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Poughkeepsie, N.Y., Political Barometer. 1802-1804
Why on the Cooper Website? The works of Isaac Mitchell are intriguing specimens of early American literature, and are not otherwise available online to the general public. They deserve to be available to scholars and others. This seemed as good a place as any. -- Hugh MacDougall, Secretary, James Fenimore Cooper Society.
What's Here and Where to Find It |
[Placed on-line December 2002]
Isaac Mitchell (1759-1812) was primarily a Republican (Jeffersonian) newspaperman. But he is known today primarily as the author of a work of fiction, Alonzo and Melissa which, in turn, is best known for having been successfully pirated by one Daniel Jackson, Jr., under whose name it was read by countless readers through most of the 19th century.
Mitchell was born near Albany about 1759. From 1798 until his death of typhus on November 26, 1812, he was a journalist (publisher, editor, writer), mostly in Poughkeepsie, New York, but for a time in Albany. His politics was strongly Jeffersonian Republican. The details of his career remain to be worked out, but he was involved with the following newspapers.
- American Farmer and Dutchess County Advertiser, Poughkeepsie, New York. Weekly, published June 8, 1798 - July 22, 1800. Scattered issues have survived. According to American Authors Mitchell founded this publication in January 1799, and was its editor, but it was first published six months before.
- The Guardian, Poughkeepsie, New York. Weekly, published 1801-1802. No issues seem to have survived. According to American Authors Mitchell joined this paper about 1801, and the following year purchased an interest with and in June 1802 re-named it the Political Barometer.
- Political Barometer, Poughkeepsie, New York. Weekly, published June 8, 1802 - Aug. 21, 1811. A complete file has survived, and is available on microfilm from the New York State Library (cost in 2002 $15.00). Mitchell was publisher and editor (at first with Jesse Buel (1778-1839). Buel's name was dropped from the masthead at the end of May 1805, and Mitchell remained in charge until the end of August 1806, when he sold the paper to Thomas Nelson and Son [see his September 16, 1806 Farewell Editorial.] It was in this newspaper, the Political Barometer that his three long stories were published. After 1811 the paper was continued as the Republican Herald [see below].
- Republican Crisis. Albany, New York. Semi-weekly, published Nov. 11, 1806 - Dec. 27, 1808. A complete file has survived, and is available on microfilm. Mitchell was its editor. This paper was a continuation of The Albany centinel (1797-1806) and was continued in turn by The Balance, and New-York State journal (Jan. 4, 1809 - Dec. 29, 1810) and Balance, and State Journal (Jan. 1 - Dec. 24, 1811). It was also related to The Balance, and Columbian Repository of Hudson, New York (May 21,1801 - Dec. 29, 1807)
- Republican Herald, Poughkeepsie, New York. Weekly, published August 28, 1811-1823. Called Northern Politician from Sept. 16 - Dec. 9, 1812. Isaac Mitchell's name appears on some issues for 1812. A complete file has survived, and is available on microfilm. Mitchell was editor from 1808-1811.
- Plebean, Kingston, New York. Weekly, published June 30, 1803 - July 25, 1815. Published by Buel and Mitchell. Scattered issues, 1803-1805 have survived. Editor from August 5, 1805 -January 19, 1813 was Jesse Buel, who had been co-owner of the Political Barometer with Isaac Mitchell from 1802-1805. It is not clear whether Mitchell was involved in this paper, described as "anti-Federalist," during the period? Jesse Buel seems to have moved to Albany in 1813, and was State Printer there in 1818-1819.
Publishing and printing: The firm of Mitchell and Buel (Poughkeepsie) and Buel and Mitchell (Kingston) published a number of books, almanacs, etc. between 1802-1805. In 1806 Isaac Mitchell of Albany printed a book published by Bacchus and Whiting.
Mitchell is best known as presumed author of three long stories, first published in the Political Barometer, and which we have transcribed from their original newspaper publication (typographical errors, etc., included):
- Davidson, Cathy A., Revolution and the Word: The Rise of the Novel in America. Oxford University Press, 1986, esp. pp. 225-230.
- Fichtelberg, Joseph, "The Sentimental Economy of Isaac Mitchell's The Asylum" in Early American Literature, Vol. 32, No. 1 (1997) pp. 1-19.
- Kunitz, Stanley J., and Howard Haycraft, American Authors, 1600-1900: A Biographical Dictionary of American Literature, New York: H.W. Wilson Co., 1938, pp. 533-534. Biographic entry.
- Malone, Dumas, ed., Dictionary of American Biography, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1934, Vol. XIII (Mills-Oglesby), pp. 48-49. Biographic entry.
- Pearson, Edmund, "Romance: Early American Style" in The Bookman: A Revue of Life and Letters, Vol. LXVIII, No. 1 (September 1928), pp. 1-8; reprinted in his Queer Books, New York: Doubleday & Co., 1928, Chapter 3, pp. 43-68 [reprinted, Kennikat Press, n.d.]
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