Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The (Chariton) Iowa Patriot in 1862

If this issue of The Iowa Patriot dated Dec. 26, 1862, is not the oldest surviving copy of a Lucas County newspaper --- it's close. Tom and Joe Sellers, sons of the late Harris and Mary Alyce (McGrath) Sellers, donated the four-page broadsheet publication to the Lucas County Historical Society late last year. 

Members of the Sellers family have been roaming around in Lucas County since well before Christmas, 1862, and it's not clear why this edition was put aside and carefully maintained. We're just glad it was. It arrived carefully folded  into a glassine envelope where it obviously had been stored for many years.

We waited until last week --- when some new archival supplies finally arrived after the Christmas shipping rush --- to unfold it (very carefully) and slip it flat into a giant folder that in turn slips into the clamshell box where it and some other vintage newspapers now have found permanent homes. We'll be glad to show it to you at any time, but it won't be exposed permanently to light. 

Although Dan Baker, when writing the local text for the 1881 history of Lucas County, made some strong declarative statements about early county newspapers --- the timeline is not quite as clear as Baker made out  because no collection of newspapers predating 1867, when The Chariton Democrat was founded by John V. Faith, has survived. 

According to Baker, a George M. Binckley founded a newspaper he called The Little Giant in Chariton during 1856. It was soon rechristened The Chariton Mail and partners were brought on board, including Albert C. Cameron, whose family had settled down near Last Chance, and W.T. Wade, county treasurer at the time. The newspaper's original title, Little Giant, honored Democratic politician Stephen A. Douglas --- aka "the little giant --- so its partisan stance was obvious from the beginning.

According to Baker --- Chariton attorney John Edwards (who arrived in Lucas County during 1853) founded The Patriot in 1857, aligning it politically with the Republican party. At some point during this period, The Little Giant/Chariton Mail apparently went out of business although its remains may have been incorporated into The Patriot.

The foundational year of 1857 may or may not be accurate --- note that this edition is numbered Issue 49 of Volume 4. Weekly newspapers generally published 52 issues a year that formed single volumes. According to the numbering here, The Patriot would have started publication during January of 1859.

Edwards took on as business partner a professional newspaperman, Frank M. Fairbrother, previously associated with the Appanoose Chieftan of Centerville. By 1862, Edwards had enlisted for service during the Civil War (he would rise to the rank of brigadier general and launch a postwar political career in Arkansas) and sold out to A. Valentine "Val" Mendel.

So by December of 1862, The Patriot was published by Fairbrother & Mendel. They had taken on as editor the youthful Theodore M. Stuart --- an attorney who went on to launch what became something of a legal dynasty in Chariton.

I'll have more to write about The Patriot as January passes, but one thing to note initially is the wonderful condition of this surviving issue. The quality of the paper upon which it's printed is a major factor here --- it seems to have a very high rag content, meaning it remains pliable and relatively unstained.

As it turns out, the paper upon which it is printed wasn't designed for newspapers at all, which a small news item headed "Wrapping Paper" clearly states: "Our paper this week presents the appearance of hard times, but appearances often deceive, for the fact is we have good paper paid for, but could not get it in time."

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