Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

A History of the Early Years of The Pelham Sun, A Pelham Newspaper Institution

As with The Pelham Weekly of today, The Pelham Sun of yore was a Pelham institution that documented the daily doings of Pelhamites throughout a large part of the 20th Century.  Both newspapers have generated priceless historical records of our little town.  

Peter Ceder founded The Pelham Sun on April 9, 1910 and nurtured the growing newspaper until shortly before the advent of the Roaring Twenties when he turned his attention, full time, to real estate development in the Town of Pelham. In 1919, Ceder began a search for a new owner to whom he could turn to continue the institution he had created.  He turned, first, to J. Gardiner Minard, a resident of the Village of North Pelham who had some newspaper experience.  Having just returned from World War I, Minard demurred, telling Ceder "I am sick of wars and running newspapers."

Soon it began to appear that Ceder might close the newspaper, leaving the growing and increasingly-prosperous town without its own newspaper.  A group of nine civic-minded citizens led by Pelham Manor multi-millionaire William T. Grant, the founder of the nationwide chain of W. T. Grant 25 Cent Stores, formed The Pelham Sun Corporation and bought the newspaper from Peter Ceder.  

Pelham resident Thomas M. Kennett was appointed the editor of The Pelham Sun on February 28, 1921.  In 1925, Kennett purchased The Pelham Sun from the nine Pelham residents who had acquired it from Ceder.  Kennett operated the newspaper with his son, Frederick T. Kennett.  

Front Page of The Pelham Sun Published on
December 12, 1941, Announcing the Attack
on Pearl Harbor and the Declaration of War.

I have written before about the history of The Pelham Sun and the newspaper's long-time editor, Thomas M. Kennett.  See Monday, May 23, 2005:  Thomas M. Kennett, Long Time Editor of The Pelham Sun.  

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog transcribes a brief article written by J. Gardiner Minard that was published in 1931.  It describes the Town of Pelham in 1910 when The Pelham Sun was founded, and details a little about the early history of the newspaper.  The article appears immediately below, followed by a citation to its source.  

Newspaper Has Advanced With Communities; Grows From One Man Paper to Large Organization of Efficient Workers; Editor Ceder's Offer To Dispose of Newspaper.
By J. Gardiner Minard

In the life of a long established newspaper, twenty one years may not seem much; but for a newspaper in the Pelhams to survive a generation is to set a record.  There is quite a difference between the four page paper established in 1910 by the late Peter Ceder and the two or more section Pelham Sun of 1931.

This is, of course, no reflection on the founder.  There is perhaps just as great a difference between the Pelhams of 1910 and the town of 1931.  At that time there was not an apartment in the three villages; that vast tract west of Wolf's Lane stretching to the Mount Vernon-New York City boundary, and from Colonial avenue to Boston Post road had no more houses than could be counted on the fingeres [sic] of one hand.  Fowler avenue to New Rochelle and from Colonial avenue to Boston Post road was the site of the Pelham Country Club.  Winyah Park which stretched from Fifth avenue to the Columbus avenue school in New Rochelle, and from the New Haven railroad tracks to Huguenot Lake, and which did not contain a single building, had just been purchased by Clifford B. Harmon and contractors were busy felling trees to make way for streets in what is now Pelhamwood.

Fifth avenue between First and Second streets had but one building on each side, viz; the court house and the drug store-post office.  The east side of the same street between Second and Third streets was a succession of empty lots and no buildings.  The Heisser farm in the north east section of the village had been sold to the Hudson P. Rose company and was being developed.  It is therefore natural with the phenomenal growth of the town that its only newspaper should keep pace with its development.

My interest in the Pelham Sun is a little more than ordinary, for I had an opportunity in 1919 to be its owner and editor.  I had just emerged from the World War when Mr. Ceder called me into his office and the following conversation took place:  

'Minard, I am going to give you the Pelham Sun.'

'Thanks, ever so much Mr. Ceder, but I don't want it.'

'Don't be a fool; I am not handing you a gold brick; the paper has no debts and here are the books to show it is on a good paying basis.  Here is the situation:  real estate in the town is booming and needs all my attention.  North Pelham is growing and my duties as village president are now taking time which ought to be devoted to my real estate business and I am really devoting no time to the newspaper.  All the news you see in it comes into this office either over the telephone or is brought in.  By devoting your entire time to it you can make a handsome profit.  I will even give you office space here free.'

'Mr. Ceder, I appreciate your generous offer, but I ran two newspapers already in Pelham and was constantly in hot water.  During those years I had to go around with my sleeves rolled up.  I have just returned from more than two years service in the war and I can only compare it with running a newspaper in Pelham.  I am sick of wars and running newspapers.'

Mr. Ceder expressed regret and stated that he must part with it.  A few weeks later nine residents of the town formed the Pelham Sun Corporation and bought it.  When one looks back over the past twenty-one years and notes the wonderful growth of the town it is natural that the Pelham Sun should show signs of expansion.  But it also means the maintenance of an editorial and mechanical staff.

The day of the 'one man' newspaper in Pelham is past.  Few readers realize what forces are at work to keep the hungry columns filled.  There is hardly a night but one or more meetings must be 'covered,' which means a representative of the paper who must remain from the opening to closing, often after the midnight hour, taking notes which must be transcribed and made into typewritten copy for the typesetter.  Police stations and courts must be covered as well as the various meetings and other activities of clubs and societies.  The schools require some attention as well as church services and meetings of their allied societies.  

When a newspaper prospers it is a testimonial to its management, for its circulation determines whether its policy is approved or not by the residents in the territory it covers.  There is no doubt before another generation, the Pelham Sun will pass from the weekly to the daily stage.  Let us hope so."

Source:  Minard, J. Gardiner, The Pelham Sun Has Progressed With Pelhams; Prosperity Is Testimonial, The Pelham Sun, Apr. 17, 1931, p. 13, cols. 4-8.

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