In honor of the great article Mike Torelli wrote about Jube Road for the Cheshire Herald I though we’d take a look back at some of the Herald’s predecessors like the Conn. Ec-Lec-Tic Weekly or the Cheshire Standard.
Cheshire has had a few newspapers over the last 100+ years unfortunately very few have survived. Starting in the mid-19th century, newspapers were printed on a low quality newsprint made from wood pulp. This paper is extremely acidic which causes discoloration and brittleness. Anyone who has ever handled even a 50 year old newspaper knows what I am talking about. Add to that the transient quality of a newspaper – they were meant to be read and reused or thrown away. You might save a paper that noted something special, but clipping the article was more likely. Combine these two facts and you can see why very few old papers exist.
We have a handful at the Connecticut State Library, and our newspaper librarian has done an awesome job of preserving what she can by microfilming them. That is how I came across these papers. In most cases we have only a single issue or two with no idea of how many editions a paper ran. There may be more out there, in someones basement or attic, and if so I would encourage you to donate them to your local library or historical society so they can be preserved, because as you’ll see, these papers are a window into our past.
That said, I have no idea what Cheshire’s first newspaper was, though I know it existed prior to 1870 when the Cheshire Monthly Review was printed. In the very first (and possibly only) edition of the Cheshire Monthly Review published on November 10, 1870, the editor, Arthur E. Hotchkiss, wrote:
We print only one thousand copies of our first number, hoping if our life be spared, to increase its circulation from month to month and year to year, until its list of subscribers shall outnumber that of any other newspaper ever published in Cheshire. We should judge that the exceedingly low price at which it is furnished to local subscribers would render it quite and object to the citizens of Chehsire.
The price of a subscription was $0.25 for a single copy per year, $0.20 for five to ten copies per year and $0.15 for ten or more copies, with postage being paid for those in New Haven county. Hotchkiss, in discussing the paper also said “All reliable information concerning matters of local or general interest solicited. Communications in any respect personal, will find the waste basket, unless accompanied by a responsible name, -not necessarily for publication however.”
My guess is Mr. Hotchkiss would not have published the kinds of things the New Haven Gazette had published 100 years prior. Things like the ad Benjamin Hitchcock placed in the Gazette on October 27, 1785 advising all persons not to extend his wife any credit. The ad states “Whereas my wife Rhoda hath greatly misbehaved, and conducted herself in such a manner as to render my life uncomfortable, and is now endeavoring to ruin me by running of me in Debt: These are therefore to notify all Persons that I shall pay no debts of her contracting after this Date, and to forbid all persons trusting her on my account.”
Mr. Hotchkiss did give plenty of room to what I am guessing was his favorite cause – temperance! Most of page 2 is dedicated to a back and forth that had appeared in the State Temperance Journal, a paper published in West Meriden. This series of editorials and letters addressed the subject of temperance within the Congregational Church in Cheshire. It seems the temperance folks didn’t feel the Congregational Church was sufficiently temperance minded. Now mind you, as we saw in the Smith Diaries post, there were eight brandy cider stills operating in Cheshire in 1870, when the population was a whopping 2,344 people! Of those, 933 were under the age of 18, leaving 1,411 adults – so one still for every 176 people. Hmm could this be why Cheshire wasn’t a hotbed of teetotalism?
Getting back the Cheshire Monthly Review, there is little other Cheshire related information in the paper and only one single ad for a Cheshire business, that of the M.L. Hotchkiss and Sons Steam Saw Mill on Saw Mill avenue off East Main Street. Address translation = Steam Saw Mill on Saw Mill avenue (a ½ mile long cart path that was on the right past Drazen Orchards just before Wood Pond Rd.) off East Main Street (aka Wallingford Rd.) All the other ads in the paper are for New Haven businesses. There are no other known issues of this paper so maybe the temperance theme was a little too much for Cheshire-ites of the day.
Another paper that was uniquely Cheshire was the Conn. Ec-lec-tic Weekly, published by John S. Foote. The only known copy is Volume 1 No. 36 from August 2, 1884 and it is noted the John S. Foote is “successor to H. H. Rice & Co.” followed by a “Notice of Dissolution of Partnership” which dissolved the partnership that had existed under the name of the “H. H. Rice Eclectic Liniment Co.”
This 8 page weekly had no local news and almost no advertisements. Most of the news was reprinted from other sources and dealt with topics with as diverse as women gambling to Egypt and cholera. Much more salacious stories found their way in too, like the house of ill-repute that exploded in Sabina, Ohio or a story about the theft of Senator Mahon’s (likely Virginia Senator William Mahone) whiskey.
The only ads were on the last page and featured – you guessed it – H. H. Rice’s Eclectic Liniment with testimonials from locals about the excellent medicinal quality of the liniment. It seems Foote manufactured products besides liniments. He also placed an ad for the “Dunn’s “Victor” Waterproof Polish for Belts and Shoes.”
The Cheshire Enterprise was another paper that was actually one of several associated weeklies of The Times, a Wallingford paper. The Enterprise carried almost no local news, like most other papers of the day, the news was culled from papers around the country, but The Times had sections specifically about local news of their associated towns. On page 1 of the October 23, 1896 edition of the Wallingford Times was a Cheshire section which gave some of the following news:
J.D. Walter is having his house painted.
Mrs. E. L. Beard of Boston have been visiting her cousin, Miss C. M. Hickox the past week.
The Button Shop of West Cheshire are about to put in the factory, an electric plant of about 200 lamps of 25 candle power each.
Can you imagine if the Cheshire Herald still reported on such mundane topics as having your house painted or having a visitor?
This sort of reporting carried on to the Cheshire Standard, a paper that started in September 1926 and ran at least through August 1927. It is this paper that would be the true precursor to the Cheshire Herald. This paper ran local news as well as national tidbits, advertisements from local businesses and one of the chief correspondents was Alonzo Smith’s daughter Nettie.
The coverage in the Standard reflected Cheshire’s farming roots as page two was dedicated to agricultural news with three columns; Horticultural News; Farm Poultry; and Dairy Facts. These gave our Cheshire farmers stories like “Two Reasons Why Fowls Nibble at Each Other” and tips like “There will be far less trouble from scours and dysentery in young calves where the pens are kept clean, freshly bedded and where the calves have access to sunshine.”
I was really excited to see the local news in the issue published Tuesday, August 30, 1927. There was a great little nugget that made me smile. It was the report of the surprise bridal shower for my grandmother, Carmela “Minnie” Dominello. They spelled her name wrong, but that was not all that unusual in those days. The land records for my grandmother’s house listed my great-grandmother as Maria Dominick and her brother, Samuel Louick (aka Luca), so Dominelli isn’t that far off!
In closing I am going to leave you with some ads from the Cheshire Standard from businesses long gone but not forgotten!
All of the above mentioned papers can be found at:
[Cheshire Newspapers, 1870-1938], Microform. Call No. AN 104 c5 t56. Connecticut State Library, Hartford, Conn.