Old Washington. Printers of 1836 to 1840.

By James Croggon, The Evening Star, October 18, 1913 [pt. 2, p. 8]

The year 1836 in which occurred the election of Martin Van Buren as President, was a busy one typographically, for numerous newspapers were published here, and there were quite a number of job offices, and much campaign matter was published.

The Telegraph, published by Duff Green, was then waning, and deceased the following year. The old Intelligencer was a leading paper under Gales & Seaton. The Congressional Globe of Blair & Rives had increased in influence after five years of publication. The Sun, then published on the southwest corner of 11th and Pennsylvania avenue, the site occupied by The Star for many years afterward, was being published by J.B. Learard & Co., and was a strong advocate for the election of Hugh Lawson White of Tennessee, who polled a respectable vote in that campaign. The Mirror was being published by J.C. Dunn, with William Thompson as the editor. The Army and Navy Chronicle, edited and published by Benjamin Homans, formerly chief clerk in the Navy Department, was looked on as the organ of those two branches of the service. This was printed at the Force printing office, 10th and D streets, and the paper afterward was conducted by William Q. Force. The Paul Pry, mentioned in the preceding article as Mrs. Anna Royal’s sprightly sheet, was changed by her to The Huntress, and she continued its publication for many years after.

There were many printers drawn from other parts of the country, but not all of them joined the Columbia Society. Those who joined that year were R.J Pollard, George Keating, R.L. Spalding, Edward B. Bowers, Robert A. Waters, Jonathan Kirkwood, James R. Adams, Lemuel Towers, William Thompson, John B. Mathiot, J.M. Lucas, Gerard Stith, Charles M. Hesletine, William H. Gobright, J.LB. Cheminade, T.G. Foster 2d, and William H. Deneson.

This was the year when there was an anti-militia spirit, but there was no want of a volunteer military sentiment, and the Indian wars being in progress, the Washington City Volunteers were recruited here and under Capt. E.B. Robinson, a member of the society, and a number of its members were in the ranks. The question of a national organization sprang up from time to time, and a convention for that purpose was held in Cincinnati, and the delegates from the Columbia Society reported that a constitution had been adopted for a National Typographical Union to meet in New York in September in the following year, and Messrs. Clephane and Handley were elected delegates thereto.

At the meetings in 1837, the following became members: James E. Given, Henry Rich, G.H. French, William Moore, John L. Smith, Henry Plowman, Thomas W. Howard, James S. Turpin, William Coale, Joshua T. Taylor, James F. Wright, Charles B. Thompson, William N. Rose, Columbus Alexander, B.J. Wylie, William N Bayne, Thomas F. Parkinson, Henry Polkinhorn, H.L. Luff, James L. Boyd, James Wormald, Charles D. McPherson, James B. Perry, Wesley Mowbray, Stephen H. Branch, Adam T. Cavis, Francis H. Lipp, John Tuttle, Edward M. Speeden, William B. McCormick and William B. Joslyn.

In 1837 Thomas Allen became the Senate printer, and Blair & Rives were doing the printing for the House. In that year the Sun ceased publication, as also the Telegraph, and the Madison commenced publication, Thomas Allen being at the head, with Donald McCloud assistant editor. The reformer was being published by W.W. Moore & Co., and the Metropolitan of Georgetown also closed that year.

In 1838, although the society had not increased greatly in numbers, it was wielding an influence, and in the convention to form the national society in New York sowed the seed which paved the way for the formation of the national body in 1852, but the Columbia Society did not affiliate. In that year the local society adopted the resolution for the building of a hall for the meetings of the societies, but this did not crystallize. The Chronicle was being published in this year. The Metropolis was started in 1838 and had a life of two years, F.S. Myer being the publisher and T.J. Smith the editor. To the roll were added that year the names of D.D. Fiske, Alexander N Webb, John C. Franzoni, Columbus Drew, C.F. O’Driscoll, William A. Stanley, Josiah Melvin, James G. Sample, Edward P. Marsh, Joseph B. Tate, Joseph W. Davis, G.H. Randall, Theo Elmer Smith, Charles W.C. Dunnington, John D. Mendenhall, Joseph W. Walker and Samuel Sherwood 2d.

In 1839 the Huntress, Intelligencer the Globe, the Metropolis and the Madisonian were being published. In this year the Native American was established by John Elliott, with H.J. Bent as editor, on Pennsylvania avenue east of 4-1/2 street, and it was continued the following year.

The members admitted this year were John U. Moulder, John T.C. Clark, William E. Kennaugh Joseph Etter, Richard W. Clarke, James Charles, Nathan Hammond, John W. Lugenbell, W. Edgar Lightelle, John Driscoll, George Bishop, James Wimer, George Amerige, John W. Hollis, Alexander L. Settle, William J. Delano and John S. Bogan.

The campaign year in which Gen. Harrison was elected over Martin Van Buren – 1840 – 2as a busy one, an like that of four years before, political work gave employment to many members. Those who joined the society in this year were James W. Baggott, George Shedddell, Charles P. Hill, James N. Davis, James R. Blaisdell, William T. Butters, Lewis G. Reed, James F. Whitney, William Little, W. Gordon Blanchard, Andrew M Thomas, H.S.M. Farnham, N.H. Gerry, John P. Boss, John T. Doneson, William Flinn, William . Fitzgerald, William S. McPherson and P.S. Boothe.

The members of the craft of this and the preceding periods did not stick to the case; but it is undeniable that interest in the profession was always felt. A number filled important positions in the community, and in after life a few were prominent in the government service and retained their affiliations with the society until death. Among others may be mentioned R.A. Waters, a prominent job printer; Jonathan Kirkwood, afterward the firm of Kirkwood & McGill, at the corner of 8th and G streets, and of the Kirkwood House, the successor of the Irving House on the site of the Raleigh Hotel; Lem. Towers, who with his brother, Mayor Towers, was long in business at 6th and Louisiana avenue, and was prominent, also, in military circles, serving in the civil war as a colonel; Henry Rich, long a prominent Odd Fellow; John L. Smith, a magistrate and captain of the Continental Guards of ante-bellum days and an alderman from the seventh ward; Thomas W. Howard, afterward a railway mail clerk, and during the civil war an officer of the Confederate states army, who, on the cessation of hostilities, returned to the government print office and a few years died of extreme old age; Columbus Alexander, who had a job office at 17th and F streets, and among other publications issued those of the Colonization Society, and, later in life, became a capitalist.

Henry Polkinhorn, who established a job office on D street between 6th and 7th streets; Adam T. Cavis, who in his day was an actor, a minister and prominent in fraternal organizations and a zealous trade unionist; Edward M. Spedden, in later life a clerk in the Post Office department; Columbus Drew, who later settled in Florida and edited and published a paper there; Joseph B. Tate, who in 1852 started the publication of The Evening Star, which went a short time later to Wallach & Hope, but Mr. Tate continued with the paper for some years, and was popular in military circles as captain of the Washington Light Infantry Company; Joseph W. Davis, later a letter carrier and in the later part of his life a grocer at the corner of 9th and D streets; C.W.C. Dunnington who afterward was the captain of the Capitol police when it numbered six or eight men; John U. Moulder, long a Treasury clerk and prominent in municipal affairs, and alderman from the first ward, and in after life from the third ward, and he was also prominent in Masonic circles; John T.C. Clark, in early life a post office clerk, and who succeeded his father, John D. Clark, as a magistrate in the old second ward; James Wimer of the firm of Wimer & McGill, and William Flinn, who was prominent in local democratic circles, the navy agent, during Buchanan’s administration, and during Mr. Cleveland’s first administration was superintendent of the mail bag repair shop.