An old Hamilton printer who has had in his possession for many years, the minutes of the first Typographical Society organized in Hamilton, and of subsequent revivals of the society, has kindly furnished the writer with the manuscript, which we will hand over to the present organization as an historical record of what the printers of sixty-eight years ago did to give respectability to the trade. This manuscript is evidence that to the printers belong the organization of the first labor union in Hamilton. This brief sketch may not interest the general readers of today’s Spectator, but it will no doubt be appreciated by the one or two hundred printers who are now employed in the city and who are members of the present typographical union. To begin with, the first printer’s society was organized in Canada about one hundred years ago., and sixty-eight years ago (July 1, 1846), the first society was organized in Hamilton. Probably some of the old-timers may recall the names of the few journeymen printers who worked at “case” in the long ago for the princely wage of $6 and $7 per week, and a majority of them were not skilled in the typographical art, so we will give the list : William Nicholson, Edward Mills, John Hand, John Christian, John W. Harris, William Colloden, James Mullen, McLaren, James Lumsden, Freeman Austen, William Smith, Thomas McIntosh, Dickenson, Pearson. Of these old-time printers, William Nicholson, John Hand and Thomas McIntosh eight years later started the Daily Banner. John Hand was the fastest typesetter in America, yet in those days he was only paid $7 a week. The majority of typesetters did not fare even that well, and they were glad to get whatever the employer pleased to pay them. No wonder that they organized for the purpose of getting a uniform scale of rates, and that they adopted as their motto, “United We Stand, Divided We Fall.” The night the first officers were elected the meeting adjourned to a convenient tavern, where the health of the officers was drunk with all due ceremony, and the officers renewed their pledge to the members that their confidence in electing them should never be betrayed. The scale of prices was fixed at $9 per week of sixty hours and 25 cents per thousand (? - illegible) for piecework. As very little piecework was done in those days that part of the scale was hardly taken into consideration. There were “rats” in those days, and it kept the society busy watching them. A few of the most enthusiastic fellows were the first to fall by the wayside, and rather than lose their job made private contracts with their employers. Before the end of the first year, the foreman of one of the offices was hauled before the society to answer to the charge of “jolting” with quads and winning the money of the boys who worked under him. The society made short work of him, and his expulsion soon followed. Then the boys in the office refused to work under him and the proprietor was compelled to discharge him.
The organization above referred to struggled along for a couple of years and then finally gave up the ghost. On the evening of the 21st of July, 1852 another attempt was made to reorganize the old society when it was resolved “That in view of the very unsatisfactory state of the profession in the city, it is decided essentially necessary that an understanding be arrived at in relation to the scale of prices to be charged, and otherwise by united and concerted action to place the businessmen on a footing that must result in the mutual benefit of the employer and the employed , and to this end we whose names are herewith annexed resolved that a meeting be called on Monday the 26th instant, for the purpose of drafting a constitution and bylaws , and forming ourselves into a society for the mutual protection of each other and interests of the profession in general.” The names signed to this call were : John Christian, John Lyons, James Seymour, W. H. Cliff, J. T. Barker, Edward Orr, John F. Power, John Patton, Wm. Nicholson, John Gunn, William Stewart, Wm. Shepard, John Wells. This society had but a short life, and it departed into innocuous desuetude.
We come down now to the third effort to be a permanent organization. On the evening of March 6, 1854, just sixty years ago last night, twelve journeymen printers and four two-thirders – boys in their last year of apprenticeship – met in the afternoon at the Temperance hall in White’s block, on King street, and an organization was perfected that has continued down to the present society. Those were Thos. Rolston, John Love, John Christian, James Nixon, Thomas Hynde, Andrew Linklater, Thomas Butters, William H. Cliff, Dan G. Mitchell, Walter Campbell, A. Ruggs, Richard R. Donnelly, Robert Gay, Reese Evans and Richard Butler. At a subsequent meeting, Charles Kidner and Augustus T. Freed were admitted as members. The first meeting was preliminary, and at the second meeting, the following officers were elected : William H. Cliff, President; Charles Kidner, vice-president; R. R. Donnelly, secretary; R. L. Gay, treasurer; D. G. Mitchell, W. Campbell, and Richard Butler, committee. It took a little time to get the organization perfected, the adoption of a constitution and bylaws, etc., and then came the tug of war in the making of a scale of prices. Between the death of the preceding society and the resurrection of the new one, there was no established wage list, and it was every man for himself as to how much the “boss” would pay him. Finally a scale was adopted, being $8 for work by the week and 27 cents per thousand (?-illegible). There were only two daily papers in Hamilton by this time – the Spectator and the Banner, and the composition on all of the papers in the city was done by piecework. The other two papers were the Gazette and the Journal and Express, both published semi-weekly. Besides these were the Canada Christian Advocate and a monthly religious magazine published by Rev. Robert Peden.
Don’t think that it was all sunshine for the new society, for the largest office in the city refused to acknowledge the authority of the union to say what price the proprietor should pay for his work, while admitting the justice of the claims of the union. The result was a strike in that office, and every man and boy went out. He managed to get out his paper, short of matter, for nearly two weeks, and then gracefully submitted and paid the scale. The union did not harass the proprietor of the paper, only so far as to coax away any strangers that came to work in the office, by paying their fare to Buffalo or Toronto. That scale of prices prevailed for many years. Money in Canada was a scarce article in those days, and instead of receiving a full week’s wages in cash, the hands were glad to take a part in orders from the stores. Especially this was the case when the panic of 1857 struck Hamilton. Often this old Muser went home on Saturday night with a couple of dollars in cash and the promise of more in the sweet bye-and-bye. To make matters worse during the early days of the panic, not only printers, but every class of workmen were glad to go on half time, half a loaf being better than no bread. Talk about the present hard times in Hamilton, the conditions do not hold a candle to the dark days of 1857. During that year and the next, no less than three thousand young men left Hamilton to seek employment in the United States. There were no alien labor laws in those days to restrict a workingman to seek employment wherever he could find it. The old Muser struck out for Cincinnati, arriving in that city one bright summer morning after travelling all night, and before nine o’clock, on the presentation of his travelling card from the Hamilton union, was fortunate in getting a job immediately, and we say with pleasure that since that morning, we have never been idle for an hour when able to work. There is no labor union that takes better care of its members than the printers’ union, and a card signed by the proper officers is always a passport to employment, either temporary or permanent.
In the old days, the editors and reporters on the papers were usually graduates from the printing office, but nowadays things have changed in that respect, and it is only now and then one comes across a reporter who knows anything about the interior workings of an office. The fellow who could set type and write up a local story was always in demand, but his salary never helped him on his way to becoming a millionaire. It is only of late years that the typesetter has become a nabob, for today the men who run the linotype machines can make more than double the money the ancient typesetter by hand ever dreamed of receiving. Some of those old reporters were independent fellows. Away back in the early days of the Daily Spectator, two brothers, both printers, came to Hamilton to seek their fortunes, for at that time the union had raised the scale to $9 a week and 27 cents per thousand (?-illegible). Both of them got situations on the Spectator and were making good. The reporter was a bright fellow and made his department readable, but at times he did not fill up quite as much space as he ought to for the fabulous sum of $9 a week. Mr. Smiley called the reporter down one day and insisted that he must do better or quit the job. The result was that the reporter told Mr. Smiley that he could go to Hades with his job, for he had another opening in which there was more money and lots of fun. The reporter rented a room over a saloon, fitted it up as a first-rate gambling resort, where he made money hand over fist.
Four members of that union which was started sixty years ago last night are living in Hamilton, though only two were present as charter members – the writer and Reese Evans. Reese was then in his last year of his apprenticeship, and joined as a two-thirder. A. T. Freed joined a couple of months later, and toward the end of the year, William J. McAllister came from Toronto to work in this city and was admitted to membership. Mr. Freed was promoted from the “case” to the position of reporter on the Banner and a couple of years later started the Literary Garland, of which he was editor, in partnership with Richard Donnelly and William Piggott. Mr. Piggott was a country printer in the state of New York who came to Hamilton. For a time he was also the owner of the Dundas Banner. A majority of the boys who joined the union sixty years ago drifted across the border, a number going to Chicago and as a general thing made good. Dick Donnelly had at one time one of the best printing establishments in Chicago and it is now owned by his sons. When the civil war between north and south began, many of the old boys joined the union army, some of them never returning. Tom Fleming, known by the name “Tom Pluff” died a few years ago in Boston. Tom was at one time publisher of the Growler, a humorous paper in which Terry Branigan was made famous as the author of Branigan’s Chronicles, of which he never wrote a line. The author of those humorous Chronicles was John Aliso, a porter to Buchanan & Harris’ wholesale house, who was afterward promoted to a better job in the Great Western railway offices. It is a long look backward to sixty years ago, and the recalling of this bit of history will be at least interesting to the printers of the present day. It may also add a little interest to tell in brief the story of the newspapers printed in Hamilton sixty years ago.
Dundas has the honor of being the home of the first newspaper published in the Gore district. It was called the Upper Canada Phoenix. Richard Cockerill was its printer and publisher, and its first issue was in the year 1818, nearly one hundred years ago. The next newspaper of which we have any record was printed in Ancaster some eight or ten years later. One or two attempts were made to start a newspaper in Hamilton, but without success till George P. Bull, a young Irishman who had been working in Toronto, came to town and started the Gazette. At first it was published weekly, then changed in time to a semi-weekly. When Mr. Bull died, his son Harcourt, who had learned the printer’s trade with his father, became the publisher. The Gazette was taken over by the Spectator sometime in the very early sixties.
The Journal and Express was started about the time of the Gazette was, and it too, became a semi-weekly. Solomon Brega, a printer, and the son of a printer, was the editor and publisher of the Express. He was a rigorous writer, but did not have much business tact. The result was that the Express was always hard up, and the boys who worked in the office rarely ever got their pay on Saturday night; and it was no uncommon thing for them to strike nearly every other week and refuse to go to work on Monday unless the pay was forthcoming. Mr. Brega was an Irishman, genial and sociable with the boys, and more than once this characteristic stood him in good play in winning the boys back to work on Monday even without the cash being forthcoming. He finally sold the office to a couple of men who had an uphill time till the press departed to the graveyard in which many of its predecessors had found rest from the cares and vicissitudes of a thankless world. Mr. Brega was translated from the editorial chair to a fat government job, in which he passed his remaining days free from the cares and anxieties of newspaperdom.
Tories of those days did not think that Harcourt Bull was belligerent enough to fight their battles for he was a kindly soul who had no bitterness in his heart and a pleasant word for everybody. Robert Smiley was then working as a journeyman in the government printing office in Montreal, and he was recommended as an Irishman who was belligerent enough to suit the most aggressive Tory in Canada. Smiley took kindly to the invitation to become editor of a paper in Hamilton, and as he had saved a little money, he invested it in a bankrupt printing office in Toronto and brought the material to Hamilton. That was in 1846. When the material reached Hamilton by boat, Smiley did not have money enough to pay the freight and carriage, and Edward Dalley, father of the late F. F. Dalley, came to his assistance. Mr. Dalley at that time owned a combined drug and general store on York street and he furnished a place in his back warehouse to store the material until such time as Mr. Smiley could secure a room up town. Finally, a room was found on James street, near the town hall, and in July 1846, the first number of the semi-weekly Spectator was issued. The paper was a financial success from its first number. Mr. Smiley did not live many years to enjoy his prosperity as an editor, for in the year 1853 he died of consumption. During the nine years of his business life in Hamilton, he amassed an amount that was considered in those days an independent fortune. The man who came to Hamilton in 1846 and had to borrow money enough to pay the freight and cartage on his printing material died the owner of the Spectator building on the corner of Main and Hughson streets, an interest in a woolen mill in Ancaster, and one of the best printing and bookbinding establishments west of Toronto. The Spectator had the second steam press in the province, the first being established a few months before in the Toronto Globe office. A short time before Mr. Smiley’s death in 1853, he built a house on East avenue, now owned by T. H. Pratt, which was generally known as “Smiley’s castle.” When it was built, it was substantially out of town, for there were no other residences nearer to it than on the west than Victoria Terrace, corner of Victoria avenue and King street; and the next large building was the St. Thomas church, on the corner of Emerald and Wilson streets. At the time, the church stood in the middle of a field. All of this valuable property Mr. Smiley had accumulated in less than ten years, and when he died, he wife got a meager allowance, the balance going to his brothers.
After the death of Mr. Smiley, the Spectator became the property of John Smiley and William Gillespie. The latter gentleman had been an associate editor under Robert Smiley, and he became the managing editor, with Alexander Robertson as business manager and book-keeper. This combination did not last many years, nor did the paper make any money, and the final result was dissolution of the partnership, Mr. Gillespie becoming a deputy collector of customs at Dundas, John Smiley going to Chicago. Mr. Robertson conducted the paper for a short time until a purchaser could be obtained for it. Then Thomas and Richard White, who owned a newspaper at Peterboro, became the publishers, and with their energy and business ability threw new life into the management and editorial department. After a time, the Whites were induced to go to Montreal and buy the Gazette in that city, which gave promise of much larger returns. Under their management the Spectator became a moneymaker, and when they turned it over to their successors, it was prosperous.
While the Whites owned the Spectator, David McCullough was an editorial contributor, and when the Whites sold out, McCullough & Lawson became the owners. Prior to his entry into newspaper work, Mr. McCullough was employed in the upholstery department of the Great Western railway car shops. From boyhood he was a vigorous debater, a reader of the best literature, a student of history, and he had always the courage of his convictions. In his younger manhood days, he was classed as a reformer in politics, and as a student of political economy, he inclined to the doctrines of free trade, but as he grew older and came more in contact with the world, like Saul of Tarsus, his eyes were opened and he espoused the doctrines of protection. When he became editor of the Spectator, he associated with him as managing editor, A. T. Freed, who was a vigorous writer and student of political economy. For years, the Spectator took a leading part in educating its readers along the lines of protective policy, and was an earnest supporter of Sir John A. Macdonald. In time, Mr. McCullough tired of the strife incident to daily newspaper life, and he gracefully glided from the editorial chair into the peaceful waters of a seat in the customs house, where he ended his days.
Then came Messrs. Southam and Carey from London, Ont. as purchasers of the Spectator plant. Mr. Carey being a practical office and business man and Mr. Southam as an expert printer, the combination worked successfully in giving life to the present prosperous condition of the Spectator. Mr. Freed became the leading editorial writer, and under him were Herbert Gardiner, Jones L. Lewis and John Cameron, all vigorous writers. Since the death of Mr. Carey, the entire management has been directed by Mr. Southam and it goes without saying that no business property in Hamilton has kept pace with it in its increase in value. Mr. Freed continued as editor for a number of years and then finished his active business life as inspector of weights and measures, filling in his leisure hours as grand master of the Masonic order for two terms. John Cameron was the last of the old regime of the Spectator staff. He was one of the best paragraph writers on the Canaian press, bright and witty, and without malice. He rests from his labors in the Hamilton cemetery. Following Mr. Cameron came John Woddell, who was the editorial writer for a couple of years; and then came William Muliss as managing editor, T. J. Shanks as editorial writer, and J. A. McKenty as city editor, the three latter forming the present staff. For 63 years the history of the Spectator has been so interwoven with the history of Hamilton that it would be hard to separate the one from the other. The Spectator came into existence one year before Hamilton was incorporated as a city, and it has seen it grow from a very small town of cowpath roads to be one of the leading industrial cities of Canada From a town of unlighted streets, mud roads, no sewerage and no waterworks, it is now one of the best-lighted towns in Canada, with two electrical plants to draw from, two gas companies to furnish light and heat, and another natural gas company in the borning. And all this, and more, too, has been accomplished since the night sixty years ago that the printers started their union.
The Great Western railway was opened in the beginning of 1854, and the managers wanted to have an organ of their own, although there did not appear any pressing necessity for such a luxury, and this desire resulted in the Banner being ushered into the newspaper world. Dr. Bowen must have had a surplus of money, for it was he who financed the literary infant, the condition being that his son William should be a member of the company. William Nicholson and Thomas McIntosh, two master printers, were at the head of the enterprise. As a starter the Banner was published semi-weekly until such time as arrangements could be made for a daily issue. The Backbone of the editorial department was the Hon. Issac Buchanan, who was a voluminous writer on railway matters and whose check provided the weekly payments to the hands. A young lawyer named McKinnon, brother to the one-time chief of police in the city, was the chief editorial writer, and A. T. Freed was the city editor. The Banner did not fly more than four years, when a new company bought it. Tom Grey was the business manager and Hugh B. Willson was the editorial writer. It had but a sickly existence for years until it came into the hands of C. E. Stewart, who made it a business success; and after his death, John Eastwood and Reginald Kennedy took hold of it and placed it on a permanent and solid foundation.
Along in the fifties, the Canada Christian Advocate, The Church, The Canada Evangelist, and the Canada Garland were all successful publications. Thomas McQueen came down from Goderich and started the Canadian, which had only a brief existence. It would be a hard matter to name the newspaper funerals that have taken place in Hamilton in the last seventy-five or eighty years. The Daily Herald is the youngest of the newspaper family, and from the date of its berth, it has been a successful business venture. We have tried to glance briefly at the history of the newspaper business in Hamilton for the sixty years since the organization of the Hamilton Typographical Union on the evening of March 6, 1854.
The man behind the gun is the important fellow, whether on the field of battle or in the workshop. It is all very well to tell the story of the success of a newspaper, and of the men who furnish the scathing editorials and the police court reports; but there is another element in the counting room and back in the workrooms that must not be forgotten when one gets down to bald history. For instance, what would a great daily do without its advertising solicitor? It takes money to get out a newspaper, and the advertising pages must do their part to bring in the cash. Now, there is James R. Allan, who began more than forty-four years ago as a “printer’s devil” in the Spectator office. Everybody in Hamilton knows Jim’s smiling face when he enters a business house to tell the proprietors that their future prosperity depends on a full-page ad in the Spectator. The ad man is the power behind the gun on a daily paper. Another important man in the earning department is the manager of the job room, and when you pass through the counting room, there sits John O’Neil, figuring out the estimates on the cost of a visiting card or a job that will run up into the hundreds of dollars. John has been so long in the Spectator job room that he has become one of the fixtures. But when you get into the newsroom, there you find the autocrat of the whole establishment and the terror to editors and reporters. George R. Allan, the mechanical superintendent, began as a boy in the Spectator office away so far back that only Jim Allan could really tell, for they were apprentice boys together. When the hour comes to close up the forms for press, George Allan cuts and slashes into the galleys, dropping out here and there some pet editorial or local story, and over it goes until a ore convenient season, no matter how earnestly the managing editor may pray for its appearance that day. Too much matter has been set, and the autocrat of the “make-up” says what must go over. Well, these three – Jim, John and George – deserve special mention in this anniversary occasion, for they are all veteran union printers.