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.

Monday, August 04, 2014

A History of Newspapers Published in Pelham

In 1929, J. Gardiner Minard of the Village of North Pelham published an interesting history on local newspaper publishing in the Town of Pelham.  I have written on many occasions of the history of newspaper publishing in the Town of Pelham.  For a few examples, see:

Thu., Jun. 26, 2014:  A History of the Early Years of The Pelham Sun, A Pelham Newspaper Institution.

Mon., Sep. 05, 2005:  The Pelham Republican: Official Newspaper of The Villages of Pelham and North Pelham in 1902.  

Mon., May 23, 2005:  Thomas M. Kennett, Long Time Editor of The Pelham Sun.

Fri., Apr. 01, 2005:  The Earliest Newspaper in Pelham?

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog transcribes J. Gardiner Minard's article about the history of newspaper publishing in Pelham, followed by a citation to its source.

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

History of Local Press Recalled As Pelham Sun Completes the Nineteenth Year Of Its Existence -- First Venture Politically Inspired to Boost McKinley Candidacy
By J. Gardiner Minard

We are nineteen years old.  With this issue, The Pelham Sun observes its nineteenth birthday.  On Saturday, April 9, 1910, in the midst of a heated political battle, the citizens of the three small villages that constituted the Town of Pelham in those days found on their doorstep, a four page newspaper.  It was a successor to a series of publications whose enterprising publishers had failed to find the field very lucrative.  The Sun, however, under the careful management of Mr. Ceder, survived its lean days and has continued to serve the Pelhams through all but one year of two decades.

Pelham's newspaper history dates back to March 1, 1896, when The Pelham Press first published.  The manner in which this paper was created was unique.

During the winter of 1895-96, the late Mark A. Hanna, chairman of the Republican National Committee was forcing the presidential nomination of Governor William McKinley, of Ohio.  There was much opposition to McKinley and Hanna with his millions was purchasing the support of certain newspapers.  There lived in Stamford, Conn., a tall old gentlemen [sic] by the name of John T. Trowbridge.  He resembled Charles Evan Hughes with his flowing beard.  Trowbridge saw that Hanna was proceeding with a very expensive program and getting audience with the political leader unfolded the scheme which brought the Pelham Press into being, as well as several other weekly newspapers along the Long Island Sound shore from the Bronx to Milford, Conn.

These newspapers were to sponsor the McKinley cause.  A representative in each city, town and village would edit his particular sheet.  All the papers would be printed alike with the exception of the heads, and subheads on the editorial page.  Each group of news would be printed under the heading of the locality where it was to be circulated.  The papers were printed in New York City and delivered in the various communities by train.  The only expense to the editor was the fifty cents express charges.

Mr. Trowbridge came to Pelham hoping to establish a link of his chain journalism here.  I was recommended for the position as editor and I accepted the very flattering offer.

It was never intended that these newspapers should survive the election, but the Pelham Press had made its mark and when the timje for suspension came, the circulation list was rather substantial, and although I pocketed everything, Trowbridge continued to supply me with papers, until the Spanish-American War broke out in 1898 and I 'resigned' to enlist in the infantry.  So the Pelham Press may therefore be regarded as killed in action, for it ceased publication then and there.

But Pelham was not without its weekly compendium of news, because the Press had a rival.  In 1897 Alfred E. Stevens, of Mt. Vernon noting the success of the Press decided to start a newspaper here, and the Pelham Record made its appearance.  Stevens saw me getting away with some pretty rough stuff and started to follow suit with the result that he was the object of some threats of bodily harm which caused him to sell the paper.

Then came Walter F. C. Tichborne with the Pelhham Republican, a tabloid form of paper which he printed himself in the Lyon building on Wolf's Lane.  This paper ceased to publish when Tichborne entered the automobile sales agency business.

One of the principal sources of revenue much sought by the early publishers of Pelham before Mr. Shinn's time was the printing of the town tax sales and redemption notices, especially if the supervisor was friendly to the editor, he could postpone the sales and cause the notices to be reprinted.  This meant a profit of several hundred dollars.

This revenue caused two very prominent Republicans to start the Pelham Post and even before its first edition was published the Town Board made it the official newspaper on the eve of the publication of the tax sale notices.  When the first edition came off the press a roar of laughter was heard as it contained not a single line of news, merely the official advertisement.  It appeared three times thereafter, the only changes being in the date line.  The publishers collected from the town and then suspended publication.  

There was another newspaper in Pelham the less said of the better.  It was the Pelham Democrat which also appeared three times in one week and then folded its tents.  This was in the heat of an election campaign and the two other papers in the town were so dyed-in-the-wool partisan that the Democrats had to resort to this method in order to present their case to the voters.  

It was precisely this same condition which caused the late Peter Ceder to start The Pelham Sun.  He was being attacked by the Republican organ and being an experienced newspaper man he soon had the officials eating out of his hand by telling the public some unpleasant facts regarding political leaders and officials.  He compelled a Republican Justice of the Peace to resign and a Republican Town Board to appoint him to fill the vacancy.

The first issue of The Pelham Sun, which I have before me shows that although his paper was started for political reasons, Editor Ceder honestly endeavored to give the citizens of The Pelhams a real newspaper covering every activity in addition to the political side.

'The Pelham Sun makes its appearance for the first time today.  We are not going to outline any program or make any promises one way or the other, but we will let our Pelham friends judge our usefulness some future day when we have become better acquainted'. -- Thus Editor Ceder conservatively announced his presence.

The time yellowed sheet before us carries on its first page an account of the history of the old Congregational Church of the Pelhams, long disbanded.  It predicts a great future for the Pelhams in an article forecasting rise in real estate values and remarkable growth in population.  

The Pelham Village Club, which occupied the building which is now the Masonic Temple had a membership of thirty prominent residents.  Another story tells of the town sewer commission discussing plans for the erection of a disposal plant.

Among the names mentioned in the social columns, are many still prominent here, among them, Mrs. David Lyon, the late Mrs. R. C. Black, Mrs. W. Beach Day, Mrs. Jas. F. Secor, Mrs. W. B. Randall, and Mrs. C. C. Davis.

With the first issue of The Pelham Sun, the Pelhams were favored with the first free mail delivery here.  A front page article boasts that 'two deliveries will be made beginning tomorrow.'  Carrier William A. Williamson, still a member of the local staff was one of the two men assigned to the Pelhams.

Liberty Engine & Hose Co. is commended for its benevolence in defraying the funeral expenses of one of its deceased members.

They had their police problems in those days too.  Witness a front page story of a controversy in the North Pelham Village Board which resulted in the dismissal of a patrolman.

James Reilly was village president and David Lyon, now supervisor, was a trustee.  History may also be said to repeat itself in Pelham Heights.  The chief executive's chair in 1910 was also filled by a Mr. White as it is today.

Robert A. Holmes was president of the Board of Education and Edgar C. Beecroft, now attorney of the village of Pelham Manor, was supervisor.

A scathing attack was made on Village President Reilly in a letter which was signed by one who chose to call himself 'Nemesis'.

The familiar 'boiler plate' syndicate matter of small town journalism fills the better part of the second and third pages, and a full page advertisement, the only ad in the issue adorns the last page.  Harry S. Houpt, tells the villagers of the advantages of the Houpt-Rockwell automobile.  These 'handsome' machines sold for $5,000 and $6,000.

After the Sun was started the Pelham Register appeared.  Charles B. Forbes, now publisher of the new White Plains Daily Press, was founder and I assisted.  Between the two of us we kept the political pot boiling.  Forbes received a tempting offer from a Washington, D. C. newspaper for a few years, during which time I pulled off a neat stunt.  Robert Lucas Forbes, brother of my original partner, was running the New Rochelle Paragraph and although it was independently Republican, he found conditions in New Rochelle so unbearable that he supported the Democratic candidates in spite of threats from the Republican Committees to deprive him of then county printing.  My paper was Democratic and when the official county newspapers were designated the Register was included, and I celebrated the event by transferring the paper to Forbes.

Mr. Ceder subsequently consolidated the Record and Register with the Pelham Sun.  

In 1919 The Pelham Sun was purchased by a group of prominent citizens who continued to guide it until 1025 when it was purchased by the present owner, Thomas M. Kennett, who had been its editor and publisher since 1921.

The Free Press made its appearance shortly after the world war and was a semi-weekly.  It gave promise of great things but after a few weeks the editor disappeared leaving those promises behind him.  It was an expensive venture for its backers.  Another paper started soon after the Free Press was the Pelham Advocate edited by a woman, backed by the Countess von Tetzel and the Baroness Argilogos.  It struggled for a few months and cost a lot of money.  The last paper to start was the Pelham News which began as a tabloid and later changed to full size.

Pelham has had more newspapers than either Mount Vernon or New Rochelle.  The time has passed, however, when a newspaper can be started on a shoelace.  With the scarcity of newsprint and high costs of production and composition, few dare tackle the game.  Today it is the survival of the fittest and the paper that presents its news fairly and accurately is the winner."

Source:  Minard, J. Gardiner, MANY NEWSPAPERS HAVE ENTERED PELHAM FIELD SINCE PELHAM PRESS WAS PUBLISHED IN 1896, The Pelham Sun, Apr. 5, 1929, p. 9, cols. 1-6.  

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