Perth Courier, August 9, 1862
Lanark Era Newspaper
Written by W.M. McFarlane
This year the Lanark Era entered its 66th year of publication in Lanark Village. During this time the Era was published by five proprietors.
Lanark’s first newspaper was the Lanark Observer published in 1852(?) 1832(?) by J.R. Gemmill a son of the first Presbyterian minister in Lanark. For two years the presses ran in Lanark and for two more years in Perth before they folded up. Lanark’s second paper was the Era, established in 1895 by the late John Sutherland, a native of Lanark Township. Mr. Sutherland published the paper in a building on the corner lot where Mel Lee’s hardware business stood prior to the fire. For two years he struggled with the business and sold it to Robert Wilson of Carleton Place on May 13, 1898(?). Mr. Wilson moved the old hand turned press and other equipment to a room in the former Dobbie block. Later he purchased the Manshan building in 1901 and again moved the plant. The Era is still in the same location.
Early apprentices with the Lanark Era soon became familiar with the old hand turned press of that day. On press day a couple of men were employed to turn the press by hand. They took turns at the job. One would turn out a few copies while the other went out for a beer and this kept up until the run was off which was about 1,000 copies in those days. Of course, the Era paid for the beer.
About 1906 a new cylinder press printing four pages at a time, was installed. This was a great addition to the plant. It was operated by a gas engine, not as economical as a beer but a lot more reliable.
In those days, the paper was all set by hand every letter being picked out of a case separately and placed in its proper position for reading. For 20 years Mr. Wilson was editor and finally through age, he persuaded youngBill McFarlane to buy the business. It was in January, 1918 the year after the Caldwell Woolen Mill fire, I entered the newspaper field as owner of the Lanark Era. I toiled away with a staff of three girls all good type setters.
In 1921 the year electricity came to Lanark, the Era installed a typesetting machine, the Linotype. This truly was a labor saving device. The first linotype operator to be trained by myself was Miss Bell Currie, now Mrs. Austin McFarlane. She later became operator on the Ottawa Citizen. The Era was the first hydro-power user in Lanark as I did away with the gas engine and bought an electric motor to drive the press.
With a desire to move on to a larger newspaper field, I sold out in 1929 to L.C. Affleck, who continued to build up the business for 19 years. In 1947 the Era was on the market and Erroll Mason decided to try his luck in journalism. Mr. Mason passed away in October of 1961 and the Era continued under the proprietorship of Muriel Mason, and her staff, the Somerville brothers, Ivan and Leonard.
The Era obtained a circulation of 1,400 a few years ago and to this day enjoys that subscription lists go to all parts of the world where former Lanarkites reside.
The Lanark Era reached its 66th year of publication this year and in that time produced more apprentice printers who made good in other fields. The Pepper boys, Allan and Jack were the first to graduate. Allan became associated with West Chester Company, a chain of papers at White Plains, New York. Jack became the first linotype mechanic in Ontario and later established a large job printing plant in Toronto. Others to go in the early days were Russell McGuire, Frank Class, Bill McFarlane, Lawrence McDougall, John Graham and L.C. Affleck.
The Lanark Era though not a large newspaper is in keeping with the village and one thing that stands out clearly is that the Era is the only paper published that gives a “hoot” about Lanark.
The Lanark Era did an exceptional job of publishing information about early local families and also reported on many who migrated beyond Lanark County.
Transcribed by Peter E. Andersen
Published by Global Heritage Press, Milton, 1998-2015