”The Policy of Honesty – The Might of Right and The Expediency of Principle,” were words which appeared in large type across the top of the first page of The Advance when it was first published in September 1871. Now, celebrating its 134th anniversary, many changes have taken place in printing, personnel and location, but the spirit expressed then continues today.
The Advance is the oldest operating newspaper in Brookhaven Town, and the longest continually operated business in the Village of Patchogue.
The Long Island Advance, originally called The Advance, was first published on September 1, 1871, when Ulysses S. Grant was president. While the paper only cost 5 cents, there was a post-war depression, and the original owner Timothy J. Dyson, a former printer and newspaper correspondent from Brooklyn, received payment for many advertisements and subscriptions in produce and merchandising trade-offs.
Dyson printed the first edition out of a small office in the Warren Conklin Building on West Main Street, using $500 worth of printing equipment he had purchased from Patchogue resident Austin Roe.
During that time, the Village of Patchogue was a small but busy waterfront community, relying heavily on fishing, shipbuilding, and farming for the major sources of income. Incorporation of the area was still years away. The Patchogue Union Free School, later to become the Patchogue-Medford School District, opened its doors in a building on the corner of Academy Street and South Ocean Avenue.
Dyson was the third person to try his hand at establishing a weekly newspaper in Patchogue. A man by the name of Van Zandt tried with The Suffolk Herald in 1865, and the short-lived Long Island Star was brought to the area from Port Jefferson by John S. Evans in 1870.
Dyson filled the paper with news from Patchogue and other areas of Long Island, world news briefs, and sermons from local clergy (often filling the front page).
Some of the advertisements in the 1871 papers give an insight into the life back then: an eight-room house on Main Street listed for $12.50. It was announced that Dr. E. Howard of Sag Harbor, a visiting dentist, would be in town for three days a week. ”Collins Voltaic Plaster relieves afflictions of the lungs, heart, liver, spleen, kidneys, etc.” Watches were offered for $3, men’s suits, $6. ”Isaac Snedecor of Bayport offers the finest Peruvian guano.”
The obituaries list many residents as dying from ”consumption,” and there were articles entitled ”Life on the Plains” and ”A Nasal Difficulty.”
Many of the early papers would print an inspirational poem on the first page, such as, I think to every human heart, Who truly feels life’s fullest need, There cometh times along the years, When heaven’s design seems Hard to read.
In 1876, the paper was sold to Thomas S. Heatley, who in turn sold it to Reverend S. Fielder Palmer, a former pastor of the Congregational Church, in 1885. Palmer sold the paper to H. Judson Overton in 1886, who renamed the paper The Patchogue Advance. Shortly thereafter, on May 18, 1888, the paper was sold to Martin B. Van Densen of Southold, who continued the policies of the paper and increased circulation to the ”four-figure mark,” according to the records of the paper. All of these gentlemen were characterized as ”country printers,” who set the papers by hand.
The future course of The Advance was determined by accident in 1892 when a young newspaperman in Hudson, Michigan, overhead a conversation in the newsroom of The Hudson Gazette.
James A. Canfield was new to the business, but had dreamed of owning his own newspaper. On a spring day in 1892, as he was writing a letter of acceptance to purchase a weekly paper in Portland, Oregon, a Patchogue minister dropped by the newsroom while visiting relatives in Hudson. The Reverend Alfred E. Colton boasted of the beauty and benefits of a small Long Island village named Patchogue, and mentioned that there was a newspaper for sale there.
Intrigued by Colton’s description, Canfield held off from sending the bank draft to Portland, and hopped on a train to see the village that the minister was promoting. Two weeks later, Canfield purchased The Advance.
Writing in an article published on September 8, 1922, Canfield said, ”Mr. Colton’s entrance into the old Gazette office at just the right moment sent a young man to the Atlantic Coast instead of the Pacific. Ten minutes later the letter would have been posted to Portland and the young man would not have been in the office to hear about the glories of Long Island and the delights of Patchogue.”
Canfield is credited for introducing the linotype machine to the business and building the newspaper into the powerful influence it enjoyed in the local community. In 1911 he hired Frank P. Johnson as a reporter, who quickly moved up the ranks to become associate editor, where he remained until his death in 1946.
Canfield’s son-in-law, John T. Tuthill Jr. was selling cars for the Nash and Chevrolet agencies in Patchogue and thinking of returning to the insurance business in Rochester when Canfield first approached him to work in the advertising department in 1919. ”Do you know, I had no desire to embark on a newspaper career,” Captain Tuthill said in a 1971 interview. ”I saw no future in it for me.”
Reluctantly, he commenced work on the newspaper Monday, July 21, 1919. He was the first outside advertising salesman ever employed by the publisher, and the newspaper at that time ran from eight to 10 pages a week. In two years time, The Advance had enough advertising to expand to 16 pages. Up to that time, the paper was being set by hand, but its rapid growth caused Mr. Canfield to install a linotype machine. Shortly, thereafter, he discarded the old hand-fed cylinder press in favor of a mechanically-fed Goss Comet semi-rotary press, which doubled the printing capacity and tripled the speed of production.
Canfield passed away in July, 1924, shortly after another typesetting machine had been installed in The Advance plant. Under the terms of his will, the office of editor and publisher was given to his son-in-law, and Frank P. Johnson was named as associate editor.
The Advance grew so much that on April 7, 1925, the paper was changed to a semi-weekly, and published on Tuesdays and Fridays. In September, 1930, the Tuthills bought out their chief competitor, The Argus, and continued to publish that paper in The Advance plant, thus providing three issues a week to the people of the area.
Another newspaper, The Mid-Island Mail, was put out in 1935, and in 1937, The Advance began a fourth publication, The Moriches Tribune. The Mid-Island Mail was discontinued due to war shortages in 1941 and The Argus followed suit in 1942.
In October, 1939, Tuthill, who had served in the Naval Reserve in World War I, was recalled to active duty until May 1946.
In the meantime, Frank P. Johnson had passed away, and his place was taken by Lieutenant (j.g.) Donald J. Moog of Eveleth, Minnesota, who had just been released from active duty in the Navy. Moog, who remained at the helm of The Advance for many years, was a graduate of the School of Journalism at the University of Minnesota.
Upon his retirement from active duty on April 1, 1946, Captain Tuthill returned to the East, and he and Mrs. Tuthill purchased a home in Brookhaven.
In December, 1946, The Advance celebrated its diamond jubilee, having provided news to the community for 75 years. The cost of the paper was 10 cents, and it had a press run of 5,500.
In 1956, The Advance building on North Ocean Avenue had worn out its usefulness as a newspaper publishing and commercial printing plant. Tuthill decided to erect a new building on family property at 20 Medford Avenue, and work was begun in the spring of 1957.
Meanwhile, Captain Tuthill’s son, John T. Tuthill III, had graduated from Colgate University and after a temporary position with another newspaper, joined the staff as assistant publisher, heading up the advertising department. Priscilla Carleton, Captain Tuthill’s daughter, headed up the job-printing department, which at that time was considered to be one of the finest on Long Island.
In May of 1961, The Moriches Tribune was merged with The Patchogue Advance, and the paper took a new name, The Long Island Advance. The following year, The Long Island Advance converted to offset printing, and printing operations were turned over to Photonews, Inc. of Bethpage.
Captain Tuthill died at the age of 78. The reluctant newspaperman had become one of the best-known weekly publishers in New York State.
On his father’s death, John T. Tuthill III became the paper’s publisher in June of 1972. Under his leadership, The Advance purchased The Long Island News in 1972, and The Suffolk County News and The Islip Bulletin in August, 1985, and has entered the computer age, enjoying the advantages of desktop publishing and the world wide network.
Finally, John ”Terry” Tuthill IV, after graduating from Boston University, and a three year stint as an automobile salesman at Patchogue Ford, followed his grandfather’s and father’s path and joined The Advance as an advertising sales account executive in June 1992.
In January 2005, Terry was named assistant publisher.