The Washington Shark (IA, 1850-1854)

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Publication History:

Place of Publication: Washington, Washington County, Iowa

Frequency:  Irregular

Volume and Issue Data:  1850-ca. 1854

Size and Format:  “A folio with regular columns of ordinary size, tolerably fine pen type, published on the four sides of one sheet of cap paper”

Editor/Publisher:  Nathan Littler and Richard B. McMillan

Title Changes and Continuation:  None

General Description and Notes:

In his own Washington County history, editor Littler described The Washington Shark as “a folio with regular columns of ordinary size, tolerably fine pen type, published on the four sides of one sheet of cap paper.”  The paper used pseudonyms frequently in its reports and the editors apparently tried to keep their own names a secret.  Littler says the paper contained “general news and current literature,” market reports, advertisements and society news.  The editor notes that it appeared only one copy at a time, so wide distribution did not occur.  Instead, readership was limited to those who could meet in public gathering places.

The Shark was put into the mail box when none were present.  It was directed to some one whom the editors felt would give it the widest publicity.  Usually, when the paper came, its owner would go the most frequented store in town, and taking his seat on a stool or mail keg, would proceed to read to the crowd that quickly assembled, the contents, advertisements and all.

Littler claims the paper appeared frequently, and when it did it was the “sensation of the town until its contents became familiar to all the citizens.”  If most “readers” were amused by the paper’s wit and satire, not all appreciated its occasional bite.

Some, however, to whom the jokes and caricatures fit most closely, were outrageously vexed and the only reason the editors were not punished corporeally at least, was the fact that they were safely incognito.

Littler says the Shark would attack “any and everything going on to which the editors were opposed or which was opposed to the best interests of the community.”

Apparently other handwritten papers were published in the area on the model ofThe Shark.  Notes Littler:  “Occasionally afterwards, other papers of a similar character came out, but none of them achieved the popularity of the Shark.”

Littler served as constable of Washington in 1850, the year the Shark first appeared.  In 1852 he was elected justice of the peace and served in that post until he moved to the town of Richmond, Iowa.  He returned to Washington in 1869 and wrote a history of the county which was serialized in the local paper.

McMillan (1823-1898) lived in Washington from 1846 to 1855.  During that period he was a county assessor and township clerk.  While editing the Shark, McMillan’s brother, Horace Greeley McMillan, lived with him.  The year Richard died Horace purchased the Cedar Rapids Republican, and he eventually owned two Iowa dailies and a weekly farm paper.

Information Sources:

Bibliography:  Nathan Littler, History of Washington County, 1835-1875, ed. by Edna Jones (Washington, Iowa:  Jonathan C. Clark, 1977), 186-187; Roy Alden Atwood, “Handwritten Newspapers on the Iowa Frontier, 1844-1854,”Journalism History, 7:2 (Summer 1980), 56-59, 66-67

Locations:  None

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Quarterly Visitor (IA, 1844)

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Quarterly Visitor (IA, 1844); upper right corner of front page missing from extant copy

Publication History:

Place of Publication: Washington, Iowa

Frequency:  Quarterly

Volume and Issue Data:  Extant issue, June 1844

Size and Format:  13 x 20 inches; three columns; four pages; ink

Editor/Publisher:  Daniel C. Stover

Title Changes and Continuation:  None

General Description and Notes:

The extant copy of the Quarterly Visitor, June, 1844, contained three basic types of material:  news, features and editorials.  The front page contained mostly poems and short moralisms.  The second page carried three editorials (one which attacked the political neutrality of the Domestic Quarterly Review, another local handwritten paper), a report on an extra session of the Iowa legislature, three news items about rain, wheat and wind, a humor piece about someone’s misfortunes while seeking a claim, a biographical sketch of Henry Clay and two brief news stories.  The third page continued the biographical descriptions of “the most distinguished statesmen now living” (Clay, Martin Van Buren, John C. Calhoun, Richard M. Johnson, James Buchanan and John Tyler).  The rest of the page had an article about the organization of neighboring Keokuk County, a letter to the editor (dated Washington, June 25, 1844) and five short news items.  Included on the third page was a map of Keokuk County showing rivers, townships and sections.  The last page was one-third poetry and two-thirds news items.  Included in the news items were an accidental drowning story and an obituary.

Quarterly Visitor (IA, 1844)

Several references in the extant issue to previous issues provide evidence that at least one previous issue of the paper was written.

Daniel C. Stover, the editor, was a lawyer and had started a law practice in the county seat town of Washington with his brother sometime in 1840, a year after their arrival in Iowa City from Indiana.  In 1844 Stover served as the secretary of the Democratic Convention held in Washington, and was nominated as the Democratic candidate for the Washington County Commissioner’s Clerk.  During the period Stover edited the Visitor, his brother was the district court clerk in Washington.

Information Sources:

Bibliography:  Roy Alden Atwood, “Handwritten Newspapers on the Iowa Frontier, 1844-1854,” Journalism History, 7:2 (Summer 1980), 56-59, 66-67; Nathan Littler, History of Washington County, 1835-1875, ed. by Edna Jones (Washington, Iowa:  Jonathan C. Clark, 1977) pp. 29, 126, 221-222; Kathy Fisher, In the Beginning There Was Land:  A History of Washington County, Iowa (Washington, Iowa:  Washington Historical Society, 1978), pp. 107, 190-191.

Locations:  State Historical Society of Iowa, Archives, Iowa City, Iowa

Domestic Quarterly Review (IA, 1844)

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Publication History:

Place of Publication:  Washington, Iowa; Sigourney, Iowa (1844)

Frequency:  Quarterly?

Volume and Issue Data:  Vol. 1, No. 1, April 1, 1844; at least three issues

Size and Format:  Four pages, 13″x21″; three columns per page

Editor/Publisher:  S.A. James

Title Changes and Continuation:  None

General Description and Notes:

According to Littler, the first issue of the Domestic Quarterly Review was “without doubt the first document published in the county that at all approximated in dignity of appearance, manner and matter of regular newspaper issue.”  Littler says the Review was a “12 column sheet, 3 wide columns to the page, and the pages were in size 13 by 21 inches” and “contained “probably as much matter in it as are found in regularly printed newspaper sheets of the same size.”

James described the Review as “a complete family, Young Lady or Gentleman’s newspaper” devoted “to Literature, Amusement and Particular Intelligence.”  The Review was “written and published at the low price of $1.00 a year, invariably in advance, and will be mailed to subscribers so as to reach them on the first day of each quarter in any part of the United States.”  James included a request that “Editors will confer a favor by giving the above notice (with this notice) an insertion.”

The editor of another local handwritten paper, the Quarterly Visitor, notes in that publication’s summer 1844 issue that “the printing office, publishing the ‘Quarterly Review,’ has removed to Sigourney in Keokuk Co.”  The Keokuk County History of 1880, which made liberal use of interviews with James, says that he issued three numbers of his handwritten newspaper.  The county history also notes that James lived in a small log cabin with his family for sometime after his move, so it seems doubtful that the “printing office” involved much more than the writing skills of James and perhaps his wife, Sarah.

Information Sources:

Bibliography:  Nathan Littler, History of Washington County, (Iowa), 1835-1875, ed. by Edna Jones (Washington, Iowa:  Jonathan Clark, 1977), 221-222; The History of Keokuk County, Iowa (Des Moines:  Union Historical Company, 1880), 459-460; Roy Alden Atwood, “Handwritten Newspapers on the Iowa Frontier, 1844-1854,” Journalism History, 7:2 (Summer 1980), 56-59, 66-67.

Locations:  No extant issues located, but quoted in Littler (1977).

The Algona Bee (IA, 1857-1858)

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The Algona Bee (IA, 1858)

Publication History:

Place of Publication:  Algona (Kossuth County), Iowa (ca. 1857-1858)

Frequency:  Weekly; irregular

Volume and Issue Data:  Vol. 1, No. 1, Dec. 21, 1857 (note:  another date, Jan. 8th, 1858 is marked out above the Dec. 21 entry)

Size and Format:  8 1/2 x 11 inches; two columns

Editor/Publisher:  Franklin McCoy; Algona Reading Club (et al.?)

Title Changes and Continuation:  Unknown

General Description & Notes:

The Bee was apparently produced by the Algona Reading Club, identified as editors and proprietors (see Vol. 1, No. 8, Feb. 8, 1858).  This number lists the paper’s office at “the wickeup No. 1 West State St. immediately West of the Post Office,” and identifies Franklin McCoy as “publisher.”  However, other pages (many of which are almost illegible) mention an “editress.”

The paper contains poetry, anecdotes, editorials and short story items.  The clear difference in handwriting style and script size between the numbers suggests at least two different writers were responsible for the paper’s production.  The first issue opens with the following introductory editorial:

“We are happy to present to our friends this first number of ‘The Bee’ as the first paper published in this ‘little world of Algona,’ and tho [sic] now small and may-be insignificant in the eyes of many–still we have sanguine hopes that it will thrive–and before many years stand the first and oldest among our village papers.  A person when first starting in an enterprise like this feels rather delicately.  Many fears arise wether [sic] the paper will suit the readers.  Knowing there are as many minds as persons and also knowing, that unless all these minds are satisfied, we are the losers, we feel still more anxiety than we would otherwise.

“The Bee is intended to be strictly a neutral paper.  We shall strive to please all by offending none.  It will abound in wit and humor–be graced with sound intellectual studies and pleasing stories–have all the news of the day–we hope none of the gossip [original emphasis].  We have able correspondents for the Bee who will favour it with their productions from time to time.  A few advertisements will be inserted just to help pay expenses.  We have tried to tell you imperfectly however what we shall strive to make the Bee, and we humbly beg our friends to stand by us and not allow it to sink into obscurity as the paper in our neighboring community has done.”

The Feb. 8, 1858 issue says, “The Bee is published weekly, but if the stories do not improve soon it will be published only Semi Occasionally.”  The editor also notes that “Business cards of not more than five lines in length published for the sake of the fun, flair and fancy.  Job work neatly executed upon reasonable terms.”

Information Sources:

Bibliography:  None

Locations:  Harvey Ingham Papers, Vol. 2, Box 2, Iowa State Historical Society, Des Moines, IA

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