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Fifty Years in a Printing Office

Printing /


Only one American president had died when Charles Brewster started work at his Portsmouth newspaper in 1818. Andrew Johnson, the 17th President, was in office when this retrospective was published in 1868.




MORE RAMBLES by Brewster

Fifty Years in a Printing Office -- Our Own and the World's Progress

Editors Note: C.W. Brewster was a Portsmouth, New Hampshire columnist and editor in the early to mid-1800's. This article includes his opinions and may not reflect current research or current values. From Brewster’s Rambles About Portsmouth, 1869 exclusively on -- JDR

Brewster's Rambles on SeacoastNH.comTHIS day (in 1868) closes a half-century since the senior proprietor entered this office as an apprentice to the art and mystery of Printing. That memorable day was the 16th Feb. 1818. The paper was then called the "PORTSMOUTH ORACLE" and was published by Charles Turell. In 1821, it was purchased by Nathaniel A. Haven, jr. who changed the name to "THE PORTSMOUTH JOURNAL OF LITERATURE AND POLITICS." The plain style of heading adopted by him has never been changed. The paper then had four columns to the page, and contained about half as much reading as now. After Mr. H. had conducted the paper four years in a manner which gave it a high standing in the community, in July, 1825, the Journal establishment was purchased by the present senior proprietor in connection with T. H. Miller. It was then removed into the room now occupied as the office, and for four years Col. C. W. Cutter was assistant editor. In 1833, the present senior proprietor purchased the establishment and took the sole management of the paper. There has been no change since, except the admission of his son to joint-partnership in 1853.

The Oracle was published in a chamber in Market street on the site of C. H. Mendum & Co.'s store. As it was removed to Ladd street in 1825, the senior, who removed with it, has really been in the same office fifty years--never having worked a week in any other office.

His relaxations from business in that long term have been few and short -- never having been absent at the publication of two successive papers in the whole time, excepting five weeks in 1830, from sickness. Only on one day besides, does he recollect being absent from his office from indisposition, in the whole fifty years. Twice to Bangor, thrice to the White Mountains, twice to New York, once to Philadelphia, and once to Canada, comprise the whole circuit of his distant excursions. He has attended four sessions of the State Legislature and the State Constitutional Convention -- but not to the neglect of the paper, spending some time in the office each week.

When he entered the office in 1818, he well recollects the load of wood it was his lot to carry over two flights of stairs, and how grateful was the privilege of then resting at an old pied brevier case, on which he took his first lesson in type-setting. It was some relief, after setting a column of pi, to have a regular paragraph to put in type. The first line for which he explored the case was this: "The passions, after having been tyrants, become slaves in their turn."

Another early paragraph has never been forgotten: "The follies of youth are drafts on old age, payable forty years after date with interest." It is as fresh to him now as though put in type yesterday, and certainly has never produced any injury in leading to a total abstinence from alcohol and tobacco.

The first manuscript he put in type was an article from the pen of Rev. Dr. Burroughs, then a young man of thirty. His chirography has not changed in the half-century. It was on the Lancasterian system of education, just being introduced. The Dr. finished the corrections of his proof at midnight on Friday, and then the printing of the paper for the morning issue was begun. This late hour was the custom of the office in those days. The whole of Friday night was usually spent in the office, so our fellow apprentices, John T. Gibbs, John B. Reding and George Wadleigh, will recollect.

BREWSTER’S RAMBLE #149 continued

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