Skip to main content

The Eccentric Newspaper Records

 Collection
Identifier: 2009-02

Collection Scope

SERIES I: Cranbrook Art Museum (1932-200) contains clippings and photographs used to announce appointments, art exhibits, student’s achievements, and events. Of particular interest is the coverage of Peter Max, the psychedelic artist and poster king in 1967 and the coverage of the west coast teacher-artist, Shiro Ikegawa, in 1977.

SERIES II: Cranbrook Educational Community (1935-2000) includes clippings and photographs pertaining to announcements, festivals, appointments, and activities.

SERIES III: Cranbrook Foundation (1932-1972) contains clippings and photographs pertaining to announcements, galas, festivals, appointments, and activities.

SERIES IV: Cranbrook Institute of Science (1936-1999) contains clippings and photographs of faculty and student activities, appointments, events and exhibits. The 1987 ‘Fire and Ice’ Gala was extensively covered.

SERIES V: Cranbrook Schools (1930-2000) contains clippings and photographs of faculty appointments, student achievements, guest lectures, student exhibits, awards, sporting events, and lawsuits. The sub series Wilderness Experience contains the story of the students stranded in the Great Smoky Mountains due to a blizzard.

Dates

  • 1930 - 2000

Creator

Access

Access to the collection is unrestricted.

Use

Permission to use collection materials must be requested in writing.

History

On 2 May 1878, two entrepreneurs, George H. Mitchell and Almeron Whitehead, first published The Birmingham Eccentric from the second floor of their general store located on the southwest corner of Maple and Pierce in Birmingham, Michigan. At a price of two cents, the paper provided a “live HOME paper, replete with all the news of the day” with considerable emphasis on the “local items of importance occurring in Birmingham and immediate vicinity.”

The name of the paper, Eccentric, has literary roots associated with Jules Verne’s novel “Around the World in Eighty Days” published in 1873. Phineas Fogg, hero of the book, set forth on his epic fictional journey based on bets made in London with other members of the “Eccentric Club.” There is no other paper in the world that uses this name in its title.

Almeron Whitehead was born on 29 October 1851 in Waterford Township and attended two years of high school in Pontiac. He then left home to take a job in Saginaw as a general store clerk, and came to Birmingham in 1870 to clerk at his brother-in-law’s, Captain J. Bigelow, general store.

George Mitchell, born in Birmingham on 28 May 1854, attended school at the old Union School and at age 16 was hired by Captain Bigelow to clerk at the same general store where Whitehead worked.

In 1875, Mitchell and Whitehead began printing as a relatively small enterprise with a $90 printing press from Boston. They set the press up in Whitehead’s bedroom. The two learned to work with typesetting and began to take on small printing jobs such as calling cards that sold at a rate of 25 for 10 cents. Their dream of publishing a newspaper resulted in The Eccentric in 1878.

The first paper was a four-page issue, each page measuring 8 by 10 inches. The copy was a combination of short personal announcements and advertisements. Although both partners wrote for their paper, Whitehead took on the bulk of the writing duties.

Under their leadership the paper thrived. In 1912, the two dissolved their partnership as friends leaving Mitchell as the sole publisher. In July 1919, Fred E. Van Black, a linotype operator from Highland Park, purchased the paper. Within a few short months the newspaper size and circulation plunged forcing Van Black to sell the newspaper to 27-year-old Detroit Journal reporter named George R. Averill in February 1920.

In 1927, Averill was joined by his older brother, Paul Neal Averill, in managing the next generation of the newspaper. The newspaper flourished under their leadership. During the 1920s, Birmingham population grew due to a real estate boom that saw the development of Quarton Lake Estates, Birmingham Estates, Shadow Acres and other neighborhoods.

During the 1930s, the Eccentric took on printing jobs for the greater Detroit area to help generate additional revenue. This expansion led to the acquisition of bigger and better printing equipment and by the 1940s the Eccentric had gained a reputation for fine four-color work. Service and quality printing earned the Eccentric many out-state and national clients.

In 1954, the newspaper and printing operations were separated. Averill Press, Inc. was created with Paul Averill as its president, to manage the printing aspects of the business. In the 1960s, the Eccentric and Averill Press moved to a new 22,800 square-foot building on Bowers Street. A year later, George Averill retired and sold his interest in the Eccentric newspaper and Averill Press to his brother Paul and to Paul’s son-in-law, Henry M. Hogan, Jr. Hogan was a Birmingham lawyer and member of the State Legislature. The two worked as partners until Averill’s retirement in 1971.

The Eccentric and Averill Press merged with the Observer Newspapers of Livonia on December 31 1973. In the early 21st century, the Eccentric was purchased by Hometown Communications where it is currently struggling to stay opened. It has seen a decrease in subscriptions due to the increase of online news sites.

Extent

1.7 Linear Feet (4 MS)

Language of Materials

English

Abstract

George H. Mitchell and Almeron Whitehead first published The Birmingham Eccentric on 2 May 1878 in Birmingham, Michigan. The four-page issue was a combination of short personal announcements and advertisements. Although both partners wrote for their paper, Whitehead took on the bulk of the writing duties. Under their leadership the paper thrived. In 1912, the two dissolved their partnership as friends leaving Mitchell as the sole publisher. In July 1919, Fred E. Van Black, a linotype operator from Highland Park, purchased the paper. Within a few short months the newspaper size and circulation plunged forcing Van Black to sell the newspaper to 27-year-old Detroit Journal reporter named George R. Averill in February 1920. In 1927, Averill was joined by his older brother, Paul Neal Averill, in managing the next generation of the newspaper. In 1954, the newspaper and printing operations were separated. Averill Press, Inc. was created with Paul Averill as its president, to manage the printing aspects of the business. The Eccentric and Averill Press merged with the Observer Newspapers of Livonia on December 31 1973. In the early 21st century, the Eccentric was purchased by Hometown Communications where it is currently struggling to stay open, due to the increase of online news sites. The collection consists of newspaper clippings from the Eccentric relative to Cranbrook people, places and events. Corresponding photographs are included in the collection.

Arrangement

The Eccentric Newspaper Records are organized into five (5) series arranged alphabetically: Cranbrook Art Museum, Cranbrook Educational Community, Cranbrook Foundation, Cranbrook Institute of Science, and Cranbrook Schools. The folders are arranged chronologically within each series with the clippings folder ahead of the respective photograph folder.

SERIES I: Cranbrook Art Museum (Box 1-2)

SERIES II: Cranbrook Educational Community (Box 2-3) contains six sub series: Festival, House and Garden, Institute for Advanced Pastoral Studies, Music Guild, St. Dunstan, and Summer Theater.

SERIES III: Cranbrook Foundation (Box 3)

SERIES IV: Cranbrook Institute of Science (Box 3)

SERIES V: Cranbrook Schools (Box 3-4) contains six sub series: Brookside, Cranbrook, Cranbrook-Kingswood Upper, Kingswood, Upward Bound and Horizon Program and Wilderness Experience.

Acquisition

Gift of Greg Kowalski, Birmingham Historical Society.

Transfers

Photographs and negatives taken by Cranbrook staff photographers have been removed and relocated to the Archive’s photography and negative collections. Cranbrook publications were removed and relocated to the Archives E ∧ M Files. One piece of original correspondence was removed and relocated to the Cranbrook Foundation Records.

Processing History

Processed by Candida D’Avanzo, June 2009.
Title
Guide to the The Eccentric Newspaper Records
Status
Completed
Author
Candida D’Avanzo
Date
June 2009
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Edition statement
Resource record created by Laura MacNewman.

Repository Details

Part of the Cranbrook Archives, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research Repository

Contact:
39221 Woodward Ave.
P.O. Box 801
Bloomfield Hills MI 48303 US