Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Maynard's Newspapers

I stepped out our front door a few mornings ago to get the Sunday newspaper, which is delivered in a blue plastic bag. Across the street was my neighbor and his young son. The boy pointed to what I was about to pick up, and asked "What's that?" 
  His father answered "Mr. Mark gets a newspaper delivered to his house every morning. It's inside the bag."
  Then the boy asked, "What's a newspaper?"

Concord, our ancient neighbor to the east, had newspapers long before Maynard warranted a bit of local reporting. The Middlesex Gazette was begun in April 1816 as a weekly. Between 1816 and 1852, Concord papers started up and stopped: the Gazette, Observer, Gazette & Yeoman, Yeoman’s Gazette and The Concord Freeman. Those last two, conservative and liberal, overlapped. Oddly, Concord had no paper from 1852 to 1875, news items appearing as a section in the Lowell papers

"Above the fold" for the Beacon-villager.
Maynard has been served by several newspapers through the years. Starting at the present and working backwards, we have the Beacon-Villager, for Maynard and Stow. It’s a weekly. It shows up Thursdays, home delivery and in stores. Holly Camaro has been the editor and major reporter since August 2013. Of late, it runs as 16 pages, but in the past was 24 or even 32 pages. The Beacon-Villager owner had gone by the name Gatehouse Media until November 2019, when Gatehouse acquired Gannett, making it the largest newspaper publisher in the United States, and then took the Gannett name. In Massachusetts, Gatehouse had already owned MetroWest Daily News and more than 100 town weekly papers, publishing in print and at town-by-town websites. Ours is

The Beacon, started in Acton was the forerunner of the Beacon-Villager. It launched in 1945. In the summer of 1953, the Beacon Publishing Company was the first business to move into Maynard’s mill after the conversion from woolen factory to rentable office and industry space. As The Beacon and later The Assabet Valley Beacon it served several towns. In time this evolved to papers for each town, including Acton’s Beacon, the Concord Free Press and the Sudbury Citizen.  

Rolling the years back, “The Maynard News,” a weekly published in Hudson, servicing the towns of Maynard, Hudson, South Acton, Stow and Concord Junction (West Concord). It started in 1899, ceased publication in 1943. What is surprising is how little actual “news” was in the paper. Week after week, the pages were filled with announcement-type items, such as a wrestling match at the Finnish Hall, a lecture on the “White Slave Trade,” engagement announcements and school concerts. Apparently, the main function of the newspapers of a century ago appears to have been akin to what we now think of social media - personal items people wanted to share with the community. Most of the old issues exist as bound folios at the Maynard Historical Society (MHS) and on microfilm at the Maynard Public Library.

“The Enterprise Weekly” later renamed to “Maynard Enterprise,” predated “The Maynard News” by eleven years, and was also printed in Hudson. A century ago, individual copies were three cents, a year’s subscription $1.50. Advertisements are interesting reading: Distasio’s Market offered beef at 15-25¢ per pound. Lerer’s Clothing Store had men’s shoes for $2 and suits for $10-20. An oak dining room table with six chairs for only $25. Ford Motor Company offered car models starting at $700. To put all this into perspective, factory pay was less than two dollars a day. The Enterprise ceased publication in 1970.

The oldest record of newspaper content about Maynard is from an unidentified paper. What exists is a handful of pages in the MHS collection dated 1879. Among the typical coverage of bridge club outings and people taken ill was a mention that the Maynard family was vacationing in New Hampshire, and hoped to visit Mount Washington.

Thoreau – famously – was not a fan of newspapers. “And I am sure that I never read any memorable news in a newspaper. If we read of one man robbed, or murdered, or killed by accident, or one house burned, or one vessel wrecked, or one steamboat blown up, or one cow run over on the Western Railroad, or one mad dog killed, or one lot of grasshoppers in the winter, - we need never read of another. One is enough. If you are acquainted with the principle, what do you care for a myriad instances and applications?” He also wrote that he had tried reading one newspaper a week, but even that dulled his awareness and appreciation of nature.

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