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Democratic messenger. [volume] : (Snow Hill, Md.) 1869-1973
Place of publication:
Snow Hill, Md.
Geographic coverage:
  • Snow Hill, Worcester, Maryland  |  View more titles from this: City County, State
T.H. Moore & G.M. Upshur
Dates of publication:
  • -Feb. 21, 1973.
  • Began with Jan. 30, 1869 issue?
  • English
  • Maryland--Snow Hill.--fast--(OCoLC)fst01226927
  • Maryland--Worcester County.--fast--(OCoLC)fst01213565
  • Snow Hill (Md.)--Newspapers.
  • Worcester County (Md.)--Newspapers.
  • Archived issues are available in digital format from the Library of Congress Chronicling America online collection.
  • Description based on: Vol. 5, no. 3 (Feb. 15, 1873).
  • Numbering irregular.
sn 84026758
Succeeding Titles:
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Democratic messenger. [volume] March 12, 1881 , Image 1


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Democratic messenger

The Democratic Messenger was established in 1869 as a weekly by T.H. Moore and George M. Upshur (1847-1924). The latter was a Yale graduate and prominent lawyer in Snow Hill. He also was a Democratic Party leader, representing Snow Hill in the Maryland House of Delegates, where he was elected Speaker in 1888. The paper was a consistent mouthpiece for Democratic Party political views, which reflected the conservative attitudes of most of the population on Maryland's lower Eastern Shore.

By 1881, the newspaper had passed to the control of Littleton Dennis, a member of a family with deep roots in the county. Dennis sold the paper in 1887 to Oscar M. Purnell and Clarence L. Vincent (1861-1945). Vincent had prior experience as a local publisher, having started the Wicomico Record in nearby Salisbury in 1884. In 1902, Coriolanus V. White purchased Purnell's half interest and joined Vincent in publishing the paper.

The Democratic Messenger chronicled major changes in Worcester County in the years following the Civil War. Snow Hill's economy had relied primarily on the ability to ship timber and agricultural goods down the Pocomoke River to the Chesapeake Bay. These and allied businesses, such as the building of coastal schooners, continued to see coverage in the newspaper. The Maryland, Delaware and Virginia Railroad, later part of the Pennsylvania Railroad, reached Snow Hill in the early 1870s. This significantly shortened travel times from cities such as Baltimore and Philadelphia at a time when a growing middle class was seeking vacation spots on the seashore. In 1874, the extension of the Wicomico and Pocomoke Railroad to Sinepuxent Bay created the necessary conditions for the rise of Ocean City as an ocean resort town. Snow Hill was only about 25 miles away, thus the Democratic Messenger increasingly carried news and ads for hotels and other business in Ocean City after its founding in 1875.

Railroad transportation also created markets for Snow Hill's canning industry and fostered the emergence of hatcheries, such as Dryden's, established in 1918. The latter presaged the growth of the poultry empires that dominated the economy of the Delmarva peninsula in the 20th century. Related industries such as fertilizer manufacturing, and basket and barrel making offered employment to a rising working class, many of them African Americans.

The Democratic Messenger was similar to other small-town Maryland newspapers in its coverage of local events, social comings and goings, legal happenings at the courthouse, and a smattering of news from the world beyond. The front page often featured excerpts of novels and short stories, poetry, humor, and entertaining facts reprinted from larger, big-city papers. As an example of the dominance of agricultural concerns, the newspaper offered a copy of "Kendall's celebrated book, 'The Horse and His Diseases'" to all annual subscribers in April 1882.

Social issues rarely intruded, thus the editor reported with some surprise in 1882 that in neighboring Somerset County, an African American had been seated to serve on a grand jury for the very first time.

William G. Kerbin, a local lawyer, had led a reform movement in Snow Hill using the short-lived The People newspaper as his platform for causes such as women's suffrage and prison reform between 1914 and 1920. His son, William G. Kerbin, Jr. also a lawyer and state's attorney for the county, purchased the Democratic Messenger in 1945. The Democratic Messenger was owned by the Kerbin family until it was acquired by Atlantic Publications in 1969 who merged the paper with the Worcester Democrat to form the Worcester County Messenger in 1973. The Messenger's offices were located at the corner of Pearl and Market Street facing the Worcester County courthouse. The building still stands and houses the tax assessor's office.

Provided by: University of Maryland, College Park, MD