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A Drop of Black Ink
by Herbert A. Clark

Editor’s Note: This article is reprinted from Ink Drops, June 1904, published by Alson L. Brubaker of Fargo, North Dakota. Apparently Mr. Clark’s name was misspelled in Campane 193, as was often the case in his own time. The title, from all indications, was that of Mr. Clark.

My candidacy for office in the NAPA was merely an incident in my amateuric life. I was never prompted by personal ambition to run for office. My candidacy was made conspicuous by the antagonism of Southern amateurs, and singularly, their votes elected me Third Vice President in 1879.

I do not consider myself a freak. The intellectual environment amid which I was reared quite naturally produced an amateur journalist. My father graduated from Gilmore’s High School before 1853, and in that year my mother was given a diploma at Oberlin College. Early in the 50s, my father edited Frederick Douglass’ paper at Rochester, N. Y., and afterwards risked his life, and sale into slavery, by crossing the Ohio river to stick type and edit an anti-slavery paper in Kentucky. I cannot recall the day when a daily paper was not shoved under our door, and as for a library, few white men, though possibly wealthier, possessed one as large and complete as my father’s.

In my boyhood days, there was no boy’s paper or literary magazine, from Frank Leslie’s Weekly to Our Boys, and Harper’s to Atlantic Monthly that did not regularly reach our table. My parents delighted in reading, and hence their children. It is no wonder then, that when some paper had been torn into sheets, so that the three of us, myself and two sisters, could have one each, we would contend to finish some serial on the other’s sheet, and our mother would suspend it from the gas jet, and compel us to stand up and read.

From these boy papers of the days of 1874-5-6, I learned of the publication of amateur papers by the youths of America. Yet, the first amateur paper I ever saw was published by two colored boys at Frankfort, Kentucky – their father being the editor and publisher of a colored weekly paper. Starting out as a puzzler, aided by my father’s Roget’s Thesaurus. and encouraged by dear old “Kit Clinton,” and Correll Kendall it was not long before I ventured into the field with my paper, Le Bijou. That I wandered to France for a title is due to a spirit of pedantry – inherited from parents, both teachers; yet I knew some French then.

My first printing press gave me more joy than my first drum or pants. The press was the product of genius, trying to solve the problem of self-inking. It failed, and the project of getting out a paper also. This led me to call on the services of Dr. Edwin B. Swift, then a hard-working boy, employed by day in a shoe factory, and by night setting up type and printing his own and other papers. Ed and I became great and good friends, and he found much encouragement in his ambition to become a dentist by his visits to our home and talks with my father. One thing is certain, just because Ed was white, we never feared that he would marry any of our sisters. And, he didn’t.

The Cincinnati amateurs, who are noted today in their professions, as Ren Mulford of the Cincinnati Tinies-Star; Edwin B. Swift and Mark M. Kerr, dentist and doctor respectively; Will McCann (Jew Peter) and others, gave me a cordial welcome. While I exchanged with nearly 200 papers, my racial identity was not known outside Cincinnati until the 1878 Chicago convention.

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One night in July, 1878, I walked around the Palmer House block eight or nine times. Had not the negro porter at the lady’s entrance, replying to my inquiry, “Can colored people stop here?” replied, “Yes, you gump,” I might have been walking around there yet. Charles W. Dobb, the cashier, registered and gave me a room to myself – although I afterwards learned, the Ams were doubled in other rooms on one rate. My first experience in paying hotel restaurant rates staggered me. It was in the Palmer restaurant, after I had been served with steak, potatoes, eggs and coffee, a brass check with figures 175 was placed at my plate. I compared this number with that on my room key, and found they did not correspond. That meal knocked a larger hole in $2. 00 than any other has since. I next tried the Palmer House Cafe, and finally ran in upon a number of amateur giants at a 15 cent lunch house, made out of an old street car located down on lake front.

The following morning I walked around through and between knots of boys whom knew were amateurs. Although my pockets bulged with copies of Le Bijou, I was unnoticed. I passed out the hotel corridor and up State Street. where I met a gorgeously arrayed member of the reception committee. I gave him a copy of my paper, and without the slightest hesitation Clarence P. Dresser pinned a badge on me and arm in arm we walked back to the hotel and into the council chamber of the NAPA. There is no more to be said, except from no word or act did I have reason to believe myself different from all the others. Hancock. Hall, Clover, Clossey, Young, Ellis, Morris, Gee, Baildon and Lee, in fact all present treated me with greatest kindness.

I was corralled in the Clossey camp by Young and other “Closseyites.” Clossey was the “trust” candidate and was supposed to have a “bar’l.” Be that as it may, I was won by flattering attentions and the typographical beauty of Free Lance. I have never heard of any of the Ams turning black, and God in his wisdom, has kept, as Prof. Dubois puts it, “An American and a negro.” Perhaps the deepest mystery is the disappearance from my ken, at least, of the amateur from Mendota, Ill., who was beating the hotel. He slept one night with me, and I have never heard of or from him since.

The cat was out the bag now, and it was widely heralded, “Clark is a negro.” The “Civil Rights War” in amateurdom soon followed. My friends, Edward A. Oldham, of the Odd Trump; Carr of North Carolina Amateur, and Jim Aller of Paris (Kentucky). Times were the quill pushers who opposed negro membership in NAPA, and advocated the organization of a separate association for negroes only. Those who contended against these ideas were Arthur J. Huss, Stylus; George W. Bielin, Composing Stick; W. C. Brown and Charley Mergenthaler of Fostoria, O.; Frank N. Reeve, Independent; Will Wright, Egyptian Star; Thomas Parsons, Our Blade; J. Edson Briggs, Imp; and a number of others.

The South was not unanimous, as Geo. Eugene Bryson of Florida and the state association favored me. Oldham had the support of Thos. G. Harrison, Welcome Visitor of Indianapolis; and Harry E. Legler, of Milwaukee. Among the amateurs who espoused my cause were the sons of rock-ribbed democrats, such as George W. Biehn, Edwin B. Swift, Mark M. Kerr and Ulrick Knox. The others were sons of republican parents and a number had lost relatives upon the battle field in defense of the Union.

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‘The articles written by these amateur Greeleys and Wattersons were as a rule scholarly, and not infrequently vindictive and sarcastic. The curve that was deemed a sure strike out to Northern amateurs was, “Would you take Clark into your own home, feed him at your table and introduce him to your sisters?” Tommy Parsons of Our Blade bluntly answered this query by saying, “He would.” At this time two of my sisters were contributors to Le Bijou. One had already composed and published “Le Bijou Polka,” a composition of merit. One of them led for four years the graduates of Yale, Harvard, Dartmouth, etc., at the Boston Homeopathic Medical College and finished with the highest honors of the class. So it might appear, there were sisters and sisters, and let it be hoped the honors of introduction were to be equal all around.

The tickets put in the field in 1879 represented more or less the division of amateurdom upon the Civil Rights question. The one I supported was headed by the late Arthur J. Huss. This ticket was made up by correspondence. It was suggested to me to write Huss and others, proposing they accept the nominations for certain offices. Others were to write them also. After the ticket was fairly completed, I was very much surprised to get letters from those to whom I had written and from the others, proposing that I run for the post of Third Vice President. The plea made was that the South must be taught a lesson and it would best be done by electing me to an office. I saw no reason to decline, hence became a candidate.

I attended the Washington 1879 convention an earnest and truly unswerving advocate of Arthur J. Huss for the presidency. When I looked over the field I found the North and West, where my support came from, were but poorly represented. So far as I can remember, Clem Chase of Omaha and myself were the only delegates. The East was backed up by J. Austin Fynes and his henchmen. The South had Edward A. Oldham, Thomas J. Hope, the Tophams, Gees and Lees, and J. Edson Briggs with his Washington cohorts. I was much at a loss to know what would happen to the sole representative of one of the first families of Africa – myself.

But my misgivings were entirely groundless. Aside from the failure to secure accommodations at the National Hotel, I may say my treatment on all occasions was even more cordial than at conventions prior or since. Thomas J. Hope of Norfolk, Va., after J. Edson Briggs’ election to the presidency, in an eloquent and flowery speech, nominated me for first Vice Presidency, which I declined. When the time for the third Vice Presidency election was reached. I was chosen without opposition. Edward A. Oldham was present and a majority of the amateurs were Southerners. The treatment accorded me, by Oldham, Hope and others will never be effaced from my most happy and pleasurable recollections.

An amusing feature of this convention was my talk in behalf of the convention meeting at Cincinnati in 1880, and that city was successful. Among the things said by me, and reproduced in the daily papers was mention of Cincinnati’s hilltop beer gardens and its pretty girls. The only girls I knew were colored girls, and from that day to this, I wondered whether it was the beer or the attractive girls I knew, that brought the convention to the Queen City of the West.

This picture of Herbert A. Clark is reproduced from a photocopy of Ink Drops, Vol. X, No. 5, June 1904. Campane gratefully acknowledges thanks to Les Boyer for supplying photocopies of the entire issue from which this personal story has been taken. It really is an adjunct to Ken Faig’s article in the March 1999 issue.

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A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
by Frank Granger

If photography had existed in the early days of printing we could see the presses, the tools, the shops and we could know more of what it was like to print in those days. Photography wasn’t invented, of course, until the mid-19th century. Verbal descriptions don’t adequately describe what the scene was like. We are not even sure what Gutenberg’s press really looked like.

We do have the benefit of engravings. Done by artists in wood, copper and steel. These ancient “snap shots” on the world of work tells us more than a narrative portrayal. The “usual” which would be naturally drawn into an engraving might be overlooked by the writer as all too familiar. These graphic little details tell us much about everyday life in the printshops of old.

There are some common elements in many ancient engravings. One is the obvious placement of a well-dressed “official” or patron in the shop scene. The expense of early printshops was often financed by government leaders or private investors. Gutenberg was underwritten by Johann Fust, who foreclosed when production wasn’t completed on time.

In the case of books, there was a large initial investment, and the project might take years to complete. It could be these anxious financiers were just keeping an eye on their investment, or they were there to make sure nothing would be printed that was offensive to those in power.

Others common in these old engravings were the writers and artists-in-residence. Printing offices, like monasteries, became a center for scholars and new ideas. Many printers employed artists to do illustrations and design the type and books. Scholars were brought in to do the translations. Aldus Manutius employed the great scholar, Erasmus, to work in his publishing house in Venice.

Some old illustrations show stacks of completed books and pamphlets. These were most likely the product of the shop and were offered for sale. The printshop served as bookstore as well. The shorter, less expensive pamphlets offered a more steady income to the printer. The subjects were numerous and mostly enlightening, but even the religious works pandered to the masses with violent and sexual content to make conservative members of society question the bad influence that the new media had on society.

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To create another income line, some printers wrote and printed “news sheets” that were the early forerunners of newspapers. It didn’t hurt when the printshop was near a port or was a mail drop for the post rider. This gave our ancient newsman the latest gossip from down the road or across the sea. One printer had an engraving of a navigational compass on the front of his paper. The north, east, west and south points spelled out N-E-W-S and was perhaps the origin of the newspaper.

There are often children seen in the workplace illustrations. In addition to being a place of printing, it was also a school for the young apprentices. An enviable opportunity for a youth was to have his parents secure an apprenticeship for him at a local printer. Many a printer served the seven-year apprenticeship working six days a week and 12 to 14 hours a day.

One can see the apprentices at various duties, including distributing type back to the cases after printing. This is the way they learned the “lay of the case.” They may also be found wetting the paper to soften it in anticipation of the printing. Rough sheets of paper hanging from the rafters were there for both ink and paper to dry.

It can also be noticed that most everyone in the shop is heavily dressed. Work places were often not very well heated and the workers were there in the coolest part of the day. The one exception is usually the pressman. With sleeves rolled up, he had the most physical job in the shop. It took a lot of force to impress the form on to the paper.

In one example the pressman’s foot and leg are swollen from many years of this repetitious exercise. One old murder mystery plot was solved because the printer had a limp to his walk.

In some illustrations, daggers and swords are present. Many of these sidearms were worn by printers not so much for protection, but as a badge of honor. Some city governments banned the carrying of arms, but overlooked the law for persons of honor or nobility.

What don’t the pictures show? They don’t show the smells of the shop: the smell of the linseed oil and lamp black ink, the lye and urine used to clean the forms. Also missing are the smell of candles and lamps and the pungent smells of laborers who seldom had the opportunity to bathe.

Many early shops worked under the most extreme political control. When allowed to print, it was best if the printing conform to the ideas and ideals of the ruling class, leader or church. It took years of civilization to establish the foundation of freedom in printing. The pictures also can’t show the centuries of dedication to freedom and pride that the printer gave to his work.

Copyright 1999 by Frank Granger

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How Will I Know I’m a Writer?
by Betty Simmons

Acceptances fly to your door.
You’re a regular contributor.
You’ve found a friendly editor.
It’s easy when the days are bright.
A writer writes.

The autumn breeze spreads pollen.
Confetti leaves have fallen.
The cat outside is bawlin’.
You keep distractions out of sight.
A writer writes.

When winter winds blow shivers,
And the plumbing’s leaking rivers.
Though your optimism quivers.
You persist with all your might.
A writer writes.

When tragedy devours your heart.
When your life is ripped apart
And you must make a brand new start
To reach out toward the light,
A writer writes.

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Campane has been published since 1941 in the interest of the National Amateur Press Association and the fascination of hobby printing by Harold Segal, Philadelphia, PA 19115-4503. Composition in digital 10-point Baskerville 353 using PageMaker 5. Printed on a Hewlett-Packard LaserJet 5L. Color is still letterpress printed on an 1890 Pearl treadle press.

Critiques, articles, anecdotes and research into the history of amateur journalism printing and writing appreciated. All manuscripts must be typed; should be a minimum of 1000 words.

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