Muscatine County, Iowa
Muscatine Journal & News-Tribune
Centennial Edition
31 May 1940

Section 8 - Page 9 & Section 1 - 16 Submitted by Charlene Nichols Hixon, June 29, 2012

Page 9

Father and Son Pay for Newspaper Office

Photo of Document ~ The 87 year old document reproduced above represents one of the milestones in The Muscatine Journal’s 100 year old history – payment by Jacob Mahin and son to Noah McCormick of $500 for The Journal office. Penned on a piece of ordinary note paper, which bears the creases of several folds as it has been preserved through the years the original from which this reproduction was made is the prized possession of Mr. Mahin’s daughter, Mrs. J. Warren Alford. Mrs. Alford loaned the receipt to The Journal temporarily so that this illustration might be made.

Editors Son Helped Deliver Papers
H. J. Mahin Got Start As Carrier
By Harold J. Mahin

(Note – The following article was written for the centennial edition of The Journal by Harold J. Mahin, a son of John Mahin. Harold Mahin served in various capacities on The Journal, both on the news staff and in the business management of the paper before entering the advertising field. His home is now at Los Angeles, Calif.)

    My first recollection of The Journal office was that fragrant smell of ink and paper that every newspaper man knows. Whenever I get into a newspaper office and get a whiff of it, it makes me homesick.

    The Journal office in those days occupied a building on the alley between Second and Third streets on Iowa avenue. The business office was in the front downstairs, the press room in the back, the editorial and news office upstairs in the front and the composing room in the back. Later, when we got a big press it was put in the front room downstairs and the business office moved next door.

    Learned to Set Type

    The composing room was my first love and it was not long before I was, at every opportunity, sitting up in front of a case trying to set type. Of course we had no typesetting machines in those days and all type was set by hand. The first difficulty was to learn the case. The little boxes holding the type were not in alphabetical order but arranged so that the ones holding the letters used the most were most convenient and the real typesetter scorned having any markers on them. I finally found that I could pick up a little money this way because my father agreed to give me ten cents a thousand (a thousand being about 2 ½ square inches of type as I recall it). It was some job for me and I believe the foreman said it was a bigger job for him distributing the type I set because of the errors.

    The arrival of a Mergenthaler typesetting machine some time later was a real event in the composing room and I recall that we had to send one of the men to Brooklyn where he spent two weeks in the factory so as to be able to handle the machine.

    Carried Papers As a Boy.

    My first real job was carrying papers and I had the route up Third street and over the hill out to the cemetery. That route had numerous attractions that might delay a paper boy – I remember one big house at the top of the hill, if Gertrude happened to be out in front to get the paper, the customers on the other end of the line were apt to have their papers delayed. The route was a comparatively easy one except the last end which was clear out to the cemetery where there were four subscribers and that seemed quite a trek in those days.

    But one of the last papers before that was delivered at Drew Davidson’s house and I sometimes prevailed upon Drew, depending upon how hard-up he was, to deliver those last few papers. Sometimes I had to provide an added inducement in the shape of buying two cigars, with sweetened ends, two for a nickel, which we got in a little store at the bottom of the hill, which Drew and I would puff on surreptitiously as long as we could stand it. I sometimes wonder if the effect of those cigars did not somewhat dull Drew’s senses as to the job he was taking on and that he went about delivering those papers somewhat dizzily. I know I used to sit down in the park on the way home for a while before I dared enter the house.

    The net job was local editor. The job was to go around town and gather local items. It meant being at the depot when all trains arrived or departed and getting as many names in the paper as possible. For instance if you saw someone getting on the train going north but did not have time to find out where they were going you would just print an item that so-and-so departed for the north this morning even though he might only be going to Wilton or Davenport for the day. And south the same way though the destination might have been Columbus Junction or Burlington. Of course there were other sources of information. I would stop in most of the stores along Second street and chat with whoever would talk to me. I soon found out that to ask someone “What’s the news today?” would drive out of their mind anything that might be news and that the only thing to do was to talk along and see what developed.

    Visited Court House Daily.

    My last call was usually at the court house where Ed Stocker was a prolific source of news which, however, was usually accompanied by so much kidding that I never was quite sure whether or not to turn in some of the items he gave me.

    I think it was about this time that Frank Throop appeared on the scene and his taking over the job of local editor automatically promoted me to city editor. Frank was very resourceful and had new ideas about gathering news which took him over much more ground, where he really did dig up new stuff. I remember one day he came in with the story of having found a bundle of clothes on the river bank north of the city which he was sure indicated a suicide. We wrote it up big and of course it was a “scoop.” The morning paper in trying to follow it up could find nothing so accused us of inventing the story. While no corpus delicti was ever found we had a three day sensation out of printing conjectures, though I must admit I never pressed Frank very hard as to whether he really found those clothes.

    That summer my folks went away some place and Frank and I “batched it” in the old home on West second street. We got around a good deal and in an incautious moment I introduced him to some of my best girl friends. One in particular was Mabel, who I had always hoped had a soft spot in her heart for me and what did Frank do but marry her! Then a real dandy chap named Frank Hayes came out of Chicago and opened a stationery store. Frank and I took him in hand and introduced him around, incidentally to Nellie, another one of my special hopes and of course Mike eventually married Nellie. I was just a good thing for those fellows but still I have the satisfaction of knowing that two lovely girls got two fine men.

    Tribute to Lake A. W. Lee

    About this time The Journal was taken over by Uncle Fred. That was A. W. Lee, my mother’s brother, who has just had the vision of a group of middle west newspapers which afterward became the Lee Syndicate. Uncle Fred seemed to think I could handle the job of business manager and took me in hand. Next to my mother and father I loved and revered Uncle Fred more than anyone and never was there a man with a keener of kinder insight into human nature or a better vision of the newspaper business than he. He picked men where he found them and how good his judgment was is indicated by the development of his great organization. It was about this time that I met E. P. Adler and Jim Powell who were Uncle Fred’s right hand men in The Ottumwa Courier.

    They were both men who had had much harder knocks in life than I had but were unfailingly kind and encouraging to me in helping me learn the newspaper business. Aside from business ability which alone would entitle him to everything he has I never knew a man who had a keener sense of obligation, gratitude and responsibility than Mr. Adler. It may be telling tales out of school but I know personally that he had offers that were most attractive from big town newspapers, one from the head of the largest syndicate in the country, but he always seemed to feel that his duty and opportunity lay in the spot he was placed, especially after Mr. Lee’s untimely death in Europe.

    In those days Lee Loomis was a big jolly bouncing boy, with so much energy and curiosity that he was generally thought of as a “boy who would make his mark,” and in that particular her certainly has not disappointed anyone. He and Frank Throop today are Mr. Adler’s able assistants in carrying on the program Uncle Fred laid out.

    As business manager of course one of my jobs was to try and increase our advertising and I trudged up and down Second street daily in that attempt.

    I can still picture Second street and these stores in my mind.

    I will pass lightly over the tragic event of the dynamiting of three homes in Muscatine of which our home was one. I do not like to think how my father and I got mother and two sisters out of that crumbling house and will never cease to thank God that none of us was killed. I was just a kid then however, and maybe the tragedy of the event did not hit me so hard because it is told that after I had borrowed some clothes I went back into the house in the face of much protest and soon reappeared with my favorite ball bat and catcher’s glove.

    Helped on Special Edition.

    I remember a special edition we got out once. All we had to do it with was the old flatbed press and type set by hand.

    The press would only print four pages at a time on one side so we had to start away ahead to get out a 36 page paper. It …

(Continued on Section 1 Page 16)

Section 1 Page 16

    H. J. Mahin Helped Deliver Papers

    … meant nine operations through the press. Furthermore we had to set up and print a certain number of pages and then redistribute the type so as to set up more because we did not have enough type to print the regular daily editions and keep the special pages set up too. But we did it and much of the credit went to Frank and Jake and Dave who handled the mechanical end. They were great boys. Most of the articles that were printed, aside from the contributions we received were written by Charlie Broecken and myself.

    Some Outstanding Events.

    Some of the outstanding events of the development of Muscatine that stand out in my mind were: The first brick paving – it was a sight to see them lay those bricks right up the hill along Third street; then the electric car line running through Second street and out M- - - - - - most to the fair grounds and out the other way to the cemetery and the branch to South Muscatine.

    Then came the advent of automobiles and I believe Harry Huttig had the first big one, a Pop-Toledo which was tops in those days. Then P. M. Musser bought one and automobiles were still so much of a mystery in those days that they requisitioned one of their best engineers from the saw mill to run the car.

    Member of Brass Band.

    Then there was the organization of Muscatine’s first brass band. We met once a week on the third floor over Schmidt’s Music store and some horrible sounds came forth for a while. We were taught by Prof. Paudiet of Columbus Junction. Ed Erb played one of the biggest horns and little Eddie – (I can’t think of his name) and I played the alto horns. Charlie Fox and Harry Smalley played clarinets. That band was great fun. We went to firemen’s conventions all over the state and other events and we would play for funerals, rendering the slow funeral march going to the cemetery and then play some lively quicksteps coming back to advertise ourselves.

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