The Fuss and the Industrial Luminary, Part One

The Alton mob attacking Lovejoy's warehouse.

The Alton mob attacking Lovejoy’s warehouse.

Adam Fisher and Matthew France told the Howard Committee that they expected challenging voters in the special election at Leavenworth would lead to trouble. They could have cited Missourian mayhem going back to the March election, and even some from the delegate election in November of 1854, but they had more immediate concerns. Proslavery Missourians and their Kansas confederates had misbehaved much more recently than that. As their mission included controlling both Kansas and Missouri for the sake of Missouri’s slavery, they operated on both sides of the border.

The Howard Report deals with matters in Missouri only in passing on this front, at the end of a paragraph describing rising hostilities and increased violence after the March election and citing no testimony:

This unhappy condition of the public mind was further increased by acts of violence in western Missouri, where, in April, a newspaper press called the Parkville Luminary was destroyed by a mob.

Nichole Etcheson’s footnotes came to the rescue. She points to the Herald of Freedom for April 21 and May 5, 1855. The Herald begins the story with the late April edition:

On the morning of Saturday last, eight men called at the office of the INDUSTRIAL LUMINARY, published at Parkville, Mo., by Messrs Park & Patterson, and presented to the latter a series of resolutions to the effect that they had determined to throw the Luminary press into the river and expel the publishers from the State. Mr. Patterson copied the resolutions, and had only completed the work, when a body of about two hundred men surrounded the Park House, in which was the printing office, while others set themselves to work to remove the press, agreeably to their resolve.

You don’t see many angry mobs show up with position papers these days. Given Patterson copied them, rather than recalling them later, it appears that the mob literally had a manifesto with them and handed it over. Someone had to write those down to begin with, and either present them to the group for approval or draw them up as a result of some kind of meeting. One might expect this to happen informally, but I’ve seen similar lists of resolutions written out and approved for another part of the fuss. Furthermore, witnesses have testified that men in Missouri used existing institutions like Masonic lodges to organize their invasion of Kansas. Without further information one can’t say for sure that everybody got together and had a nice vote on each resolve, but it seems likely something formal took place.

It was the design to have tarred and feathered the editors, but the absence of Mr. Park at Big Blue, in Kansas Territory, and the interference of Mrs. PATTERSON, in behalf of her husband, saved them from this apparent degradation.

We tend to picture asphalt tar and imagine that a person tarred and feathered died shortly thereafter as a result. The pine tar used at the time has a much lower melting point. Some varieties came liquid at room temperature, though the intention generally was to inflict pain upon the victim and so we can expect a studiously cruel mob to heat it up. The process involved stripping the victim to the waist, pouring the tar on, and then dusting with feathers before carrying the victim around town for public humiliation. This could happen on a cart or on the proverbial rail. Everyone around either had a great deal of fun and the satisfaction of a job well down, a terrifying and painful humiliation and reason to wonder what would come next if one remained, or a memorable lesson in what could happen to them if they stepped out of line.

But since his wife stepped in and they couldn’t get Park, the proslavery Missourians skipped ahead to the other festivities they planned for the occasion:

The work moved on without hustle or excitement, and the INDUSTRIAL LUMINARY, for having dared express itself as become an independent journal, was consigned to the watery element, there to remain until the glad shout of “freedom to the captive” shall be proclaimed throughout the entire State of Missouri.

They tossed it in the river, as a mob in Alton, Illinois did to Elijah Lovejoy’s press back in 1837. They also shot Lovejoy dead and burned the warehouse where he’d hidden the press. That press came to Alton because Lovejoy’s previous one fell prey to a mob on the far side of Missouri from Parkville, at St. Louis. Nobody in Missouri could have missed that lesson, least of all Park, Patterson, and the mob that threatened them with a sequel.

The mob had one more item on its agenda. Keep in mind that by this point the initial eight men in the house have grown to two hundred surrounding it:

The destruction of the press was not the finale of that day’s proceedings. — Resolves were passed by the rioters that they would assemble in three weeks from that day, and if Park or Patterson were either found in the State, they would execute summary vengeance on them; and if they dared to settle in the Territory, they would hang them.

Leave the state, or else. Go to Kansas and we will hang you. Nice of them to provide options.

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