Pastors denounce first Sunday newspaper publication
Popular Sunday trolley excursions to Highland Park were not the only activity that drew the ire of pastors at the turn of the 20th century. (See “Red Lion’s towering Fairmont Park off the beaten track” post below or in York Town Square archives.)
The publication of York’s first Sunday newspaper prompted pulpit protests, as evidenced from the following article I wrote as part of the York Daily Record’s 200th anniversary in 1996:
Trouble seemed to follow Mayor D.K. Noell wherever he went. Noell, York’s first mayor, invited preservationists to protest after he supported a middle-of-the-night demolition of tottering market sheds. The Democrat, thus, efficiently dealt with the simmering political issue of whether or not the ancient Centre Square eyesores should be razed.
Seven years later, Noell endorsed the inaugural Sunday edition of The Gazette by setting his words in type for the press. At one point, Noell fumbled the hand-set type. He explained he had not set type for about 60 years.
“You see my fingers are too thick for this,“ Noell, then ex-mayor of York, explained to a Gazette reporter. “I don’t handle anything but a knife and fork now.“
With some help from a nimble-fingered printer known as a “devil,“ Noell concluded his endorsement: “I congratulate you on your enterprise and believe your Sunday edition will be a great success and will exert a good influence in the community.“
He misread his audience, but he never claimed the printer’s devil made him do it. Pastors mounted stumps of their own after that first paper hit the streets on Sept. 16, 1894. The next day, The Gazette published a story headlined, “The Sunday Gazette Denounced in Many Pulpits.“
The Rev. Charles A. Oliver of Westminster Presbyterian Church, for one, devoted an evening sermon to Sabbath observance and the Sunday Gazette. “All Sunday desecration is planned by Satan,“ Oliver said. “He planned the Sunday newspaper and inspired it. His ways are cunning and many men who think they are doing good are being duped by his Satanic majesty.“
A.B. Farquhar, of Quaker background, owned The Gazette and was no stranger to controversy. He had endured the public outcry after the Confederate Army’s occupation of York in 1863. His skin must have grown thicker after the rebels’ visit because the pulpit protests on his Sunday edition did not move him to retrench.
The Sunday Gazette continued publication until 1909, when the financially troubled newspaper was forced to concentrate on its daily editions. York would be without a Sunday newspaper until Lancaster Newspapers Inc. started the York Sunday News in 1948.
Today, the York Daily Record, successor to The Gazette, and the York Sunday News are published from the same newsroom.