February 18, 2010 by Amy Elliott Bragg
Fridays with General Friend Palmer: For cash or peltry
The General, besides writing his own personal memoirs of life in the city, collected historical records of his own, and dedicated an entire chapter in his book Early Days in Detroit to “Interesting facts gleaned from the columns of the Detroit Gazette of 1820-1822.” I’ll let him do the talking.
The old Detroit Gazette was an insignificant sheet both in size and appearance. The Democratic Free Press that followed it was a trifle larger, and a decided improvement, as regards typography, paper and contents.
… [The Gazette] was fairly patronized by the merchants and others with advertisements.
I have a file of the paper from July 21, 1820 to June 28, 1822, from which I make some extracts … They will serve to show the difference in many things between then and now.
The General then excerpts some of his favorite shipping notices, council meeting summaries, legal tedium, business articles and — his favorite and mine — advertisements:
Their issue July 21, 1820, has this notice:
Quills, etc: – Just received at this office. Also Flutes, Fifes, Flute Preceptors, Fife do, Blank Music Books, Record Books, etc.
And there’s this one, from a store between Bates and Randolph streets, west of Jefferson:
Paul Clapp has on hand, and will constantly keep for sale, at wholesale and retail, a large assortment of Hats. Beaver, Castor, Roram, Napt and Felt. Also – Ladies elegant Beaver Hats, with trimmings complete.
The whole will be sold very cheaf [sic] for CASH or PELTRY.
In the early days of the suburbs, too, readers wrote in to sing their praises and saw big things happening for these retreats just a week’s journey from New York:
A stranger contributing a long article to the Gazette, on the country around and adjacent to Detroit, among other things has this to say about the country around Pontiac:
“The little lakes I have mentioned (twenty-one of which I visited and from the best information I could obtain, there are upwards of sixty of them in all) abound with fish of various kinds, many of which I saw would weigh twelve pounds each; they are also in great abundance. The grey and black duck was frequently seen in large flocks on these unfrequented waters. These lakes are of various dimensions from one to four miles in circumference. Here may be found some of the most delightful retreats for gentlemen of taste and fortune and only a week’s journey from the city of New York. When the great Erie canal to Lake Erie is completed you need not be surprised at seeing gentlemen with their families coming to spend the summer months on their country seats near Pontiac.”
Ah yes. Summers in idyllic Pontiac! All thanks to the Erie Canal.