previous next

Cambridge Journalism

F. Stanhope Hill, Editor of The Cambridge Tribune.
So far as this writer has been able to discover, the first newspaper printed in Cambridge was the ‘New England Chronicle and Essex Gazette,’ published by Samuel and Ebenezer Hall from a chamber in Stoughton Hall, assigned to them by the Provincial Congress in May, 1775.

‘From this press,’ says a contemporary, ‘issued streams of intelligence and those patriotic songs and tracts which so preeminently animated the defenders of American liberty.’ But when the American army removed from Cambridge a year later the ‘Chronicle and Gazette’ seems to have suspended publication. It is very evident there was no newspaper in this town in July, 1786, for when a letter to the selectmen of Cambridge requesting their concurrence in a county convention, to be held in Concord on August 23, in order to consult ‘upon matters of public grievances and find out means of redress,’ with its answer, was ordered to be printed by our selectmen, it appeared, July 27, 1786, in the ‘Boston Independent Chronicle.’ There is a bare possibility, however, from the similarity of name, that our Cambridge Chronicle and Gazette had been moved into Boston as a broader field for journalistic enterprise.

Be that as it may, it is a somewhat singular fact that Cambridge, where the first printing-press erected in New England was set up by Stephen Daye in 1639, should have arrived at the mature age of two hundred and sixteen years before she awoke to the necessity of maintaining a local newspaper.

To the modern journalist who is familiar with the numberless interesting and dramatic episodes that are associated with the early history of Cambridge, the fact that we should have had no local newspaper to record these events properly seems an appalling waste of opportunity. [219]

Why, for instance, should it have been left to the ‘Boston News Letter’ of September 19, 1754, to describe the exciting ‘chase of a Bear’ from Lieutenant-Governor Phips' farm in Cambridge down to the Charles River, and his subsequent capture; or that far more exciting scene in September, 1774, when the British troops from Boston carried off the powder from the Somerville powder-house. And fancy the wealth of display headlines which a Cambridge newspaper would have deemed necessary to set forth properly the story of that eventful visit of ‘about four thousand people’ to LieutenantGov-ernor Thomas Oliver's mansion on Tory Row, which resulted in his resignation and subsequent flight into Boston.

Quiet country towns like Greenfield, Worcester, Salem, Newburyport, and Portsmouth, where life moved on in an endless monotony of pastoral simplicity, all had excellent weekly newspapers, founded a century or more ago. Yet Cambridge, a university town of vastly more importance and with far greater facilities for producing a newspaper than any of these places, had no home paper until 1846.

This is the more remarkable in that for years she had counted among her highly respected citizens a number of well-known journalists who rode into Boston each morning in the hourlies to aid in making the daily papers of our neighboring city, and rode out again in the evening to take their well-earned repose at their homes hard by the banks of the placid Charles.

Among these were Joseph Tinker Buckingham (ne Tinker),1 who commenced his career in 1795 at the age of sixteen as a printer in the office of the ‘Greenfield Gazette.’ In 1800 he came to Boston, and after some journalistic experience, which was not successful, in that city, he removed to Cambridge. Later he built a house on Quincy Street where Mrs. James [220] Fiske's house now stands and lived there many years, but afterward moved to what is now called Buckingham Street, where he died.

Another famous Cambridge editor was Theophilus Parsons, Dane Professor of Law at Harvard, but also founder and editor of the ‘United States Free Press,’ and for several years engaged in literary pursuits.

William Lloyd Garrison, of ‘The Liberator,’ lived in Cambridge, on the northwest corner of Broadway and Elm Street, from 1839 to 1843, and did some right good editorial work during that period. John Gorham Palfrey was one of the editors of the ‘Boston Daily Whig,’ the precursor of the Free Soil press, about 1846, and was one of the editors of ‘The Commonwealth.’ Robert Carter, who was also one of the early editors of ‘The Commonwealth,’ had previously aided James Russell Lowell in editing ‘The Pioneer,’ a short-lived magazine. And Lowell himself in 1848 was ‘corresponding editor’ of the ‘Anti-Slavery Standard,’ editorial correspondent of the ‘London Daily News,’ and later, in 1863, was joint editor, with Professor Charles Eliot Norton, of the ‘North American Review.’

Another of the ‘Abolition editors’ was Rev. J. S. Lovejoy of Cambridgeport, of ‘The Emancipator;’ while Rev. Thomas Whittemore of this town was editor of ‘The Universalist Magazine’ and of ‘The Trumpet.’ But the list of Cambridge men who have been prominently known as journalists and editors and writers for magazines strings out to a portentous length. Among many others there are Francis Ellingwood Abbott, Rev. Edward Abbott, Professor Charles F. Dunbar, Mr. Joseph Henry Allen, Francis Foxcroft, Professors Francis Bowen, Charles Eliot Norton, and Andrews Norton, Rev. William Ware, William Brewster, William D. Howells, Samuel H. Scudder, Horace E. Scudder, and Thomas Wentworth Higginson, who so gracefully links the younger and older generation of Cambridge writers.

Yet with all this roll of Cambridge men famous in this sphere of work it remained for an obscure stranger to make the first venture in local journalism in our city. From 1842 until 1845 the residents of Old Cambridge were earnestly striving, both in town meeting and in the legislature, to be set off from the Port and East Cambridge as a separate town under the name [221] of Cambridge. But these local dissensions were temporarily healed by the ‘Act to establish the City of Cambridge,’ approved March 17, 1846. While the excitement attendant upon the adoption of this measure was rife, Mr. Andrew Reid, a Scotchman, who had served an apprenticeship as a printer in his native country and had come to Boston from Halifax and engaged in the printing business, decided to venture the publication of a weekly newspaper in Cambridge.

The first number of this sheet, which he called ‘The Cambridge Chronicle,’ appeared on Thursday, May 17, 1846, issued from an office over the grocery store of the late Joseph A. Holmes on the corner of Main and Magazine streets. The initial number contained a full account of the inauguration of the new city government on the previous Monday, May 7, with Mayor Green's speech in full occupying four and a half columns. The paper was successful, in a moderate degree, from the first, but Mr. Reid was in poor health and died January 4, 1847, and the ‘Chronicle’ passed into the possession of Mr. John Ford, in February of that year. In January, 1855, the office was removed to the corner of Main and Temple streets, and in 1858 Mr. George Fisher purchased the ‘Chronicle’ and conducted it until 1873, when he sold the property to Mr. Linn Boyd Porter, under whose charge it remained until 1886, when it was purchased by Mr. F. Stanhope Hill. Four years later, in 1890, Mr. Hill bought the ‘Tribune’ and sold the ‘Chronicle’ to Mr. F. H. Buffum, but the property returned to Mr. Hill in 1891, and he then sold it to the present proprietors, J. W. Bean and C. B. Seagrave, who have since added a job printing establishment to the plant and made it a prosperous business enterprise at 753 Main Street.

In April, 1866, Mr. James Cox, a practical printer in Boston, established the ‘Cambridge Press,’ at first as an independent paper, although the publisher was then identified with the Democratic party. But in 1872, when General Grant was nominated for a second term, the ‘Press’ fell into the Republican ranks, where it has since remained and seems likely to stay while the present editor is in control of its affairs.

The ‘Press’ has always given close attention to municipal affairs, and was the first Cambridge paper to advocate the no-license policy. Mr. Cox, who established the paper just thirty years ago, is still in possession, although he has passed full [222] threescore and ten years of an honorable and respected life, and is the Nestor of Cambridge journalism.

‘The Cambridge Tribune’ was founded in 1878 by Mr. D. Gilbert Dexter, the first issue appearing on March 7 of that year. Our local papers, the ‘Chronicle’ and ‘Press,’ were both published at Cambridgeport. The ‘Tribune’ was the first newspaper especially identified with Old Cambridge, and it has continued to occupy its chosen field without competition, proving both the wise judgment displayed in selecting its home, and also that it has satisfactorily filled the field.

At first, the ‘Tribune’ was printed at the University Press, although its type was set at its office, 19 Brattle Square; but later it was removed to No. 3 Linden Street, opposite the college library, where it is still published. In 1885, Mr. Dexter's health failing, he sold the ‘Tribune’ to Mr. William B. Howland, who, after conducting it with very great success for five years, was induced to go to New York as business manager of the Christian Union (now ‘The Outlook’), and he sold the property to Mr. F. Stanhope Hill, who has since carried the ‘Tribune’ on upon the same general lines that have marked its course from the first number, giving it a literary tone, and avoiding sensationalism.

Among the contributors to the ‘Tribune’ during the past eighteen years are numbered the poets Longfellow, Lowell, and Holmes, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, William Winter, Rev. Drs. A. P. Peabody, Alexander McKenzie, and Edward Abbott, Rt. Rev. William Lawrence, D. D., Andrew MacFarland Davis, Professors Charles Eliot Norton, William James, and Albert B. Hart, Arthur Gilman, Caroline F. Orne, Charlotte Fiske Bates, and scores of others almost as well known.

‘The Cambridge News’ was established by Mr. Daniel A. Buckley in the year 1880. This gentleman has a peculiar individuality and strong convictions, and his paper is mainly the exponent of his personal opinions of public men and their conduct of municipal affairs, which he does not hesitate to advance and maintain in forcible language. By that chance which is often the fate of would-be reformers, the editor of the ‘News’ is not infrequently in a popular minority, but the honesty of his convictions has never been impugned, and those who differ from his views the most radically listen to his remarks on public occasions with interest, and not seldom with amusement. [223]

The college publications include the ‘Crimson,’ a bright and very prosperous little daily, eagerly sought for by the students each morning, and an acknowledged authority on all undergraduate matters; the ‘Lampoon,’ the ‘Advocate,’ and ‘The Harvard Graduates' Magazine.’

‘The Sacred Heart Review’ is a Roman Catholic religious weekly published by the Rev. John O'Brien, which has a very large circulation throughout the State.

The Cambridge newspapers have used their columns mainly for the discussion of domestic matters. The churches, the university, the schools, the proceedings of the City Council, and the development of local industries, have engaged their attention rather than the consideration of larger national affairs. Three of the four are classed as independent in national politics, but the ‘Press’ is, as has been said, Republican. On the questions of no-license and non-partisan municipal government, the four papers are as a unit in their hearty support of both policies. That they have been right in their general course, and that they fill with a reasonable measure of success a want in the community, is shown by the generous support they have received from our citizens.

1 The father of Mr. Buckingham was Nehemiah Tinker, but the son took his mother's name by permission of the Massachusetts legislature, in 1806. He has been immortalized by Mr. Lowell, in the first series of the Biglow Papers, which was published in the Courier, in 1846-1848, when Mr. Buckingham was its editor. ‘his Folks gin the letter to me and i shew it to parson Wilbur and he ses it oughter Bee printed, send it to mister Buckinum, ses he, i don't allers agree with him, ses he, but by Time, ses he, I du like a feller that ain't a Feared.’

It was in the New England Magazine, then under the editorial care of Mr. Buckingham, that Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes published his first ‘Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table’ paper, mentioned many years afterwards in the first number of The Atlantic Monthly.—editor.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Dates (automatically extracted)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: