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American citizen. [volume] : (Butler, Butler County, Pa.) 1863-1872
Place of publication:
Butler, Butler County, Pa.
Geographic coverage:
  • Butler, Butler, Pennsylvania  |  View more titles from this: City County, State
Thomas Robinson & C.E. Anderson
Dates of publication:
  • Ceased in 1872.
  • Vol. 1, no. 1 (Dec. 9, 1863)-
  • English
  • Butler (Pa.)--Newspapers.
  • Pennsylvania--Butler.--fast--(OCoLC)fst01214346
  • Archived issues are available in digital format from the Library of Congress Chronicling America online collection.
  • Editor: Thomas Robinson, <1866>.
  • Publisher: M.W. Spear, <1866>.
  • Republican. Cf. Rowell, 1869.
sn 86053370
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American citizen. [volume] December 9, 1863 , Image 1


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American Citizen

            In 1803, the population of Pittsburg in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, was 2,000-- a metropolis compared to Butler County, its new neighbor some 35 miles to the north. Arriving from Pittsburg as clerk to Butler’s first prothonotary, Henry M. Brackenridge described the settlement as a "new outpost of civilization" with only a few unfinished log buildings in “a howling wilderness.”    Butler County was erected on March 12, 1800, with 790 square miles taken from Allegheny County. Its name honors Richard Butler, a Revolutionary War hero who died in 1791 during the doomed St. Clair Expedition to Ohio. The village of Butler (later a borough, eventually a city) was laid out in 1803, quickly approved as the county seat on March 3. The first settlers were Scots-Irish from New England, then German immigrants who became the ethnic majority.

            Bisected by Conoquenessing Creek, Butler is fortuitously located amidst coal, gas, oil, and limestone deposits.  Within a year after Edwin Drake’s successful oil drilling in 1859 in Titusville, 40 miles north, the Butler Oil Company, first of many local petroleum operations, was established. Between 1860 and 1900, the Butler wellfields boomed, some so large that they set the market price of petroleum.

            Launched on December 9, 1863, during the Civil War and Butler’s oil-fueled prosperity, the American Citizen was a Republican weekly newspaper. The front-page slogan proclaimed, “Let us have faith that Right makes Might, and in that faith let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it. – A. Lincoln.”Maj. Cyrus E. Anderson (1822-1903), editor and proprietor had been a nine-month volunteer in the 134th Regiment and mustered out in May 1863. Thomas Robinson (1825-1906), local lawyer and chairman of the county Republican committee, was political editor.

            The American Citizen was the county journal of record, publishing official local government news; reprints of national and international news; regional market prices; and “all the current news of the neighborhood,” according to Robinson’s message in the first issue. The newspaper offers insight into local interpretations of national events.  For example, the Civil War Military Draft Act of March 1863 established conscript quotas for every congressional district. A draftee could find a paid stand-in (substitution) or pay $300 (commutation), leading to a bitter public slogan, "rich man's war, poor man's fight." The American Citizen of January 27, 1864, reported neutrally that “The citizens of Butler township have succeeded in raising sufficient funds to procure the necessary number of substitutes to fill their quota of the draft, under the late call of the President.” 

           Thanks to the telegraph, the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment on January 31, 1865, by the House of Representatives, was reported the next day. The Citizen’s lead editorial trumpeted, “Glorious News! The Constitutional amendment abolishing slavery has passed Congress by the decided vote of 119 to56!  America is free!” The issue of April 12th celebrated Lee’s surrender; on the 19th, solid black column lines mourned Lincoln’s assassination. Anderson sold his interest to Robinson in 1864, buying it back in December 1866. In 1869 Anderson sold the American Citizen to John H. Negley, who in 1873 changed the name to Butler County Citizen.

Provided by: Penn State University Libraries; University Park, PA