Copied from The State Journal – Lansing, Michigan – March 4, 1921.
Lansing’s First Daily Paper Was Four Pages, Nearly All Politics
State Republican, First Issued in 1872, Handed Jobs to Austin Blair
++ “See that black flag – has Lansing gone in for piracy?”
++ “Well, well – sure enough, but didn’t you read in the State Republican yesterday, how Fire Chief Cobrell had devised a new set of signals for his department. That black flag means that members of the volunteer force are needed between “Middle Town” and North Lansing. At night, in case of need, fire balls will be thrown aloft.”
++ Maybe this conversation did not actually occur on the streets of Lansing in 1872, but it well might have occurred. Indeed, as the second speaker is here made to explain, the chief of the fire department did announce the “black flag” and the “fire balls,” in one of the earliest issues of the new daily edition of the Lansing State Republican, a sort of journalistic grandfather of the present State Journal, Lansing, on July 30, ’72, saw its first daily paper. It was four columns wide and about 14 inches long. It was constituted of four pages, well printed and typographically neat. It was hand set.
++ The publisher was W. S. George & Company. The staff was stated to be S. D. Bingham, political editor; J. W. King, local editor; and D. F. Woodcock, local agent.
— Editor a “Versatile Cuss.”
++ As his contemporary, Artemus Ward, might have described Editor Bingham, so it may now be said, “He was a versatile cuss.” That is to say, Bingham was promiscuously active. He was postmaster and chairman of the Republican State Central committee, in addition to his editorial position. What the civil service commission would do to Editor Bingham in the present day on the score of “pernicious partisan activity” would be a plenty.
++ “Oh, why should the spirit of mortal be proud?” quoted one from what is said to be Lincoln’s favorite poem, looking over the shoulder of the explorer of the old paper, as its leaves turned. Sure enough – the aspirations and the activities of those old-timers, of nearly 50 years ago, do seem highly inconsequential as one sees them now, in an old-fashioned type and on pages that have too far gone for the sustenance of mice. Really, whatever was consequential about those early folks, we of the present, and not they, are reaping.
++ The first, little mouse-eaten file of the Lansing State Republican tells us that the city was then in the heat of the “Greeley campaign.” How earnestly the old-timers did take their politics. Not an issue of the “Republican” misses a whack at the Liberal Republican and Democratic coalition, led by Horace Greeley, against Grant and Wilson.
— Called Blair Poor G.O.P. Man.
++ We of the present generation, as we daily pass and repass the bronze statue of Gov. Blair, think of him as altogether a stalwart Republican; but the old Lansing daily tells us unmistakably that Blair was “off the reservation”, at that time, and how they were abusing him. Well, he was in good company. Here we find Editor Bingham “taking the hide off” Senator Charles Sumner, the distinguished Massachusetts leader. But, the editor had his cue from a strong source. No less a person than James G. Blaine led in the matter of denouncing Sumner as an ally of Jeff Davis. Evidently the old boys overshot their mark in those days. Among our local celebrities. O. M. Barnes was also “off the Republican reservation” and we find him announced to make a Greeley speech at the Allegan street fire engine house.
++ The Republican state convention which nominated John J. Bagley of Detroit was held here, in Representative hall, July 31, the day after the new paper was started. There was a contest between Bagley and Francis B. Stockbridge of Kalamazoo, and Bagley beat the latter 164 to 44. In as much as Stockbridge went later to the senate, it may be that the outcome represents a “deal” instead of a contest. Oh, well – the old boys were just as human if not a little more so than the present ones.
++ It is amusing to read of the activities of that fiery rising young orator Capt. Burrows, (Julius Caesar Burrows).
++ But Lansing was not all politics in those days, even though Editor Bingham seemed to try to give that notion. Improvements were afoot. Of course politics was discussed column length and the industrial matters in “local items,” but one gets the picture of the past, nevertheless.
— New Gas Works.
++ The new gas works was stated to be well under way and promised to be in readiness by Nov. 1. It’s retort house was to be a substantial brick structure and its storage tank of steel was to have a capacity of 24,000 cubic feet. Oh, yes, Lansing was coming along.
++ There appears to be considerable doing in other building activity. The contract has been left to C. W. Butler for this part of the job, and the excavation for the new capitol is progressing. The old Hinman block has just been sold and renamed the “Union” block, and is having a new front put in. Thayer & Cottrell have their building about completed and Bush & Hinman have the walls up for their new building just south of the old American house. C. W. Butler has another project afoot, other than the excavation for the capitol. The paper states that this new block, with three stores, is about ready. Evidently “Middle Town” is getting the edge on North Lansing. But even over there, business is good. D. L. Case has begun his new store and B. E. Hart is making an addition to his flour mill.
++ The new daily edition of the Lansing State Republican apparently did not greatly appeal to the merchants, at the very outset, as a medium for getting business. The first few issues are without any advertising. But soon D. W. Buck, furniture dealer, and L. M. Simon, grocer, led the procession into the columns of the new paper.
— Circus In Town.
++ Heigh, ho! Dan Klee’s circus is In town. Dan is described as the world’s foremost comedian – it is likely Editor Bingham and his local staff were already in possession of tickets calling for reserved seats. But Dan did not get off scott free. He offered $20 as a prize to whatever Lansing youth could ride his trick mule, and after several had failed, James Harris, a youth of 18 – gee! he is 62 now – from North Lansing, did ride that mule. Then, according to the testimony which convicted Rice of assault, he struck Harris with his whip.
++ Circuses were not the only fun they had in those days. Here we find the daily trips of the “Sea Bird” and the “Minnie Cass”, advertised by Capt. A. P. Loomis to make daily excursion trips on the Grand River between North Lansing and the Mineral Springs hotel, with stops at the Michigan avenue bridge.
++ By the way, the Mineral Springs hotel (situated near the confluence of the [Red] Cedar with the Grand river) was no Inconsiderable Institution in those days.
++ The State Republican made a practice of printing the names of the guests at all three hotels in the city. At the Mineral Springs, are listed a number of guests from New York and Chicago and other places of importance. Among the guests is listed, Mrs. Bayard F. Taylor, the wife of the distinguished poet and leading prose writer of those days.
++ Up at the Chapman house, George M. Huntington and wife are recorded as registered from Mason. Also at the Chapman house are “J. L. Lair and lady, of Dewitt.” Also, at the Springs hotel, “Dr. L. C. Rose and lady” are registered.
++ Whew! In these days the city editor would say to the reporter, “Whatcha mean! – ‘and lady?'”
Transcribed by Timothy Bowman, March 16, 2014.