November 26

“Where Liberty dwells, there is my country.” So read the motto, attributed to Benjamin Franklin, which appeared at the masthead of the first newspaper to be printed in the city of Chicago upon this date in 1833. Six columns of type spread over four fifteen-by-twenty inch pages formed the Chicago Democrat, printed upon one of Sam Rust’s Washington hand presses, introduced just four years previously.

Actually the Democrat can not lay claim to being the first issue of the Chicago press, as John Calhoun, printer, editor, and publisher of the sheet had turned out two weeks earlier two dollars worth of business cards for the Traveller’s Home.

Calhoun had learned the case at sixteen years of age in Watertown in upstate New York. When he reached his majority he worked in printing offices in Albany and Troy, also doing a short stint in the Albany typefoundry of Starr & Little. This activity was followed by the founding of an unsuccessful newspaper in Oswego, whereupon he returned to Watertown to establish the Eagle, another sheet which quickly failed due to lack of proper financing.

At this point Calhoun heard enthusiastic reports about the opportunities for printers in Chicago and decided to try his luck there. He remained undiscouraged after a trip through Lake Erie in which his steamboat was turned back twice by a Great Lakes hurricane, finally running aground on the Michigan shore at Black River harbor. Walking twenty miles to Huron, Printer Calhoun embarked in another steamer bound for Detroit. Next he continued his journey to Chicago by slow stage coach.

Three years later Calhoun—beset by financial problems—negotiated the sale of his newspaper for the sum of twenty-two hundred and seventy-seven dollars and ninety-two cents, which included his press, types, cases, etc., and his good will. After all debts were paid, Editor Calhoun emerged with less than eight hundred dollars cash for his three years of struggling to keep the Chicago citizenry informed. The Chicago Democrat was published by its new owner as a weekly until 1840 when it became a daily. In 1861 the paper was absorbed by the Tribune, and its Democratic leanings thereby completely submerged.

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