History of Amateur Journalism

NAPA members have long been fascinated with the organization’s history. Much of that history is also personal history; some people have participated in the Association for more than 60 years. These long time members provide an active connection with the past for the newer members. The stories are passed along at the conventions and in the Bundle.
Charles "Tryout" Smith setting type at the age of 90 (ca. 1942)

The First 100 Years

This book distributed to members of the National Amateur Press Association in convention assembled as a souvenir of its centennial anniversary by Harold Segal.

“The first 100 years are the hardest…”

TO THOSE who practice this pursuit with spirit and devotion, to those who did practice it with spirit and devotion, and to those who will practice it with spirit and devotion, THIS BOOK IS GREATFULLY DEDICATED.

The word amateur has come by the thousand oddities of language to convey an idea of tepidity; whereas the word itself has the meaning of passion. Nor is this peculiarity confined to the mere form of the word; the actual characteristic of these nameless dilettanti is a genuine fire and reality. A man must love a thing very much if he not only practices it without any hope of fame or money, but even practice it without any hope of doing it well. Such a man must love the toils of the work more than any other man can love the rewards of it.

—G. K. Chesterton

Preface — Edna Hyde McDonald

The founding fathers of our fraternity

Were wise in the selection of its name. You will note that they did not call it the National Amateur Literary Society. That would have condemned us to the production of books and written compositions of the kind valued for form and style, which is the classic definition of literature according to Oxford, and very well might have sunk us without a trace during the first decade of our existance. Nor did they call it the National Amateur Writers Guild, limiting us to scribbling of one kind or another, and relegating to limbo all our readers, lusty printers, crafty politicians and social butterflies.

They baptised us the Amateur Press, and thus let out all the seams, giving us plenty of room to grow and stretch in.

They had no grand illusions about themselves or their posterity. They did not expect any great shakes in the membership, then or ever. No “mute, inglorious Miltons,” no embryo Shakespeares, no big shots. Just a lot of dubs who’d like to putter around with pen and ink and type, putting ideas on paper, printing the same, exchanging random thoughts with other dubs and annually getting around to knowing a few of each other. No harm in it. Just for the fun. . . .

We are in amateur journalism for the fun of it and, the world being what it is, this spirit should be encouraged. We were not intended to be world beaters. We were intended just to amuse ourselves and each other. And as long as we can do that we have no need of arsenals, guns or forts.

—Edna Hyde McDonald

In the Beginning — Burton J. Smith

Even in 1876 amateur journalism was no new hobby. It had, since the 1840’s, spread over the entire country. There were dozens of more or less enduring local organizations devoted to its purpose.

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The Next Hundred — Harold Segal

In the aurora of the nation’s centennial, when the National Amateur Press Association first convened in the second-story hall of a Philadelphia building, hand-set type was the way of life in the printing industry.

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The material in this chapter has been garnered from a wealth of information published in Truman J. Spencer’s History of Amateur Journalism; also from the files of the National Amateur and The Fossil, and from other amateur journals.

The Moving Finger

The First 100 Years: The moving finger…1876-1880

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