Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Eric Shackle's Column

Walt Whitman's Western Newspapers

Famous American poet Walt Whitman, who once edited New York's Brooklyn Eagle, wrote in his book November Boughs (1888): "Among the far-west newspapers have been, or are, The Fairplay (Colorado) Flume, The Solid Muldoon, of Ouray, The Tombstone Epitaph, of Nevada, The Jimplecute, of Texas, and The Bazoo, of Sedalia, Missouri."
Checking the internet, we find that three of those newspapers are still in business. Walt was only 19 , when he was made editor-in-chief of The Long Islander,which went broke within a year of its founding. Whitman refused to give up, and within a few years he became editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.
Five years later, in 1848, he was fired again, because of his outspoken support for absolition of slavery. Undeterred, Whitman immediately set out for New Orleans to visit his brother Jeff.
While there, he became an editor for the New Orleans Crescent, but returned to Brooklyn within a few months to become editor of The Brooklyn Times. At the same time he worked for the arts-oriented periodical, the Democratic Review.
What has become of those far-west newspapers Whitman mentioned? Let's visit them, one at a time.

The Fairplay Flume has undergone more than a dozen changes to its masthead over the years. One of them was sub-titled The Paper With A Mission and Without A Muzzle.
Today the sub-title is The Park County Republican's Fairplay Flume.
Ten years ago, its then editor Robin Kepple told me "We understand The Flume acquired its name due to the vast amount of mining in Fairplay and Park County. A flume, as you probably know, is designed to channel water, logs, etc. from one place to another. In Fairplay's case, a flume was used to channel rocks, minerals and tailings from one place to another in the endless pursuit of gold.
"Some folks believe the name Flume was selected because the newspaper helps 'channel' information. I am not certain if this is really the reason for the name or not."
The Flume is now printed not in Fairplay, but in the nearby town of Bailey, which is also the home of the strangely-named Id-Ra-Ha-Je summer camps. That's shorthand for I'd Rather Have Jesus.
Today, the Flume's website says, "The Park County Republican and Fairplay Flume is published every Friday and is the official newspaper in Park County, Colorado.
"The Flume, established in 1879, is almost as old as the county it serves - Park County, Colorado, which was formed in 1861. Park County lies just west of Jefferson County, the westernmost and most mountainous of the seven counties that are typically used in defining metro Denver.
"Headquartered in Bailey, an unincorporated town in the northeastern part of the county, The Flume covers all areas of life in Park County, including business, politics, the courts, weather, crime, festivals, fires and more.
"At the core of the stories in The Flume are the residents themselves, now numbering more than 16,000 in a county that's 83 percent bigger than Rhode Island and nearly as big as Delaware." THE SOLID MULDOON
This newspaper was founded on September 5, 1879, and, through a series of name changes and merges, eventually became the present-day Durango Herald.
The newspaper didn't pull its punches. A local historian records that "David Day, a Medal of Honor winner for heroism at Vicksburg, had the distinction of having 42 libel suits pending at the same time [1900] for his raw and bitter articles in The Solid Muldoon newspaper of Ouray and Durango." Maybe that's why it went out of business.
The original Solid Muldoon was the name given to a mysterious "prehistoric human body" dug up near Beulah, Colorado, in 1877. The seven-and-a-half foot stone man was thought to be the "missing link" between apes and humans. "There can be no question about the genuineness of this piece of statuary" said the Denver Daily Times.
It was later revealed that George Hull, perpetrator of a previous hoax featuring the Cardiff Giant, had spent three years fashioning his second "petrified man", using mortar, rock dust, clay, plaster, ground bones, blood and meat. He kiln-fired the figure for many days and then buried it.
A few months later, as the celebration of Colorado's year-old statehood approached, the statue was "discovered" by William Conant, who had once worked for the legendary showman P.T. Barnum. News of the find quickly spread to Pueblo, Denver, and eventually to New York.
The statue was named the Solid Muldoon after William Muldoon, a famous wrestler and strongman who had been honored in a popular song. Displayed in New York, it attracted large crowds until an unpaid business associate of Hull revealed the hoax to the New York Tribune, and the statue was seen no more. Muldoon was chairman of the New York State Boxing Commission from 1921 to 1923.
Rudyard Kipling, a ballad and prose writer as famous in England as Whitman was in the United States, wrote a piece entitled The Solid Muldoon, one of seven short stories in his book The Soldiers Three, published in 1890.
The world-famous TOMBSTONE EPITAPH in Arizona, was founded on the Southwestern frontier on May 1, 1880 by John P. Clum, who proclaimed in the first issue No Tombstone is complete without an Epitaph. Souvenir editions detailing the O.K. Corral shootout can be bought from the Tombstone Epitaph Corp, whose shop displays old type cases and the original printing press.
A local historian wrote "Clum was the quintessential frontier administrator. As an Indian agent, he dealt with great Apaches warriors like Geronimo and Naiche, son of Cochise.
"As mayor and editor of the Tombstone Epitaph, Clum had much to do in helping to foment the high levels of tension in Tombstone. After the street fight and subsequent trial, Clum learned he was on a 'deathlist' made up by the cowboy gang.
"In December 1881, Clum narrowly escaped what he considered an assassination attempt when highwaymen attempted to rob the stagecoach he was in. Clum was a life-long friend of Wyatt Earp and was one of Earp's pallbearers at his funeral."
The original Tombstone Epitaph is published monthly as a national historic edition. It contains original articles about the old west written by western history writers.
A small local edition of the Epitaph is now published by students of the University of Arizona Department of Journalism. Its sub-title reads: 116 Years In The Town Too Tough To Die. No Tombstone Is Complete Without Its Epitaph.
The Texas weekly, the Jefferson Jimplecute, was founded as a daily in 1848, when Jefferson was a thriving Red River town. The "Jimp," as the locals call it, sells about 2400 copies. How did it get its name? No one knows. At one stage it displayed, beneath its masthead title, words which formed an acronym: Join Industry, Manufacturing, Planting, Labor, Energy (and) Capital (in) Unity Together Everlasting. However, a local history book says that that phrase first appeared long after the paper was founded.
Amber Cullen, managing editor of The Jimplecute, has just emailed me: "The editor in chief/ founder of the paper (name unknown) when piecing together the letters for the front page flag- with the old metal 'stamps' (the old way of printing) - he dropped the box of letters to the floor, and in a fit, he picked up a handful and jumbled them back in and Jimplecute was the name that arose.
The acronym did come later, and still runs on our pages today!"
Strangely, a second newspaper named Jimplecute was published in the small Georgia town of Spring Place (688 miles by road from Jefferson) from 1879 to 1903, but here again no one knows how it was named, or whether it had any connection with its Texan namesake.
This newspaper was published from 1881 to1895.
Walt Whitman - Slang in America
Durango Herald
Tombstone Epitaph
The Jimplecute, Jefferson,Texas
Posted Monday, 5 March 2012, From Sydney, Australia.

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