The Republican Journal a century later, 88 years ago

An old issue chronicles the first 100 years of the local paper
By Ethan Andrews | Sep 07, 2017
A page from the Feb. 7, 1929 centennial edition of The Republican Journal discovered recently in Bayside headlines a comedic gripe by former editor William Henry Simpson about the fad of velocipedes — those early bicycles with a towering front wheel and tiny rear wheel.

Belfast — If the future of newspapers seems uncertain, their past may be even more so. Individual print copies often last just long enough to end up on the bottom of a birdcage, as the saying goes. Even those that are squirreled away by posterity-minded readers risk being recycled by the first generation to decide they're taking up too much space in the attic.

Elisha Oliver recently found the Feb. 7, 1929, issue of The Republican Journal in a box of free items outside a Bayside home. That particular home regularly had piles of old things outside, and she guessed maybe it was the estate of a "collector." The 88-year-old newspaper she found was remarkable in that it happened to be a special centennial edition.

After having a careful look through the brittle yellow pages, she donated the paper to us, the descendants of "Maine's oldest weekly newspaper," still publishing every Thursday as The Republican Journal.

Much of the centennial issue is made up of reprinted columns from the first 100 years of the newspaper, each about various aspects of Belfast's history. If newspapers are the first draft of history, this centennial edition, with its historical scope, might be a second or third draft.

William Henry Simpson, editor of The Republican Journal from 1858 to 1880, appears throughout with rants about an upstairs neighbor with a velocipede and humorous descriptions of local sea life — the section on lobster begins, "next to the egg, there is no shell fish more edible."

Advertisements were clearly sold with the special edition in mind. Many include the age of the advertising business, of which even the older ones are still quite a bit younger than The Journal. Cooper & Co. Building Materials, 63 years old at the time of the centennial publication, noted in its quarter-page ad that it was founded the year after Gen. Lee surrendered at Appomattox.

We haven't yet decided what to do with this particular newspaper. If you are curious about such things, the Belfast Free Library reference collection includes bound volumes of The Republican Journal going back at least 100 years.

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