Tag Archives: newspapers

“The Tribune”: A New Newspaper to Illuminate Our Past

By Richard Fidler, Co-Editor of Grand Traverse Journal

An archives can reveal hidden treasures to investigators with the patience to wade through boxes of records often as uninspiring as ledgers of collapsed businesses and minutes of fraternal organizations.  Marlas Hanson uncovered one of them recently: a stack of newspapers never before recognized by historians as a resource for local news.  There were about twenty copies of them, all dated in the year 1881.  What could they tell us about the area that our other paper of the time, the Grand Traverse Herald, did not?  This is a question that sets a historian’s heart racing—a new source of information.

Image by Amy Barritt, January 2017.

Alas, upon examining issue after issue, it became apparent to us that the Tribune had precious little in the way of stories about the Grand Traverse region.  It was a political paper favoring the Democrats, perhaps a counterbalance to the Herald, a  thoroughly Republican outlet.  Most newspapers of the time were explicitly Republican or Democrat: neutrality was not common.  The later merging of the Evening Record, a paper with links to Republicans, with the Morning Eagle, a Democratic organ, formed the Traverse City Record-Eagle, a newspaper less partisan than most others. 

Unlike the Herald, the Tribune dwelled mostly upon party conventions held elsewhere and descriptions of the nasty things Republicans were doing to the country at the time.  It carried no long, detailed accounts of fires, weather events, and happenings about town, and little in the way of editorial reflections on local issues of the day.  In short, it was a disappointment.

Still, one can find gold among the dross.  Editors at the time had a gift for story-telling, a gift seldom displayed by present-day editors who use the dry, formal language of today’s news rooms.  They frequently wrote about their feelings and things that happened to them, spinning complex sentences that astound us today with their style and expressiveness.  By contrast, when editors raise their voices these days, it is only about their views on issues, local, state, or national.  They do not let us know about their lives, unlike newspapermen of the 1880’s.  One personal story captured from the Tribune’s editorials moves us to tears even now, more than a hundred and twenty years later.  Though unsigned, it was probably written by Albert H. Johnson, editor and founder of the Tribune.

For background, Johnson previously had started the Leelanau Enterprise, but moved on to tackle the Traverse City market after that venture.  We do not know how long the Tribune, lasted in the city—perhaps not long, given the preponderance of Republicans in the area at this time.  Since the area has voted quite consistently for Republicans, a Democratic newspaper would not do well in such an environment.  However long it lasted, the paper did leave us this story about Johnson’s grief at the death of his young son.  It speaks to us across time about the universality of human suffering.

“In the Bottom Drawer

H. Johnson, editor

I saw my wife pull out the bottom drawer of the old family bureau this evening, and went softly out, and wandered up and down, until I knew that she had shut it up and gone to her sewing.  We have some things laid away in that drawer which the gold of kings could not buy, and yet they are relics which grieve us until both our hearts are sore.  I haven’t dared look at them for a year, but I remember every article.

There are two worn shoes, a little chip hat, with part of it gone, some stockings, pants, a coat, two or three spools, bits of broken crockery, a whip, and several toys.  Wife, poor thing, goes to this drawer every day of her life and prays over it, and lets her tears fall upon the precious articles, but I dare not go.

This is not an image of Jack, but of an unknown boy holding a fish, at the northeast corner of Wellington & State Streets. Did little Jack like to fish? We suspect so, as it was a popular pastime. Image from the Historical Society Collection at Traverse Area District Library.

Sometimes we speak of little Jack, but not often.  It has been a long time, but somehow we can’t get over grieving .  He was such a burst of sunshine into our lives that his going away has been like covering our every day existence with a pall.  Sometimes, when we sit alone of an evening, I writing and she sewing, a child on the street will call out as our boy used to, and we will both start up with beating hearts and a wild hope, only to find this darkness more of a burden than ever.

It is so still and quiet now.  I look up at the window, where his blue eyes used to sparkle at my coming, but he is not there.  I listen for his prattling feet, his merry shout and his ringing laugh, but there is no sound.  There is no one to climb over my knees, no one to search my pockets and tease for presents, and I never find the chairs turned over, the broom down, or ropes tied to door knobs.

I want someone to tease me for my knife; to ride on my shoulder; to lose my ax; to follow me to the gate when I go, and be there to meet me when I come; to call “good night” from the little bed now empty.  And wife she misses him still more; there are no little feet to wash, no prayers to say, no voice teasing for lumps of sugar or sobbing with the pain of a hurt; and she would give her own life almost, to wake at midnight and look across to the crib at midnight and see the our boy there as he used to be.

So, we preserve our relics, and when we are dead we hope that strangers will handle them tenderly, even if they shed no tears over them.”

VOTE to Digitize Our History

In this month’s issue, your Editors invite you to make history, not just read about it! Find out more in the article below:
The Traverse Area District Library (TADL) along with local grant partners, the History Center of Traverse City and Osterlin Library, Northwestern Michigan College (NMC) are asking for community support to vote Traverse City newspapers to win the Michigan Digital Newspaper Grant.
The community is encouraged to vote via twitter using #DigTraverse in posts from January 19-25. Each tweet equals one vote. Voting can also be done by sending a picture postcard to the Clarke Historical Library, Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant, Mich., 48859. Postcards will be available at all TADL locations, the Osterlin Library at NMC, and the History Center.
digtraverseflyerTADL and partners were selected as one of five finalists to receive a Michigan Digital Newspaper Grant administered through the Clarke Historical Library. The $2,500 grant award will help improve access to a winning Michigan newspaper. If Traverse City wins, the funds will be used for scanning and placing online nearly 10,000 combined pages of the Grand Traverse Herald, The Morning Record, The Evening Record, and the Traverse City Record­ Eagle.
The grant would also cover microfilming and digitizing of fragile, one of a kind newspapers of the Traverse City Record-Eagle from May 1, 1915 to December 31, 1916.
“The Record Eagle from 1915-1916 was never filmed as the originals were destroyed in a fire,” said Amy Barritt, TADL Special Collections Librarian. “However, and thankfully, the History Center has collected a number of print copies from that span of time and would like to get them filmed and digitized for preservation purposes, which is a huge resource for our community.”
The newspapers being nominated were published pre­-1923, and are therefore in the public domain and cover a large geographic area including Northwestern Lower Peninsula of Michigan, with an emphasis on Grand Traverse, Leelanau, Benzie and Kalkaska Counties.
Barritt said she and her grant partners are beyond excited to have made it this far and hope the community gets involved to digitize and preserve the region’s local history.
“Our purpose in asking the public to determine the final outcome is so that, from five very good applications, the newspaper selected will serve the needs of the community that demonstrates the greatest interest in using the resource,” said Frank Boles Director, Clarke Historical Library.
This project is made possible by funds from the Robert and Susan Clarke endowment, housed in the Clarke Historical Library, Central Michigan University.

Welcome from the Editors

Friends

We greet you!  After a long vacation, we resume the composing stick and quill, a calling in which we have spent the happiest and best portion of a life now past its meridian.  We present you to-day the first number of the GRAND TRAVERSE HERALD.  It is modest and unpretending in size,–perhaps some may think too much so,–but remember it is only one day old!  It will have time enough to grow, and will expand its dimensions just in proportion to the nourishment it receives.  In typographical appearance, we think it will compare favorably with any paper in the State.  At all events, we have consulted our own taste in that matter, and are satisfied with the result.

So begins Morgan Bates’ first editorial for the Traverse area’s first newspaper.  Not holding composing stick and quill, we struggle with hardware and software, though perhaps not as Bates would have imagined those things in 1858.  Whatever the differences in composition and production, we do share his enthusiasm and his high expectations that something interesting and new is in the offing—for us, THE GRAND TRAVERSE JOURNAL (GTJ).

GTJ tells of Nature and History, always with an emphasis on the Grand Traverse region.   Every month we will support that focus through regular department features, photographs, and articles written not just by us, but by you–our readers–who will share your experiences, articles, and photographs with hundreds of your fellow citizens.  Alas, we cannot pay you for your trouble—after all, we are supported by two nonprofits, the Traverse Area District Library and the History Center of Traverse City—but we can inform an entire community about who you are, what you are interested in, and what projects you are involved in.  Please look at the Submissions Guidelines, which spells out what we are looking for.  As Morgan Bates said, our magazine will expand (and improve!) just in proportion to the nourishment it receives.  You, the readers and soon-to-be writers, will supply the nourishment required for the Grand Traverse Journal to grow.

The Grand Traverse Journal may be viewed at gtjournal.tadl.org.  In addition, paper copies may be obtained at the Reference Desk of the Traverse Area District Library and at the Archives of the History Center of Traverse City.  Readers may make copies of articles for the cost of reproduction.

Enjoy this first issue of the Grand Traverse Journal.  Spread the word among your friends about our new magazine and send us your thoughts about how we can make it better.  Our email address is gtjeditor@tadl.org

Amy Barritt and Richard Fidler, editors