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By Bob Kostoff

One of the earliest newspapers in Niagara Falls, The Niagara Falls Daily Recorder, had brief but somewhat volatile tenure becoming involved in the hot-button issue of slavery in the 1830s.

The story of early newspapers was related in a 1937 article by city historian Edward T. Williams, himself a longtime journalist and newspaper owner.

Williams described himself as having had a hand in all phases of the neophyte newspaper business doing everything from the work of a printer's devil, compositor, typesetter, pressman, subscriptions and advertising solicitor, reporter, mail clerk, collector, and afterwards graduating to owner, managing editor and business manager.

The Recorder issue of April 8, 1839, contained a two-column account of a public abolitionist meeting in the downtown union chapel, located near the "Eagle Tavern on the south side of Falls street."

The article, the editor pointed out, was published as an advertisement "paid for jackass and all." The story had the picture of a jackass at the head.

The meeting was called by a Mr. Pickard, described as an itinerant abolitionist. It was agreed after he spoke one hour that members of the opposition would be allowed to reply.

Apparently there was a lot of opposition to slavery abolition in the village, including the Recorder, which was owned by one W. Law.

Williams said the newspaper report "was evidently made up for those opposed to Mr. Pickard, and the abolitionist received little consideration, being called used up."

The group then passed a couple of resolutions against abolition. One said, "Resolved: that the doctrine of the present abolitionists is a far greater evil than slavery as it now exists." Another resolution said, "Resolved: that all further attempts to lecture upon the subject of slavery in this village deserves to be met with the most spirited opposition until abolition lecturers become like angel's visits, few and far between."

The whole Recorder issue, Williams said, contained "less type matter than is found in two columns of a modern newspaper." The Cataract House, perhaps a prime advertiser, was described as "a perfect palace." Another item noted there were "more buildings in process of erection and repair than in all of the villages within 20 miles of the Falls."

The Recorder said that W.E. Hulett was "fitting up the large museum building" that was located near the Cataract House, overlooking the rapids.

The Suspension Bridge Journal, which Williams owned at one time, was purchased by Solon S. Pomroy in November 1879. Pomroy had founded the Lockport Daily Union in 1861, and had been connected with the Niagara Courier, of Lockport, and the Lockport Times.

The Niagara Falls Gazette was founded in 1854 by William Pool and eventually won the merger game, but not without setbacks. When the Journal, previously named the Niagara City Herald, was up for sale, Pool wanted to merge it with the Gazette.

But Journal owner W.A. Liscom made the following announcement on Nov. 15, 1879:

"Last week when we were forced to suspend, we announced in good faith that we would turn over the subscription lists to Mr. Pool of the Niagara Falls Gazette, but since that issue, we have sold the office and everything connected therewith to Mr. S.A. Pomroy, of Lockport. Mr. Pomroy is an experienced journalist who is well known to the newspaper readers of Niagara county. While he has been connected with leading papers in various sections of the country, the greater portion of his newspaper life has been in Lockport, where he was connected with the old Niagara Courier, afterwards founded the Lockport Daily Union and was for years editor of the Lockport Times.

"We recommend him to our former patrons as an active, energetic businessman, one who will give them a good local newspaper and encourage the business interests of the village to support him."

Although the Gazette failed to acquire its competitor in that instance, the Journal was later absorbed by the Gazette on June 1, 1918.

The Journal was published one time by Charles B. Gaskill. Williams served two years as editor of the Journal and bought it on June 1, 1897, along with George H. Courter, then business manager of the Buffalo Courier.

In July 1899, the Suspension Bridge Journal became The Daily Niagara Falls Journal, Then, on April 1, 1900, Williams purchased the daily Cataract, founded by O.W. Cutler. The paper was then named the Cataract Journal. Williams said this was the first newspaper consolidation in Niagara Falls.

In 1909, the Cataract Journal was sold to Charles B. Smith, managing editor of the Buffalo Courier. He changed the name back to the Niagara Falls Journal. Williams rejoined the paper as editor on Jan. 1, 1917.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com Jan. 18, 2011