East Liverpool Historical Society

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

Chapter III

The Start of the Dailies

A bizarre family poisoning incident on a bitterly cold winter evening in 1885 brought daily publication of newspapers to East Liverpool. In June of that year, both The Tribune and The Review shifted to day-by-day coverage of a sensational trial which resulted from a child poisoning case. Annie VanFossan, 19, of Second St. was charged with first degree murder in the Jan. 8, 1885, death of a 6-year-old girl in Seldom Seen, a neighborhood in the city's West End.

Eleven members of the family of Daniel VanFossan had become violently ill after drinking coffee prepared by Annie, a niece. Little Allie McBane died from the brew which Dr. George lkirt, family physician, later discovered was laden with arsenic rat poison.

Suspicion pointed to Annie. Further, she had the previous evening made some taffy that felled three other family children unable to go to school the next day and sickened a fourth youngster in class. The taffy -- thrown to the pigs, killing them -- also showed traces of arsenic.

ANNIE ATTENDED SCHOOL until 16, then worked in the potteries for two years. It was said she had problems with her family, and had on occasion taken laudanum, a drug. There were hints that Annie had three times attempted to take her own life, but had been "promptly pumped out by the doctors."

Jere Simms, editor of The Tribune, visited the suspect in jail. She denied to him that she had put anything in the pot other than coffee and water. Aware of the rumors about her, she declared she was "not a crank -- not of unsound mind because I have used laudanum. I am always blamed for anything that is done wrong."

Simms told his readers, "She is looking prettier than she has ever before. Her cheeks were red and plump while her complexion is one that many a woman would envy."

"She has not fallen away any in flesh. In fact, her figure is petite and handsome."Annie, who spent five months in the County Jail at Lisbon awaiting trial, was kept in a carpeted 8 by 10-foot cell with a rocking chair, bed, mirror and a table supplied with reading material. She said she read the newspapers, and finished a novel every two or three days.

Simms reported a pot with flowers sitting in her window was sent by a fellow prisoner, Angus Bratt of East Liverpool, later convicted of shooting to death a friend in a Second St. rooming house. During her leisurely sojourn Annie did fancywork that was sold to Lisbon residents as curiosities, helping to pay for new clothes when -- and if --she were freed.

Here was the sensation of the day for community and whole district -- a young and pretty woman accused of a Borgia-like slaying before a Courthouse jury in the middle of a dull summer.

The obvious public interest prompted Simms of the "Trib" and McCord of the Saturday Review to serve up a more extensive coverage than a weekly report. Simms hired Alex Vance to write a longhand account of the trial every day, sent to East Liverpool by special courier on horseback as soon as court adjourned in the afternoon.

Extra printers were called upon by the "Trib" to set type and have a morning edition ready for breakfast reading.

It is our pleasure," Simms proudly boasted in his first such issue, "to present today the first impression of a morning daily newspaper ever printed in this city or in the county. This is a considerable stride from a weekly edition, and the motive which leads us to this 'high-flying' journalistic point is the desire to furnish the freshest news relating to the trial of Annie VanFossan. . . "We shall spare neither money or labor in our endeavor to give the people all the news six or seven hours sooner than any of the Pittsburgh or Cleveland papers, Simms stated, setting the price of this service at 15 cents a week.

THE REVIEW'S McCord employed court stenographer W. H. Pritchard to telephone his accounts to the newspaper office when court recessed. Thus, the evening paper not only described the previous day's trial progress but the morning testimony.

McCord took a sarcastic editorial jab at Simms, typical of the literary attacks exchanged by newspapers in those days:

We modestly greet our patrons this evening through The Review as a daily evening paper. We have no great claims to set up for this as the first daily ever published in East Liverpool.

This we know, so far from being a 'high-fiying' jounalistic effort, is weak; we make no boast of our enormous stride from a weekly, but we will, to the best of our ability and to the extent of our means, give our readers a faithful review of the events of the days as they occur.

The trial began June 16, 1885, with Sheriff John Harbaugh providing a carriage to take Annie from the jail to the Courthouse. She sat demurely with her parents, dressed in a brown silk gown with broad lace collar, her black bangs showing beneath a shepherd bonnet.

Selection of a jury dragged through the first day and second before 12 men, "good and true," were seated. Women were then ineligible to vote or serve on court panels. R. W. Tayler, later a Congressman, was the County Prosecutor. The Courtroom remained crowded throughout the entire trial before Judge Spear of Portage County.

A parade of more than 20 witnesses went to the stand, including four physicians, a college chemistry professor, Mayor John Burgess of East Liverpool, members of the family, the undertaker and police officers.

On the fifth day, Annie testified, wearing a blue cashmere dress trimmed with black velvet, looking "gloomy," one reporter wrote. She denied the charge, and held up well under probing by the prosecution. Admitting to having taken laudanum at one time, she said she had not used any for six to eight months prior to the kitchen tragedy. The last time was at Spring Grove camp meeting.

Other testimony indicated Allie McBane had been ill the previous winter, and was not "a strong" child; the coffee pot had no lid; that the deadly "Rough on Rats" poison had been left indescriminately in or near the sink, and spread throughout the kitchen as bait for rodents.

The "Trib" relayed a general belief at Lisbon that Annie would be acquitted. Jury deliberations began on the sixth day at 10:45 a.m. Darkness covered the village when the Courthouse bell rang at 9:20 p.m. signaling the panel was ready to report.

Judge Spear returned to the Courtroom, and the foreman read the verdict of "not guilty," to which loud applause swept the crowded room.

"The defendant was discharged from custody," the "Trib" reported, "came home with her parents and later appeared on our streets apparently in enjoyment of usual health and spirits."

THE TRIBUNE came out Sunday morning with the Saturday court happenings and a bulletin on the verdict. It did not publish again until the following Saturday -- the daily venture was over for Simms.

The Review published Monday evening with the stale account of the trial and outcome but with some important news about itself -- it would continue as a daily newspaper.

McCord saw a supportive readership in the city, but Simms was less confident, and his "Trib" would keep its weekly schedule for 17 more years -- with one exception. During the 1888 presidential election, the County Republican Central Committee persuaded Simms to produce daily editions as a move to assist GOP candidate, Ohioan William Henry Harrison.

The Tribune produced 43 daily editions, ending Nov. 10 after Harrison was elected.

The Daily Tribune

Simms finally went to regular daily publication in 1902, putting out the initial 12-page edition of 5,000 copies Sept. 1. He declared in print that the new daily would "fight debauchery, gambling, crime, unjust taxation, unwise city legislation and endeavor always to build up East Liverpool morally, socially and commercially."

When Simms had completed his printer education and left The Record in 1870, he ventured forth as a young man looking for jobs and adventure. He found a position at Steubenville with W. R. Allison. He wrote later,

I set long primer solid, at 25 cents per thousand ems, and worked there all through the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, and my average weekly earnings were never over ten dollars.

In the latter part of 1870, I left Steubenville and went to Pittsburgh, going into the office of William G. Johnston & Co. at 57 and 59 Wood St. I went to work with them as an apprentice under instruction, and staid (sic) with them until the first of November 1872.

Being then through my apprenticeship, I became a member of the Pittsburgh Typographical Union, and worked all that winter in Cleveland. The following summer I went to Chicago and worked in several of the largest job offices in that city, after which I went to St. Paul, Minn., and was employed in the job department of the St. Paul Press.

In January 1876, having returned to East Liverpool, I became associated with T.R. Bradshaw, and established the East Liverpool Tribune about the middle of January, centennial year, 1876. At the end of the year, I purchased Mr. Bradshaw's interest, and have been connected with the paper ever since.

In the first edition of the new daily in 1902, it was noted that the initial subscriber to the original weekly in 1876 had been C. C. Thompson, the pottery executive who built the Thompson House on Third St. The Postmaster at that time -- George A. Humrickhouse -- was the second subscriber, and he continued to receive the paper 27 years later.

On Feb. 4, 1911, Simms turned operations of The Tribune over to his son, George C. Simms, and J. Will Davidson and Arthur Falconer. The elder Simms became president, and supervised advertising. Davidson remained editor, and Falconer was secretary-treasurer and business manager.

The political bent remained Republican, but the new management explained the paper's "columns will be open at all times to people of other parties." The three men ran the Tribune until Dec.1, 1911, when it was bought by the Liverpool Publishing Co. representing several area men as stockholders. J. W. Moore was chairman of the directors who included Daniel Ogilvie, W. W. Weaver, the Rev. J. W. Giffen, 0. 0. Allison, George Brokaw and C. A. Ferguson.

Thomas Tecumseh Jones, who had been news editor for the competing Review, was managing editor, and Emil Calhoun, Review advertising manager, became "Trib" business manager.

The morning paper vowed to remain Republican as before, and took a firm stand against the legalized sale of liquor, although Columbiana County voters the month before decided the county would be "wet."

NEVERTHLESS, THE first issue declared editorially the rights of saloonkeepers should be protected:

In the meantime, good citizens generally who believe in the supremacy of the law will demand that the saloons, so soon to be returned, will be accorded every liberty under the statutes. It were anarchy, indeed, not to give them every right so permitted. From now on these institutions will be a part of the business activity of the community.

They should and will be given every opportunity to make good the claims made by them."

As the only morning newspaper between Pittsburgh and Wheeling, the "Trib" provided coverage of local and state happenings along with national happenings and the international developments including World War One.

It saw a long procession of editors under Simms, Will Davidson and George Simms. They included Thomas W. Morris, who became manager of the Associated Press bureau at Pittsburgh; Jay Fitzgerald who went into government service at Washington; and Will Blake who later edited The Potters Herald and became Ohio Industrial Safety Commission director.

After Simms withdrew in 1911, the editor's post was filed by such men as J. V. Talbott, Ralph W. Hawley and Alex Sweeney.

Hawley was a native of Salem who was with the "Trib" only about a year. Born in 1888, he started as a reporter at Salem, worked on the West Coast, came back to the Cleveland Plain Dealer and then here. He left to join the Youngstown Vindicator as telegraph editor, city editor and assistant managing editor, then in 1921 bought an interest in and became editor of The Salem News.

J. W. Meek was Tribune editor and manager in 1921 when the company accepted a purchase offer from the East Liverpool Publishing Co., owners of The Evening Review.

The old "Trib" quarters in the two-story frame building on Market St. were vacated, and the equipment and furniture were either sold or transferred to The Review building on Washington St. (now site of the National City Bank drive-in facility).

Operation of Simms' job printing shop continued on Market St., with Alexander Wilson in charge of production. Wilson had become an apprentice of Simms in 1888 as a boy of 12. His family lived at the foot of Union St., and he reportedly sold papers from 5 to 7 a.m. then went to the plant to be a printer's "devil."

Wilson was among the first to join the pressmen's union, then became a member of the printer's union, and served as president and secretary for some 20 years

In 1924, Simms sold the job shop to Wilson and Gordon Brick. Later Wilson bought out Brick, and in 1946 sold the business to his son, Richard 0. Wilson, who had been the printer there for four years. Younger Wilson was graduated in 1929 from Carnegie Institute of Technology, reportedly the only such school to award a degree in printing.

Before the "Trib" was finally discontinued in 1924, editors were Harry Stanley, William Phillips and the last, Alex Sweeney. One of the notable reporters during the paper's 47 years was 0. 0. McIntyre who was to become a syndicated New York writer and at one time also worked at The Tribune.

Another was Frank Seawright of the East End, later a newspaper figure on the West Coast and at one time president of the United States Humorist Association before his death in Los Angeles.

Early County Newspapers 4


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