One hundred fifty-nine years ago, on May 28, 1861, the Manchester Journal published its very first edition.
It was a four-page broadsheet newspaper, written, edited and printed just steps from where our office now sits in Manchester Village. It featured small type in narrow columns, a front page of serialized fiction, and no photos — a far cry from the publication now before you.
On Page 2 of this brand-new enterprise, publisher C.A. Pierce laid out his aspirations. (We do not know if he wrote these words, but it was his newspaper.)
"The country newspaper, as we view it, is eminently a popular institution; it should not be conducted solely for personal or mercenary objects; nor should it seek only to create and control public opinion, but also to furnish the means by which public opinion may find utterance," the unsigned editorial read. "It is our desire, that in due time this Journal may become the medium for the expression of the best thoughts on those subjects, which from time to time may interest the community."
Late May of 1861 was an uncertain time in our history. Already, many young men from towns across Vermont were volunteering to join the coming fight, which would transpire two weeks later, at Manassas, Va. — the First Battle of Bull Run. No one knew that four years of horror lay ahead, or that so many of the young men who boarded the train at Manchester Depot to fight for the Union would never return.
In this crisis, the Journal served a need. People wanted information about what was happening, not only in Vermont and New England but at the front lines and in Washington. Pierce recognized, correctly, that the time was right for the Northshire to have a newspaper of its own, and took a leap of faith that it would prosper.
Here we stand, a full 159 years later, as we have through good times and bad, proud to carry forward the Journal's legacy. And right now, things are tough.
A pandemic has shut down our economy, killed nearly 100,000 Americans, and put millions out of work. Locally, we have been fortunate to avoid a serious outbreak of the virus. But our economy is facing an uncertain summer, with hotel rooms empty, businesses struggling, and tourist-friendly events canceled. Just this past week, we learned the Vermont Summer Festival horse show and the Green Mountain Bluegrass and Roots Festival are canceled for 2020.
In hard times such as these, it's our job to tell you the truth, keep you informed about what's going on, and serve as a marketplace of ideas for how our community can work together to survive and flourish once more. It's how we can best serve the community we care about.
In their first-edition editorial 159 years ago, the new publishers asked their neighbors and friends for support: "Remembering that our success must always necessarily depend much upon the confidence and approbation of our patrons, we shall doubly need their support at the present time, embarking as we do now, upon an untried voyage."
That message still resonates.
With your support, through your subscriptions and advertising, we will be here for you, as we were in the spring and summer of 1861.