History of Newspapers in Willimantic, Connecticut

The first newspaper published in this village was the Public Medium, started by John Evans, about January,. 1847. After a few years its name was changed to the Willimantic journal, under which name it is still published. From Evans it passed into the hands of a Mr. Simpson, then to William L. Weaver, whose literary career was a very important and conspicuous one to the people of this town and county. His footprints on the intellectual sands of this locality were deeply impressed and the influence thereof will go out to many generations. From him the Journal passed to the hands of a Mr. Curtis, later of the Norwich Bulletin, and again it changed to the hands of Walt Pierson. A little later we find it in the hands of W. J. Barber, from whom again it passed to Henry L. Hall. Later the firm became Hall & French, then Hall & Bill, and still later the Hall & Bill Publishing Company, by whom the paper is now issued. It occupies commodious quarters at the foot of Railroad street, near the depot, where it has been located for several years. Its form was changed from folio to quarto about 1872. It is now a six column quarto, republican in politics, published on Fridays. The business of job printing is also carried on quite extensively in connection with the publication of the paper. Eight presses are employed, and the force numbers fifteen hands. Extensive job work for manufacturers is done, besides general printing. The paper has a circulation of 3,000, and goes to every state and territory in the Union, as well as to Canada.

The first issue of the Willimantic Enterprise was sent out January 4th, 1877, from an office in the Franklin Building. It was started by the Enterprise Publishing Company, of whom N. W. Leavitt was the principal spirit. . It passed to Fayette; & Safford in the early part of 1879. In November of that year John A. McDonald bought an interest, added capital, and increased the facilities of the office. The paper was changed from a 4-page to an 8-page paper, and its name changed to the

Willimantic Chronicle, the firm name at the same time being changed to McDonald & Safford. In May, 1887, the proprietorship adopted the name Chronicle Printing Company, the former owners still holding the principal interest. From Franklin Hall the office was removed to H. C. Hall’s building on Main street, then to the present building, which had been erected for it, at No. 10 Church street, into which it moved in October, 1887. At first politically neutral, it was made a democratic paper since its name was changed, and is now claimed to be the only living paper which sustained the democratic banner during the period from 1872 to 1889.

The Connecticut Home was started in September, 1886, by Allen B. Lincoln, editor and proprietor; A. E. Knox is its present business manager. It is a seven-column folio, and has a circulation rising three thousand. It is the temperance paper, and an exponent of the prohibition movement. It is also a family newspaper of general departments. It was started on Church street. the paper at first being printed by another concern. It now has a well fitted and–furnished office on Main street, over Buck’s store.

Other newspaper ventures have been made here that have closed up their accounts in time and manner more or less summary. The Willimantic Record was started by W. C. Crandall in 1881. After a very brief existence it was suspended March 24th of the same year. The Willimantic Daily News was started in E. A. Buck’s building on Main street in 1887. Its editorial and business management was in the hands of J. Harry Foster, though John L. Hunter was a frequent editorial writer. Its publication was suspended April 1st, 1887, after an existence of about four months.

In connection with the subject of printing, it may be of interest to notice the enterprise of wood type manufacture which was once carried on in this village. Among the employees in the shop of Edwin Allen at South Windham, were Horatio N. and Jeremiah C. Bill. After that shop failed these two brothers started the business at Lebanon in 1850. In the following year they removed to Willimantic and located in a room in the old cotton mill now owned by the Linen Company as mill No. 3. Here they carried on the manufacture of wood type for three years, having a trade mostly with New York. They gained a wide and favorable reputation in their art, in which they were not excelled by any other wood-type manufacturers in the world. Indeed they were the, only firm exhibiting wood type at the World’s Fair in New York, and their specimens were burned when the ill fated Crystal Palace was ‘destroyed. About the year 1853 they had associated with them a man by the name of Stark, the firm name being Bill, Stark & Co. Afterward the firm name was simply H. & J . Bill. The business not proving profitable, disaster followed, and the material was sold to William H. Page in 1854, and he moved it to Greenville, Conn.

Source: History of Windham County, Connecticut, Bayles, Richard M.; New York: W.W. Preston, 1889

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