The Cincinnati Free Press Co.


Reflecting upon a wider deliberation of the free press in Cincinnati: A series of rotating columns upon the landmark constitutions and circular distributions of Cincinnati’s public newspapers and periodicals.

Of a returning review this article carries on by studied reflection upon the incised structure located at the corner of Ninth and addressed as 905 Vine Street, marked on the front-facing lintel as the Cincinnati Freie Presse that while being last converted of a Window Shade vendor, today appears stilled. As with the extending connection ranged within the free and public circulation pertaining to Cincinnati’s foremost main library in Ohio the nearby arrival hereupon is no random route resumed. This close junction rather intends to consider the underlying correlation formatively based from the promising foundation of the free press north of the Ohio River in 1793- of what was then marked as the Northwest Territory- followed in a abridged span of columns considering the further constitution and public distribution of newspapers and periodicals in and around Cincinnati.

There is though this inset series a intended retroactive reach toward a fuller conveyance of the conscious passing undertaken at this point as a meaningful contemplation pertaining to the past distribution of Cincinnati’s public presses, with the ensuing periodic endeavors conducted up to the present circulations within their respective publishing establishments; those being either conspicuously in operation or considered in such abiding place as a historical landmark as a further round deliberation that intends-along the way- to re-address the still-standing building bearing the scored attribution of Cincinnati Freie Presse.

Confronting the shattered pressing promise to the people of Cincinnati: the designed malignity blotted by the Centinel of the North-Western Territory.

From this intricate re-consideration the beginning cast off can- as in applied multiple or overlapping contexts- be historically framed, possibly misread, otherwise overlooked, even intentionally abandoned or discarded. Going choicely forward to search the attributed frontier site where the foremost free press was conducted in Cincinnati, according to certain corresponding accounts, currently reveals-as it was set down-that the log cabin on the corner of Sycamore and Front Street is today long since been materially subsumed beneath the overarching construction of the Great American Ballpark. Concretely then what remains is the fugitive impressions that relay the prime newspaper published in the Northwest Territory- meant to particularly inform the renamed river town of Cincinnati- was the Centinel of the North-Western Territory from November 9, 1793 to June 11, 1796; in part ventured by editor and publisher William Maxwell.

A very old tradition of Queen City journalism. Photo: A. Mann

Remarking of the press division- as opposed to sole print proprietor as some ascriptions claim- Maxwell was aided by his wife, with what has been related as a communal contribution in newspaper production and distribution. This early weekly edition- as some historians counter of its crude form- was essentially a ‘story-paper’ prepared on one large sheet of paper; printed front and back then folded in half to comprise a four-page newspaper. The included suspicious distinctions, adjunctive for diluted and corroded material, are all the more intentional around the compiled letters and reports Maxwell- at best- loosely transcribed second hand, with- at base motive- willfully contorted events occurring beforehand in Europe. Especially the mean import translated by re-aligned accounts of the French Revolution towards border ‘reformation’ in the Ohio Valley with frontier settlers and Native Americans in the 1790’s that was manifestly juxtaposed, despite the absurd incongruity in any correlative relation.

Further conflicting reports relay uncertain accuracy over Maxwell’s initial term as an itinerant printer, some stating he studied with John Bradford at the Kentuke Gazette (est. 1787) in Lexington, while others describe he was rather a rival printer of pamphlets, who unable to compete with Bradford’s main publication set his sights upriver to Cincinnati. American periodicals though having a downturn after the Treaty of England was signed in 1783, rapidly recovered and began to incline to an inciting pitch. Particularly after what was termed the ‘debacle of 1791’, when military troops under the command of Arthur St. Clair were soundly defeated by Miami (Omaumeg) and Shawano tribes along the Ohio River Valley, bringing about the massed martial campaign led by General Anthony Wayne in 1793. That General Wayne departed from Cincinnati with 3,000 troops in the fall of that year is evidently attributed to Maxwell’s report within his newspaper. The course of this ‘civil war’- as historians such as Alan Eckert have since responded- was relayed in brutal detail; not the least of which was condoning the monetary ‘reward for Indian scalps’, as Maxwell appraisingly set in the June 14, 1794 issue of the Centinel of the North-Western Territory.

Despite Maxwell’s initial claim in November 9, 1793 of his newspaper being “of great utility” to the people of Cincinnati, while offering fair impartment “of what is going on in the east of the Atlantic in arms, and in the arts of peace”, with further motto being ‘Open to all parties-but influenced by none’; it is obvious in confronting revision that his partial paper by such malign pro-French sentiment and advancement of vicious human butchery- though not by any means an exception then- fueled the unconscionable carnage of war against any proposed writ of bordering concord. These muddled partisan pressings would carry insidious black marks that are therein deeply stained as a ‘dark age’ of American journalism.

It would be a palled impression that the reformed nations’ press would have to overcome or re-cover ever after, either in dedicate pursuit of direct and open accounts or certain capitulation to the unjustifiable typecast versions malignantly rendered.