Reviving the oldest Manchester Enterprise
When plans for the celebrating Manchester Village’s Sesquicentennial began to be made, we came up with the plan to reprint and re-issue the first Manchester Enterprise ever printed. The Manchester Enterprise was first printed on Oct 17th, 1867, almost 150 years ago and the same year the Village of Manchester was incorporated.
George Spafford and Mat Blosser established The Manchester Enterprise as a joint venture. Blosser was just 21 at the time, and had already been in the newspaper business for seven years. A year later, he had his bags packed and a train ticket to return to Lockport, New York, where he had learned much about the printing business and had an offer to return. Through the pleadings of a delegation of Manchester friends at the train station, he reconsidered, purchased the newspaper from Spafford, and assumed entire control. He continued to actively run the presses as well as write and publish the paper until December 1939, setting a record of 72 years in that position. The Enterprise was consolidated into a county-wide publication, Washtenaw Now, in 2014 which ceased publication altogether in 2015.
Reprinting the first Enterprise seemed a perfect tribute for the Sesquicentennial; unfortunately, it wasn’t that simple. While the Manchester District Library has a digital and microfilm copy of the first Enterprise, it no longer has a physical copy. Its earliest physical copy of the Enterprise is the Oct. 7th, 1869 edition. The digital copy of the first Enterprise is completely unreadable. (The Manchester Mirror hosts all the digitized copies of the Manchester Enterprise which can be viewed by anyone at themanchestermirror.com/Enterprise/). While most of the 1867 editions of the Enterprise on microfilm are readable, the first edition was photographed out of focus and is only partially readable. Neither the digital nor the micro-film versions were reproducible so the Mirror, with the help of Manchester Area Historical Society members, searched throughout the community, hoping someone would have the earliest Enterprise in a scrapbook in their basement, or the bound 1867 editions on their bookshelf, but with no luck.
After months of looking, we settled on reproducing the oldest physically existing Enterprise we could locate–the Oct. 7th, 1869 Enterprise owned by the Manchester District Library. With their permission, we took it to a large format scanner at the University of Michigan’s Duderstadt library Groundworks media lab, and were able to produce high resolution, scans. Only a small amount of editing was needed, and we sent these files to our printer, who reprinted these in the large format in which the Enterprise was originally printed.
This week during Sesquicentennial activities, Thursday through Sunday, you can purchase your own copy of an 1869 Manchester Enterprise from a “newspaper crier” for 10 cents. These Manchester kids will be dressed for the part, hawking newspapers at the Gazebo Concert, Sesquicentennial parade, Art Walk, Main Street Dinner and more. What an authentic and inexpensive souvenir to remember Manchester’s 150th birthday with!
What does all of this mean for Manchester’s first Enterprise? Is it truly gone? Even if a physical copy does not still exist, some of the information still exists out of the first edition. A week ago, we received a folder from Rosemary Whelan containing typewritten notes from the first year of the Manchester Enterprise. Whelan and Karen Weidmayer had been going through a significant collection assembled by Karen Jenter, donated to the Manchester Area Historical Society. They knew we were trying to locate the first edition, and even though they didn’t find it, they came the closest so far and their discovery provides valuable insight into the content of the first edition.
Although, I still retain hope that a copy resides, somewhere, in someone’s basement or attic.
Another notable piece out of the first Edition of the Enterprise from the typewritten notes is “Our Bow” about the launch of the new newspaper:
Today we launch upon the ocean of newspapers our staunch little clipper the “ENTERPRISE”. We have a fair consignment of freight (see advertisements,) 350 first class passengers, and are bound for a twelve months voyage. Our compass is “dead set” for the isle of bread and butter, which we hope to reach in due time.
It is our intention to make the Enterprise a favorite with one and all, therefore we hoist the neutral flag, which means that we eschew all subjects likely to raise a breeze and wreck our gay canoe.
The neutral flag is a beautiful one to sail under if everybody understands its true import.
Very queer ideas are entertained by a portion of the public in regard to the rights and duties of editors, and the relationship subsisting between the editor and his subscribers. When James I was asked to define a free monarchy, he replied that it was a government where the monarch was left free to do as he choose. Some people, by a similar process of reasoning, seem to think that a free press is a press that is “free for me to say what I please of others-provided, always, that nobody shall have the liberty of saying anything against me.” The editorial work shop is often the theatre of many amusing scenes from which hundreds of comic sketches might be drawn every year. Nearly every man thinks himself capable of giving the best possible advice to an editor, and write him down as a very long-eared animal if he does not follow it-forgetting that there are any other principles, views, or opinions than those entertained by him- self. In this happy country every one is not only born a politition, but a statesman, and nearly every one who supposes he has caught
hold of the wing or the leg of an idea, thinks he is qualified forth- with to write for the press-and each, of course, thinks that his own darling essay must have the first place, and that creation will stand still untill it is published. And if the editor dares to reject it, on account of its objectionable character, or because of its sorrowful composition, or for the want of room, he is often denounced as a blockhead, or as wanting in spirit.
A fruitful source of vexation arises from the complaints of people who either are attacked, or fancy they are, by correspondents, or perhaps for a cause, by the editor himself. Cases often occur in which a person puts a cap upon his head that was fitted for some one else; and it often happens that covert attacks are made upon indi- viduals, which in the hurry of business, are not apparent to the editor, or do not meet his eye until after the publication. In all these cases, involving shade and variety, he is obliged to meet the case directly (as he will~ if an honorable man, if the responsibility justly devolves upon him, or, in the case of accidental mistakes do the best he can.
The practice of withdrawing patronage from papers for a mere difference of opinion between the editor and subscriber, upon acci- dental questions, is very pitifull. It is, moreover, purely Amer- ican. In no other country is it so frequently resorted to as in this; and it is but a sorry method of manifesting displeasure or dissent. With papers long established, and liberally supported, these individual instances of private proscription can have but little effect. But in respect to papers enjoying slender patronage, and struggling for existence, they strike at the root of freedom of thought and discussion.
We submit the paper with feelings of pride and satisfaction, because when we first conceived the idea of its establishment, we must say it was with dark forebodings of success. Some of our friends told us of the utter fallacy and failure of the undertaking, while others encouraged and helped us. But with a firm purpose, and a determination to give the thing a fair trial, we pushed on quietly, earnestly, faithfully for our purpose, and today we present the first fruits of our labor and anxiety.
We gratefully acknowledge our thanks to friends and patrons for the prompt and earnest manner in which they have responded to our call for subscriptions, and acknowledge to them our gratification in receiving their support and patronage. We fully appreciate the confidence that has been reposed in us, and the responsibility we assume in taking the control of a public journal.
In the middle of a long piece on the history of Manchester, the first Enterprise comments on the Village’s incorporation which happened only months earlier, and in honor of the 150th anniversary of the incorporation, we include here:
Through the exertions of our efficient representatives in the Legislature, Hon. J. D. Corey, Manchester was incorporated into a Village on the 28th day ,of February, 1867; but whether taxpayers would call this an improvement we cannot say, but of one thing we can speak, viz: the enlarged powers granted the Common Council over the old system, which has been judiciously and discreetly exercised, has added greatly to the beauty of our streets and the convenience of our sidewalks.