History of Early Amateur Journalism in Virginia


A VIRGINIA A.P.A. was organized in Norfolk, May 26, 1879, with R. D. Guy, one of the editors of Rolling Billows, as President, but it had only a brief existence. Years later the Peninsular Amateur Press Club was formed in Newport News, in 1905, A. M. Hamilton, President. One other convention was held, at which Frank Curtis was chosen President, and E. C. Basher, Official Editor.


In the early days Virginia amateurs were prominently at the front and wielded great influence. One of the most noted essayists was John Winslow Snyder, the first President of the National A.P.A., formed in 1876. He began his career in Richmond in 1870 by publishing the Highland Gazette, which became the Monthly Herald with the publication of its second volume in April, 1871. In his May, 1871, number he quotes the editors of Our Boys as follows: “Some people seem to think that if they compliment us upon the appearance of our paper, their subscription is the same as paid. That don’t [sic] suit us. If they want to compliment us, the best way to do it is to subscribe. A paper cannot be run on compliments. It takes CASH. Friends, please take note.”


Also in 1871, at Orange Court House, James A. Robinson issued the Boys' News. He became a famous paragrapher in late years, and throughout a long life was an active professional newspaper man. He launched the magazine Leader at Winston, N.C., which paper he sold to Edward A. Oldham in 1885, who consolidated it with the Western Sentinel, which enjoyed the largest circulation in North Carolina. Robinson moved to Durham, N. C., started the Daily Sun, which still continues. He died in 1940. He wrote under the pen name of "Old Hurrygraph."


One of the first of Virginia's papers was the Gazette, published at Norfolk in 1873, by H. C. Percy and William N. Grubb. Grubb was also a prolific publisher of small amateur books. In 1876 George L. Bitzer, of Alexandria, issued the Boys' Journal, and Wilford C. Potter sent forth the Academy Journal, while in Norfolk the Amateur Book Review was issued by William H. Cass. In 1878 from Norfolk the Rolling Billows was published by R. D. Guy and Thomas J. Hope, while at Bethel Edward A. Oldham issued the Bethel Cadet, the first school paper in the South, and the Odd Trump. In 1879 in Portsmouth Walter C. Brooks published the Little Gem; in Hampton the Crab was sent out by J. K. Outten; and in Norfolk A. B. Perry issued the Kaleidoscope. The same year in Richmond, Oswald L. Williams published the Dial. Williams was an amateur of great promise until his death at the National convention in Cincinnati in 1880, just after his election as Treasurer.


Later, in 1882, John T. and W. W. Foster issued the Magnet in Richmond, and still later, in 1905, A. M. Hamilton published the Southerner in Newport News and next year Southern Opinions. In 1908 from Tiny came the Virginian, edited by Elihu J. Sutherland. Two of the brilliant lights of the amateur literary world came from Virginia. Miss Fanny Kemble Johnson was one of the greatest poets in amateur journalism, and Miss Katherine L. Parsons, although less prolific, was a poet of high order. Another young lady of Virgina who gained prominence as an author was Miss Fanny Woodzelle, of Cleeks Mills.



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