Since we stumbled onto the topic of the Albany Morning Express and its various successors in interest, all the way down to the lamented Knickerbocker News, we thought we’d dig a little further into what was once Albany’s largest circulation daily. On May 4, 1897, the Express gave a bit of its own history on the occasion of its 51st anniversary [their math, not mine]. “Morning Express To-Day Begins its Second Half-Century of Existence,” it declared, along with promising a brief summary of its history, sketches and pictures of the men who conducted it in the past, a glance at present conditions, and “Retrospective Remarks by the Nestor of Albany’s Newspapermen.”
“Venerable in years, young in vigor and strength, the Express is as ready to battle for right and for freedom as when a half century ago the sword was drawn from the scabbard and the youthful champion entered the lists under the least favorable of circumstances. Successes and reverses have alternately swept across its course and many of the vicissitudes of life have arisen to try the mettle and nerve of this persistent and faithful emissary of the people. But its progress has been steady and unwavering. The Express has been heartily supported by the public and has endeavored to deserve it.”
Gotta love 19th century commercial prose. So how did it get started?
“Two compositors who had worked with such men as Thurlow Weed conceived the plan of starting an independent morning newspaper. They were Alfred Stone and Edward Henly, both of whom probably possessed more practical knowledge and pluck than financial means, with which to begin their enterprise. The third pioneer publisher who subsequently took a conspicuous place as one of the founders of the Express was Mr. Henry D. Stone, also a compositor. There were then published in the city of Albany the Daily Advertiser, founded in 1815, the Argus first published as a daily in 1825, the Evening Journal founded in 1830, and the Atlas projected in 1841.
Mr. Henry D. Stone for a time, about 1834, conducted the Albany Microscope, a Saturday publication which turned its magnifying rays on the follies and foibles of local characters. He afterward conducted a job printing office in which Mr. John D. Parsons, subsequently a member of the Weed, Parsons & Co., was an apprentice.”
Stone and Henly started the American Citizen in 1842 as a morning daily supporting Henry Clay, “which first of all papers bore his name at the head of his columns as the presidential possibility of the ensuing campaign.” After Clay was defeated in the 1844 election, the Citizen, which had been printed from the Cooper building on the southeast corner of State and Green streets, was suspended. They started the Herald in 1845, but it didn’t last long.
On May 4, 1847, Henry Stone’s brother Alfred Stone and Edward Henly (previously of the Statesman) issued the first copy of the Morning Express “from an office on the second floor of the building then standing next south of the building which occupied the southwest corner of Beaver and Green streets.” It was four pages, six columns to the page, a penny a copy, $4 for the year. “It was to be essentially a local paper and the heading bore an engraving of the coat of arms of the city.”
The prospectus they published in the paper that morning said,
“Albany is a large city and it is growing rapidly Its permanent population cannot be less than 45,000 souls. Including the floating and transient population probably not less than 50,000 souls at any time during the period of navigation. It is the great focus of the traveling world, and the center of commercial, manufacturing, political and other interests, which render it one of the most thriving and at the same time one of the most important cities in the Union. These create wants which it is necessary to meet, and one of these present wants is conceived to be a thoroughly impartial and independent daily newspaper, devoted to the good and welfare of the city and prompt in furnishing the readers with a clear and fair transcript from day to day of all the news and other matters of moment and interest. For this and other reasons we are induced to take this step.”
They made a direct appeal to the city’s advertisers as well:
“Advertising pays well. Fortunes have been made by it. Fortunes are yet to be made by it. Now let it be known by these presents, we are prepared to attend the favors of all advertising patrons and trust they will come forward liberally and fill up our advertising columns. We are determined to deserve, and unfalteringly believe we shall obtain, a large circulation for this paper. Advertisers will therefore recognize their own interests by attending to ours in this matter.”
The first issue had 13 columns of advertising, set in nonpareil, “the smallest news type then in general use . . . Small cuts, about the depth of two lines and occupying a small fraction of the width of the column, were generally used to symbolize the nature of the business advertised.” (Cuts are images.) More on those ads, and the Express, to come.