by Robert Hanaford Smith, Sr. Weirs Times Contributing Writer
As a Laconia High school student in the 1950s, I would occasionally stop at my Dad’s place of employment, the Laconia Evening Citizen office on Beacon Street. As I entered through the front door, and before I turned to the left and went down the stairs to the news room, I often saw in the office straight ahead of me – my dad’s employer and publisher of the newspaper, Edward J. Gallagher. Mr. Gallagher was the founder and owner of the publication with the first edition being published on January 4, 1926. It should be noted that Mr. Gallagher was previously involved from its beginning in producing the Laconia Democrat newspaper. He died in 1978, but the Citizen continued to be published by his daughter Alma and son-in-law Lawrence Smith until 1991, and was published by others until its last edition came out on September 30, 2016.
Those visits to the Citizen office and my observance of my Dad’s work (even trying to assist him in covering high school football games) allowed me to learn about the steps involved in the publishing of a newspaper. Watching the reporters do their job, the teletype machine printing out the latest news from national sources and the type-setter assemble the letters for the paper and operate the linotype machine. On one occasion I watched as the staff from the newsroom rushed to grab a copy of the day’s first newspapers fresh off the press in order to scan its pages, looking for any errors that could be corrected before the printing process continued.
The State of New Hampshire has been the birthplace of a number of very influential journalists. One of those was Horace Greeley. Greeley was born on a farm in Amherst on February 3, 1811. As a teenager he went to Vermont as an apprentice printer, and then at the age of twenty made his way to New York . There, in 1934, he founded the New Yorker magazine, followed in 1841 with the founding of the New York Tribune newspaper in 1841, and being its editor for three decades. During his lifetime he belonged to three political parties, first being a Whig, then being one of the founders of the Republican party, and perhaps giving it its name, and afterwards founding the Liberal Republican party. As a member of the latter, he ran for President of the U.S.A., also winning support of the Democrat party, but he was defeated in the election. As editor of the Tribune he had great influence on people around the country, especially in rural areas. Credited by some, and discredited by others, for coining the phrase “ Go west, young man,” he promoted westward expansion. Greeley is also known for strongly opposing slavery, promoting the rights of women and opposing the concentration of wealth among a few ( monopolies). Shortly after the death of his wife and his unsuccessful run for President, Horace Greeley died at the age of sixty-one.
Horace Greeley’s managing editor at the Tribune from 1847 -1862 was Charles A. Dana who was born in Hinsdale, N.H. on August 8, 1819. Dana served in President Lincoln’s administration as Assistant Secretary of War during the Civil War.
One of the New Hampshire boys who went west to Chicago was John Wentworth who was born in Sandwich on March 5, 1815. He apparently had a love of farming and considered staying on the farm in Sandwich, but after attending Berwick Academy in Maine and Dudley Leavitt’s “Meredith Academick School” he went to New Hampton Literary Institute from which he graduated. He then went to Dartmouth College, graduating in 1836. (Leavitt was another New Hampshire journalist.) Nicknamed “Long John” because of his 6’6” height, Wentworth became the managing editor of Chicago’s first newspaper, The Chicago Democrat, which led to him becoming the owner and publisher. This journalist became a lawyer and entered the political arena, first as a Democrat and later as a Republican. He was elected for six terms to the U.S. House of Representatives and for two terms as the Mayor of Chicago. Not forgetting his home town, when given the opportunity to change the name of a town in Illinois, the name he selected was Sandwich.
On May 17, 1864, a baby boy was born to Moses and Emma Chandler in Landaff, New Hampshire, and he was named Harry. As a student at Dartmouth College Harry Chandler responded to a dare by jumping into a vat of starch that had been frozen over which led to him coming down with a severe case of pneumonia. With the goal of improving his health he moved to Los Angeles, California. He started a newspaper delivery service through which he met Los Angeles Times publisher Harrison Gray Otis who hired Chandler as the general manager of the newspaper. Harry married the daughter of his boss and, when Otis died in 1917, he became the publisher of the paper, which became one of the leading newspapers in the country under his leadership. Harry Chandler added real-estate investing and community projects to his publishing vocation and has been described as “…the leading citizen of Los Angeles in the first half of the twentieth century.” He was involved in the building of the famous Hollywood sign.
The Boston Post newspaper was also founded by a man who was born in New Hampshire. Charles Gordon Greene was born in Boscawen on July 1, 1804, but began his journalistic career in Massachusetts. He worked in several editing, managing and publishing positions there before going to Philadelphia in 1827,where he was involved in starting the National Palladium, and in 1828 was working for the United States Telegraph in Washington D.C. Returning to Boston, Charles Greene founded the Boston Post in 1831 and headed that newspaper until 1875. Belonging to the Democrat party he served in the Massachusetts Legislature.
The one thing that I find most interesting that all these journalists had in common was they not only reported and commented on the news of their day, but were personally involved in the political process and accepting elected positions in government.