Correcting the Record: Research uncovers new Adirondack Enterprise origin date

PETER CROWLEY/ADIRONDACK DAILY ENTERPRISE PHOTOThis four-page supplement about Saranac Lake is the oldest known copy of The Adirondack Enterprise, dated Feb. 21, 1895, on file in the Saranac Lake Free Library’s Adirondack Research Room. Even though it says “Vol. 1, No. 1,” there was doubt whether it was the actual first issue, partly because of a belief that the paper began in 1894 and partly because this is a feature supplement and not a regular newspaper. However, newly discovered reports in other Franklin County newspapers at the time confirm that this supplement was inserted inside the Enterprise’s first news issue, published on the same day.

SARANAC LAKE — The Adirondack Daily Enterprise has trumpeted “since 1894” for a generation in its masthead. At this time, that detail could use an explanation, a correction, a clarification.

As the newspaper plans to recognize its 125th year of publication, new information has surfaced. In the past few days, discoveries in publications from long past show the owners of the Enterprise first put ink to newsprint two months after the close of 1894, or 124 years ago.

Almost certainly the first edition of the Enterprise came off the press with a date of Feb. 21, 1895.

ENDING THE MYSTERY

Even the Saranac Lake Free Library may edit its timeline on the local newspaper. Its records, typed by former librarians, starts the Enterprise with a question mark: vol. 1, no.1 ? 1894.

The library’s Michele Tucker helped end that mystery after being questioned by a reporter last week. It took her a few days, but she found two articles from defunct publications that identified 1895 as the starting date of the Enterprise.

DISCOVER MORE

A reporter found three other citations in vintage publications indicating the Enterprise came to life in 1895 from the consolidation of two papers.

With this new data, Enterprise Publisher Catherine Moore reacted like someone who had been presented with a new birth certificate.

“It is exciting to find out this new information on its exact beginning, as well as the other two newspapers merging into the Adirondack Enterprise,” she said. “With the internet, we now have the ability to discover more information than we did when we celebrated our 100th year.”

LOGO CHANGE

Moore said the paper corrects mistakes as they become known and publishes corrections on page 3. She sees the birthday change as a clarification, but it may cause more than a few edits. The “since 1894” has been atop page 1 since 1994, when the Enterprise published a package of stories for the 100th anniversary. The date was more recently incorporated into a logo. It has been amended. And the paper may have two celebrations, one this fall with a planned anniversary package, and perhaps a recognition next winter on its birthday.

Reporting the new data should add to the paper’s reputation of credibility, she said.

In the August 1994 anniversary edition, a story about the newspaper’s history by contributor John Duquette did not state the birthday as 1894. He wrote that Carl Smith bought the Enterprise’s predecessor, the Adirondack Pioneer, that year. Also, a special package in the Enterprise for its 75th anniversary did not get into the birth year, but that edition appeared in 1969.

EARLY ISSUE ISSUES

Many early issues of the Enterprise are missing, largely for two reasons. One is that its former home, in the Harrietstown hall, caught fire in 1926. A “supplement” at the library, identified as Vol. 1, No. 1 from Feb. 21, 1895, was partly reprinted for the 100th anniversary edition. It’s now clear that supplement was inserted in the paper’s first issue.

Many more years of papers were lost because of a perhaps too-thorough job of cleaning the Enterprise’s post-fire home in 1953, when the paper was sold, according to an account in the 75th anniversary report.

The fresh research came from reports buried in columns of extinct publications. The material is available now thanks to the Northern New York Library Network’s Historic Newspaper Project. The public can go on its site, now known as the New York State Historic Newspapers, and find editions of publications from throughout New York, including from Franklin County in 1895.

‘WELL PRINTED AND ATTRACTIVE’

There you will find, for example, a story from the Franklin Gazette of Fort Covington. It reported in its March 1, 1895, edition that on Feb. 21, 1895, Saranac Lake’s Enterprise came to be.

“The first number of the Adirondack Enterprise, published by the Franklin Publishing Company of Saranac Lake, was issued Feb’y 21st. It is a seven-column, eight-page sheet, well printed and attractive in appearance.”

The Gazette approved of the leanings of the paper. “The Enterprise is Republican in politics,” it reported. “Such a publication deserves the support of the people of Saranac Lake and no doubt will receive it.”

‘SUCCESS TO ALL’

A front-page item in the Feb. 15, 1895, Chateaugay Record and Franklin County Democrat stated that The Franklin Publishing Co. bought the Adirondack Pioneer and the Saranac Lake Herald.

“The consolidated papers will hereafter appear as the Adirondack Enterprise,” the story said. “The Franklin Publishing Co. is managed by Carl D. Smith who was born in Chateaugay and has mady (sic) friends here who will wish for him every success in his new venture.”

The Franklin Gazette showed good sportsmanship on page 3 of its Feb. 15, 1895, edition, reporting that Franklin Publishing of Saranac Lake reportedly “absorbed the other publications in that thriving village” and announced “that after Feb. 15 the combination will be succeeded by one publication known as the Adirondack Enterprise. Success to all.”

HAD A FEELING

Also, on Jan. 26, 1895, the editors of St. Regis Falls’ Adirondack News wrote about a newcomer about to join the North Country newspaper community, a publication called the Adirondack Enterprise. And the Malone Palladium, on Feb. 28, 1895, reported that the “first number” of the Enterprise did indeed appear “last week” with a supplement that was “a work of beauty.”

Tucker, who runs the archives at the Saranac Lake Free Library, said she was “very happy” to be able to answer the question of when the Enterprise started publishing. “I kind of had a feeling: I know this. I was glad I had two sources to prove it.”

She is unsure why her predecessors listed 1894 as the birthday, and she isn’t sure why the newspaper went with it in subsequent reporting. She assumes that since the Adirondack Pioneer ceased to publish in 1894, people deduced that the Enterprise immediately filled the gap.

“Of course I’m jumping to conclusions that they jumped to conclusions,” Tucker said.

CORRECT OURSELVES

History buffs are thrilled with the news.

“I think it’s great,” said Harrietstown historian Mary Hotaling of Saranac Lake. “There’re always things to correct.”

She said the availability of old newspapers on the library network website has made it easier to probe. “You used to have to drive all over to all these libraries to find records,” she said.

Hotaling said it is appropriate for the Enterprise to fix the date of the first issue. “We should always correct ourselves if we can. This is not a major thing — whether it’s 1894 or 1895.”

A MOVING TARGET

Chessie Monks-Kelly, museum administrator at Historic Saranac Lake, said new information often arrives to improve narratives, and it is important to make the improvements. “History is sort of a moving target,” she said.

Perhaps the Enterprise’s parent company formed in 1894 and that was thought of as a starting point, said Ivy Gocker, library director at the Adirondack Experience museum in Blue Mountain Lake. She was all for correcting the birth record, however.

“Newspapers are a primary source document of day-to-day life, and right now people are skeptical of the media, of all forms of media, and should be skeptical,” she said. “It’s important to treat historical media with that same skepticism.

“If one credible source says 1894 and everybody else cites that, you can see how an incorrect detail gets disseminated easily, and there isn’t always a mechanism for correcting,” she said.

RESPONSIBILITY TO CORRECT

Union College history professor Andrew Morris, who teaches a course on the Adirondacks at the Schenectady school, said the mistake isn’t a high-stakes matter. He said there is commonly gray area around fixed dates to old moments. The idea of the Enterprise may have been conceived before the actual first copy, he said.

“It’s sort of an oral tradition,” he said. “If indeed it’s ‘95, I’m not shocked. No one is quite sure when my grandmother was born.”

Despite the low-grade mistake, newspapers need to follow their policies of cleaning up the record when they can and telling readers why, said Al Tompkins, a journalism professor with the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida.

“We don’t have a sunset provision on accuracy,” he said. “If we found out we were wrong last week, last year, last century, you have a responsibility to correct it.”