History of Early Amateur Journalism in Connecticut


IN THE EARY DECADES of amateur journalism Connecticut, notwithstanding its small size, was the home of many amateur journalists who had a leading part in the history of the institution.

[One of the earliest was The Home Companion, F. W. Knapp, proprietor, of Norwalk. Volume 1 number 3 appeared in March, 1871. Mr Knapp claimed a monthly schedule but noted that illness had prevented the journal's appearance for four months! The Lilliputian Advertiser was published anonymously from Litchfield in 1871; a great job of printing at 3.25 x 4.25 inches. From its list of exchanges, it went over very well, very quickly; a monthly, begun in July. The Locomotive, edited by the Parker Brothers appreared in 1870 from New Haven, a large paper in three columns, ably printed with original stories and poetry. They editorially rate a goodly number of their exchanges. Their issue for March, 1871, lists the newly elected officers of the A. P. A. with some news from the Fourth Convention held in Buffalo, N. Y. In the June, 1871, issue of The Monthly Herald, John Winslow Snyder reports that The Locomotive has consolidated with Our Boys; I find no mention of it in Our Boys. John A. Porter reported the merger of his paper, The Press, with The Meteor, in his December, 1871, number; The Press is issued from New Haven. The first half of 1871 saw the publication of The Sunbeam from Middletown, issued by C. E. Bent. The Velocipede is a well done little monthly of 1871, edited by Otis D. Crocker and R. F. Pettibone from Winchester. (Pray, do not confuse this with The Velocipede of Battenville, Pennsylvania, produced at the same period, but a much larger paper.)]


[Connecticut's] editors were actively interested in the National and Eastern Associations but a State organization was not effected until 1878, when on May 30th, at Hartford the Connecticut A.P.A. was formed with William E. Nicholls, who in January had been chosen Official Editor of the New England A.J.A. as President. The Association met in Meriden, August 27, and held its annual meeting in Hartford on December 30, when Nicholls was re-elected. Meeting in Hartford May 21, 1879, Albert N. Daniels was chosen President, and he was re-elected at Meriden on August 27, and again at Middletown, February 18, 1880. Interest lapsed for a time, but the Association was reorganized at Hartford in 1881, Daniels being again made President and Fred A. Case, Secretary. Little was heard of it, however, until a final reorganization was made in Waterbury, March 23, 1883, with Robert F. Griggs as President, and his older brother, Wilfred E., as Official Editor.


A Nutmeg State A.P.A. was organized on Washington's Birthday in 1886 at Waterbury, with Paul Sterling of Bridgeport as President. Its semi-annual conventions were held in Bridgeport, Hartford, New Britain, New Haven and Waterbury. David C. Griggs, Edward C. Bingham, Newton C. Smith, Harry M. Steele and William P. Hopkins served as President. Its Waterbury meeting, February 22, 1889, was its last.


In Torrington, June 27, 1901, a local club was formed with Franklyn C. Wedge as President. It enlarged its territory immediately to include Litchfield County, and in 1902 it became the Connecticut A.P.A., Carl A. French being President. Monthly meetings were held for two years.


The amateurs of Bridgeport organized a club in November, 1908, with George H. Conger as President. It also met monthly for about a year. A club of amateur journalists was organized in Norwich November 4, 1913 with C. B. Morgan as President. The Eastern Connecticut A.P.A. was organized in New London, May 4, 1882, George Bindless being made President, but it never held another meeting.


The earliest Connecticut amateur journalist of record was William A. Kelsey of Meriden, who in 1867 issued Kelsey's Reporter. Kelsey was one of the first, and best known, manufacturers of amateur printing presses, and probably did more to increase the number of amateur publishers than any other person. He was followed very closely by [Edwin] A. Fry, who from Norfolk sent forth the Yankee Pedler in 1868. Almost at the same time William Howe Downes, later in life the noted art critic, started the publication of the Boys' Advertiser. He was then living in Birmingham, now known as Derby. Both Fry and Downes attended the organization meeting of the National Association at the Scribners' New York residence in 1869.


The best known journal ever issued by amateur journalists was the Boys' Herald. Its first number was issued from New Haven in September, 1871, by Lewis H. English and Edward E. Hall, Jr. The type-setting was done by the editors; the press work by a professional. In March, 1874, English and Hall sold their printing office, and the entire mechanical work was done by Tuttle, Morehouse & Taylor, who had done the press work. In October, 1874, the paper was enlarged to eight pages, 24 columns, and with a handsomely engraved heading. In 1875, after four years, English and Hall sold the Herald to Will M. Pemberton and F. C. Johnson of Ansonia. They published it until 1878, when they sold it to M. D. Mix and R. W. Onderdonk of Batavia, N.Y. After that it had a long, although somewhat intermittent, career under various editors. In 1876 Pemberton bought the New England Star from Burton of New Hampshire and published it at Ansonia.


New Haven in 1870 was the home of the Locomotive, published by the Parker Brothers, and of the Press, J.A. Porter, editor. In Litchfield that year Frederick E. Ives, whose inventions in connection with half-tone engraving have had such an influence upon illustration in the graphic arts, at the age of 13 edited and printed the Lilliputian Advertiser. It measured 3-1/4 x 4-1/2 inches, and was neatly printed from fine type. In 1872 at Hartford, H. J. Maercklein issued the Charter Oak Press, and in 1874 at New Britain John C. Talcott published a neat journal called Merry Moments.


In 1875 F. S. Terry published the Home Gem in Ansonia, G. N. Tolls the Amateur in Norwalk, and John C. English the Lotos in New Haven, this having a fine engraved heading. The next year Fred E. Case of Hartford issued the Amateur, and William E. Nicholls, of Little Haddam, the Favorite, later moving to Sunnybrook, where he was associated with H. U. Hayden in publishing the paper. In 1877 J. Van Vechten Waring of Stamford issued the Cyclone, J. P. Doolittle the Journal in Wallingford, and over in Moodus Frank H. Selden the Yankee Blade.


In Hartford Albert N. Daniels issued the Charter Oak in 1877, and the Spy in 1881. In 1878 William L. Washburn published the Hartford Era, which had the distinction of being the only amateur paper to have a chess department with full size diagrams of original problems. West Meriden was the home of two noted papers, the Diamond, Park Lockrow, editor; and Every Month, issued by William G. Snow, who later published Pen and Press. In 1878 George A. Cooke issued the Eastern Amateur in Stamford, and in Hartford W. H. Bullard published the Paragon, and Charles E. Arnold the Victor. Next door in West Hartford C. W. Robbins issued the Comet, and a little further west, in Avon, Charles C. Judd published the Mermaid, and in Plainville Charles F. Bushnell issued the Advertiser.


In the early years of the decade beginning with 1880 many new papers were started, several of them attaining national prominence. Among them were Young America edited by Wilfred E. and Robert F. Griggs in Waterbury, the Hornet published by George M. Stebbins in Danbury, and the Thames Budget, Theodore Bodenwein, editor, in New London. In South Manchester, the American Sphinx, edited by Truman J. Spencer, was published regularly each month for four years. The Advertiser, published in Torrington by A. Clarence and Ernest J. Whitney, was a noted paper of its time. New Britain had a group of papers, the oldest being the Youth's Gazette, published by William A. House. Others were Our Monthly, Eddy N. Smith; Comet of '82, Edward J. Skinner; Atom Advertiser, M. G. Porter. John A. Marr, of Hartford, issued the Wooden Nutmeg. In 1885 and 1886 a new group of young and active amateurs arose, organizing the Nutmeg State Association. William H. Jackson, of Waterbury, revived the name American Sphinx for his paper, while other Waterbury papers were the Brass City Herald, Newton C. Smith; the Hornet, Virgil H. Munson; and the Fire Fly, David C. Griggs, a younger brother of the editors of Young America some years before. In Watertown, near by, Perlee W. Abbott issued a magazine called the Post Boy. In Bridgeport Paul Sterling published the Eagle, and William P. Hopkins Multum in Parvo. A little later Hopkins issued a larger journal called Juvens Vade Mecum, associate editors being A. Clarence Whitney and Truman J. Spencer.


Later papers were the Investigator, published from New Britain by Truman J. Spencer from 1891 to 1895; the Planet issued by C. W. Chase from Putnam, and the Eaglet published by Everett A. Burgess from the same town; the Scribe, edited by Franklyn C. Wedge, and the Nutmeg Idler, edited by Carl A. French, from Torrington; and Idle Hours, Ernest H. Morris, editor, Bridgeport. In 1937 Curtiss S. Johnson, Jr., published Much Ado, in Westport, and the next year Edgar A. Martin the Contributor in Manchester.


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