Long Life & Happiness for All its Residents #73

Becky Weiser, Curator

Wednesday Dec 22nd, 2021

Which former Erie County resident coined the phrase “Go West, young man, go West”? This same person also ran for President of the United States and helped to form public opinion during the Civil War.  Perhaps this object will give you a clue.

Ink “pourer” donated in 1968 by Dr. Ralph Schmidt.
From the former Troy Laundry at 416 State Street

You may have guessed it was Horace Greeley and the above pictured pourer was supposedly used by him while he lived and worked in Erie from 1830 – 1831.  Greeley was quite the character from what I read and fit the rags to riches stories that were not uncommon in the 1800s.

Born to a poor farm family in New Hampshire in 1811, by age 10, Horace wanted to become a printer.  At age 15, he was employed as one in Vermont for a newspaper.  The paper closed and his parents, tired of working the poor, rocky soil of New England moved to Wayne Township in Erie County, close to the New York border.

The darker green shows the location of Wayne Township. The Greeley family moved there when few people lived in the area.

Horace worked the farm while trying to find employment in the printing business.  Eventually, the story is told that he walked 30 miles to Erie and was hired by Joseph M. Sterrett of the Erie Gazette as a printer of the paper.  I cannot say Horace had a favorable view of his new hometown, however; remarking that “there were more politics to the square foot in Erie than in any other place in the country.”  A Twentieth Century History of Erie County Pennsylvania, 1909, John Miller

414 State Street
414 State Street

Horace moved to New York City after his experience in Erie and eventually became the founder of the New York Tribune, a highly influential newspaper of the day.  He supported the Lincoln presidency and promoted the cause for Union victory.  Greeley ran for President on the Liberal-Republican ticket in 1872 and died one month after his defeat.  He is buried in Pleasantville, New York.

While Horace Greeley did not have a long life, I believe he enjoyed happiness working in his chosen field and using his influence to change public opinion about an unpopular war.  At least for a little while, Erie County could claim him as one of their own and he remains a well-known figure in American history.