East Liverpool Historical Society

Chapter I, A Brief History of Newspapers in East Liverpool, Ohio, by the late Glenn H. Waight, former editor of The Evening Review.


Along and colorful history has been written by the press in East Liverpool, often marked by political and personal conflicts and brightened at times by notable journalists. Ten community newspapers -- weeklies and dailies -- have served the city since the Civil War, not including specialized labor union and German language publications.

One -- The Local -- lasted only eight weeks, while The Evening Review has continued to publish the longest, since 1879.

The first newspaper in the city was started just six weeks after Fort Sumter had been fired upon in Charleston, S.C., igniting the Civil War. Although The Mercury existed for just 14 months, its pages contained a remarkable record of a community caught up with the rest of the nation in bloody and bitter strife.

East Liverpool at the time was a small town of about 1,600 residents, exceeded in size by New Lisbon, the county seat, and Wellsville, an important river-rail terminus. Both towns had their own publications long before.

THE FIRST NEWSPAPER established in Columbiana County was Der Patriot Am Ohio, a German language tabloid printed at New Lisbon starting in 1808. William Lepper, native of Hannover, Germany, founded the little 8 by 10-inch, four-page paper.

It was produced in a log cabin on Beaver St., among the first print shops in the state. Only four such shops are listed in historical records at that time. Lepper reportedly also undertook job printing for Cuyahoga County.

The log cabin was obtained in the 1980s by Charles and Sally Hoffman who planned to restore it in connection with their antique business. The Hoffmans gutted the interior, but left remaining siding to protect the old logs during restoration. The empty structure became controversial, with some residents terming it an eyesore

When Village Council ordered improvements, the Hoffmans sold it in 1991 to Portage County Assistant Prosecutor Robert Durst. He had it disassembled and erected anew on property near his home outside Kent for use as an office.

Interest in a German newspaper around Lisbon was minimal, and in 1809 Lepper converted it to English, publishing it as The Ohio Patriot until 1833. He sold it to Joseph Cable who had been in publishing at Steubenville.

A fire in 1834 destroyed the office, but it resumed publication. The paper was sold a year later by Cable who left for Carrollton to publish a paper and be twice elected to Congress.

Various owners followed, and in 1898 it became a daily. In 1903 Atty. John J. Kerr of East Liverpool bought an interest and became manager and editor.

The 20th Century's Morning Journal began in 1867 as the New Lisbon Journal of James K Frew, Under his son, D. H. Frew, the paper was sold then returned to the family which purchased The Buckeye State in 1901, consolidating it with the Journal. The Buckeye State had been launched in 1852 by lawyer R. D. Hartshorn.

The Frews formed the Buckeye Publishing Co., and in 1909 established The Evening Journal. Under William Frew and later Steven Frew the newspaper grew, and in November 1974 began publishing as The Morning Journal. A Sunday edition was added in 1982

In November 1987, the company was purchased by Gateway Publishing of Monroeville, Pa., a subsidiary of Trinity International of Chester, England.

Kevin Aylmer served as president of Trinity Holdings from 1991 to 2000 when he left for other publishing interests and was replaced by Scott Patterson who had been president of Sun Sentinel Community News Group in Florida.

In 2000 Trinity Holdings was described as a portfolio company of Hoak Communications Partners, L.P., a media and communications private equity firm with offices in Dallas and New York.

WELLSVILLE'S FIRST newspaper was the Commercial Advertiser, started in October 1835 by Lewis Caton who had moved from Snow Hill, Md., where he operated a weekly. Coming with him as printer was William L. Clarke who set the type and pulled the first sheet from an old Ramage press.

In 1841 the name of the paper was changed to The American Patriot, and the next year, Clarke -- known as "Uncle Billy" -- became the owner and changed it toThe Wellsville Patriot.

Beneath the banner Clarke labeled his paper "A Weekly Family Journal, Devoted to Science, Literature, General Intelligence, Mechanism and Agriculture." Its motto was "Independent in Politics and Religion."

Regardless of the motto, Clarke revealed himself a rabid Democrat and Southern sympathizer, and came under public criticism early in the Civil War for his "unloyal" attacks upon President Lincoln and the Union. He decided to leave town.

Clarke has come to be respected as a courageous journalist who spoke out against popular opinion. He knew the nature of the Southern people, and reportedly opposed slavery and said it would eventually be abolished peacefully. He counseled fairness and understanding.

But his business declined, he became more embittered at the unyielding attitude of the North, and his editorials turned more vituperous. Apparently an especially strong editorial in the spring of 1864 aroused concern for his safety, and he departed.

However, he came back to the area in 1873, working as a printer in Wellsville and East Liverpool until he was 80. He died in 1903 at 84.

A pro-North paper was started in 1864 by W. G. Foster who came from Steubenville to publish his Wellsville Union.

AT EAST LIVERPOOL, interest grew in obtaining a paper, and Jesse W. Harris, a printer with Clarke on The Wellsville Patriot," was persuaded by local developer John Blakely to launch a weekly.

John and James Blakely, well-to-do Pittsburghers, wanted to promote the city for investment, and had begun to purchase property here during a movement in the 1830s to build a railroad from Ashtabula to East Liverpool.

The proposed railroad did not materialize, but the Blakelys continued in real estate development, later entering the pottery industry and helping construction of the Cleveland to Pittsburgh railroad link from Wellsville to the city.

Financial aid for the new weekly was provided by John Goodwin Sr., a skilled pottery craftsman from Burslem, England, who had worked at Harker's pottery. Bennett's brothers also put up some money.

Goodwin, the city's Mayor in 1860, went on to become a pottery executive and real estate developer. He was the grandfather of Charles Goodwin who became secretary of the U. S. Potters Association.

With this backing, Harris joined with George J. Luckey, as editor, to produce the East Liverpool Mercury. The first edition came out May 23, 1861, a four-page broadsheet off a press in a building at Second and Union Sts. Harris had obtained second-floor quarters at the William Warrick house (later the Hancock building) -- one room for the office and two adjoining rooms for the Harris family. On the first floor was a millinery shop operated by Harris' wife.

Luckey was a teacher-supervisor of the upper grades at the Union School, predecessor of the Central School two blocks uphill on Fourth St. He had come from the New Lisbon area, and had attended the old Alderlick School near Wellsville

The new paper's name was reportedly suggested by the city's noted mathematician and almanac producer, Sanford C. Hill. Hill called attention to a newspaper at Liverpool, England, The Mercury, and Harris thought it appropriate.

HELPING WITH the printing was young Clem Vallandingham, nephew of Congressman Clement L. Vallandingham of New Lisbon who became notorious throughout the North for his stand against the Union's prosecution of the Civil War.

The uncle, a leading "Copperhead" as Southern sympathizers were called by "Yankees," was later exiled to Canada, and ran for Ohio governor as a pro-Southern candidate. He was also involved for a while in editing a newspaper at Dayton.

The Mercury was Republican, although the publisher declared in an advertisement in the paper's first edition that it would be "Neutral in Politics and Religion." Its motto was "The Constitution" under a logo depicting hands clasped in front of the American Flag. Harris or Luckey wrote,

We expect to speak our minds freely, fearlessly and independently upon all questions which may require our notice, guarding against the introduction of all articles tainted with personal abuse, arising from petty differences and local feuds."

Harris lacked sufficient money to create a special front page nameplate, so one was fashioned from four-line Pica type, Bold Roman obtained for advertising. Each four- page edition was printed two pages at a time on a hand press.

The optimism and fiery patriotism rampant at the Civil War's start were reflected in the Mercury's first edition. Items related to the emergency filled the six-column format. Featured was an account of a war meeting held at the Calcutta schoolhouse along with a call for the Independent Rifle Volunteers to gather at the "Union Pole" in East Liverpool the following Saturday. Readers learned of the daily street drills of the Home Guards under Capt. Gaston and the Cadets led by Capt. Eaton, along with the departure of the first unit of soldiers from Wellsville.

That East Liverpool now had its own newspaper was hailed by many. David Blythe, noted painter then at Pittsburgh, pleased with the Mercury serving his home town, dashed off a poem saluting the courage of the undertaking:

Ye printer man, I give you credit. You doubtless have been in some big school of classic nook that has made you cool enough to edit a sheet in Liverpool.

I've often wondered if the chap had yet been born who had the grit -- the moral stamina to drop a printing press down her (East Liverpool's) lap.

You should be in the wars my lad, such courage, though a minie gun let loose upon the rebel squad of Southern asses, would might soon wipe out Bull Run as well as Manassas.

But you have assumed a task by far more difficult that did McDowell (Bull Run General) for he went posted with a scroll or scientific charge of war, drawn up with compass, square and level, Whilst you must hinge upon a star whose twinkling would deceive a devil.

But spread your sails, house home each tack, Draw inboard every inch of slack. Shoot all your guns until they bristle. Then go to Bamey's (tavern?) and come back and blow your whistle."

The new paper described the passage through town of a trainload of "fully armed and equipped" Michigan soldiers en route to Washington. During a short stop the men were treated to cheers and much eating, the latter including a large amount of bread and butter which Samuel Croxall distributed, and a partly filled barrel of crackers which Mrs. Charles S. Brawdy contributed.

In addition, the pages carried the usual "boilerplate" material from national sources featuring sermons, speeches and articles about dentistry, women's courage, etc., plus items from regional newspapers, poems, a fiction piece and a local letter. The ads promoted Mrs. Harris' millinery, the Union Store, the Ohio House hotel, Etruria Pottery, Vodrey & Brothers Pottery and other businesses.

A newspaper's existence depends upon adequate advertising and circulation revenue, and the need for both was felt by Harris. He proudly reported the birth of a son:

"a regular ten-pounder. None of your silly, toy shop combination of buckskin, chinaware and sawdust, but a real, live, bona fide, sure enough baby."

Then he mentioned that with his new responsibilities, he hoped

"our patrons will see the necessity of squaring their arrearages in subscription without delay."

As did most newspapers of that era, the editors sniped at each other over politics, the quality of reporting or personal matters. The Mercury referred to a story in The Wellsville Patriot concerning the scheduled departure of 30 men into the Army under recruiter C. Y. Strait. The Mercury noted the contingent would leave under Captain Dallas when the captain departed and not before, adding "The claim is as reliable as most of the squibs emanating from the same source."

George Luckey departed The Mercury Nov. 14, 1861, "for another field of labor that is more remunerative," the paper reported. That "field" is unclear. He was chosen to be city recorder in 1864, and joined the 143rd Regiment, Ohio National Guard, which served 100 days around Washington and in Virginia. He became a sergeant with Co. I.

He dispatched various letters to the Wellsville Union describing in sometimes overblown verbiage his visits to hospitals and other sites around the Capital and personal experiences at Jamestown and Bermuda Hundred.

Luckey later became superintendent of schools at Pittsburgh, serving 25 years and earning a reputation as a respected educator. In 1889 he wrote a chapter on education in Allegheny County for a history of that county.

"Professor" Luckey returned to the city Sept. 6, 1895, as the main speaker for dedication of the new Central School. He was honored that night at a reception in the home of William Brunt on Broadway -- soon to be the site of the Post Office and later the Museum of Ceramics.

Luckey was credited with several innovations in Pittsburgh education while superintendent. He introduced the first normal school department, and established courses in newspaper reading and rapid addition. He left school work in 1899, and died at the age of 78 on his farm near Frederickburg, Md., where he had lived since retiring.

Young Vallandingham also took leave of The Mercury, enlisting in Co. A, 115th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, as a bugler. One source reports he died of disease, other records show he was discharged.

In January 1862 Harris published an almost desperate note to readers:

"Persons anxious to pay their subscriptions but who haven't the money to spare are hereby notified that we will take flour, potatoes, apples, coal, beef, pork, chickens, tanbark, coonskins, grindstones, baby clothes and pretty much anything and everything else as legal tender and no questions asked, if brought along pretty soon. Good money positively never refused."

Harris moved his shop to a frame room just east of the Lakel House, owned by Solomon Frederick who charged no rent in the paper's financial difficulty. He was father of Noah Frederick, and operated a flour mill near the small structure.

But with Luckey and the young printer gone and profit prospects dim, Harris gave up in July 1862, walking to New Lisbon and taking a job as printer with the Buckeye State. He moved his family to the county seat, and later relocated to Salem where he became a printer with J. T. W alton & Son, a label company.

John Goodwin Sr. took over the equipment of The Mercury, selling the hand press and type to the Columbiana Register.

'The Record'

East Liverpool was left without a local newspaper for the remainder of the war and for two years afterward. No doubt residents continued to read the Lisbon and Wellsville weeklies and Cleveland and Pittsburgh dailies to supply news as they had before.

The next city publication was founded in 1867 by William G. Foster, owner of the Wellsville Union.

Foster, a printer who had come from Steubenville to start the Wellsville weekly in 1864, called his new paper The Record. It was Republican in tone, with an office and press in a shop on Second St. next to the Dobbins House hotel.

Helping as a printer's "devil" with the first edition in May 1868 was Jeremiah H. Simms, who years afterward bought and published the East Liverpool Tribune. Simms later wrote of his experiences with the Record:

"I helped open the boxes of new type which were laid in the cases by Dave Burchard, the foreman, and Dan Geisinger, a journeyman printer. I assisted in setting up the hand press which came by boat from the Cincinnati Type Foundry. I held the mould while the first rollers were cast from a home-mixed composition of glue and molasses, and a good pair of rollers they were."

"I doubt if there is a printer or pressman in East Liverpool today who could mix the material and make a printer's roller.

"After the type was laid in the cases, large four-lined pica type were placed in every box, of a lower case of long primer, and I was set to work to learn the boxes, by memory, after which the large type were taken out, and I was asked a series of questions, like the following:

'Where is m? Where is p? Where is g? Where is k?, Where is t? After I was able to name the location of all the boxes from a to z, and tell a d from a p, a b from a q, a u from an n, I was given a printer's stick, a piece of brass rule, 13 ems wide, without any ears on it, and after being taught how to hold the stick and place the type all with the nick out, I was given a piece of white paper on which were pasted ten or twelve one and two line items, all short paragraphs of reprint copy, and allowed to make my first effort at setting type.

"These short items were always given the beginner in those days, so that if a word was left out, it could be corrected easily. I was taught from the very first, to always read the line in the stick before I lifted the rule over. This instruction was given and insisted upon being observed so that the proofs might be clean.

'When the first paper at this office was ready to go to press, I was instructed how to distribute the ink properly on the rollers and roll the form long before the outside of the first edition was worked off I knew what to do when the fellow who was running the head press would yell, "Color," and I can recollect yet how he cussed if I took too much.

"IT WAS ONLY a few weeks until I was allowed to take a turn at running the press, and the other fellows rested and did the rolling. I don't think I ever got a chance to cuss back because Dave Burchard took too much color.

"For several months, all the job work taken at the Record office was sent to Wellsville and printed by Mr. Foster in his job office connected with the Wellsville Union. The Record office was moved after several months to the room upstairs, over John Hambel's dry goods store, in a frame building which then stood on Second St. just where the Pennsylvania (railroad) station is now located.

"The office was next moved to the second story over the carpenter shop of James McCormick on Union St., and it was in this building, upstairs, that the first job press was placed and operated in East Liverpool.

"The press was a Nonpareil Jobber made by the Cincinnati Type Foundry. I well remember what a task it was to get that job press upstairs. A hole was cut in the weatherboarding, and two long oar stems were secured from a raft at the river which had been bought by Mr. McCormick, and on these two long pieces of timber, which were used as skids, the press was pulled up through the hole in the front of the building to the second floor by means of a block and tackle.

'While the press was about half way up, the skids began to separate, and the press came very near falling between them to the ground. And in fact would have done so only for the great strength of James McCormick who put his shoulder under one corner of the press and raised it up while the timbers were moved closer together.

"This paper was purchased by one Frank Miller, formerly of Steubenville and Lisbon, soon after it was moved into the McCormick building. He was a practical job printer as well as a good writer and an all-around newspaper man. It was from him I received my first instruction in setting type for job work and where I first kicked a treadle and fed a job press.

"I was no longer a printer's "devil," and in 1870 I left the Record, imagining I was a full-fledged tramp printer."

FOSTER PUBLISHED both The Record and the Wellsville Union until 1869 when he decided to concentrate on Wellsville, selling the Record and its equipment to Frank Miller who became editor and publisher. An 1870 city directory lists Miller as a job printer and publisher on Fourth St. near Jackson.

However, business dwindled, and the size of the paper shrank. In June 1, 1870, it was down to a two-column sheet printed on both sides. A front page editorial gamely announced:

We are in trouble, yet not distressed; perplexed but not in dispair; persecuted but not forsaken; cast down but not destroyed. We are of the clutches of creditors in a measure ... we are still in the field.

With our next issue, we will either enlarge or diminish, as circumstances permit -- there is room for change either way.

An appeal was made to form a stock company of six to eight members investing $50 or $100 with which to carry on. The appeal apparently failed. By July 1870, The Record had become a mere four almost index card size pages (3 by 41/2 inches) bearing a slogan "Conquered But Not Subdued." Depicted was the head of a tearful rooster with a caption, "I think I hear the little birds calling."

Sink or Swim,"the editor wrote. "Live or Die, Survive or Perish, we rally once again. . It is our private opinion publicly expressed that this is the last of The Record. It can not well be made much smaller, and business will not justify a larger sheet just now ... We have reason to believe it will increase, and probably interfere with the paper.

The little farewell publication contained 17 brief articles or comments, and with the other materials totaled 566 words, possibly a record for 19th Century brevity. The Record had lasted three years.

`The Local'

Of even shorter life was the East Liverpool Local, published from May 21 to July 8, 1869, by J. F. Murphy & Co. at Broadway and Railroad St. "opposite the boat landing." Murphy of Wellsburg, W. Va., put out a four-page, seven-column weekly whose motto declared "News First, Advertisements Afterwards."

The initial editorial explained,

The tone of this paper will be pure, and limited space will be given to advertisements which at no time will be allowed to entrench upon space devoted to news matters. Nothing will be admitted which will be unfit for a place in every family or what would mar the name of the great newspaper of the county.

Nevertheless, six columns on the fourth page and four on the second contained ads.

Jere Simms, publisher of The Tribune, later wrote that although Murphy remained in business less than two months, he sold and collected subscriptions a year in advance. "He left town between two days, and Mr. Bradshaw bought his office at a bargain price."

'The Democrat'

After eight weeks of such purity, The Local was purchased by Enoch Bradshaw, well-to-do landowner who wished to provide a Democrat publication in the heavily Republican community.

Bradshaw, a native of England, had been in the pottery trade, then real estate. He became editor of this new "Democrat" voice with J. B. Skillington as associate editor. The maiden edition of the four-page weekly was printed July 30, 1869, from a press in Bradshaw Hall on Broadway (now site of Cooper Insurance). It was issued on Wednesdays, and cost $2 a year. The new editor wrote:

Had anyone indicated a month ago we would be occupying the editorial chair, we should have told them they must or ought to be crazy or have visited the spirit land for information

Although a Democrat, Bradshaw had served in the Union army and held an aversion to slavery, having donated money to the "Underground Railroad" for fleeing Blacks. His editorial stated,

The paper will be of and for the people, owned by no set or clique, will always be in reading matter Democratic without fear or favor, and will always be in favor of the principles of civil and religious liberty. As for Republicans,

Some of them may think the 'Democrat' with its political views will be like fire and wickedness in in their midst. To such we would say if they cannot be saved by Republican newspaper grace, they would rather be financially lost than restored to financial health and strength through the influence of the 'Democrat.'

At the masthead were the names of Democrat state candidates with Gen. W. S. Rosecrans as gubernatorial nominee.

Topping the left columns on the first page was a church directory, a lodge calendar and county officials' cards. Elsewhere was a poem "Never Satisfied," articles on "Mind Your Business," "Advice to Young Men," "The Mechanic at His Work" and a long editorial comment on "Temperance - Let Us Reason Together."

Other items on inside pages were "How to Drive Swine" and another poem, "If You Want a Kiss, Take It." The last page contained six columns of ads, including a notice from the Board of Education seeking to borrow $10,000 for two to four years at 8 percent.

Bradshaw reflected the direct political influence that pervaded not only East Liverpool's press but newspapers throughout the country. He had been Mayor of the city when The Mercury was started in 1861, and John Goodwin, who helped finance the Mercury, was Mayor in 1860.

Curiously, Col. William Vodrey, a Civil War veteran and Mayor in 1862-63, was father of William H. Vodrey II and grandfather of William H. Vodrey III who were key figures in the Brush-Moore Newspapers chain of which the East Liverpool Review became a part in the 20th Century.

Another political activist was Dr. George P. lkirt, founder of the Democrat Crisis and elected to Congress in 1892.

A more distant link to the press came through W. V. Blake, Mayor in 1905-06 and later State Senator, whose son, Will Blake, worked at the Morning Tribune and later was editor of The Potters Herald, a pottery union weekly.

`The Tribune'

After seven years, Bradshaw gave up the idea of newspapering, selling The Democrat to his son, T. R. Bradshaw and Jere Simms in January 1876.

The paper was relocated to the Theodore Dare building on Second St. Young Bradshaw withdrew a year later, and Simms announced creation of The Saturday Tribune, an enlarged weekly to meet growing demands in line with the city's progress as "The Staffordshire of America," a phrase he reportedly coined

In January 1878, Simms moved the paper to the W. L. Thompson Music Publishing House on lower Broadway where he installed a steam press. The "Trib" continued to do well under Simms. In 1879 its circulation was 500, and its size had increased from 20 columns to 28. The only city competitor -- the weekly Gazette -- also counted about 500 subscribers, but had 32 columns

Simms was a grandson of Claiborne Simms who years before became second owner of the town when he traded his farm near Wheeling to John Fawcett, son of East Liverpool's founder, Thomas Fawcett. The farm was exchanged for land which was the original site of Fawcettstown.

BORN AT THE family home at Second and Market Sts., Jere Simms had learned the printing trade at Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Chicago and elsewhere, returning here in 1875 at the age of 24.

The Tribune was later to become a major press institution in the city, a morning daily that posed serious competition for The Review.

Simms again moved the "Trib" and its job shop to quarters built in 1908 at the rear of his lower Market St. home. Active in community affairs, he helped found the city's Historical Society which he was heading when he died in 1924.

He was also writing a city history with H.B. Barth and Charles Goodwin of the U.S. Potters Association at the time of his death.

When workers were clearing the old Barth homestead on Fourth St. for construction of the new Carnegie Library in March 1900, they found the old Democrat printing equipment in the stable where small boys had been playing with it.

Included were a drum press, two job presses, a page cutter, type, galleys and closets. These were moved to the city's fire station for storage

`The Gazette'

Another weekly arrived on the city scene when David B. Martin relocated his printing plant from Wellsville and started The Gazette Dec. 1, 1872.

Martin, a job printer who learned his craft at the Wellsville Union, left the Union to start his own weekly, The Wellsville Local. He discontinued it to move to East Liverpool to produce the new paper.

It was another conservative voice in Pottery City. Martin wrote in his first brief editorial:

'We intend to publish a live Republican paper and make it an object to give all current news of home and the immediate neighborhood, and shall ever endeavor to uphold the right and condemn the wrong without fear or favor.

"Not withstanding the ill success of our predecessors, we have no doubt that the citizens of East Liverpool can support a local paper, and we prepare to give one of that kind. Hoping that our endeavors will meet with your approbation, we solicit your patronage."

The introductory issue, printed on a Saturday, with four pages seven columns wide, included a fiction story, "Nobody But John," three poems and articles on a solar eclipse, social problems in Germany and the effects of overwork.

Inside was a full page advertisement for a Wellsville merchant, A. & J. Bartholomew, a third page of local news and the last page of "boilerplate" and three columns of ads.

The name of the paper was changed in March 1876 to The East Liverpool Potters Gazette, and contained 32 columns of ads, news and fiction. It was not devoted exclusively to the pottery industry, and Martin was still strongly Republican.

In the hotly contested 1884presidential campaign, the paper was briefly controlled by Democrats through a financial strategem, but quickly was put back into the GOP camp.

Martin died in 1887 after which his widow edited it briefly. She then hired Frank Crowl of Lisbon to direct the editorial and mechanical operations. A few months later, a fire heavily damaged the paper's equipment and stock and publication was suspended. In a couple of weeks, Crowl began printing The East Liverpool Gazette as a new paper.

McCord's county history reports that a company was formed in 1889 to compete with The Review, taking over The Gazette and making it a daily. The project lasted only a few months "and the Gazette died a natural death."

Barth's county history states that after the fire, the Gazette was absorbed by The Daily Crisis, as was another local weekly, The People, devoted to the interests of the unions and the working man.

Early County Newspapers 2


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