Early History of Newspapers in North Adams

The first newspaper published in North Adams was called The Socialist founded and edited by Dr. Ara Green and it began publishing on May 21, 1828.  It was printed on an old Franklin hand press in a building on North Church Street which was known as the “Franklin Building”.  It was destroyed by fire in the 1840’s and it sat where the second Methodist Church was.

The first local death to be reported in the paper was that of Albert Clarke of Clarksburg who died after being hit with a bullet when a friend accidently discharged his weapon during a turkey shoot.  Another interesting story The Socialist covered concerned the interesting life of a cannon called Short Bol which was originally owned by a member of the Andrew Jackson Democrats.  Apparently however, differing political parties laid claim to this cannon.  As a result, it was “stolen and buried away from sight and recovered a great many times by the young politicians of that period, was once dug out of a well in Bennington and finally thrown one dark night into the old Phoenix dam at the foot of Main street, North Adams, were it was found after the lapse of many years, again to mysteriously disappear from view forever.”

The second newspaper in North Adams was started by Atwell and Tanner in 1830, and like The Socialist, the Berkshire American ran for one year.  This was succeeded by two publications, the Adams Gazette and the Mechanics Magazine which both lasted for 18 months.  They were printed and edited by William W. Mitchell in a yellow building which was situated where the Davenport Block was on Main Street.  Up to this point, newspaper publishing in this area was not lucrative at all.  People seemed to rely more on word to mouth news than the printed articles.  This remained true until the time of the Civil War.

The first newspaper that came to stay, despite early difficulties, was The Adams Transcript.  John R. Briggs, first published the paper on September 7, 1843 in a two-room office in the Fisher Block, opposite from the Blackinton Block on Holden Street.  In 1884, Henry Chickering moved to North Adams and became a partner of Mr. Briggs.  Several years later, the Adams Transcript offices were moved to the Bradford Block, where the Hoosac Savings Bank was.  Its machinery consisted of two hand presses and a card printing machine.  As the years went on and the newspaper becoming more and more established, town manufacturers and business owners began supporting the paper through advertisements. Williams College began helping with the printing costs as well.

Sometime in the early 1850’s the Transcript offices were moved again.  This time to the Burlingame building.  It ended up to be an unfortunate move because shortly after, the offices were completely destroyed by a fire which meant all records of the first years of the paper were lost forever.  With insurance money, the Transcript reestablished itself in the North Adams House a few weeks later.

In the early 1850’s, W.H. Phillips, established the Hoosac Valley News.  By 1857, Mr. Philips purchased the Transcript thereby merging the two newspapers under one owner and still keeping two separate publications.  Both papers were issued on a weekly basis.

As the number of customers grew, the Transcript offices moved several more times, finally landing in two story wooden block on Bank Street, owned by Jenks Kimbell.  One more change would come later when that wooden building was razed and a new Transcript Block was erected on the same site.

Other newspapers published in North Adams in the late 1800’s were the Sunday Express, founded by John Mabbett; The Sunday Democrat, published by Chase Brothers; the Sunday Transcript, followed by the Daily Transcript.  Both the Daily Transcript and the Weekly Transcript ran through 1916 when the weekly version stopped printing.

Adapted from a story for the North Adams Historical Society.