Before starting on his expedition, Mr. Northup came to the Democrat office to leave an advertisement and ask me to appeal to the public for aid in provisions and feed to be furnished along the route. He was in a Buffalo suit, from his ears to his feet, and looked like a bale of furs. On his head he wore a fox skin cap with the nose lying on the two paws of the animal just between his eyes, the tail hanging down between his shoulders. He was a brave, strong man, and carried out his project, which to most people was wild.
Nothing seemed more important than the cultivation of health for the people, and to this I gave much earnest attention, often expressed in the form of badinage. There were so many young housekeepers that there was much need of teachers. I tried to get the New England women to stop feeding their families on dough—especially hot soda dough—and to substitute well-baked bread as a steady article of diet. In trying to wean them from cake, I told of a time when chaos reigned on earth, long before the days of the mastodons, but even then, New England women were up making cake, and would certainly be found at that business when the last trump sounded. But they bore with my “crotchets” very patiently, and even seemed to enjoy them.
The printer’s case used to be one of the highways to editorial and congressional honors; but the little fellows of the craft invented a machine which goes over it like a “header” over a wheat-field and leaves a dead level of stalks, all minus the heads, so that no tall fellows are left to shame them by passing on from the “stick” to the tripod or speaker’s mallet. Their great Union rolling-pin flattens them all out like pie-crust, and tramps are not overshadowed by the superiority of industrious men. But the leveling process makes impassable mountains and gorges in other walks of life—makes it necessary that a publisher with one hundred readers must pay as much for type-setting as he with a hundred thousand. The salary of editors and contributors may vary from nothing to ten thousand a year; but through all mutations of this life, the printer’s wages must remain in statu quo. So the Union kills small papers, prevents competition in the newspaper business, builds up monster establishments, and keeps typos at the case forever and a day.
I knew when the Visiter started that it could not live and pay for type-setting the same price as paid by the New York Tribune, and the day the office became mine, I stated that fact to the printers, who took their hats and left. In ’52, I had spent some part of every day for two weeks in a composing room, and with the knowledge then acquired, I, in ’58 started the business of practical printer. I took a proof of my first stick, and lo, it read from right to left. I distributed that, but had to mark the stick that I might remember.