History of Early Amateur Journalism in Pennsylvania


PENNSYLVANIA, HAVING SO LARGE an area, has not attempted to organize the entire State into one organization. The nearest attempt was the organization of the Pennsylvania and New Jersey A.P.A. in January, 1886. John G. Kugler, of Pottstown, was made President, and John Moody, Editor. On January 1, 1887, at Philadelphia, H. D. Hughes was chosen President, and Bertha E. Wuest, Editor, but the Association soon afterward ceased to exist. A Western Pennsylvania A.P.A. was formed at Pittsburgh, March 20, 1883, with Will J. Heineman as President. Its next meeting was at Butler in September, where George N. Truax was chosen President. Its final meeting was at Bradford March 29, 1884.


On February 2, 1872, a Pittsburgh A.P.A. was formed with John A. Fox, editor of the Spectator, President, and Philadelphia began its long list of local clubs by organizing the Philadelphia A.P.A. with G. Heidel Louden as President. On February 19, 1876, an organization was effected for the purpose of promoting the formation of a national association. It took the name of the National A.P.A., and accomplished its end in the formation of the present N.A.P.A. on July 4, 1876. George W. Bertron was President and Evan Reed Riale, Secretary. In September, 1876, a Quaker City A.P.A. was organized, and in August, 1877, a rival club was formed called the Keystone A.P.A. Both were reorganized in 1881. Frank J. Vondersmith was made President of the Keystone A.P.A., and in January, 1862, he was succeeded by James M. Beck, with John J. Weissert as Vice-President. Another reorganization in March, 1882, made John W. McClain President of the local club, and Sam S. Stinson, Editor. A new Philadelphia Amateur Journalists Association was formed on November 7, 1885, with Harry C. Hochstadter as President. In September, 1886, Porter F. Cope was made President, and Walter C. Chiles, Secretary. Chiles became President in 1889. Its last meeting was in 1891. In 1897 the Quaker City A.P.A. was again formed, with monthly meetings, but the Spanish-American War took away its prominent members and it disbanded. On October 26, 1898, it renewed activity, soon changed its name to the Philadelphia Amateur Journalists Club, and continued in existence for many years, having one of the longest records of any local organization. On its fifth anniversary J. Ray Spink was chosen President. At the end of seven years it reported having held 131 meetings. Charles H. Russell was then President, Will R. Murphy, Secretary, and Harold C. Whiteside, Editor. Next year Whiteside was made President, and J. Ray Spink, Editor. In 1908 Frank Henderson was President and Murphy still Secretary.


“A family of little girls” – the misses Luckens – started up Little Things, a double sheet journal of eight pages in early 1871 published in Brinton. The ninth issue is dated November of that year. It is a well-written and well-edited publication. Its mainstays are fiction and poetry, but I enjoy most the essays, the one in November calling for “a new plan of dress; one conducive to health; and then we wont be troubled to think over, and plan all the little furbelows of the now-a-day fashion; but will have time and mind to devote to useful and sensible work.” The misses Luckens even reprint a portion of a letter received from Louisa May Alcott!


G. Heidel Louden (“Mars”) was one of the pioneers of later amateur journalism in Philadelphia, the home of Condie. He began publishing the Philadelphia Monthly in July, 1870, which had a long and distinguished career. The journal went to a double sheet with the March, 1871, number. It featured original stories, a new philatelic section, some poetry, sports, puzzlers, and excellent printing. Its co-editors and publishers were L. G. Heylin (“Jupiter”) and J. H. Langstroth (Saturn”)


W. H. Waters issued the Boys' Gazette in 1870. During the ensuing decade Philadelphia saw many amateur journals. George W. Bertron issued the Boys' Gem in 1874, and Evan Reed Riale, long prominent in Philadelphia annals, Our Effort and later the Censor. Frank J. Vondersmith issued the Pearl in 1875 and later the Acme. The centennial year brought James M. Beck into the ranks with the Sphinx, and,Philip Hano with the Keystone Gazette. The same year Levernus S. Kerr issued the Dispatch, later the Tidal Wave. Then came William J. Eldridge with the Dot and the Philadelphia Banner. Noted publications were the Crisis and the Literary World, published by J. C. Worthington. Charles T. Sempers issued Golden Leaves, and R. Howard Taylor Our Mutual Friend. In 1879 a 24-page magazine called Calvert's Monthly was published in Philadelphia, its editors being Richard Gerner and Harry J. Calvert.


Outside of Philadelphia, in Brinton, Carrie and Maggie Lukens published Little Things in 1871, they being the first girls to receive office in an amateur association. In Pittsburgh in 1870 L. S. Stewart issued the Boys' Telegraph, and the next year that city had several papers including John G. Canfield's Amateur Sun, and Giles B. Bosworth's Vade Mecum. In 1872 Bosworth published the Graphic with D. B. Maxwell, and John A. Fox the prominent Spectator.


Pittsburgh a little later had the American Banner, William Henry Siviter editor, and a number of other journals. Harrisburg in 1875 had the Amateur Bulletin, M. B. Tausig, editor, and Bristol the Echo, W. H. Johnson, editor. A noted amateur poet, James L. Elderdice, published the Champion from Cumberland Valley in 1876. The same year W. W. Winslow issued the Amateur Herald from Punxsutawney, and William J. Merrill Boys of the East from Easton. In Pittsburgh in May, 1877, John Weissert published the Daily Amateur for one week, later issuing the well-known Vigilant. James B. Borland began his long newspaper career in 1877 by issuing the Star from Franklin. In 1879 Hiram T. Mercur, of Towanda, began the publication of a prominent journal, the Mercury, which he continued for five years. The Amateur Inspector, A. R. Taylor, editor, was published in Williamsport.


The next decade saw fewer papers, but among them were some notable publications. In Butler Charles M. and William J. Heineman began the publication in 1881 of the Semi-Monthly, which was an influential journal for several years, and in Pittsburgh Hugh McElroy issued the Enterprise. In 1882 in Chester the Sun was published by William C. Sproul, later Governor of Pennsylvania. In Pottstown John G. Kugler issued Litera, a magazine of criticism. In Bradford George N. Truax published the Diminutive News from 1883 until 1886, and later in Wyalusing he issued the Cineoyraph. Pittston had the Pennsylvanian, Ben S. Emory, editor.


In 1883 Germantown, a section of Philadelphia, became a very active amateur center. A club was formed, and at one time 22 papers were sent out from there, the most noteworthy being Spark, edited by William M. Rumney. In Philadelphia proper a number of leading journals were issued at this time. John W. McClain issued the Commentator, and Sam S. Stinson, well-known as a poet and critic, published the Nugget, and later Leisure Moments, one of the finest of all amateur magazines. Harry C. Hochstadter published Dixie and William Penn Monthly, and Frank E. Schermerhorn the Ideal. One of the finest of amateur periodicals was the Rising Age, published for many years by Walter C. Chiles. A prominent figure in amateur journalism for many years was William R. Murphy, who conducted departments in several publications, and was editor of the American Gem and the Pioneer. Edwin Hadley Smith began his long and notable career in amateur journalism in Philadelphia by publishing the Critique in 1889. Samuel DeHayn and Thomas McKee were active in Philadelphia in 1898.


Later in 1905, Philadelphia had many papers and editors, among them being the Junior World, Frank Henderson; Pioneer, W. R. Murphy and J. Ray Spink; Siren, J. W. Boud; Good Things, Charles H. Russell; Inklings, H. C. Whiteside; Night Owl, W. H. Greenfield; Amateurist, John W. Smith; the Stylus, Foster Gilroy, who started the paper in Lansdowne. Harry K. Feather was another active amateur in Philadelphia in the late Seventies. In recent years Philadelphia's best activity has been Harold Segal's Sea Gull, New Times and Campane.


In the northeastern part of the State a group of amateurs sent out a notable series of papers in 1891-5. Chief among these was the Cycle, published in Rochester, by George A. and Paul H. Baldwin. It was profusely illustrated by amateur artists and engravers. Rochester also had the Nineteenth Century, edited by Clifford W. Kissinger. In North East, Ned M. Selkregg and Howard W. Hunt published the Recorder. In North East much later, in 1937, F. Earl Bonnell issued Ink Spots.


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