For the First Time in Almost 200 Years, a Newspaper Won’t Be Printed Locally as Whig Printing Plant Closes

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.    

The printing operation at the Rising Sun Newspapers in the 1920s


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.


5 responses to “For the First Time in Almost 200 Years, a Newspaper Won’t Be Printed Locally as Whig Printing Plant Closes

  1. I don’t know what to say. It’s stunning. I hope the people working the press area, can get their jobs back in Easton.
    I think it also means the Cecil Whig won’t be arriving as early as it does now.

  2. Thanks for putting this into historical context. Anyone who has seen a printing press in action knows that it was an awesome sight that had a kind of power to it, an excitement. Not to mention noise. The digital age has brought the long newspaper era to its final chapter, even in Cecil County. Though the presses have fallen silent at the Whig, we now have many other sources for our local news … such as someonenoticed! I do feel sorry for the many hard-working pressmen (and women) who lost their jobs. These are basically manufacturing jobs, and we all know those are never coming back.

  3. Bill, I agree. On the practical side, it’s going to take some extra time to truck those thousands of copies up from the Mid-Shore for an early morning distribution. Guess that means the Whig’s deadline will be earlier and it’ll push late breaking important evening news over to the next day. of course, anything major gets hit by broadcast media really heavily on the 11 p.m., news so everyone’s aware of the big stories.

  4. Thanks David. Also as you say it is sad to think about the loss of those good jobs. It certainly marks the end of a chapter in mass media history in Cecil County. Someone needs to put together a piece on the arrival of the digital age and social networking here so this now emerging chapter is documented. I still remember the first paper to go online with a web presence, way back in the archaic age of the web. It was in the late 1990s and it was the County Post edited by Wayne Fenstermacher. BAck then they managed to cover news in real time, things like a municipal election and a bank robbery and get it up on the web site. Now think of what’s happened as blogs give anyone the ability to broadcast stories. Don’t need any knowledge like you did when Wayne first started Cecil Co off on the Internet age.

  5. Oh BTW, this topic is generating a lot of discussion posts over on Facebook, a place where news spreads almost viraetworking program, Facebook, where the message spreads rapidly. I see another blog has now posted about it and the message has been repeated by other social networkers.

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