“Devoted to the Interest of the Queen of American Lakes”
New Exhibit at the Lake George Historical Museum Traces the History of the Lake George Mirror, America’s Oldest Resort Newspaper
Among the new exhibits at the Lake George Historical Museum this summer is “The Lake George Mirror: The History of a Newspaper, the Story of a Community.”
The exhibit includes reproductions of covers from 1880 to the present, artifacts such as the burgee from the small steamboat in which the editor gathered news in the 1890s, books and brochures promoting Lake George and its businesses which were printed by the publishers in the 1940s and 50s and the stories of those who have owned and edited the newspaper.
Tony Hall, the current editor of the Lake George Mirror, will discuss the newspaper’s history and its relationship to the community in a talk at the Museum on Wednesday, July 9 at 7pm, when the Association will host a reception for the exhibit.
Hall will also present an illustrated program based on the exhibit at the Darrin Fresh Water Institute on Monday, August 11.
The program, which also starts at 7 pm, is one in a series of summer lectures presented by DFWI and the Historical Society of the Town of Bolton.
In the exhibit, an interpretive commentary accompanying the images and artifacts allows the visitor to place the displays within the context of the newspaper’s history and the evolving character of Lake George as a resort community.
“Through the history of the Lake George Mirror, we can trace the history of a resort of rural villages with a few great hotels to the mansions of Millionaire’s Row, to America’s first motels,” said Lisa Adamson, the Lake George Historical Museum’s curator.
“The exhibit should appeal not only to those interested in the history of Lake George, but to everyone fascinated by graphic design. The Lake George Mirror has always been visually distinctive. People who visited Lake George in the 1950s, or who grew up here in those years, will especially love the covers from that era and the brochures of resorts and motels that no longer exist,” said Adamson.
When the Lake George Mirror was established in 1880, it was not intended to be the lake-wide summer newspaper that it became but, rather, a year-round community newspaper for the hamlet of Lake George. It did have an editorial philosophy, but one unlikely to prove popular in a nascent resort town: prohibition.
The founder and first editor was Alfred Merrick, who achieved greater celebrity later as Lake George’s oldest living resident and liveliest raconteur.
Merrick began his career in the newspaper business in 1871, walking every day to Glens Falls where he worked as a printer’s devil for the Glens Falls Republican. Having been told that it was necessary to be a good speller if he was to become a good printer, Merrick spent his nights reading a dictionary. It was, he said, the only education he ever had.
By 1880, Merrick felt that Lake George was big enough to support its own newspaper. He rented offices on the second floor of the old stone store on Canada Street and called his paper the Lake George Mirror. “We sold the paper for 75 cents a year,” Merrick told the Mirror in 1948. “Most of our circulation reached rich people in distant cities who wanted to keep posted on the condition of their cottages. The usual news item was that ‘Mrs. So and So’s cottage is in good shape with most of the snow off the roof’ or ‘Jim Smith had better see about fixing his roof before the spring rains start.’”
Nevertheless, it covered topics which continue to be of interest to historians of Lake George, such as the lake’s first collegiate rowing regattas and the American Canoe Association’s inaugural regatta in 1880.
In 1881, Merrick traded his interest in the Mirror to John L. Tubbs, for decades the editor of the Warrensburg News, for an interest of equal value in a bowling alley at the Fort William Henry Hotel. (Tubbs, no doubt, must have sometimes wondered if Merrick didn’t get the better share of that deal.)
The paper muddled along until W.H. Tippetts moved from Heart Bay to Assembly Point and revived the Lake George Mirror as a medium to promote Lake George as a summer resort.
Tippetts celebrated not only the beauty and the history of Lake George but its plush accommodations and the distinguished, congenial people in residence here.
His timing was propitious. Wealthy New Yorkers who had come to love Lake George through extended stays at the great hotels began building summer homes which they described as cottages and which later generations called mansions – the architecturally eclectic piles that once lined “Millionaires’ Row.”
“The Lake George Mirror: the History of a Newspaper, the Story of a Community” continues the story to the present, including information and images from 1907 to 1969, when the paper and its printing plant were owned by Edward A. Knight and his son, Arthur S. Knight. Under Art Knight, Adirondack Resorts Press became the leading printer of brochures, guides, post cards and programs in the Lake George region. The company even developed its own distinctive method of printing four-color images, which it called Colorgraph. At one time, it was the largest year-round employer in Lake George Village. Displayed here are examples of the company’s work.
Art Knight sold the newspaper to Robert F. Hall, Tony Hall’s father, in 1970.
The Lake George Historical Museum is located in the old Warren County Courthouse at the intersection of Canada and Lower Amherst Street. During May and June, it is open Saturday and Sunday from 11am to 4 pm. Call 668-5044 for more information.