Little Bits of History


Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 7, 2013
Elijah Parish Lovejoy defending his printing press

Elijah Parish Lovejoy defending his printing press

November 7, 1837: Elijah Parish Lovejoy dies at the age of 34 while defending his property. His father was a Congregationalist minister in Maine. Elijah graduated first in his class from Waterville College, now Colby College. After graduation he moved first to Illinois, then looking westward, he went to St. Louis, Missouri in 1827. He became the editor of an anti-Jacksonian newspaper and opened a school. He came under the influence of the Revivalist movement and with a renewed interest in religion, he decided to become a minister. He went to Princeton Theological Seminary and was ordained a Presbyterian preacher. He then returned to St. Louis.

Once again in Missouri, Rev. Lovejoy set up a church and opened a weekly religious newspaper, the St. Louis Observer. He wrote scathing editorials critical of slavery and other churches. He was run out of town in May 1836 after lambasting Judge Luke E. Lawless. The judge had failed to charge a mob who had lynched a free black man. Lovejoy moved across the Mississippi River to Alton, Illinois. He again opened a newspaper, the Alton Observer. He continued to voice strong anti-slavery sentiments.

His printing press was destroyed by pro-slavery mobs – three times. His fourth printing press was housed in Winthrop S. Gilman’s brick warehouse. Once again, an angry mob approached. Lovejoy and his supporters waited inside the warehouse and met the pro-slavery mob. Shots were exchanged. Some men brought a ladder to the warehouse wall and tried to climb up in order to set the roof on fire. They were blocked so made a second attempt. Lovejoy emerged from the building and was immediately fired upon. He was hit with five shotgun blasts and died on the spot.

Lovejoy is considered a martyr of the abolitionist movement and the first to die for “Freedom of the Press.” His alma mater, Colby College, established the Lovejoy Award in 1952. The award was enacted to fulfill three purposes: First, to preserve the memory of Lovejoy who “died bravely rather than forsake his editorial principles.” Second, to encourage honest reporting, editing, and interpretive writing with fearlessness and freedom. Lastly, to promote cooperation between journalism and a college dedicated to academic freedom.

“Elijah Parish Lovejoy – ‘a Martyr on the Altar of American Liberty’ – 1802-1837” – headline from the Alton Observer

“Inside the warehouse was Elijah Parish Lovejoy, a Presbyterian minister and editor of the Alton Observer. He and 20 of his supporters were standing guard over a newly arrived printing press from the Ohio Anti-Slavery Society.” – from the Alton Observer

“The press Lovejoy died defending was carried to a window and thrown out onto the river bank. It was broken into pieces that were scattered in the Mississippi River.” – from the Alton Observer

“Members of the crowd from the night before, feeling no shame at what they had done, laughed and jeered as the funeral wagon moved slowly down the street toward Lovejoy’s home. Lovejoy was buried on November 9, 1837, his 35th birthday.” – from the Alton Observer

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Colby College is a private liberal arts college located in Waterville, Maine. It was founded in 1813 – the twelfth-oldest independent liberal arts college in the US. They were the first all-male New England college to accept females which happened in 1875. The college offers 54 major fields of study with 30 minors. Their motto is “Knowledge is the Light of the Mind”. Their colors are Royal Blue and Priscilla Grey and their mascot is a Mule cheering on 32 varsity and 11 club teams. There are 1,825 students hailing from sixty different countries studying there. More than two-thirds of students participate in study abroad. The school adheres to a 4-1-4 calendar which is two four course semesters plus Winter Term Session in January allowing for one intense course during the month or perhaps independent study or an off-campus internship.

Also on this day: Galloping Gertie – In 1940, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapsed.
MoMA – In 1929, the art museum opened.
Carl was Stoked – In 1967, Carl Stokes was elected mayor of Cleveland, Ohio.


3 Responses

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  1. hairballexpress said, on November 7, 2013 at 2:01 pm

    Even a kat knows that men like Lovejoy are to be appreciated and honored. Dumb humans. HISS!


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