Text: Jacob E. Spannuth, “Foreword,” Doings of Gotham: Poe's Contributions to The Columbia Spy (1929), xi-xiii (This material is protected by copyright)


[page xi:]


In presenting to the public Edgar Allan Poe’s contributions to the Columbia Spy, the compiler deems it proper to give a few of the incidents that led to the discovery of this long-sought-for Poe material; a few words about the newspaper in which it first appeared, and a brief sketch of its youthful senior editor, Eli Bowen, to whom Poe, besides other matters, addressed the series of letters appearing in the present volume.

Back in 1904, in my early career as a bookseller, I became interested in the history and development of the anthracite coal fields of Pennsylvania; Pottsville, my home city, being the southern entrance to this region. In my quest for data, I consulted many books and pamphlets on the subject, among them several by Eli Bowen. From old residents of this town, now long departed, I first learned that Eli Bowen at one time was in correspondence with Edgar Allan Poe, the poet. Being thus informed, I at once began a search for this correspondence, although then not knowing its nature. It was not until I read the fourth letter, dated June 4, 1844, as published in the New York Times for January 14, 1912, that I learned that my fellow-townsman, Eli Bowen, at one time had been the editor of the Columbia Spy. Thereafter it was my ambition and desire either to locate the original letters or a file of the Spy containing them. For years I ran down many clues, searched garrets, cellars, junk shops, etc., but without success. As years rolled by my search became less active, but not hopeless. Although I [page x:] had been in correspondence with Dr. Thomas Ollive Mabbott since 1922, it was not until the latter part of 1926 on receiving a letter from him that I learned of his keen interest in all things pertaining to Poe. In reply I informed him of my search, mentioning that Eli Bowen had been for twenty years a resident of Pottsville, Pennsylvania. In replying to my letter he urged me to make a new effort. Thus encouraged, I again became very active in my search, which continued until the early part of 1928 when, about giving up hope, I unexpectedly came upon a clue that led me to the discovery of the long-sought-for file of the Columbia Spy containing the Poe letters.

The first number of the Columbia Spy published at Columbia, Pennsylvania, was issued on June 3 [[17]], 1830, by John S. Boswell, a young printer from Connecticut. Subsequently it changed hands several times. About 1839, James Patton and W. S. Ward became the proprietors. After publishing it as a partisan sheet in politics for about four years, they were compelled through adverse circumstances to discontinue its publication. They sold their interests on November 30, 1843, to Eli Bowen and Jacob L. Gossler, both minors, not yet having reached the age of twenty. The first number of the Spy issued by these two youths contains the announcement that the paper hereafter would be strictly neutral in politics, their endeavor being to make it an interesting family journal. The partnership of Bowen and Gossler continued for one year, during which time Edgar Allan Poe, besides other matters, contributed the seven letters addressed to Bowen, the senior editor. Owing to the many changes of ownership [page xiii:] of the Columbia Spy and its small circulation, and the fact that its office including its files was twice destroyed by fire, copies of this paper are extremely rare. In an Appendix are reprinted the chief announcements concerning the ownership and policies of Bowen and Gossler.

Eli Bowen, the youthful associate of Poe, was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, August, 1824. He became joint owner and senior editor of the Columbia Spy on November 30, 1843. On December 2, 1844, he sold his interest and relinquished his editorship of the paper to David G. Barnitz, of York, Pennsylvania. He returned to Lancaster, his home, and in May, 1845, commenced the publication of a large and well-printed paper called the Lancaster County Farmer. After publishing a few numbers, the enterprise failed for want of capital. Mr. Bowen subsequently enlisted the aid of Jacob B. Garber in the enterprise, who with a liberal expenditure of capital made it an excellent paper. The name was changed to Farmer and Literary Gazette. Mr. Bowen appears to have continued on the staff of this paper until January 1, 1848, at which time he assumed the position of Assistant Editor of the Miners’ Journal at Pottsville, Pennsylvania. At this time the Miners’ Journal was one of the leading newspapers in the United States. Being active in politics and taking part in the election of President Taylor, he was appointed to a position in the post-office department at Washington. Owing to the change of the adminstration [[administration]] at Washington in 1850, caused by the death of President Taylor, he was compelled to relinquish this position. Shortly afterwards he published a United States Post-Office [page xiii:] Guide. At about this time he became affiliated with Myer Strouse in publishing at Philadelphia a paper called the North American Farmer. He returned to Pottsville, Pennsylvania, some time in 1852, where he devoted the remainder of his life to publishing and writing books and pamphlets on the subjects of Coal and Coal Mining, Geology, Oil, Railroads, etc. His best known work is The Pictorial Sketch Book of Pennsylvania, which passed through eight editions from 1852 to 1854. Titles of some of his other works are: The Anthracite Regions of Pennsylvania, 1848; Creation of the Earth, 1861; Coal and Coal Oil, 1865. In the Pottsville Directory for 1867, we find him listed as a professor of geology and mineralogy. His death occured [[occurred]] at Pottsville, on March 23, 1868. His remains rest in the Charles Baber Cemetery of that place, a small tombstone marking his grave. His wife, Elizabeth Weaver, daughter of Martin Weaver, of Branchdale, a suburb of Pottsville, preceded him in death in 1853. Over her grave he erected a handsome monument to her memory.


Pottsville, Penna.,

Sept. 9, 1929.





[S:0 - SPM29, 1929] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Bookshelf - Doings of Gotham: Poe's Contributions to The Columbia Spy (J. Spannuth and T. O. Mabbott) (Foreword)