Thursday, November 20, 2014

An Early Schenectady Newspaper: The Western Spectator

Masthead of the Western Spectator newspaper. This particular issue is dated April 21, 1803; it is the earliest issue our library has on microfilm. Image from the collections of the Grems-Doolittle Library.

The Western Spectator, or, Schenectady Weekly Advertiser was an early newspaper published in Schenectady from 1802 to 1807. The Western Spectator is the one of the earliest known newspapers known to be published in Schenectady; the first was the Mohawk Mercury (1795-1798).

A cluster of notices from the April 21, 1803 Western Spectator. The notices include an advertisement seeking "a sober industrious man" to work in the beer brewing business, a house and lot for sale on Green Street in Schenectady, a notice of a 15-year-old enslaved girl for sale, and a notice offering a one-cent reward for the return of a runaway indentured apprentice. Image from the collections of the Grems-Doolittle Library.

Our library has seven issues of Western Spectator, from the years 1803-1805 and 1807, on microfilm. Although only a few issues of the newspaper have survived, the issues provide an interesting look at the local community. A local printer, John L. Stevenson, established a weekly paper titled the Schenectady Gazette in 1799. In December 1802, Stevenson changed the name of the Schenectady Gazette to the Western Spectator, or, Schenectady Weekly Advertiser. Publication of the Western Spectator ceased in 1807.

The Western Spectator contains numerous advertisements for local businesses. This advertisement announces the new general store of P. Brower at the corner of Washington Street (now Avenue) and Front Street, selling liquors, meats, dry goods, and dishes. Brower notes that he will "dispose of low for Cash or country produce." Image from the collections of the Grems-Doolittle Library. 

Notice of John P. Whitbeck of Niskayuna in the February 17, 1804 Western Spectator offering five dollars for the return of Jack, a slave who had escaped. Like many runaway slave notices of the time period, the notice includes an extensive description of the enslaved person. Image from the collections of the Grems-Doolittle Library. 

The Western Spectator was published weekly. Issues of the paper were four pages in length and contained lengthy articles on national, international, and occasionally statewide news. The newspapers also included a number of local news items and notices. Local notices included advertisements for local businesses, legal notices, notices about mail service, notices listing property and slaves for sale, and notices of local elections. Local notices also included notices for the return of runaway slaves and apprentices. Rarely, a death notice of a local person was printed; no marriage notices appear in the newspaper.

Advertisement of the Western Mail Stage, operated by Moses Beal, which ran from Albany to Utica. This notice is rare, as it includes a small illustration; most notices of the time period did not. This notice appeared in the Western Spectator on February 17, 1804. Image from the collections of the Grems-Doolittle Library. 

An index of local people, businesses, and organizations mentioned in the Western Spectator has been compiled by one of our dedicated volunteers in the library. This index makes it possible to easily and quickly locate articles of interest to local history and genealogy researchers. An index to the issues of the Western Spectator in the library's holdings can be found by clicking this link. Have questions? Visit our library or contact our Librarian.

This cluster of notices from the November 22, 1805 Western Spectator includes a notice of the opening of a dancing school conducted by Gimbrede and Guey at the Schenectady home of James Rogers, the opening of Dr. John Dodge's medical practice on Ferry Street, and notices regarding the estates of local residents John McIntire and James Adair.

Notices related to unsettled debts, defaults on mortgages, and notices regarding money owed to or from an estate were very frequent in the Western Spectator. In this example, which appeared in the November 22, 1805 issue, Henry Corl, Jr., of Charlton, requests that any debts owed to him be paid at his store in Schenectady by March 1. Remaining unsettled debts were to be turned over to an attorney for collection after that date. Image from the collections of the Grems-Doolittle Library. 

Notice of opening of school of architecture in Schenectady that appeared in the Western Spectator on December 14, 1804. The first part of the notice had originally appeared in a previous issue of the newspaper. The second part of the notice was added in this issue to confirm that the school opened on December 1 and that they were still accepting students. Image from the collections of the Grems-Doolittle Library. 

Advertisement for sale of lottery tickets at the Schenectady post office, from the January 11, 1805 Western Spectator. Image from the collections of the Grems-Doolittle Library.

No comments:

Post a Comment