Friday, June 02, 2017

Waterbury Democrat Newspaper

The Waterbury Democrat began in July 1881 as a weekly newspaper called the Valley Democrat in Waterbury, Connecticut. The newspaper became The Sunday Democrat on January 7, 1886, and The Waterbury Evening Democrat on December 5, 1887. Founded by an Irish Catholic Democrat, Cornelius Maloney, the Democrat was known for its promotion of the Democratic Party’s principles and for its coverage of Irish and Catholic topics. The paper focused its local reporting on Waterbury news and sports, along with a column for the neighboring towns of Naugatuck, Oakville, and Watertown.

Irish Catholics made up approximately half of Waterbury’s population at this time. The city’s first Irish immigrants arrived during the early 1830s. By the 1880s, they had largely overcome discrimination from the city’s Protestant community and were establishing themselves as a formidable force in local politics.

Cornelius Maloney was joined by his brother, Michael Thomas Maloney, in 1882, establishing the publishing firm name C. & M. T. Maloney. The Maloney brothers learned the printing and newspaper business in New Britain. Cornelius apprenticed with Oviatt & Guernsey, and later worked for the New Britain Record and the New Britain Observer before moving to Waterbury. He served as a Representative in the Connecticut General Assembly in 1887 and 1888, and he was the founder and first Grand Knight of the local Knights of Columbus, Sheridan Council, No. 24.

Editorial, Waterbury Democrat, 1887
Courtesy of Library of Congress Chronicling America

Stephen J. Meany

Irish activist Stephen J. Meany took over as editor of The Waterbury Evening Democrat with its first issue on December 5, 1887. Born in County Clare, Ireland in 1822, Meany was a reporter and poet in Ireland. He was also a member of the Young Irelanders Movement, which sought to overthrow British rule and re-establish Ireland as an independent nation. Following the Young Irelanders Uprising of 1848, Meany was briefly imprisoned.

Meany moved to the United States in 1856, working for a number of different newspapers (including the New York Herald and Harper's Weekly). He joined the Fenian movement, raising money to support the Irish Republic cause. During a visit to London in 1866, Meany was arrested and tried for treason for his Fenian activities in New York. Even though he was, by this time, a U.S. citizen, Meany was sentenced to 15 years of penal servitude by the British courts. This led to a brief international controversy over whether or not the British government had the right to imprison U.S. citizens for things they had done in the United States. Soon after his conviction, Meany was released from prison and deported (The Waterford News, Ireland, 27 March 1868).

Over the next two decades, Meany worked in New York City as a newspaperman and as an Irish activist, continuing to raise money for the cause. Meany returned briefly to London in 1885 as part of the defense team for Harry Burton and James Cunningham, who were accused and convicted of exploding a bomb at the Tower of London.

In 1887, Meany came to Waterbury to "escape the worry and toil of New York life" (Democrat editorial, February 8, 1888) and, more specifically, to work as editor of the newly launched Evening Democrat, which actively promoted the Irish nationalist cause as well as a populist, pro-labor viewpoint. The editorial for the first issue of The Waterbury Evening Democrat on December 5, 1887 declared a belief in “the greatest good of the greatest number; the triumph of popular rule over oligarchical recklessness; the requital for honest labor as against capitalist greed; the dignity of mind and muscle above monopoly and money-bags; religious liberty instead of sectarian strife; and, extending sympathy to our people beyond ocean, the establishment of Irish nationhood on the ruins of British provincial servitude.”

Meany’s tenure at the Democrat was brief: he died unexpectedly on February 8, 1888. His remains were sent back to Ireland for burial.

The Maloneys' Democrat

Following Meany's untimely death, the Maloney family continued as publishers and editors of the Democrat. Cornelius Maloney continued as editor and publisher until his death in 1914. He was succeeded as editor by his son, Edward Vincent Maloney, who had begun working in the paper’s editorial department in 1911. Other family members involved in the daily operations or as reporters were Angela A. Maloney, Catherine A. Maloney, and Cornelius F. Maloney.

The Maloneys acquired a new and faster printing press in 1891 to help keep up with increasing circulation for The Waterbury Evening Democrat. Daily circulation grew from 2,500 in 1893 to 4,851 in 1903, when it was marketed as “The Peoples’ Paper” and the only Democratic daily paper in the Naugatuck Valley.

During the 210-day Waterbury trolley strike which began on January 11, 1903, the Evening Democrat editorials promoted the cause of the strikers, advocating for their pay raise, applauding the peaceful nature of the strike, and condemning “scabs” as disreputable. On January 16, the newspaper ran a story about trolley workers brought in from New York City under false pretenses; when the workers arrived in Waterbury and discovered that they had been hired to replace striking workers, they promptly walked out on the job and visited the Evening Democrat’s office to tell their story, calling the other strike breakers “crooks and professional grafters.” When violence began to erupt during the strike, the Evening Democrat’s editor defended the strikers, declaring that they “had no hand in it.”

On a side note, the trolley strike led to a shift in Waterbury's political scene. Normally a staunchly Democratic city, the 1903 local election swept all of the Republican candidates into office. The Democrats were closely associated with the labor movement and the trolley strike, which was resented by the majority of voters.

The paper’s name was changed once more, in 1917, to The Waterbury Democrat. On December 28, 1946, the Maloney family sold the Democrat to the American-Republican, Inc., publishers of the Waterbury Republican-American. E. Vincent Maloney, editor and publisher of the Democrat, cited increasing costs as the reason for the sale.

No comments: