“The Clifton Echo”
Clifton’s First Newspaper
July 1872 – October 1872
In the 1870’s, the scattered settlements of Centreville, Delawanna, Peru or Highland, and Clifton, comprised the Township of Acquackanonk (now in the city of Clifton). The Village of Clifton, situated on the Paterson Plank Road between Paterson and Passaic, displayed signs of growth, but still relied upon the newspapers published in Paterson and Passaic to report the news of the village. For three brief months in 1872, however, the publication of The Echo, Clifton’s first newspaper, provided the village with the catalyst for becoming a bustling city.
Although no known copies of The Echo exist, the reprinting of The Echo’s articles by The Paterson Daily Guardian, Paterson Daily Press, and Passaic Item, make it possible to report the news as it appeared in The Echo. The first issue appeared Saturday, July 27, 1872, with Robert S. GARDINER as its editor and owner. The Echo covered many diversified topics concerning the welfare and growth of Clifton. Besides covering the religious trends and population explosion of the village, The Echo also reported on real estate transfers and holdings.
“The Bread Ticket War”
The Echo is perhaps best known, however, for its role in the so-called Clifton-Passaic “Bread Ticket War” in August of 1872. The paper warned its readers of :
“Passaic bakers, who come to Clifton to solicit custom. They sell the unsophisticated inhabitants…$5 worth of “bread tickets,” and then come no more, and of course the holders of the tickets cannot realize on them.”
The Echo and its Passaic counterpart, The Item, emerged as battlegrounds in the dispute. Fighting intensified on when The Echo alleged that:
“…On a number of these little mementos now before use, we read—‘O. GEBEL, Main Ave., Passaic,’ and on the reverse side ‘Good for one load of bread.’
“Mr. Gebel may inform us that the tickets if presented at the bakery will be redeemed, but that is not the point. Our citizens did not buy these tickets for the blessed privilege of going to Passaic to get the equivalent.”
The Item defended the community and merchants of Passaic and sternly remonstrated:
“We would ask Mr. Gebel, what explanation he has to offer in the above matter; as there are always two sides to every controversy; we would like to have his statement…”
This statement was soon provided by a rebuttal by Mr. Gebel printed in The Item. In it, Mr. Gebel explained that he sold bread tickets to only one lady, and he continued the delivery of bread to that lady until the tickets were used up. He further stated: “If the lady after telling me that her tickets were out…purchased the tickets from any other person, I am not supposed to be held accountable for it.”
The Item, standing firm by the saying innocent until proven guilty, admonished:
“Will the ‘Echo’ now rise to explain where the information was obtained, upon which the charge against Mr. Gebel was based?”
The war ended in an apparent victory for The Echo and Clifton. The Echo look full responsibility for the charges leveled against Mr. Gebel and printed in conclusion that:
“…we (will not) permit the treats of actions at law to have the slightest effect upon our determination to ask that ‘wrong’ may be made right; that where injustice has been done, either intentionally or otherwise, the proper reparation may be made.”
Adhering to the principle of right versus wrong, The Echo proved that nobody could take advantage of Clifton residents without being exposed and eventually reprimanded.
The Death of “The Echo”
A month later, The Echo told its readers that it contemplated doubling its size and announced that articles from two of the most popular magazine writers in the country would appear in its pages. Approximately one month after this announcement, The Echo discontinued publication.
The Item reported on the death of The Echo that “the Clifton people will realize their mistake in not supporting The Echo, when it is too late.” The Paterson Daily Guardian commented: “The Clifton Echo is dead for want of support. It was a lively, well edited little paper, but Clifton is the last place in the world to foster anything like enterprise. The property there is all in the hands of a few rich men…It is too gilt-edged.”
The Echo, starving for subscribers, finally succumbed to an inevitable death and Clifton, with a population of approximately 300 people, was unable to support its small weekly newspaper. The obituary of The Echo could not have been more appropriately stated: “The Clifton Echo will not more reverberate among the hills and dales of this vicinity.”
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