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March 2012

The American Eagle

The “American Eagle” is not so much a reflection of Koreshan history as it is a reflection of what the Koreshans did, or were interested in. When publication began on June 7, 1906, what the Koreshans were doing then, or rather, attempting to do was to influence the elections of 1906. Teed and the Koreshans felt that they weren’t getting their fair share of road taxes and ran a slate of candidates in the election of 1906.

The first issue of the American Eagle was published at Estero on Thursday, June 7, 1906. Thursday, not incidentally, was also the (Fort Myers) Press’s day of publication. This initial edition gave notice that the paper was to be no ordinary country weekly. Printed on sixty to seventy pound book-quality paper, and hand set by Koreshan experts, the Eagle displayed typographical innovations not found in metropolitan dailies until years later, and was far superior in every way to the weekly Florida newspapers of the period. Allen H. Andrews, a printer with no editorial experience, was chosen editor by Dr. Teed, and he was assisted by associate editor Rollin W. Gray. Most of the early articles and editorials were written by Andrews, Gray, John S. Sargeant, U.G. Morrow, and Teed.

American Eagle 1935

Because the Eagle was begun as a means of rallying independents to the political banner of the Progressive Liberty party, the only reference to Koreshan non-political beliefs in the first issue was the motto, “Riches and Poverty Cease where the Commonwealth Begins,” which ran just below the paper’s
nameplate. More expressive of the paper’s early intentions was the wording of the masthead: “The American Eagle: Exponent of Purity in Politics.” The first issue ran four pages, and the editorial content was almost entirely politically partisan. The tone was set in the lead-off editorial: “As heat is one of the
necessary factors in incubation, so from out of the heat of the recent political strife has been hatched The American Eagle, full-fledged and strong of beak. His flight is lofty-no place, though high, escapes his keen, far-seeing eye. From time immemorial the eagle has been the symbol of liberty from the thraldom of the oppressor’s yoke, therefore The American Eagle – friend of the downtrodden and oppressed-is an adversary to be reckoned with by those who `are thirsting for power’ and dominion over others.”

With this being an election year, there will be more on the election of 1906 in future columns, including some of the political cartoons. The archives collection of the American Eagle is rather slim. The issue above, from 1935 is our oldest copy with the bulk of the collection being from the revived Eagle which was published after 1965. See the listing in our Online Archives. You can also read the Elliott Mackle article from the 1978 “Florida Historical Society”

Categories: Monthly Feature.

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