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Country: United States
City: Hannibal, Mo.
Issues of this title available in Elephind: 165
Items (articles and/or pages) from this title available in Elephind: 663
Earliest Date: 26 February 1852
Latest Date: 21 September 1853
In 1850, Orion Clemens bought the nine-year-old Hannibal Journal in Hannibal, Missouri, and quickly changed its name to the Western Union. Clemens would be the editor and publisher for only three years, but during his tenure, he would change the title three more times before finally returning to the paper to its original name. Under Orion Clemens’ leadership, the paper not only changed titles in rapid fashion but expanded to include weekly and daily versions. Both publications were four pages in length with the weekly being published every Thursday.
In 1851, Orion hired his 17-year-old brother, Samuel, to serve as typesetter and editorial assistant for the Western Union. Samuel, later to be known by his literary pseudonym of Mark Twain, published his first known sketch, “A Gallant Fireman,” in his brother’s paper. He wrote several short articles for the paper, including a piece on the dangers of matrimony. As editor and assistant editor, the Clemens brothers did not often rail against political parties as some of their counterparts did, but they were advocates for community development. They called for the creation of a public library, a debating society, and a college in Hannibal. They were also strong advocates for railroad improvements and the construction of lines connecting Hannibal to other parts of the Midwest.
Like most newspapers, the paper struggled to get prompt payment from its readers, and in 1852, Orion Clemens set up strict payment terms for subscribers and ran them below the masthead of the weekly Hannibal Journal: “One Dollar, if paid In Advance; if not paid within Six Months, One Dollar and Fifty Cents; if not paid within Twelve Months, TWO DOLLARS.” In March of 1853, Clemens began a daily version of the Hannibal Journal, but it would last barely six months.
Despite the stricter terms, all versions of the Hannibal Journal ceased publication in 1853, and the final issue of the weekly (September 15, 1853) remarked that Mr. Clemens would excuse all subscribers who have been holding back payment and “wish to all the young men among them the highest degree of happiness.”
Meanwhile, Sam Clemens left Hannibal in 1853 to work at a series of typesetting jobs throughout the country, but he would return to the Midwest, this time to Iowa, to work with Orion at his newly purchased printing office in Keokuk.
In 1856, Orion published the first General Directory of the Citizens of Keokuk, and in 1929, John Ely Briggs, editor of The Palimpsest, declared: “In a small ‘book and job printing’ shop on the third floor of a building at 52 Main Street, the first General Directory of the Citizens of Keokuk was compiled and published by Orion Clemens in 1856. It was a credit to the shop and to the city. Printed clearly from clean type on fine rag paper, the directory was a good example of commercial printing at that time. And after nearly three quarters of a century the paper is still white and soft and the ink is as black as ever. Orion Clemens had a right to be proud of the contents, typography, make up, and press work.”
Provided by: State Historical Society of Missouri; Columbia, MO