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Ellsworth American. [volume] : (Ellsworth, Me.) 1855-current
Place of publication:
Ellsworth, Me.
Geographic coverage:
  • Ellsworth, Hancock, Maine  |  View more titles from this: City County, State
Wm. H. Chaney
Dates of publication:
  • Vol. 1, no. 1 (Jan. 12, 1855)-
  • English
  • Ellsworth (Me.)--Newspapers.
  • Maine--Ellsworth.--fast--(OCoLC)fst01219490
  • Archived issues are available in digital format from the Library of Congress Chronicling America online collection.
  • Editors: N.K. Sawyer, <1863>-1872; A.F. Drinkwater, 1872-1878 ; H.C. Vaughan, <1883>.
  • Latest issue consulted: 152nd year, no. 34 (Aug. 22, 2002).
  • Publishers: N.K. Sawyer, Wm. P. Burr, <1863>; N.K. Sawyer, <1866>-1872; Hancock Publishing Co., 1872-<1883>.
sn 84022374
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Ellsworth American

Among the oldest papers in Maine, the Ellsworth American is based out of the seat of Hancock County, in the region of Maine east of Penobscot Bay called Down East, near Bar Harbor and Mount Desert Island, where summer communities emerged in the 19th century. The paper has received numerous awards from the Maine Press Association and New England Newspaper & Press Association, thanks in part to W.H. Titus, Russ Wiggins, and Alan Baker, the owners and editors who contributed most to its success.

Newspaper publishing in Ellsworth began in 1826 with the Independent Courier, which was the first of roughly five papers with various political bents that existed for short periods until 1851, when Elijah Couillard began publishing the Ellsworth Herald. Couillard sold the press to W.H. Chaney in December 1854, who renamed the paper the American and published between January and December of 1855, when Chaney sold it to N.K. Sawyer, who expanded the size from 20 x 17" (four pages, six columns) to 27 x 20" (four pages, eight columns) and ran it until 1872.

The paper leaned Republican and anti-Catholic, and it carried poetry, fiction, national and international news, and local advertisements. During the 1870s and 1880s, it belonged to the Hancock County Publishing Company and was edited by Arthur F. Drinkwater, E.P. Sampson (very briefly), H.C. Vaughan, and J.C. Chilcott. According to Miller's The History of Current Maine Newspapers, throughout this period, "More of the American's four pages were filled with special columns … home and foreign news … [and] the arrival and departure of ships …. Crime, suicide, and murder stories were introduced. In addition to national news still prominently displayed, a local personals column was added to record the comings and goings of Hancock County citizens." The focus of the paper shifted heavily toward local and county news under the leadership of W.H. Titus.

Titus came to the American from Long Island, NY, as Assistant Editor in 1894, when the American was owned and edited by F.W. Rollins, who was also town postmaster. Except for a return to New York between 1902 and 1905, Titus stayed with the American until passing in March 1945.

Upon the death of Rollins in 1913, Titus officially gained control of the paper, which was now eight pages. Miller writes, "Titus seemed to sense the true character of a country weekly." The secret to his success was having 100+ of correspondents in every one of the 31 towns and cities plus every subdivision and township in the American's territory. He removed the words "A Political Newspaper" from the American's masthead, a gesture toward non-partisanship and straightforward journalism. Titus introduced the "Mutual Benefit" column, a "helpful and hopeful" interchange of ideas, which solicited content in the form of advice, stories, or recipes, and was edited by such pseudonymous individuals as "Aunt Anne," "Aunt Madge," and "Patricia."

Ellsworth native Donald Stuart was the next to run the American, and he was with the paper 24 years before he died in 1959. Another local man, Hale Joy, ran the paper while it technically belonged to Stuart's young son.

James Russell Wiggins, whose career wended from Minnesota in the 1920s to the Washington Post and the United Nations during the Johnson administration, took over the American in 1969, modernized it with offset printing and expanded office space, and lengthened each issue to 24-32 pages. A legend in Maine news, Wiggins edited the American until his death in 2000.

Ownership of the paper transferred to Alan Baker in 1991. Baker launched a second weekly paper, the Mount Desert Islander, and invested in the printing arm of the business. In 2011, Baker was awarded National Newspaper Association's James O. Amos Award, recognizing an industry executive who has shown community leadership and distinguished journalism service.

Concurrent with Alan Baker's retirement in 2018, the newspaper was acquired by Maine media mogul Reade Brower. It remains in publication to this day.

Provided by: Maine State Library