Charles R. Webster, Patriot and Printer

His monument stands at the opening of a little alcove of trees on the old South Ridge. Just behind this shaded space, Glen Cross Bridge once connected Sections 5 and 9.
The monument is one of those simple white obelisks that became so popular as grave markers in the early 19th century. For many years, its inscriptions were obscured by grime, but cleaning has since revealed the words:
In Memory of Charles R. Webster
Born at Hartford, Conn.
September 30, 1762.
Died at Saratoga Springs
July 18th, 1834
Having Been An Inhabitant
Of The City of Albany
For 50 Years.
Instrumental In The
Establishment of The First
Newspaper
In This City, He Was For
Nearly Half A Century
Its Honest and Impartial
Conductor.
Education and Virtue
Had In Him
An Unwearied Supporter
And of Every Institution
To Promote Them
He Was
The Advocate And Friend
His Aim Was
To Have His Life Conformed
To The Great Maxim of The Gospel:
His Prayer
To Have His Heart Right With God
And His Trust In The Merits of The
Redeemed.
A plaque at the foot of the monument honors him as a Revolutionary War Soldier and was placed by the Yosemite Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution National Headquarters
.
Charles R. Webster came from a respectable, but impoverished family, he had been apprenticed to a printer in Hartford at the age of seven. That apprenticeship did not end until he turned twenty-one. At the close of his apprenticeship, he served in the Revolution as a Private in Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Grosvenor’s Company in the 3rd Connecticut Regiment commanded by Colonel Samuel Wyllys.
Within a year of the War’s end, Charles Webster had moved to Albany. He returned to Hartford to marry Rachel Steele in 1787 with whim he had two children.
In Albany, he pursued the printer’s trade, forming a partnership with Samuel Ballantine. Together, they offered a full service of publishing from books to a newspaper, but the partnership dissolved after a year and Charles’ twin brother George joined him in the business.
According to publisher Joel Munsell, there was no permanent printing house north of Fishkill when Webster established himself in the trade in Albany.
Within a few years, Charles Webster was the leading publisher in Albany. In addition to private work and the newspaper, the Albany Gazette, the Federalist-leaning Webster also served as the official provider of printing services to the City of Albany.
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His civic interests were varied; he was active with the Albany Library and the Lancaster School, as well as the founding vice-president of the Albany Mechanics Society and an officer of the First Presbyterian Church.
In 1793, a fire devastated Albany, destroying numerous homes and businesses. In its aftermath, the Webster brothers moved their firm from its original location at State Street and Middle Alley to the corner of State and North Pearl. It was usually known as Elm Tree Corner of the ancient tree planted by Philip Livingston, but was just as often referred to as Webster’s Corner for the yellow wooden printing house at the northwest side.
In 1794, Rachel Steele Webster died after an illness. Two years later, Charles married her sister, Cynthia, and they made their home at 83 State Street.
As evidenced by the inscription on his monument, he was regarded as an esteemed member of the community. He was known as an honest, temperate, and “remarkably laborious man” of simple habits who rose at four in the morning and returned home at nine at night. His pleasure in the evening was to walk along the city’s North Gate or the Pastures to the south or a place known only as “the Willow Walks.” Other evenings might find him in the reading rooms or calling upon old friends or tending to his garden.
His twin brother, George, died in 1823. Charles lived until 1834.
At the time of his death, he had been suffering from a swollen gland on the right side his face followed by a chronic distention of his right arm. He might have, as was common at the time, gone to Saratoga Springs to “take the waters” of the famous mineral springs for his health.
On July 18, 1834, with his wife at his side, he died at the age of 71. His last words were, “Call the family.”
His body was returned to Albany and was buried in what was then the First Presbyterian section of the State Street Burying Grounds (now Washington Park just west of modern Sprague Place). When that cemetery closed, his grave was moved to Albany Rural Cemetery.
Cynthia Steele Webster survived Charles by fourteen years. She died in Orleans County in December 1848.
Webster’s is one of only a few larger monuments transported from their original graves to the Rural. A engraving of it done while still in the old Burying Grounds appears in Volume V of Joel Munsell’s “Annals of Albany.”
Charles R. Webster’s grave is located in Lot 2, Section 8.
Paula Lemire

Read all about it. Albany’s First Newspaper.. a HUGE deal

The first issue of Albany’s first newspaper, the “Albany Gazette”, was published yesterday, November 25 in 1771. It was also the first newspaper published in New York State outside of New York City. The publishers were 2 Scotsmen, the Robertson brothers. There is some disagreement regarding their shop location; either Court St. (tiny chunk of what is now Broadway, south of State, near Beaver and Hudson) or Chapel near Pine St. We’re not sure how long the paper lasted, but the Robertson brothers were Loyalists and fled Albany in 1776 for Canada; the paper ceased publication at least 2 years before they left.

In 1782 Charles Webster and Solomon Balantine started the “Northern Gazetteer or Northern Intelligencer”; but there was trouble in paradise. A year later Webster dissolved the partnership and left for New York City. When Balantine left Albany, Webster returned to Albany, and in 1784 he started printing the “Albany Gazette” again. Shortly thereafter, his brother George joined him in the business.

(NOTE: Joel Munsell, printer and historian of Albany in the mid-1800s, reports that it was once suggested to the Websters that they print the Gazette in Dutch, in whole or in part, given the number of people in Albany and surrounding areas who did not speak or read English.)

The Great Fire of 1793 destroyed he Webster Brothers print shop on Middle Lane (a short alley connecting State St. to Maiden Lane; now James St.). In 1794 a new, much larger shop was erected at the corner of State and Pearl and came to be known as the “White House”. That corner is the famous “Old Elm Tree Corner”, after a tree planted by Philip Livingston in the 1730s. That tree stood for about 150 years, until being cut down in the late 1800s.

The “Albany Gazette” merged with the Daily Advertiser in 1817 and became known as the “Albany Gazette and Daily Advertiser”. It suspended publication in 1845.

PS. Look carefully enough and you will an old plaque embedded in the wall of the bank that stands on the Old Elm Tree Corner commemorating Philip Livingston and the Tree, but sadly nothing about the “Albany Gazette”.

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Christmas Central – Coulson and Wendt Newsstand – State and N. Pearl, early 1900s

 

William Coulson ran a newsstand and Julius Wendt sold fruit in the late 1800s. They joined forces in the mid-1890s and established Coulson and Wendt, at 77 State St. (the site of Wendt’s fruit stand) in the Dexter Building on the corner of State and N. Pearl.

By the early 1900s they were selling everything Christmas – cards, candy, tiny toys, holly, wreaths and trees.. so many trees – hundreds every season.

(In 1913, Wendt left the business and it became Coulson’s newsstand; by 1919 it moved down to 34 State St. and then subsequently to Broadway, where it’s been for decades.)

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