Academic journal article Journalism History

The Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections at Washington State University

Academic journal article Journalism History

The Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections at Washington State University

Article excerpt

This is the seventh in a series of articles on archival collections of interest to mass communication historians. Readers of Journalism History are invited to suggest collections that they would like to see appear in future articles, and the editors would welcome volunteers to write such articles.

The first line of type ever composed on a Linotype machine west of the Rocky Mountains read simply, "Homer M. Hill, May 16 '93, First Line." So reported the Linotype Bulletin twenty-one years later, going on to note that Hill, the one-time publisher of the Seattle Telegraph, considered the bringing of five Linotype machines to Seattle to be "the greatest achievement of his life."1

A copy of that Bulletin story found its way into a small collection of Hill's personal papers, now housed in the Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections (MASC) unit of the Washington State University library. The two containers of Hill's papers also contain copies of his correspondence with the Mergenthaler Linotype Company, including a letter reassuring Hill that he could "rest assured that the Telegraph will have the prestige of first putting the Linotype machines in Washington" and noting that that the Nassau Smelting Works of New York could provide "a good reliable metal, which they will deliver from their Chicago Warehouse at 8 1/2 cents per pound."2 He apparently bought the machines after a telegraph inquiry was answered: "Increasing sales prevent obtaining rental machines near future .. . object to sending machines on rental from here . . . too far away. Mergenthaler Linotype Co."3 A day later, the company offered him a special purchase price, via a telegraph message that stated in full: "Considering your location offer special low price strictly private twenty seven hundred and fifty each cash or half cash balance bankable paper. . . . [Qould deliver here about thirty days. Mergenthaler Linotype Co."4 A September 1, 1893, invoice showed that Hill still owed Mergenthaler $4,484.35.5

Hill's papers also show his negotiations with the Associated Press, which granted him a three-year exclusive franchise for Seattle in 1886, and some of his correspondence when he served as president of the Washington State Press Association.6 His first newspaper job was for a Bismarck newspaper as "Mandan correspondent," despite the fact that his first story was tossed into a wastebasket by an editor who declared "Indians weren't news."7 He once tried to sell the Cleveland Leader a story about Washington Territory laborers trying "to devise some means of ridding the country of the burdensome Chinese . . . by peaceful means, or, if necessary, by force."8 He faced labor issues of his own, as demonstrated by two letters from a woman asking him not to advance her husband any money because he had been "drinking hard for two days" and "did not come home last night."9 Another wife wrote an eloquent fourpage letter to explain that although her husband, who had applied for a job with Hill, "was discharged from the employ of the Examiner for intemperance," in nearly nine years of marriage "I have never seen him in the slightest degree under the influence of liquor, nor have I ever heard of his being so, except in this same occasion of which you heard." Offering the names of several men who could testify on behalf of her husband's character, she continued, "I can say without bias or exaggeration that he is a good editor, newsgatherer and proofreader." She also noted that her husband would object "very strenuously" to her being involved in the matter and concluded, "I trust that you will not betray my confidence"10

The Chicago Tribune asked Hill to send "500 words or less of short interviews with eligible unmarried men of your town or region on the subject: 'Are girlds [sic] wanted in the West?'"11 A clipping of a short article,"A Seattle Printer Starving," apparently from a San Francisco newspaper, stated that a young man had asked a policeman to "lock him up, as he would do something desperate. …

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