Recording Hampton History For 90 Years

Hampton 350

1638 -- 1988

Rockingham County Newspaper -- July 8, 1988

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[The following articles are courtesy of
Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

By Herb Philbrick, Staff Reporter

The American Eagle logo
For many years, the American Eagle graced
the cover of The Hampton Union.

The Hampton Union cannot boast 350 years of history; but for nearly 90 of those years, The Hampton Union — and later, its sister papers, The Rockingham Gazette and Beachcomber — have played important roles in the life of the community.

The new& of births, deaths, engagements, weddings, church schedules and events, sports, entertainment, anniversaries, graduations, victories, tragedies and "personals" of every kind and description reported by The Hampton Union have helped knit the Seacoast together.

Information concerning town meetings and town business, also of every description, has contributed to the workings of local democracy.

Advertising, most of it placed by small, independent local entrepreneurs, has assisted many to achieve a measure of success in their endeavors.

In addition, the thousands of Hampton Union pages printed over the years, recorded and preserved on microfilm, are today a resource for historians, genealogists and others involved in scholarly research.[These microfilm pages are available at the Lane Memorial Library, 2 Academy Avenue, Hampton, NH.]

Started In 1899

The birth of the paper was announced in a brief news item appearing in the Exeter News-Letter in mid-June, 1899.

"Hampton is to have a paper of its own, a semi-weekly called The Hamptons Union," the News- Letter reported. "Its editor and proprietor is Charles Francis Adams of Spencer, Mass., an experienced newspaper man, though young in years (Adams was 33). Mr. Adams has for the past week been busy in getting his printing outfit into shape and the first number will appear on Saturday. The Union will be devoted to the interests of the shore towns of the County. The office is located over D. 0. Leavitt's, near the crossing."

Little did Adams, who began with three employees and a circulation of around 150, dream that in 1988, Hampton Union would serve as a source of information for an estimated 16,000 readers in 28 states as well as in 35 towns throughout New Hampshire.

Nor could he imagine that his tiny newspaper — along with its formal rival, the Exeter News- Letter — would today be part of Ottaway Newspapers Inc., a subsidiary of Dow Jones.

Adam's World

The world of Charles Francis Adams in 1899, which embraced all of the Seacoast area from Portsmouth to Newburyport to Amesbury, bore little resemblance the world of today. However, some things remained unchanged.

In 1899, Seabrook (population 1,700), South Seabrook and Smithtown — each with their own correspondents — were bustling neighborhoods. A typical report, in the issue of May 10, 1901, brings news concerning 12 Seabrook families: Locke, Boyd, Dow, Gove, Fowler, Bartlett, Eaton, Follansbee, Knowles, Randall, Souther and Chase. In Hampton Union of 1988 the same names still appear, and in the same town.

Crime stories in the issues of the early 1900s also have a familiar ring to them. On May 17, 1901, it is reported that Rye Court was held in Rye Town Hall (Rye Court is still held in the Town Hall) with four defendants tried for the sale of malt liquor. "The raid was made Saturday by Sheriff Collins and Deputy Sheriff C. O. Philbrick"

Juvenile problems were reported then, as they are today, but with a slightly different twist. In the Superior Court news of April 26, 1901, Hampton Union reports that a 15-year-old from Kingston was found guilty by a jury and "sentenced on a charge of rape to not less than six years in State Prison." On appeal, the judge agreed to let the youth begin serving time in State Industrial School "until of age," and then serve the balance of his sentence in State Prison.

Promoting Moral Standards

Whether because of or in spite of the harsh realities of daily life in ~he early 1900s, Hampton Union of Charles Francis Adams reflected a strong community code of ethics and morality. For years, in every issue, more than half of the paper's columns were filled with church news. Nearly every week, sermons were reported word for word and an entire Sunday school lesson was reported in advance.

When one reflects that for at least the first 20 years of the paper, until a Linotype machine was acquired, every single letter of every word had to be hand-set, we can but marvel at the tenacity required to produce each issue.

In a typical edition, on March 22,. 1901, several columns are devoted to printing a sermon by Rev. J. A. Ross of the Congregational Church on "The Danger of Sinful Enticements," based, we are told, on Proverbs, chapters 1 through 10.

"True manliness," Rev. Ross is quoted as saying, "is to stand up for what you know is right."

"I know some young men who go swaggering in the street with a cigar, or what is worse, a cigarette in his mouth, to interlay their conversations with oaths,". quoth Rev. Ross, showing little concern for mixing singulars and plurals.

All of this was mixed with little homilies, used as filler; "Charles Edison works 21 hours a day" (Jan. 21, 1915); "Andrew Carnegie is 77 years old, and has a busy life" (same issue); "There is a firm and wide-spread opinion that now is the time to grapple with the liquor trade in Hampton" (June 14, 1899).

The Hampton Academy

Typically, the graduation ceremony of Hampton Academy, in June, 1901 — with a graduating class of eight — was reported in elaborate detail, and for several weeks thereafter, each week, there followed a complete report of every word uttered by each of the graduates, whether in the class paper, class prophesy or valedictory.

Graduating student Everett Shaw spoke on "The Nation's Future," declaring, "The future of this nation depends upon its character. That determines whether in the future this country is going to advance or decline." Charles Francis Adams would be interested to know that in 1988, the question of character, or the lack of it, is still a newsworthy topic.

For 30 years Adams, with the assistance of his wife and his daughter, Constance (now Mrs. Everett Billings of Kittery, Maine), guided the destiny of Hampton Union. Adams was also very active in community and political affairs, and he served in those capacities both before and after his retirement as newspaper publisher. He was special justice for the Hampton Municipal Court for 25 years, Hampton representative in Concord for 12 years, deputy town clerk for three years and Hampton town auditor for eight years, in addition to participating in a number of civic and social Organizations.

New Ownership

On January 9, 1930, Hampton Union emerged from a new address, sporting a new masthead and boasting a new owner: Edward A. Seavey, former owner of a large printing shop in Haverhill, Mass. The operation was in the building now known as the Goody Cole Room in Lamie's Tavern. For another 33 years Seavey, along with his son, Edward Seavey Jr., and his son's wife, Margaret; his daughters, Ruth and Doris; and Doris' husband, Carl C. Bragg, continued to build and expand the Union.

They also published the Rockingham County Gazette, which continues today, and The Beach Advocate, a seasonal publication which later became, as it is still known today, The Beachcomber.

It is significant to note, in these days of both experienced and anticipated inflation, that for many years after the Seaveys began their term as publisher, the cost of The Hampton Union remained at exactly the price of the first issue printed in 1899; three cents a copy newsstand price, $1 a year subscription; and that coffee sold in local restaurants, with or without cream, went for five cents a cup.

Following the death of Ed Seavey Jr., the Union was published by a succession of owners, beginning with Gov. Wesley Powell in 1963. During those years, a great many changes took place. The actual production of the paper is perhaps the most dramatic.

In the olden days the paper was, as we know, completely hand-set. for at least 20 years until the advent of the Linotype machine. Later, printing advanced from the slow and cumbersome flat-bed press to "offset" and then to today's high-speed rotary presses.

Reporters 'filed their copy, at first, largely in long-hand; then came the typewriter; and then, in recent years, came a typewriter with a special typeface that was "read" and then photo-typeset by a forerunner of the modern computer.

Today, visitors to The Hampton Union will find not a single typewriter in sight in the newsroom (there is just one, tucked away for emergencies); instead, newsroom and advertising desks are stacked with computer keyboards and screens.

Correspondents are similarly equipped with portable computers at their homes. When the story on the screen meets their satisfaction, they press one or two keys and the story is transmitted by telephone to the news editor, Howard Parnell, at his office desk. After checking the story and making any changes he feels necessary, Parnell enters another keystroke and the copy is set in type faster that it is now taking you to read it.

We can be sure that dramatic changes in our world and in our communities will continue to occur in coming years. Whatever they bring, Hampton Union will be here to report it and to record it for future historians.

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