased on the 1st of February, 1864, by B. F. H. Lynn, who had long been Mr. Young's foreman and associate editor, and who immediately added largely to its material. The daily was revived on May 22, 1864, and has been printed regularly ever since. Mr. Lynn became embarrassed, in a few years, and the establishment was sold at Sheriff's sale. After that it was conducted by various parties, among whom were S. Todd Perley, Azro Goff, and W. P. Atkinson. It was purchased by Willard, Redway & Cook, in 1869. In 1872, the firm name was changed to Willard, Redway & Seaman; on January 1, 1874, to Willard & Brewer; and in April, 1877, to Willard, Brewer & Hooker. Mr. Willard became sole proprietor on the 3d of September, 1878. In May, 1883, he disposed of a portion of his interest to Messrs. Camp, Belknap & Johnson, of North East. The Dispatch started as an independent paper, but changed to Republican about 1860, and has ever since advocated the candidates and principles of that party. The office has been located at various times on the third floor of Wright's block, in a building on Fifth street opposite the engine house, and in the block fronting the Erie Park between the Reed and Ellsworth Houses. Its present location is in the building once occupied by the old Erie Bank, on the south side of the East Park, From 1864 to 1878, the Dispatch may be said to have been practically the only English daily in Erie. Others were started at various periods, but the most successful of them only lasted a year or two.

Other English Papers
The Lake Shore Visitor was commenced in 1874, as the organ of the Catholics of the Erie Diocese. The writing was mainly done by Bishop Mullen until 1875, when Rev. Thomas A. Casey became editor, and has continued in that capacity ever since. The first publisher was B. F. McCarty, who was succeeded by Thomas F. O'Brien. Since the fall of 1881, the paper has been published by the Herald Printing Company. The original office was on the third floor of the Welsh Building, on French street, opposite the Reed House. From there it was removed to the Lafayette Hotel building, then to the basement of Scott's block, and lastly to the Herald building.

The Erie Advertiser, the next paper in the order of age, was started on the 1st of April, 1876, by John M. Glazier, who is still its editor and publisher. The publication office has always been on Peach street, south of the railroad depot. In politics, the Advertiser is independent, with a Republican leaning.

The first number of the Evening Herald, a Democratic daily paper, appeared on the 20th of July, 1878. The editors were James Burns and H. C. Missimer, teachers in the Erie High School. After it had been printed two or three months the paper was purchased by William L. Scott, and a weekly edition was added. Thomas F. O'Brien was placed in charge and continued as manager until after the election of 1881. D. S. Crawford has been local editor most of the time since Mr. Scott became the proprietor. The present managing editor is Nelson Baldwin, and William P. Atkinson is business manager. The Herald began in the building formerly known as the Lafayette House, on French street. From there the office was moved to the basement of Scott's block. It is now located in the building on the southeast corner of State and Tenth streets.

The Erie Sunday Graphic was established by Boyle & McCauley on the 20th of May, 1880. In the spring of 1882, John T. Boyle purchased the interest of his partner, and on the 27th of August, 1882, he sold the office to Jacob Bender. Before that the Graphic was more of a society than a political paper, but Mr. Bender immediately hoisted the Independent Republican ticket. He also started the Weekly Graphic for country circulation. Mr. Bender's interest was purchased by Charles M. Lynch in February, 1884. The former, however, remains as editor.

The Star of Liberty is a monthly publication, established April 1, 1882, by H. R. Storrs, as an advocate of liberal views on the liquor question. It is the successor of the Family Magazine, started in Canada by the same gentleman on the 1st of January, 1877, and removed to Erie in October, 1879.

German and Portuguese Papers

The first German paper in Erie was the Unsere World (Our World) founded by Carl Benson in 1851. The name was changed to the Frie Presse (Free Press) in 1860. The paper went down in 1868. Its politics were Whig and Republican.

A Mr. Schuefflen started the Zuschauer (Spectator) in 1852. It was purchased by C. Moeser in 1855, and by E. E. Stuerznickel in 1861. The paper was originally Democratic, but became Republican during the war. On the 1st of January, 1877, Mr. Stuerznickel sold the Zuschauer to F. C. Gorenflo, who had been his partner for a year or two. The paper was enlarged in May, 1883, and Mr. F. W. Dahlman became associated with Mr. Gorenflo, which partnership was soon dissolved. The office is in the Perry Block, on the east side of State street, between Sixth and Seventh.

The Weekly Leuchtthurm (Light-House) was established in 1860 by Baetzel & Atkinson. After numerous ups and downs, the paper became a part of the Dispatch establishment, where it was printed for some time. It was purchased about 1873 by Merhoff & Wallenhorst. Wallenhorst soon retired, and H. Merhoff assumed sole control. In April, 1875, Otto Luedicke became a partner with Merhoff, and assumed editorial charge. The Daily Leuchtthurm was started in June, 1875. Mr. Luedicke withdrew in 1879, and was succeeded by Merhoff, Boyer & Rastatter. Merhoff and Rastatter sold out, and John F. Boyer became sole proprietor in 1880. October 1, 1882, Mr. Luedicke resumed control under a lease from Mr. Boyer. The office is in Boyer's block, State street, near the Lake Shore Railroad bridge.

The Jornal de Noticias (General News) enjoyed the distinction for several years of being the only paper in the Portuguese language in the United States. It was established on the 27th of October, 1877, by A. M. & John M. Vincent, who still remain in charge. It is independent in politics. The office is at 1022 West Sixth street.

The Sonatagsgast (Sunday Guest) is the latest German paper. It was founded May 15, 1881, by Frank Weiss & Co., and is independent in politics. The office is in the Humboldt Bank building.

Defunct Papers

The papers in existence in Erie are few in number compared with those that have been started, and given up the ghost, after brief careers. Of these the most prominent were as follows:

The Erie Chronicle was started by Samuel Perley in 1840, as a rival Whig organ to the Gazette. Mr. Perley moved the office to Girard, where the material was used in the publication of the Republican.

In 1846, a second rival of the Gazette made its appearance under the title of the Commercial Advertiser, with J. P. Cochran as editor. Mr. C. died in 1850, when the paper passed into the hands of A. H. Caughey, who at the end of a year and a half sold it to J. B. Johnson. The latter changed the name to the Constitution, which became the advocate of the "railroad men" as against the "rippers" during the eventful era of the railroad war. A party of "rippers" entered the office in 1855, "pied" the type and threw the press into the street. The paper was resuscitated by R. Lyle White, who kept it up for a short time. He issued a daily bulletin for some months in 1858.

The first outspoken abolition paper in the city was the True American, started by Compton & Moore in 1853. It was published for a time by James Perley and Henry Catlin. The latter finally became sole editor and proprietor. Radical as the county was on the slavery question, it never gave the True American a respectable support, and the editor was glad of an excuse for abandoning it and going into other business, which he did in 1861.

The Express, started in 1857 by E. C. Goodrich as a rival Democratic paper to the Observer, was merged into the True American in a few months. It was printed with the material of the Constitution.

The daily Republican was printed some two or three years, commencing about 1867. During its brief life it has several editors and publishers, all of whom were disappointed in their hopes of making it a prosperous enterprise.

One of the latest newspaper failures was the Argus, which was brought into existence mainly through the labors of S. Todd Perley. As a basis for the enterprise, he effected a consolidation of the offices of the Union City Times and the Corry Republican, the material of which was moved to Erie on the 1st of May, 1875. A daily and a weekly paper were issued for some months. H. D. Persons and Horace G. Pratt were associated with Mr. Perley in the enterprise.

R. Lyle White published the Daily Bulletin for a few months about 1874.

The Lake City Daily, a penny paper, was printed by Woods, Constable & Co., three young graduates of the high school in 1878, and lasted about a year. It was ultimately merged in the Herald.

It will be seen by the above that the first daily paper in Erie City was the Observer; the second, the Bulletin; the third, Harris' War Bulletin, issued the first two or three months of the rebellion, from the Observer and Dispatch offices, and the fourth the Dispatch. Since then the following dailies have appeared in the order named: Republican, Argus, White's Bulletin, Leuchtthurm, Lake City Daily Herald and Observer.

The Erie papers used hand presses exclusively up to 1853. The first to introduce steam power was the Observer, while under the management of Durlin & Sloan. The machine purchased was of the Northrup make. A steam engine was added on the 4th of February, 1858, when the paper was under the control of Sloan & Moore. The next to follow with a power press was the Dispatch, which employed a caloric engine for several years. The Gazette stuck to its old hand press until 1866.

The Northwestern Editorial Association, organized in Erie about 1865, was composed of newspaper men in Warren, Erie, Crawford, Mercer, Venango, Butler and several other counties. It had two or three pleasant annual meetings, and then quietly expired.

It is but fair to say of the press of our city and county, that, in proportion to the patronage extended to it, it is and always has been the equal of any in the State, both in ability and enterprise. The Gazette and Observer, for more than thirty years, have had a reputation the State over, and the leading papers of more recent date have well sustained the credit of the county for progressive journalism.

Joseph M. Sterrett, the Nestor of the Erie press, is still living in the enjoyment of the honors of a well-spent life. He was County Commissioner from 1829 to 1831, State Senator from 1837 to 1841, Associate Judge from 1850 to 1856, and Postmaster of Erie from 1861 to 1869.

George W. Riblet was Director of the Poor from 1878 to 1881, and has held numerous positions of trust in the city.

Gideon J. Ball was State Treasurer in 1869, Chief Clerk to the Sixth Auditor of the Treasury from 1851 to 1853, member of the Assembly six terms, beginning in 1847 and closing in 1860, and Paymaster in the army during the last war.

Isaac B. Gara was Enrolling Commissioner for the draft in 1863, Deputy Secretary of the Commonwealth from 1867 to 1870, and Postmaster of Erie from 1869 to 1876.

B. F. Sloan was Postmaster of Erie from 1853 to 1861, Clerk to the Pension Committee of Congress in 1875 and 1876, and is now Secretary of the Erie Water Department.

Benjamin Whitman is a resident of Erie, engaged in literary and business pursuits. Although active in politics for twenty years, he has always refused to be a candidate for office.

M. M. Moore still resides in Erie, where he has been elected to several city offices, including Alderman and School Director.

Andrew Hopkins died recently in Washington, Penn., where he was publishing a Democratic Weekly.

Robert B. Brown served as a member of the Assembly from Clarion County in 1869 and 1870.

J. R. Graham is a prosperous citizen of Kansas, where he has held several official positions.

F. A. Crandall is the principal writing editor of the Buffalo Express.

W. McKinstry is or was until recently one of the publishers of the Fredonia Censor.

A. P. Durlin, after publishing a paper for many years in Iowa, returned to Erie and established a job printing office.

Joseph S. M. Young went from Erie to Pittsburgh and became a specialist in medicine.

B. F. H. Lynn, after a varied career, was found dead in the house of a relative at Mauch Chunk.

E. E. Stuerznickel was Sheriff from 1877 to 1880. He is at present engaged in the confectionery trade in Erie.

Samuel Perley was Prothonotary from 1851 to 1854.

A. H. Caughey was one of the professors in Lafayette College, at Easton, for several years, and is now in business at Erie.

J. B. Johnson was a member of the Assembly in 1845, and State Senator from 1846 to 1849.

R. Lyle White died in Erie a few years ago.

Henry Catlin is still a resident of Erie.

Eben Brewer, after leaving Erie, held a position for a while on the editorial force of the Philadelphia Times. He is now practicing law in that city.

H. Merhoff is working at his trade as a printer somewhere in the East.

All of the above are living except Messrs. Lynn, Perley, Johnson, White and Hopkins.

Papers Outside of Erie
The papers of the county printed outside of Erie City, are ten in number, as follows:
Corry -- The Weekly Telegraph and the Daily and Weekly Herald.
Union City -- The Weekly Times.
Girard -- The Weekly Cosmopolite.
North East -- The Weekly Sun.
Edinboro -- The Weekly Independent.
Wattsburg -- The Weekly Occasional.
Albion -- The Weekly Blizzard.
Mill Village -- The Weekly Herald.

The history of each of these papers is given in the sketch of the town or city where it is published.

Bibliography: Samuel P. Bates, History of Erie County, Pennsylvania, (Warner, Beers & Co.: Chicago, 1884), Part II, Chapter XXV, pp. 459-465.


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