THE ALBION RECORDER HAS BEEN AROUND A LOT LONGER THAN YOU THINK
Albion Recorder, October 4, 2001, pp. 2, 37
As the Recorder begins a new chapter in its long life, it is indeed an honor to launch this new historical series designed to inform our readers of the rich heritage we share here in Albion.
Over the past several years I’ve collected numerous historical Albion photographs and various historical books for my Albion history archives which we will draw from in the weeks and months to come. In order to satisfy our diverse readership, we’ll publish “new research,” as well as “old favorites” from years past. Let’s enjoy the photographs and information together as we learn about Albion’s history and the generations of people who helped make Albion what it is today.
A stable presence in downtown Albion for 133 years has been the Albion Recorder newspaper, which has had several locations during its history. Contrary to recent news reports, the Albion Recorder has been around alot longer than you think–even longer than the Marshall Chronicle. In fact, the Recorder dates back to the post-Civil War era when political alliances were strong, and newspapers were the “right arm” of propaganda for the Democratic or Republican parties.
Back in 1855 the Albion Mirror newspaper was founded, and expressed the views of the Democratic party which leaned against the coming Civil War and our participation in it. Albion had several prominent “Copperheads”(as they were called) living here, such as William V. Morrison, Augustus Porter Gardner, Rev. William Farley, Rev. Andrew M. Fitch, and Mayor George M. Cady whom were quite vocal in their opposition to Federal control over states’ rights.
In May of 1868, the Albion Weekly Recorder was begun to take the place of the Herald. It was established by William C. Harrison. Its motto was “A Government established in the hearts of the People; Founded Upon the rights of all men of whatever condition or maturity.”
To counter that viewpoint, the Albion Union Herald was founded in 1861 to reflect the views of the Union and the Republican Party. It’s motto was “The Union, the Constitution, and the Enforcement of the Laws.” The Herald was located in the “Hannahs’ Block,” which once stood on the southwest corner of S. Superior and W. Center Sts. where the Subway sandwich shop is now. Unfortunately, its offices were destroyed by fire in 1867 and the paper was discontinued.
In May of 1868, the Albion Weekly Recorder was begun to take the place of the Herald. It was established by William C. Harrison. Its motto was “A Government established in the hearts of the People; Founded Upon the rights of all men of whatever condition or maturity.” The first Recorder issues were published on Fridays. The Recorder went through a series of ownerships which included: William C. Harrison (1868); William G. Reed and Benjamin Baxter Bissell (1869, published on Saturdays); Reed and Sargent (1872, published on Fridays again); Buchanan and Bacon; H. E. Gemberling (1879, published on Saturdays), and others.
In January 1882 the Recorder went daily in an ill-fated experiment, with H. E. Gemberling as editor. This experiment lasted only a few months, and the Recorder then switched back to a weekly publication. Three copies of the Albion Daily Recorder are known to exist, and are on microfilm today. At the failure of the daily, the Recorder was taken over by David L. Cooper.
Cooper sold the Recorder to former editor Benjamin Baxter Bissell in December 1883, who had been publishing his own paper, the Albion Republican since 1879. Bissell published the last issue of the Recorder on December 29, 1883, at which time it was merged with the Albion Republican. Thus ended the Albion Recorder, or did it?
For six months there was no Recorder in Albion, it having been purchased and consolidated with the Albion Republican. In June 1884 however, the Albion Recorder suddenly reappeared on the streets of Albion. A newcomer to town, Robert W. Warren (brother of Albion attorney Levi S. Warren) stole the Recorder name, and published volume and issue number where the former publication had left off six months earlier! Surely such actions would be illegal today. Albion Republican editor Bissell was furious, and published stinging indictments against Warren, who was trying to establish another Republican newspaper in Albion to compete against Bissell.
As things turned out, it was the Albion Recorder which triumphed. The Albion Republican folded in 1885 due to a lack of advertising. Ownerships changed a few times more before the turn of the century, and the Albion Recorder went daily on a permanent basis on January 15, 1904. This arrangement lasted nearly a century until the last daily Albion Recorder was published on Saturday, September 29, 2001. The new era as a return to a weekly paper began with this issue dated October 4, 2001.
Pictured here is an interesting Albion Recorder advertisement which appeared in the 1869 Calhoun County Business Directory, published by E. G. Rust. In those days the Recorder was located in the 3rd story of the Maher’s (formerly Hannahs’) Block on the same site where the Albion Union Herald had been located. Notice that the advertisement definately expresses its ties to the views of the Republican party. Even back then, the Recorder was also in the job printing business, which lasted until the 1980s. Many announcements, programs and brochures were printed at the Recorder Press through the years.
An Albion native, Frank Passic is a 1971 graduate of Albion High School and has been writing Albion history articles since 1976. He is the author of several books including Albion in Review, and Growing Up in Albion.
This story is reprinted with permission from Frank Passic.
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