THE 25TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION
OF
THE AMSTERDAM EVENING RECORDER AND DAILY DEMOCRAT

Part 3

Amsterdam, NY Saturday, August 20, 1904

Note: this issue is a few weeks after the 25th Anniversary edition, but it has 3 very nice articles that go along on the same theme as the previous edition.

 

AMSTERDAM NEWSPAPERS
Historical Review of the Local Ventures in the Fourth Estate,
Beginning With the Foundation of the Mohawk Herald

        Montgomery county histories furnish conflicting as well as incomplete data as to the press of the county, all records available at this time omitting mention of one of the pioneer publications in the village of Amsterdam.
        These records show that the first newspaper published in Amsterdam was known as the Mohawk Herald and was established in December, 1821, by Darius Wells, as editor and proprietor. This was continued as a weekly for a mater of some three years, when Mr. Wells, who had in the meantime-and presumably with greater profit than that derived from the Herald-embarked in the manufacture of wood type, moved to Paterson, N.J. Thereupon the Herald passed into the hands of Philip Reynolds, who transferred the office of publication to Johnstown, changing the title of the paper to the Johnstown Herald, under which it was continued until 1824.
        The Amsterdam Sentinel made its appearance in the spring of 1827, but further than the fact that it existed until its fortieth number, on February 13, 1828, there is no evidence. In truth, so far as is known, but a single copy of this early publication is now extant, and is in the possession of Editor Loadwick of the laterday Amsterdam Morning Sentinel. This single specimen, yellowed with age, yet clear in print, was found in a Florida garret a few years since and given to the present owner, who prizes it highly, as it probably the ----copy of the paper and presumably the oldest newspaper published in Amsterdam, now in existence. This Sentinel was published by John P. Van Sice, and was a five-column folio of about the size of the first issue of the Daily Democrat. Publisher Van Sice apparently experienced the same trials and tribulations as have many of his successors in the fourth estate, for in this particular issue he chronicles the fact that the Sentinel is for sale, offering as a bait to some over-zealous young man, prone to take upon himself the laborious task of moulding public opinion, the statement that ill health would not admit of a continuance of editorial duties. As a chronicler of local happenings the Sentinel of three-quarters of a century ago was not a howling success. It contained a matrimonial announcement of an event transpiring in the far west, of parties supposedly known in this locality, an exceedingly fine tribute to Governor Clinton, whose death was therein made known, legislative proceedings, a bit of poetry and two or three columns of literary matter credited chiefly to magazines for which valuable space was elsewhere given, no doubt for the copies which came to the exchange table. But this Sentinel has a prosperous appearance, for its news paragraphs were apparently crowded aside to make room for abundance. There are several "fat" legal notices and well displayed announcements of the wares on sale by various enterprising merchants of old Amsterdam. The most ardent believer in printer's ink was to all appearances Chandler Bartlett, for the issue carried no less than three displayed advertisements setting forth the merits of his boots and shoes. William Reid has a quarter column display ad, relative to dry goods, groceries, crockery and hardware. James Halliday, Jr., advertises his carriages making business. Austin Demun proclaims himself a tin, sheet iron and copper manufacturer, John Keeling offers dry goods, groceries, and a general line of merchandise. Ludlow Squier , saddler, harness maker and coach trimmer, and P.M. & J. B. Borst, general merchants, also advertise, Robinson and King, jewelers, of Caughnawaga, have a display, and the blacksmith shop of W. U. Chase, on what is now West Main street, is advertised for rent.
        It is interesting to note that the sins of omission and commission, typographically, were prevalent in the early days, even as now. This issue of the Sentinel carries in its date line February 13, 1827, whereas numerous advertisements, legal and otherwise, are dated September, October and December , 1827, and January, 1828, while the date line under the masthead on page two reads February 13, 1828. Thus it is apparent that this issue came from the press in February, 1828, and a little matter like the number of the year on the front page made no difference to Editor Van Sice., even though it must necessarily have been running that way through five or six preceding numbers.
        Not even the "oldest inhabitant" of the Amsterdam of today is able to recall Publisher Van Sice or the Sentinel hence this bit of heretofore unwritten history may have to suffice.
        In 1833 the publication of the Mohawk Gazette was commenced in Amsterdam by Joseph Noonan. The following year it became the Intelligencer, and under the proprietorship successively of Wing & Davis, James Riggs, and L.H. Nichols, it continued to be published until 1836, when it became the property of Simeon B. Marsh, who for eighteen years remained as its editor and publisher. Xenophon Haywood bought the Intelligencer in 1854, and, changing its name to the Recorder, published the forerunner of the present day Amsterdam Evening Recorder until 1868, when it sold to Andrew Z. Neff. Mr. Neff continued in the proprietorship of the Recorder, with Charles P. Winegar as it editor. In the last mentioned date Mr. Neff formed a co-partnership with Edward H. Finlayson, and the new firm established the Evening Recorder. In 1883, Mr. Neff disposed of his interest to William P. Belden, who had been with the Daily Democrat from its inception (except for a short time at Holyoke, Mass.,) and the firm of Finlayson & Belden continued until 1889, when Mr. Belden retired. Mr. Finlayson conducted the paper alone until 1891, when Martin Lynk who had had previous newspaper experience in Amsterdam, became a part owner. Under the firm name of Finlayson & Lynk the complexion of the Recorder was changed, in accordance with the latter's beliefs, from Republican to Democratic. After a short time Mr. Finlayson retired, finding a broader field for the exploitation of his talents in New York city, where he has since bee associated with several prominent papers, most recently with the New York Commercial. Mr. Lynk organized the Recorded Publishing Co., but the change in political tone of the old Recorder, for so many years a staunch advocate of Republican principles, resulted in its deterioration, and, passing into the hands of creditors in 1893, the paper and plant were purchased by William J. Kline, who combined the Evening Recorder with the Daily Democrat and the weekly with the weekly issue of the Amsterdam Democrat.
        The first daily to appear in Amsterdam and the fourth newspaper venture for the place was the Dispatch, which was started in 1860 by Winegar & Van Allen. Under the editorship of Mr. Winegar the daily edition appeared regularly for about six months, but the town was then too small to support a daily publication and it was changed to a weekly, being finally discontinued altogether in 1865.
        October 14, 1870, the Amsterdam Democrat made it bow to the public, with George O. Smith and Walter B. Matthewson as publishers. In about three months Mr. Smith disposed of his interest to Angell Matthewson of Fort Plain, who in March 1817 sold out to John E Ashe and went west, where he still resides. Mr. Ashe, who graduated from Union College in 1866, was nominated for member of assembly for Montgomery country by the Democrats, in 1872, but was defeated. His interest in the Democrat was continued until 1873 when, in August, William J. Kline of Fultonville,-who was then at work in New York-became owner and editor. The paper was afterwards changed from an advocate of Democracy to one of Republican principles. On August 20, 1879, the Daily Democrat was founded and today marks it silver anniversary. As chronicled above, the Evening Recorder was merged with the Democrat in 1893, but not until 1902 was the re-arrangement of the name effected, the Recorder being given preference over the Democrat for the reason chiefly that the Democrat was a misnomer, whereas the Recorder had for many years been Republican in politics.
        In its early years a member of the Daily Democrat staff became imbued with the idea that Amsterdam was in need of a Sunday newspaper and accordingly the task was undertaken, but it soon became apparent to publisher and employes that six days' labor was all that ought to be crowded into a single week and Sunday Democrat was discontinued.
        In the same month on which the Daily Democrat was founded, the Amsterdam Sentinel made it appearance as a Democratic weekly, under the proprietorship of Martin Lynk & Thomas McNalley. The first number appeared August 22, 1870, with Edward H. Finlayson as editor. After a few month's connection with the paper Mr. Lynk retired, disposing of his interest to Mr. Finlayson, whereupon the publishing firm became known as Finlayson & McNally. Finding his beliefs frequently at variance with those of the dominant factors in the Democratic party in the county, Mr. Finlayson concluded to retire in 1882, going to the editorial chair of the Recorder. The Sentinel company was organized and purchased that newspaper property. This company was composed of a quartet of well known Democrats, Judge Z.S. Westbrook, George H. Loadwick, (who has been local editor of the Recorder since Jan. 1, 1878), and Thomas F. Kennedy of Amsterdam , and Major William N. Johnston of Palatine. This company assumed proprietorship of the Sentinel with the issue of February 3, 1882, with Mr. Loadwick as editor and publisher. This regime lasted until 1884, when Mr. Loadwick became the paper's sole proprietor, and in the same year, on October 4, established the Daily Sentinel. This was continued as an evening paper until May 28, 1888, when it was changed to a morning issue, which it has since remained, with much success.
        The Daily Times made its appearance in 1888 with Elmer D. Trull as publisher and Charles P. Winegar, for some forty years more or less closely allied with the newspapers of Amsterdam, as editor. The Times ceased to exist after running for about six months, having fulfilled the purpose for which it was established, that of a political organ.
        In May, 1892, The Evening News came to life, backed by a stock company composed of Democratic politicians, with Edgar S. Welch as editor and manager, but was discontinued after three months' publication.
        The final effort to establish another daily newspaper in Amsterdam was made in 1897 when the Morning Herald was started by Roscoe L. Whitman who previously had been connected with the News and later with the Morning Sentinel. After being unsuccessfully tried as both a morning and evening issue it went the way of many other similar ventures leaving the Democrat-Recorder and Sentinel alone in the field.

B.H. SIMMONS

 

HARRY E. DEVENENDORF
Tells About Milestones in the History
of the Daily Democrat

        Twenty-five years have seen many changes in the Amsterdam Democrat. Those changes are of course, only mile-stones in the history of a paper, progressive, enterprising and broad; always just a trifle in advance of its rapidly advancing clientele, watchful of the interests of the community in which it thrives and truly representative of all that makes for the good and for the permanent upbuilding and uplifting of that community.
        My first day as a reporter for the Democrat was a disappointment. It was a rainy day and a strike in the broom factories had just been inaugurated. Without visiting the composing room, I started for the strike. There was other news, too. When I returned to grind out my story, I found two compositors working, and they were busy upon a grist of copy prepared by the owner, editor, and chief mogul under the gossipy title of "Up and Down the Valley." The columns of the Schenectady Union, the Fonda Democrat, the Canajoharie Radii, the Fort Plain Register and the Utica Herald had been drawn upon for this collection and the broom strike had to be content with a stickful while "Up and Down the Valley" held the post of honor.
        However, that day I met the Bloods and the Deans and from that time for nearly two years, the office almost daily responded to the enterprise, the pluck, and the unconquerable spirit of William J. Kline, until not only a dozen compositors were in line, but the click of the United Press sounder made music in the office to which E.P. White danced. Then the building of the West Shore road made local news each day; the Italian riot at Fort Plain, the robbery at Charlton, the tornado, the almost magical moving of the huge retaining wall at Yankee Hill by quick sand, necessitating the change of miles of railroad grade, come back now to me as news of more than usual importance. The depression in the office when the opposition "beat" us and the exultation when we "beat" the other fellow will never be forgotten. The sarcasm of Editor Loadwick to the effect that "the Democrat has a reporter and hence 'when a canal mule brays twice' he will be dispatched to the scene" was a hard slap at the towering ambition of youth.
        How quickly friends were made! How soon the town and its happenings became part and parcel of one's daily life? How interested, how watchful, how untiring we all were! Few realize how much of vitality and industry is invested in every issue of a daily paper. What fun there was! I tell yet of the proprietor's efforts to elaborate his report of a Union College commencement, his reference to "the Alma Mater," and the intelligent compositor's sincere efforts with the types and manuscript which made it read "the Alum Water," to the utter disgust of the boss.
        Never had one a more kind, appreciative employer; never was there a better paper on which to labor; never were any more efforts for improvement more sincerely backed up and encouraged than in those early days of the Democrat. The little tot of those times who tried to pull Abie Morris either in or out of a cistern, I forget just which, is now at the helm with his father. The day will be here when the father's grasp on the spokes will relax and let go, but if the boy is as good a man, not only "newspaperically," but in every other way as the father, the Recorder will continue to grow and prosper until, at its golden anniversary, it will stand where it does today-a living monument to grace and adorn the efforts him who made it.

H.E. DEVENDORF

 

EDWARD PAYSON WHITE
Writes Entertainingly About His Connection
With the Infant Democrat

        In the summer of 1881, when the Daily Democrat was still in its infancy, my friend the proprietor offered me an editorial position on the paper, which I was glad to accept, not as leading to a permanent career but bridging over a period in which my plans were undecided. Mr. Kline was then postmaster and gave considerable attention to his official duties. With his accustomed generosity he proposed that my name should be placed at the head of the editorial columns as editor, with his name as publisher, but as I had had no previous newspaper experience, I preferred that his name should be the only one to appear. I had told him that I did not want to run around collecting news, and it was understood that this was not to be a part of my work. I see now that this was a mistake. A real newspaper man wants to get all the news wherever it may be found, and for a local paper local news is the most important, but my failure to realize this at the time shows that I was not cut out for a real newspaper man. For two years I did the inside work to the best of my ability, finding a great deal of interest in learning the business, making the usual mistakes of a beginner, and reaping a large crop of experience which has ever since been valuable to use and pleasant to remember.
        The Democrat was at that time published on the third floor of the Miller Block. It was a four page paper and the number of columns varied from time to time as circumstances required. The editorial matter was not in "bojice" as the boys in the office called bourgeois type, and I thought their pronunciation of the word as strange as they did mine. At that time Seward Kline was business manager, William B Wilmot, foreman. Sydney F. Sharp was in charge of the job room and was succeeded by Addison C Hindle. Lincoln Eldredge helped to make up the paper, and among the compositors were Charles Lytle, Raymond Christman, Elmer Trull, Charles H. Williams, Elmer Schuyler, "Dummy" Crippen and others whose names do not occur to me at this moment. Everyone in the office took an interest in bringing in local news and worked loyally for the paper. For a while Edward A. McMillin, who had managed a newspaper and job office in Cortland, took charge of the business and mechanical departments and afterwards removed to North Adams.
        One of the important improvements with which I had to do was the introduction of regular telegraphic service. Before that our "telegraph" news consisted of occasional dispatches with liberal extracts from the early editions of the Albany Journal and Troy Times. A new association to furnish a regular report in competition with the Associated Press was being formed, and Mr. Kline, with his usual enterprise, wished to be in it, but the cost of the service with a special operator was more than the paper could afford at that time. He knew that I had been a telegraph operator while working my way through college, and asked me if I could handle the report. I told him that I could, and it was arranged that I should take as much of it as we could use, and keep up the rest of my work as far as time would allow. Accordingly a wire was run into the office, instruments were placed on my table and thereafter I received the report, edited it, put heads on it and usually read the proofs. In connection with this work, I read exchanges, filled an editorial column, occasionally reported a public meeting or some event that happened in the evening and did whatever I could for the paper.
        It kept growing and in connection with the telegraphic service Mr. Kline found that he needed another man to cover the local field. Accordingly, he engaged Harry E. Devendorf of Utica as city editor. He could not have made a better selection. Popular, tireless, with a wonderful scent for news and a swift, racy style, he made as great a hit in Amsterdam as any newspaper man who was ever employed here. Over the name of "Friar Tuck" he wrote a column of "mélange" for every Saturday's paper. Ten issues, according to my recollection, settled it.
        During this period the town was booming and times were lively. The new water works and reservoir and the West Shore railroad were being built, and the "Southdowners" as the employes on the railroad were nicknamed usually furnished one or more good stories every day, either in an accident or a police court item. There was a good deal of rivalry between the Daily Democrat and Evening Recorder and various manoeuvres were employed to get "beats" on each other. It is safe to say the Harry Devendorf got his share. Some times when we thought we had something good and exclusive, we held back from going to press until the other paper was out and sometimes we stopped the press to put in something on which our opponents had got ahead of us.
        Near the close of my connection with the paper Mr. Devendorf removed to Watertown, and became city editor of the Watertown Times. He was succeeded by Herbert Shapleigh Underwood, a recent graduate of Williams college, who at once gave promise of the distinguished success he has since achieved in the newspaper world. He was vigorous and aggressive, full of executive ability and by his tastes and training fitted for the advancement which soon came to him. John E. Willoughby was another talented newspaper man who was connected with the Democrat a little later. He had had previous experience under able instructors on the Utica Observer under Editor Bailey, and his wide reading had given him a cultivated taste in literature. He was fond of public speaking and became a favorite political orator and after-dinner speaker.
        With a view to studying law, I had registered in the law office of James H. Hurst not long after entering the Democrat office, and I read law as I found opportunity. In '83 Mr. Kline and another friend, knowing that I desired to attend the Harvard Law school, volunteered to endorse my note so as to meet the expenses, and accepting the offer I forsook journalism to follow the jealous mistress of the law. In due time I paid the note, but I have never discharged the debt which Mr. Kline's kindness created. I am only one of many in this and other places who know from repeated personal experience of the kindness and generosity of his heart. I know also of the nerve and courage which he has shown in many trying situations, and of his sincere belief in clean and upright methods, which have given him an enviable reputation among the members of his profession far and wide, and won for him not only respect and esteem, but also love and affection from one of the largest circles of friends at home and abroad that any one in Amsterdam can claim.
        The Daily Democrat now consolidated with The Evening Recorder has been a power for good in this community. Whatever enlightenment, culture or progress the town has shown has been reflected in its columns, and without its influence Amsterdam would hardly be as agreeable a place as it is today. This is due to the man behind the paper, to his individual character and that of the men he has been able to associate with him. He has the food fortune to have brought up a son who worthily follows his example and goes ahead with new ideas to increase the prosperity of the establishment.
        The people of Amsterdam may justly congratulate themselves as well as Mr. William J. Kline & Son upon the thirty-first anniversary of Mr. Kline's entrance into journalism in this town and upon the twenty-firth anniversary of the establishment of the Daily Democrat. The double anniversary celebrates two fortunate events. It is well that they happened. May the prosperous years that have since elapsed be doubled and trebled in prosperity as well as in number to the proprietors of this paper, and may it continue to be a daily and welcome visitor to many coming generations.

EDWARD PAYSON WHITE

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