Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

October 25, 2012

Dalton column: John Cole

Bill Dalton
The Andover Townsman

---- — John N. Cole was the father of the Andover Townsman. He was present at its birth, and he soon owned was sole owner of the paper and was its publisher, editor, and editorial writer.

On the Townsman’s “silver anniversary,” as he called it in 1912, Cole was still the boss and writing the editorials, as he would continue until his death 10 years later. One hundred years ago, on October 25, 1912, Cole wrote about the Townsman’s birth.

“Twenty five years ago, a weak struggling infant in the shape of a five column, eight-page newspaper was born and labeled the ‘Andover Townsman,’ and thus suggesting in its very name a closer communion among the citizens of Andover, it began a struggle to serve the best interests of Andover.”

Cole was active in state and local politics, and he was elected to the Great and General Court from 1903 to 1908, serving as speaker of the house in 1905. He stayed involved in state politics until his death.

He was one of the dominant voices at Andover’s town meetings, and in his editorials he would occasionally chastise a person who opposed his views but he did so in a thoughtful, if not entirely polite, manner. And he always gave his opponents the opportunity to write letters to the editor. Lest I leave a wrong impression, Cole was a brilliant, fair, hardworking man, who was among the most important people of his era in Andover.

His imprint on the town’s center is still exists. He built the ARCO (Andover Real Estate Company) building in 1907 and owned the Press Building on the corner of Main and Chestnut streets, which housed all three of his businesses: the Andover Townsman, the Andover Press, and the Andover Bookstore.

As for the Andover Townsman on its 25th anniversary, it resembled the first Townsman, which was so capably described by Susan McKelliget on these pages three weeks ago (her article can be found online at AndoverTownsman.com).

The difference was that each year there was more local news and less national and international news.

Still, however, the paper was eight pages, as it had been from the beginning, and the front page was much the same as the first Townsmans: two columns were filled with advertisements, and three columns had newsy vignettes about townspeople.

Here follows examples of those vignettes on the front page of the Silver Anniversary Edition.

“John Runnells, who claimed he was a native of Andover, was arrested by the local police on Saturday night for drunkenness.”

“The first meeting of the Public Teachers Association was held on Monday evening... the program included vocal selections by J. Everett Collins.”

“Several local boys have been located by the police as the parties who stole a large box of chewing gum from the Boston and Maine freight trains recently. After taking from the box all the gum they could possibly chew for some time, the youngsters hid the rest and they now claim that their hiding place had been discovered and the whole box stolen.”

“A soda fountain is being installed in the fruit store of P. Simeone and Company.”

“Mrs. M. E. Dalton and family have moved into a tenement recently vacated by Mrs. Ellen Main.” (M. E. Dalton was my grandmother, and she was four years a widow with four youngsters.)

The second and third pages were filled with national and international news and the fourth page was where Mr. Cole wrote his editorials. If he received letters, they would start nearby and continue to the next page. The rest of the paper was devoted to lots of advertising and local news. The churches, sections of town such as Abbot Village and Ballard Vale, Phillips and Abbot Academies, and news from nearby towns were all covered by volunteer reporters.

Engagements were announced, weddings described, and meetings of organizations were both announced and described. Sports from all over town, including box scores of private club teams from companies and organizations such as Smith and Dove and the Knights of Columbus were found in several places. Little of local interest was ignored.

Between 1912 and Cole’s death in 1922, he brought the Andover Townsman into the modern era and its appearance became much closer to today’s Townsman than 1912’s silver anniversary edition.

If, as John N. Cole wrote, the name “Andover Townsman” implied that the paper’s goal had been “a closer communion among the citizens of Andover,” it certainly was accomplishing that, and it still does 125 years after it all began.

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Bill Dalton writes a weekly column for the Andover Townsman and his email address is BillDalton@AndoverTownie.com.