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Old ships and ship-building days of Medford.

Chapter 1:

Early ships.1

IN the ‘History of New England,’ by John Winthrop, is this record: ‘July 4, 1631. The governor built a bark at Mistick which was launched this day, and called The Blessing of the Bay. Aug. 9th the same year, the the governor's bark, being of thirty tons, went to sea.’ It cost one hundred and forty-five pounds. The owner said of it, May 16, 1636, ‘I will sell her for one hundred and sixty pounds.’ This is the first record of ship building in Medford, and there is a tradition that she was built on the north side of Mystic river, and probably not far from the governor's house at Ten Hills.2

‘The next year, 1632, Mr. Cradock built a vessel of one hundred tons, on the bank of the Mystic. In 1633, a ship of two hundred tons, and another named Rebecca, tonnage unknown; both built by Mr. Cradock.’ Brooks says, ‘There is reason to believe that Mr. Cradock's ship-yard was that now occupied by J. T. Foster.’

May 29, 1644, the General Court proposed the formation of a company of ship builders ‘with power to regulate the building of ships, and to make such orders and laws amongst themselves as may conduce to the public good.’

From that time until the time ship building was inaugurated on a large scale by Thatcher Magoun, in 1804, there were few vessels of any size built in Medford. [p. 62]

It is said that small sloops and schooners were built in very early times at the landing near Rock hill in West Medford. These were called ‘lighters,’ and were used for the navigation of the river.3 Mr. Rhodes of Boston built a vessel named the Mayflower here.

There was a large business in freighting produce to Boston by boat from Medford, saving a round-about journey over the Brighton bridge in Cambridge, as there were no other bridges until 1786 across the Charles.

The distilling business and the manufacture of bricks required many lighters, and returning they could bring back freight at small cost. ‘Medford, therefore, by its river, became a centre of supply for New Hampshire and Vermont,’ and could furnish iron, steel, lead, salt, molasses, sugar, tea, codfish, chocolate, guns, powder, rum, etc., at a lower price than they could get them in Boston.

There was a brigantine of forty tons built in Medford in 1699 and a ship of sixty tons in 1703.4 It is unfortunate that there is not more known of this last vessel, as a ship of that size would be a curiosity, and would look almost like a toy. A vessel about sixty-five feet long and fifteen feet wide would figure out about that tonnage, by the rules used at that time.

In Marblehead is a picture of the ship Hope, commanded by Capt. Asa Hooper, of which there is a tradition that she was built in Medford. The picture bears the date 1799.

Benjamin and Ebenezer Hall had interests in vessels in the coasting trade and with the West Indies which they continued after the revolution.

Ebenezer Hall, together with John Kennedy of Boston, were the owners of the brig Dolly, Capt. Levi Stetson, captured by a French privateer in 1798 in the short naval war with France.5 [p. 63]

The following is a list of the vessels in which Benjamin Hall had an interest, with their captains and the ports to which they sailed:—

‘Defiance’ParsonsTo and from West Indies
EssexWillcomeTo and from West Indies
‘Friendship’JacksonTo and from West Indies
HalifaxStilesTo and from West Indies
PollyBarstowTo and from Holland
DauphinSmithFor France
‘Three Friends’WoodFor France
NeptuneFrazierFor West Indies
‘John’StantonFor West Indies
‘Sally’PaineFor West Indies
‘Friendship’ManchesterFor West Indies
BellaGrinnellFor Holland

Also the sloops Gloriosa, ‘Mercury,’ ‘Boston,’ ‘Speedwell,’ ‘Minerva.’6

The cargoes to the southern states from Massachusetts were largely rum and salt codfish, but to the West Indies they could carry salt beef and pork, vegetables and other provisions, as sugar raising was so profitable there that the inhabitants did little other farming.

This business was of vital importance to the New England colonies, as they produced nothing which could be transported to Europe to pay for the manufactured goods imported, and this triangular trade was necessary, as tobacco and cotton could be taken to Europe from the southern states and sugar from the West Indies. The suppression of this trade was one of the principal causes of the Revolution.

Chapter 2:


Mystic river was an ideal location for ship building. Its serpentine windings from the ocean presented the greatest convenience for a large number of yards. Twice a day the tide surged in from the ocean, mingling its odor of brine with the pungent smell of molasses from [p. 64] the distilleries, and overflowed onto the whispering marshes, making at full tide enough depth of water to float an empty ship of twenty-five hundred tons.

So thought Thatcher Magoun, as, strolling one pleasant day to the top of Winter hill, he stood on one of the mounds of earth thrown up by the patriot army twenty-seven years before. After a survey of the river ‘as the tide gave its full outline’ like a gigantic lariat below him, he started to interview the captain of a schooner lying at the wharf of one of the distilleries as to the depth and character of the river.

After examining for himself the bed of the river and the depth of water at low tide and finding the neighborhood could furnish an ample supply of oak timber, he finally decided to locate his yard at the spot where all his ships were built. In 1802 was laid the keel of the first of the merchant ships which were known in every sea on the globe.

Thatcher Magoun was born at Pembroke, Mass., June 17, 1775. He early chose the trade of ship carpenter and served his time with Enos Briggs at Salem, where he worked five years. From Salem he went to Mr. Barker's yard in Charlestown (the present Navy Yard), where he worked and studied two years and assisted in modelling. There he made the model of the first vessel he built, which was the Mt. Aetna of Medford.

At this time Medford consisted mainly of farmhouses scattered along the highways to Woburn and Malden. At the centre of the town was the meeting house with a cluster of dwellings. There were a half dozen hospitable taverns, several stores for barter in connection with the lightering business and several distilleries, and together with a few colonial mansions with wonderful gardens, comprised the village.

The gardens back of the places owned by the Hall family had flights of stone steps leading up the steep slope of Pasture hill, laid out in terraces aflame with [p. 65] nasturtiums and bright with marigolds, primroses, phlox and larkspur and with grapes on trellises at the top, which traced golden lacework against the skyline at sunset. The Royall house was the counterpart of a famous mansion in the West Indies, and the grounds and gardens were a reproduction also, and still retained traces of their old-time grandeur, and had, an unusual sight in New England, a slave quarters. A shaded path led up to its graceful portico beside which roses clambered upward towards the chamber window where Molly Stark is said to have anxiously watched the battle of Bunker Hill. From this window could be seen several miles of salt marsh, with haystacks mounted on staddles and looking like huge spiders in the distance, and the winding river which later had ten ship yards within a mile's distance, and where one to three vessels could often be seen at one time on the stocks.7

Following Mr. Magoun the next year Calvin Turner of Pembroke and Enos Briggs of the Essex county family of that name built the ship Medford of two hundred and thirty-eight tons for John C. Jones of Boston. After them came Sprague & James, Lapham, Fuller, Rogers, Stetson, Waterman, Ewell, Curtis, Foster, Taylor, Hayden & Cudworth and others who have built vessels here.

After the Revolution the New England states in particular found themselves in desperate straits from the cutting off of their trade with the West Indies and Great Britain, through the operation of the British navigation laws. While the southern states could send their tobacco and cotton to Europe to pay for the manufactures that they required, there was nothing which could be exported from New England. In July, 1783, an order in council required that all trade between the United States and the British West Indies must be carried on in British-built vessels, owned and navigated by British subjects. [p. 66]

Another order required that in trading with Great Britain, American vessels were only allowed to bring in articles produced in those states of which their owners were citizens. In speaking of this, Fiske says, “These things worked injury to ship building; to the exports of lumber and oil and salted fish, even to the manufacture of Medford rum.” Fiske. Critical period of American history.

Finally a scheme for a trade with China was worked out by Boston merchants. This was the sending of vessels to the northwest coast and trading with the Indians for the skins of sea otter, which brought a high price in China for use by the mandarins, and bringing back home or to Europe cargoes of silks, china ware, tea and other eastern goods.

This trade proved immensely profitable. They set out with a cargo composed of chisels made of scraps of iron fitted into rough wooden handles, pieces of copper in squares and brilliant cloths. The total value of ship, outfit and cargo estimated at less than $40,000, and sometimes brought back from China cargoes valued at over $250,000.8 A number of Medford vessels were engaged in this trade. They were vessels of two to three hundred tons, permitting their use in the shallow bays of the northwest coast. Among them was the ship Eclipse, three hundred and forty-three tons, built for Thomas H. Perkins, James Perkins and James Lloyd in 1805 by T. Magoun.

In 1807 Capt. Joseph O'Cain of Boston, chartered his ship Eclipse of Boston to the Russian-American Company, traded their furs at Canton, visited Nagasaki and Petropavlovsh, lost the vessel on the Aleutian islands, built another out of the wreck, and returned to trade once more.9

Another Medford-built ship engaged in the Northwest [p. 67] fur trade was the brig Charon, two hundred and thirty-eight tons, built in 1890 for P. P. Jackson of Boston by T. Magoun. In 1811, in command of Captain Whittemore, she is mentioned as one of the hunting craft, which carried north eighteen hundred skins and was found at the Farallones the next year.10

The Northwest fur trade was extremely dangerous in the early days. In 1800 the captain of the ship Globe was killed by the Indians. The next year, the officers of the ship Boston and all but two of the crew were killed by the natives at Nootka sound. The vessel was afterwards accidentally burned.

A few years later the captain, officers and many of the men of the ship Atahualpa were killed by the Indians at Millbank sound.11

‘Seldom, indeed, did a vessel from the United States complete her voyage in that ocean without losing some part of her crew by the treachery of those with whom they were dealing.’12

The dangers, also, from pirates on the China coast were great. On the evening of August 22, 1809, Capt. William Sturgis anchored in Macao roads. Early the next morning he sent a boat with his first officer and four seamen ashore for a pilot to take his ship up the river to Canton, leaving but ten men on board. Hardly had they started, than the vessel was furiously attacked by a fleet of twenty-one pirate junks manned by two thousand men and led by the admiral's junk itself of twenty-eight guns. The pirates attempted to set fire to the ship but were unsuccessful. They then tried to board, but Captain Sturgis keeping up a hot fire from his six six-pounders, which did fearful execution, cut his cables and succeeded in setting some sail, by which he worked his way over under the guns of the fort.13 [p. 68]

Captain Sturgis, afterwards of the firm of Bryant & Sturgis, owned many Medford-built vessels.

Many of the first vessels built in Medford were in the Mediterranean trade. They would take a cargo of rum and salt fish to the southern states or West Indies and carry a cargo of cotton, tobacco and sugar to Europe.

The ship Medford is reported as follows:

Boston, January 1, 1810. Arrived ship Medford, Capt. J. Barnard, fifty-two days from Cadiz with salt and fruit to J. C. Jones. The ‘Medford’ on the 4th of October, off Gaskey light, on her passage from London to Cadiz in ballast fell in with and was fired upon by a French privateer of ten guns, the captain of which on hearing she was from an English port, said she was a good prize; but while Captain Barnard was on board the privateer an English lugger hove in sight, when his papers were given up and he permitted to proceed on his voyage. The Frenchmen did not permit themselves time to plunder the ‘Medford’ but made all sail to get off.

The French commander treated Captain Barnard with much civility. The lugger boarded the ‘ Medford’ and informed she had prevented the same privateer from capturing the ‘New Galen,’ but was not able to capture her, the Frenchman outsailing him.

Columbian Centinel.

Other Medford-built ships reported at Mediterranean ports in 1810 are the Commerce14 at Cadiz. The Ariadne15 at Cadiz. The Commerce April 27, 1810, sailed from Palermo for Tarragona. The Mt., Aetna at Fayal. The brig Mt. Aetna, one hundred and eighty-eight tons, was the first vessel built in Medford at the yard of Thatcher Magoun.

The ship Ariadne, three hundred and eighty-two tons, was built in 1809 by Calvin Turner for Nathaniel Goddard of Boston. The ship Commerce, three hundred and seventy-eight tons was built in 1807, by Calvin Turner for John Holland of Boston.

The Pedlar, Williams, hence (Boston) arrived at Cherbourg [p. 69] in forty-two days. She is also reported at Rio Janeiro as follows: ‘February 23, 1810, the brig Pedlar, of Boston, last from Sumatra with a full cargo of pepper, called here and sailed ten days since for Europe.’ The brig Pedlar, two hundred and twenty-five tons, was built in 1806 by Thatcher Magoun for Timothy Williams of Boston.

The brig Hope, one hundred and sixty tons, was built at Medford in 1804 at the yard of Thatcher Magoun for Samuel Gray of Salem.

There are several journals of her voyages in the Essex Institute, one a ‘Log of the brig Hope from Salem to Leghorn. Sailed December 4, 1804, and arrived January 21, 1805, with a cargo of pepper.’ The following is an entry while at anchor discharging her cargo at Leghorn, describing a gale, February 1, 1805:—

Swedish bark went adrift and came down. Bent both parts of the Horses [Hawsers] on to the Cables and paid out to the better end and got clear of her.’

There is also a ‘Journal of the Good Brig Hope, Capt. Thomas Tate 1805 from Salem to the West Indies.’

From Salem towards Martinico:—

‘Sept. 2, Monday. At 4 P. M. was boarded by H. M.S. “African” 64 guns and took out one man by the name of Wm. Wood.’

From Martinico she went to Laguayra and from there to Havana. On October 21st,

‘was boarded By french Privateer, they used us very Perlightly and let us go.’

On March 28, 1807, the Hope is reported in distress from St. Petersburg to Salem. They often made a triangular voyage to the Baltic and Russia with French manufactures and wines and brought home Russian hemp, canvas and iron.

Napoleon tried to prevent this Russian trade to complete his continental blockade. In 1810 he demanded [p. 70] that Alexander should stop it. Alexander refused. ‘Then began Napoleon's preparations to invade Russia. Thus the Baltic trade of Massachusetts played an important, if unconscious, part in the chain of events that led Napoleon to Moscow and to St. Helena.’16

There were a number of Medford ships in the East India trade at this time. The ship Gulliver, built in 1806 by Thatcher Magoun for Joseph Lee, Jr., of Boston, was one. The Gulliver is reported February 13, 1810, at the Vineyard as arriving from Calcutta. Her cargo is not given, but other vessels from that port brought indigo, ginger, and cotton and silk goods.

Also, February 23, 1810. Left at Calcutta, October 8, the brig Gipsey, Linzee, to sail in three or four weeks. The Gipsey, also, was built in 809 at the yard of Thatcher Magoun, for Joseph Lee, Jr., of Boston.

‘May 8, 1810. Sailed brig Gipsey, Pulcifer for India; passenger, Capt. George Lee.’

‘August 28, 1810. The Ariadne, arrived at New York from Gottenburg, was detained off the Scaw by a Danish gunboat, but permitted to proceed after a strict examina ion.’

Medford ship building started at the height of the prosperity of the Northwest trade. The European trade was very profitable, also, owing to the high prices obtained during the Napoleonic wars, in spite of frequent capture and condemnation of vessels. George Cabot said, ‘profits were such that if only one out of three vessels escaped capture, her owners could make a handsome profit on the lot.’

This continued up to the time of the embargo by the Jefferson administration, the outcome of the impressment of seamen of the U. S.S. Chesapeake on the high seas.

This measure was unpopular in New England and revived the Federalist party, which had almost ceased to exist. [p. 71]

The Federalist leaders ridiculed Jefferson's claim that the embargo was to protect the merchant vessels by calling attention to the fact that the embargo was extended to the East India and China trade which Great Britain permitted and Napoleon was powerless to prevent. They also claimed that the profits annually on the cargoes was more than equal to the total value of the shipping.

During the embargo of 1808 an inoffensive old schooner came up Mystic river with her decks piled high with wood and bark. A custom-house officer suspected her of smuggling and took possession of her. The captain invited the officer to dine with him. After a while the captain asked to be excused a few moments to give some orders to the men. As soon as he gained the deck he turned and fastened the cabin door. Stevedores disguised as Indians unloaded the vessel, which had her hold filled with English goods, wire, etc., from Halifax. During a large part of the night wagons were taking the contraband merchandise to Boston, Malden and West Cambridge. Her cargo was very valuable. The goods escaped without discovery, but the vesse was confiscated and condemned.17

Capt. Chas. C. Doten of Plymouth, during a northeast gale, slipped by the revenue cutter at Provincetown, with the brig Hope. He was pursued and fired upon, but escaped to St. Lucia, where he sold the vessel and cargo of fish for twenty-five thousand dollars. He brought his Spanish doubloons home sewed into his clothing.18

Jefferson signed the repeal of the embargo on his last day in office. Immediately there ensued a tremendous boom in shipping to Mediterranean, Russian and Oriental ports, which continued until the war of 1812.

[p. 72]

Medford journalism.

Journalism in Medford dates back to the winter of 1857—nearly sixty-six years. Not that there were not editors, publishers and printers who had homes in Medford,—there were several of each in earlier days whose journalistic effort was confined to Boston, Cambridge and other places. Among these were Samuel Hall, Elizur Wright and James M. Usher; also Galen James and Rev. Elihu Marvin, whose efforts were with the religious press.

Not until 1857 did there appear a paper printed as of Medford at stated intervals, for the purpose of noting current events, with editorial comment, literary notes and miscellany, local news and advertising matter. This was issued under the title, The Medford Journal, the somewhat ornamental type making an attractive heading. C. C. P. Moody was publisher and George G. W. Morgan, editor. Moody was somewhat of a genius, and was the author of ‘Moody's Proverbs’ and ‘Chronicles of Moody,’ which found their way into various papers.

We have read that one of that name became ‘a pioneer in the Medford journalistic wilderness about 1850’ and that ‘it was a four-page venture.’ We are not prepared to dispute the assertion, but have never been able to find such a one.

But of the Medford Journal of 1857, the Medford Public Library has a complete file and the Historical Society a neatly bound but incomplete one. Its first issue was of Thursday, January 8, 1857. It was of eight pages (ten by twelve inches), three columns each. Its title was followed by the legend, ‘A paper devoted to News, Literature, Science and Art.’ The make — up of its heading closed with the warning, ‘A chiel's amang ye takin notes, and faith he'll print them.’

And he did, for that first paper of long ago compares favorably with those of today. It told of a railroad accident on the B. & L. railroad, of a second murder at [p. 73] the state prison, of a church dedication at Malden, reported the Medford Lyceum lecture of the previous week, and the Methodist ‘Ladies' Levee.’

There was a column and a quarter about the proposed ‘horse railroad’ down Ship street, and of the meeting held to promote it, which was ‘a highly respectable meeting of the citizens.’ Though our proposed railroad down Riverside avenue has not yet materialized, that one did, but through Main street.

There was a fire at West Medford,—a servant-girl took a hot brick into bed, setting the bed-clothes afire.

The names and tonnage of eight vessels built in Medford the previous year were given, and the Bunker Hill (one thousand tons) was in building. There was but one death notice (of Malden) and one marriage notice—‘Wm. Mumford to Caroline Griffin, by Rev. Theodore Parker.’ The latter was in East Medford, and we are told that it does not appear on the town record.

There were but few advertisements, but one gives clue as to where the paper was printed: ‘C. C. P. Moody, 52 Washington street, Boston.’ He did creditable work.

There were ‘Foreign Affairs,’ ‘Domestic Intelligence,’ ‘The World as it is,’ various miscellany, ‘Chips from a dry stick’ (the latter amusing).

Its closing item was the quarterly list of uncalled-for letters at the Medford post-office, by Postmaster Winnek, one hundred and thirty-one of them.

It was followed at weekly intervals during January, February and March, and each issue was equally interesting, as Medford matters are here mentioned that can be found nowhere else. The Medford Lyceum was an interesting feature of the times and on one of the occasions Editor Morgan was the speaker.

But his enterprise was ahead of the times and was not financially sustained. Though he said in his lecture,

I've always found the same old hen
Who'd peck for one, could peck for ten,

he was under the grim necessity of writing ‘Our Valedictory’ [p. 74] in the issue of April 2, in which he stated. ‘the effort had in the main been unappreciated, as not over forty subscriptions ($1.50) had been received, and the weekly sales did not exceed sixty’; also that some friends wish to assist by contribution, but that ‘the editor's self-respect would not permit.’

Announcement was made of the publication of the Malden Messenger, which would be sent to the Journal subscribers. Whether any dissatisfied one called at his office for reimbursement, as he suggested, we cannot say. Probably ere now, both editor and publisher have passed on, but they certainly were worthy of better success.

As thirteen weeks covered the brief life of the first Medford Journal, so it was thirteen years ere any other attempt was made for a weekly paper in Medford. Just at the end of 1870, James Madison Usher of West Medford began the publication of a four-paged weekly. It was a great eight-column ‘blanket sheet,’ twenty-one by twenty-eight inches in size, bearing title Medford Journal in big ornamental letters, the two words a little separated by a wood-cut of a ‘wood-burner’ locomotive and ancient railway cars. It bore date of December 24, 1870.

We have never found that this paper had any editorial or publishing quarters in Old Medford. Its editor and publisher resided in West Medford and was editor and publisher of the Nation,, a Boston weekly. Probably his new venture was printed and sent out from the same press in Boston, and equally probable that the editorial sanctum, if not in the Nation office, was in his West Medford home. We have heard an editor of later years remark, ‘Mr. Usher's office was in his hat.’

The Journal's first page was devoted to home reading matter of wholesome character. For a time there were articles on the ‘Flora of Medford,’ by George S. Davenport, accounts of Frank Hervey's readings and a series relating to conveyances of property. The inside [p. 75] pages told of local happenings in Medford, Winchester and Arlington. The local tradesmen were generous in their advertising patronage, as well as those here residing doing business in Boston, and the third page was mainly theirs, overflowing onto the last. We notice that the subject of a new town hall was then being agitated. After three years the Journal was sold, but directly after changed hands again, then to Thomas Scott, who was connected with a paper in Somerville, and soon after discontinued.

No file of this Journal has as yet been discovered. If Mr. Usher preserved one, (which he said he did), it may have been destroyed in the burning of his barn, as some burned fragments were there found. A few stray copies have found their way into the Historical Society's collection.

But before the suspension of the Journal, it had a competitor, the Medford Chronicle, edited and published by Amos B. Morss, he also of West Medford. But Mr. Morss had an office at Medford square, having set up a printing office there a year or two before launching the Chronicle. At an early date it bore this claim,—‘the only newspaper printed in Medford,’—doubtless correct. Mr. Morss is credited with having been ‘almost the first, if not the first, publisher to use what are termed ‘patent outsides.’’ Be that as it may, both papers gave evidence of liberal use of ‘scissors and paste pot’ in their make-up.

There was some rivalry, not altogether good-natured, as seen in the insertion in one (we are not saying which) of a report of a local affair which did not occur and which was duly repeated in a little different form as news in the other and promptly exposed by the first in its next issue,—a clear case of trap-setting and rejoicing over the catch; perhaps not much love lost between.

The Chronicle was a four-page, six-column paper of somewhat smaller size (fifteen by twenty-two inches), but similar in general style to its ‘esteemed contemporary.’ [p. 76] After the Journal's discontinuance, the Chronicle continued to be the only paper in Medford for six years. It was with surprise that we heard Mr. Morss say (in after years) that he preserved no file of his paper; and we have found no copies anywhere, only such as have come into the Historical Society's rooms. The later ones were eighteen by twenty-four inches, with seven columns. We especially note one with heavy black lines, on the occasion of the death of President Garfield.

In 1880 Mr. Morss had a competitor in the journalistic field, Mr. Samuel W. Lawrence, who began the publication of the Medford Mercury, with William E. Smythe as local editor, who was succeeded by George W. Stetson, who thus continued until 1902. The Mercury's first issue was of December 18, 1880. Somewhat over a year later, Mr. Lawrence purchased the Chronicle's interests and merged it with the Mercury.

Mr. Wilber (in the article to be alluded to) tells of ‘four single publications’ by James M. Usher in 1889: The Reformer of April 22, the Advertiser of June 22, and the Middlesex Union of June 29, and mentions their features. Doubtless, we saw them at their time, but they have faded from our memory. (The Historical Society would be glad to add them to its collection if anyone has preserved them.)

But another, the Brooks Advocate, had a longer career than these. It was issued at the time of the proposed division of the town, advocating it and the incorporation of the western section beyond Winthrop street, under the name of ‘Brooks.’ During the present month one issue of this has drifted into the Historical collection and it is hoped that others may. The Advocate probably ceased when the adverse action of the General Court was taken, or soon after.

In succeeding years there have been other papers issued in Medford for a brief period, but which are now forgotten, except as we find them among the ‘strays’ in the Historical rooms. [p. 77]

A complete file of the Riverside News (seventeen by twenty-four inches, seven columns), the first of November 12, 1886, recently came to the Society, preserved by the thoughtfulness of one of Medford's citizens. It was published by S. A. Wetmore, who fell on evil times (financially) in his effort, and its publication abruptly ceased on July 6, 1887. It certainly was a fine, newsy effort and its untimely end to be regretted.

Another, the Medford City News, in 1892, under the editorial care of C. H. Hillman, had a little over a year's circulation. This had its office on Salem street, and was directly succeeded by, and near by, the Medford Times, but not for long.

The Medford Light was issued by George S. Delano, a somewhat gifted and versatile citizen of Medford.

It was nicely gotten up, more like a magazine than a weekly paper, both as to its page size and contents. Mr. Delano was chief contributor to its columns, and persevered in his enterprise for a time, but at last succumbed to the inevitable. A partial file of this is also at the Society's rooms.

Another effort was the Mystic Muse, but the Muses smiled not on it, and it is now long forgotten.

In 1902 came another aspirant for popular favor. A publishing company being formed by several well known citizens and associated with experienced newspaper men and with Charles D. Rooney as editor, the Medford Citizen appeared on October 1, 1901. Its office was in Odd Fellows (now Elks) Building, and the paper, well gotten up, was well received by the public and bade fair to become the leading paper in Medford. But after a year had elapsed, in 1901, whether conscious of it or not, the Mercury had attained its majority age of twenty-one years. Its publisher, Mr. Lawrence, then retired from the journalistic field and sold to John F. Wood, who had a brother, Charles. Both were expert in their calling and brought to the Mercury the benefits of such experience. During its former years that paper had its [p. 78] quarters on Riverside avenue, near the post-office. Under the new management it was established on Main street, just south of the Medford Inn.

In October of 1902, the publishers of the two papers found it to advantage to unite effort and the result was, for a year or more, the hyphenated Mercury—Citizen, and for a brief period the portion supplied to West Medford was simply the Citizen—not for long, however, as it was found impracticable, and the result was that soon the paper appeared under the original name, Medford Mercury.

With the merger came the retirement of Mr. Stetson, and on December 17, 1903, he issued the first number of the Medford Leader. Its office was on Main street, opposite the City Hall, and the paper was printed by E. B. Thorndike, at corner of Main and Harvard streets. Mr. Stetson, during his long residence, had made many friends in Medford and his paper was well received, and continued for five years. During its latter year Mr. Stetson was prostrated by sickness and for a time the Leader continued to appear under Mrs. Stetson's management, till with the close of its fifth volume publication was suspended for a time in the hope that it might be resumed again. Mr. Stetson had then been in newspaper work for twenty-five years, and his final editorial told something of his effort and his interest in Medford and its people.

The Leader had in its heading a cut of a ship on the stocks, illustrative of an old industry of Medford, and was an eight-page paper, fifteen by twenty-one inches in size. During the transition period of the Mercury-Citizen, or about that time, the Mercury assumed the same size and form, a decided improvement over the old.

In 1905, the business management of the Mercury became that of the ‘Medford Publishing Company,’ Capt. Henry W. Pitman (who succeeded Mr. Stetson)continuing as editor, with Mrs. Frances French as assistant.

In 1905 Medford celebrated the two hundred and [p. 79] seventy-fifth anniversary of its settlement; and the Mercury made especial note of it in its columns; and also anticipated it by publishing a souvenir volume of one-hundred and seventy pages, entitled ‘Medford, Past and Present.’ In that is an article on the ‘Newspapers of Medford,’ by Mortimer E. Wilber, to which we are indebted for some of our facts. It is highly interesting, containing but few errors, and those slight. Such corrections of them as are now made are from sources then not available. This book is especially noteworthy and creditable, as its various writers were all Medford people and (as we were told) all its mechanical features were executed by Medford men doing business in Boston.

Also, in 1905, the Mercury issued a ‘Twenty-fifth Anniversary number,’ dating from its establishment by Mr. Lawrence, and not from that of the Chronicle of 1872, whose interest and good will it had acquired by purchase.

William Preble Jones succeeded Captain Pitman in the editorial sanctum, until the sale of the paper to Claude David in 1912. Mrs. David was his associate editor, but neither succeeded in revolutionizing Medford during their management.

The city hall project was much in evidence, and the old one which had been the ‘town hall of the grandfathers’ was continually maligned in the weekly issues.

An automobile gift project, which did not materialize, was somewhat exploited, and soon after, the paper came into its present management. A marked change was noted, especially by its subscribers and patrons.

In November, 1918, the Mercury moved to Medford square, to the old historic home of Jonathan Porter, at Nos. 4 and 6 Main street, occupying the first floor as office and press-room and the entire second as composing and job-printing rooms.

Before the removal, however, another ‘esteemed contemporary’ appeared on the scene, this time the Medford Messenger, issued by E. B. Thorndike from Harvard [p. 80] street in South Medford. This was an eight-page paper, eleven by fourteen inches, six columns on a page, and first appeared October o, 1913.

On January 2, 1914, it was enlarged to fifteen by twenty-one inches, and in 1922 its volume was extended by additional issues to the end of the year, making the succeeding volume begin with the calendar year.

In 1916, there appeared a new venture in Medford journalism—The Review. This was an eight-page, six column weekly of the same size as the Mercury and Messenger. Its heading was ornamented with a cut of a ship ready for launching, and bore the legend, ‘News, Arts and Sciences.’ Captain Pitman was with it at its inception, but for some cause or other soon left it to the management and editing of Herbert A. Weitz. Its first issue was on April 15, 1916. In January, 1917, it ceased.

The last issue is of ‘Second Year, No. 1’—was the thirty-seventh number, and contains no intimation of suspension or discontinuance.

The Historical Society has a complete file of the Review, whose office was at High street in West Medford.

There have been at various times publications by various societies, secular, fraternal and religious, which are worthy of notice. They were issued in furtherance of some special object. The ‘fair papers,’ announcing a fair or festival, of course were ephemeral,—still a collection of such would be of historic interest. They were generally financed by their advertising patrons for the furtherance of their respective objects, and, as was expected, only transitory. Several of the Medford churches have at times published weekly or monthly papers.

In 1886 and 1887 the First Medford Episcopal Church published its Enterprise, a monthly (Rev. L. D. Bragg edited it) in furtherance of the big enterprise of raising the burdensome debt upon the church property. That it was a help is seen in the fact that its first two subscription payments was the first money collected toward [p. 81] $14,000. Some town news, as well as parish and church, may be found in its columns.

In 1901, Rev. J. V. Clancy launched the Parish Beacon, an eight-page monthly, in May. Though primarily in behalf of the West Medford Congregational Church, it was of interest to the community; and the business men of West Medford helped to finance it in their way. It contained the church calendar, parish directory and news, and some locals. The contributed articles were of high order. After six months it reduced its pages to magazine size, and in noting the change the editor remarked that it had passed successfully through its experimental days. We have only the issues of that year before us and cannot say when it was discontinued, but wish it had not been.

In 1911, with a church debt to raise, Trinity Church (Methodist Episcopal) of West Medford issued its Beacon, with its pastor, Rev. Charles Tilton, at the managing and editorial helm. This was of magazine size and weekly. It was current for three years, continuing for a time after its objective was attained, during Mr. Tilton's pastorate. At the time of the mortgage burning, the Beacon had a special number printed in blue ink—but there was nothing else blue, but, rather, great rejoicing.

In Trinity's ‘jubilee year,’ 1891-2, appeared Trinity Jubilee Chimes, Rev. M. L. Bullock, editor, sixteen pages, eight and one-half by twelve inches, two columns each. Published eight months of the year, it is now in its third volume. Its cover page is of attractive design, a central panel containing a reproduction (half-tone) of some great master's work. Primarily in the interest of Trinity's people, it is welcomed by all.

Doubtless there are or have been others of this class which are worthy of mention, but which have not come to our notice. All such are worthy of preservation in the homes and libraries of our city. With this digression we return to our subject,—the journalism of Medford. [p. 82]

The Medford Mercury, the longest established weekly paper of Medford, has just moved into its new quarters, the fourth in its history, and is issuing a memorial or anniversary number. Of its publishing interests and personnel its managers will doubtless tell.

The present writer has undertaken to tell of the journalism of the past sixty-six years, partly from his own observation and from authentic record.

Allusion has been made to the Historical Society's collection of papers, to which the writer turns for proof of some statements. Among these are the earlier but not complete files of the Mercury.

It was with much surprise that we found some years ago that our public library had no files of the (second) Medford Journal or Chronicle, nor yet any bound files of the Mercury. It seems strange that neither earlier editor saw to it that the library was furnished with copies of his paper. Furthermore, it seems that there was a lack of foresight somewhere, or else a niggardly economy (whether in town meeting or committee we are not prepared to say) that the Mercury of each succeeding year was not substantially bound in board covers and thus preserved.

Even the editors and publishers of the early Mercury were negligent in this, though they did place a year's issue between half-inch strips of hard wood, tied through at intervals. But such method did not protect the outer pages. It would appear that even they had lost some years' numbers, as some bear the name of Charles Cummings, the old high school master.

In later years they were rolled up and consigned to the dark loft under the roof, to be consulted only by the rats. At removal from the old quarters down Main street, such as remained in the loft were transported to the Historical rooms, where the librarian carefully arranged them, but found two volumes (for the years 1884 and 1885) missing. Later (a labor of love) they were wire-stitched and bound in heavy covers of builders [p. 83] felt and kept flat in a filing case in the library. Since that time we had occasion to seek information contained in those that are missing. Our only resort was the public library. Some bundles were brought us and with the utmost care we examined them till we found in the issue of March 28, 1884, the object of our search—the first illustration (other than advertising cuts) used in a Medford paper. It was a view of ‘Abbot Hall,’ the municipal building of Marblehead, reproduced by the courtesy of the Marblehead Messenger,—a result of the town hall agitation. Since then the various Medford papers have been more or less illustrated, especially since the camera became so popular. It is a great help to the journalist.

A source of regret it is that from 1857 to 1880, and practically those other two years, the doing in Medford the papers told of is lost, and that so little opportunity is available for the rest. In a nearby suburban city at the present time its early newspapers (since 1845) are being carefully searched and indexed and important happenings tabulated. In those early years an outlay of two or three dollars a year would have saved these Medford papers for future use.

We have been told that ‘they were not worth binding’ (meaning, doubtless, in present condition). But we hold that a local weekly which tells of current events is worthy of preservation if worthy of publication. But to fold a newspaper page into eight squares is not a preservative method, nor yet is it well to leave the accumulated papers exposed to the sunlight. Wood pulp paper has not the enduring qualities of rag paper of earlier days.

We have thus tried to present a correct statement which may be confidently referred to in the future, but haven't exhausted our subject, which grows as we consider it.

Present space forbids much which might be written of the influence of the Medford press, as well as of its record of current events.

[p. 84]

Air ships in Medford

December 17 is the twentieth anniversary of the Wright brothers' first successful aeroplane flight. For more than a century ‘flying chariots in the air’ had been predicted, but only the balloon had mounted skyward.

A pretty piece of fiction was ‘Darius Green and his flying machine,’ which may (or may not) have had its influence on inventive minds. But the story which gained credence, that Schoolmaster Cummings gave its author the name of the Medford boy Darius for his hero is utterly without foundation. When, in 1911, the art of flying having progressed, Mr. Trowbridge attended the ‘aviation meet’ at Squantum, an honored guest. It must have been a satisfaction to him to have seen a realization of his fictional vision. Two of the fliers landed in Medford—one because of mechanical defect, the other, overloaded. This was on the morning of Labor Day. Views of the scene and accounts thereof are in the Mercury of September 15, 1911. Two others passed over Medford, one winning the $10,000 prize.

During the World War aviation advanced rapidly, and since then oceans and continents have been crossed. During the recent summer some advertising of a certain brand of tobacco has been done by releasing a gas or cloud of smoke, by skillful piloting, thus spelling the words on the aerial billboard.

But the great sight was on November 20, when at about 1.00 P. M. the U. S.S. Shenandoah, in its sevenhundred-mile flight from New Jersey and back, passed over the Mystic valley. Really moving seventy-five miles per hour, to the multitudes gazing upward its flight seem leisurely but certainly majestic. As we looked across the river at the buildings of the American Woolen Co. and realized that equivalent in size to the three combined was this modern dirigible air ship, we could but wonder at man's conquest of the air, and say ‘what next?’ with an involuntary shudder at the possibilities of war.

1 in this article the names of Medford-built ships are italicized.

2 Brooks. ‘History of Medford.’

3 Brooks. ‘History of Medford.’

4 ‘10th U. S. Census’ (1880), Vol. VIII.

5 ‘French Spoliation Claims.’

6 Medford Historical Register, January, 1916.

7 Brooks. ‘History of Medford.’

8 See Morison's ‘Maritime History of Massachusetts,’ pp. 58-70.

Solid Men of Boston

(M. S.), pp. 70, 76.

9 Morison. ‘Maritime History of Massachusetts.’

10 H. H. Bancroft. ‘History of Pacific States.’

11 Jas. G. Swan. ‘Northwest Coast.’

12 ‘Memoir of Mr. Greenhow to Congress.’

13 N. E. Palladium.

14 Columbian Centinel.

15 Columbian Centinel.

16 Morison. ‘Maritime History of Massachusetts

17 Usher. ‘History of Medford.’

18 Morison. ‘Maritime History of Massachusetts.’

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