Rumors about Chesapeake Publishing closing down its Elkton printing plant and centralizing operations in Easton were confirmed in a story published Saturday on the Whig’s web site. After mid-June, the daily newspaper, along with contract work, will be printed in Easton, while sales, circulation and editorial departments remain in Elkton. “Readers and the general public will notice little, if any difference to the Whig as a result of these changes,” David Fike, the publisher, wrote.
Beyond whatever efficiencies the consolidation provides for the legacy media corporation, there is also an economic impact on the central part of Elkton as additional jobs are lost. For some time now the old business district has been struggling with a declining employment base, as the town works to revitalize its central area. One of the largest losses occurred when nearly 200 county office workers moved to a new administration building on the Delaware State Line in 2008.
In addition the closing also marks the end of a long, proud era in Cecil County newspaper publishing. When those local presses, cameras, and mailroom operations fall silent just before summer arrives, it will mark the first time in nearly 200 years that a local newspaper hasn’t rolled off the presses in the county. It started when a young newspaper publisher from Lancaster Pa., John McCord, arrived here to issue the Elkton Press in 1823. He was also a printer since in those days the jobs often overlapped. The weekly used an old hand press, and on publication day McCord and two helpers rolled up their sleeves and got ink on their hands as they toiled to get their broadsheet full of local content out to subscribers.
As the years rolled by a number of county towns had newspapers with printing operations. Elkton had several presses, but there were also weeklies with print shops in North East, Port Deposit and Rising Sun. At one time around the turn of the 20th century, there were eight weeklies published locally. As early four page products came and went, surrendering to changing politics or business conditions, two publications with resilience stood a test of time. One, the Cecil Whig, started publishing on August 7, 1841, The editor purchased the printing press of the Port Deposit Rock and moved it to Elkton. The other was the Cecil Democrat, but it was merged with the Whig in the last quarter of the 20th century.
Those pioneers at the Elkton Press, McCord and his two helpers, having arrived in the county seat, with a hand press, a font of type, and some cabinets were directly responsible for starting the information age in Cecil County, but we’ll soon close an important chapter in the history they started.