Historic, but not famous

John Brown Russwurm, abolitionist, publisher

John Brown Russwurm (1799–1851) was an abolitionist, newspaper publisher, and colonizer of Liberia where he moved from the United States.  He moved from Maine to New York City, where he was a founder with Samuel Cornish of the abolitionist newspaper, Freedom’s Journal, the first paper owned and operated by African Americans.

Mr. Russwurm was born in Jamaica to an English Merchant and an enslaved woman. He was sent to Quebec when he was young for his education. He reunited with his father in 1812 and moved to Maine with his father and stepmother. The stepmother kept him with the family after the death of his father in 1815.

He graduated from school in Maine and began to teach at an African school in Boston. His stepmother and her new husband helped him pay for his college education at  Bowdoin College from 1824 – 1826. He became the first African American to graduate from Bowdoin College and third African American to graduate from an American college.

He moved to NYC in 1827 and published the first edition of Freedom’s Journal that March. His position on Africans moving back to Africa was controversial and he quit the paper in 1829 to lead colonization by African Americans in Liberia. In 1836 he became the first black governor of Maryland in Africa, a colony that later became part of Liberia in 1857. He held this post until his death in 1851.

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Historic, but not famous

Victoria Woodhull, first female stockbroker
Cabinet card of Woodhull by Mathew Brady

Victoria Woodhull (1838 – 1927), was an American leader of the women’s suffrage movement. In 1872, she ran for President of the United States as the candidate from the Equal Rights Party, supporting women’s suffrage and equal rights; her running mate was black abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass. She was an  activist for women’s rights and labor reforms, Woodhull was also an advocate of “free love”, by which she meant the freedom to marry, divorce and bear children without social restriction or government interference.

With her sister, Tennessee Claflin, she was the first woman to operate a brokerage firm on Wall Street making a fortune. The firm ran with the assistance of  Cornelius Vanderbilt, an admirer of Woodhull’s skills as a medium. Newspapers called them “the Queens of Finance” and “the Bewitching Brokers.”

They were among the first women to found a newspaper in the United States, Woodhull & Claflin’s Weekly, which began publication in 1870 in New York City. The women used their earnings from their work on the stock exchange to start the paper. The paper ran for 6 years with feminism as the primary interest, but it became notorious for publishing controversial opinions on taboo topics, advocating among other things sex education, free love, women’s suffrage, short skirts, spiritualism, vegetarianism, and licensed prostitution. The paper was the first to print  the first English version of Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto in its edition of December 30, 1871, and the paper argued the cause of labor skillfully.

Ms. Woodhull was involved in American Women’s Suffrage, politics and publishing until she and her sister moved to England in 1877. In England, she gave lectures, published a magazine and married a third time. She also went on to call for reform in British schools by advocating for Kindergarten education. She eventually retired to a quiet farm near Worcestershire where she died in 1927.

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Historic, but not famous

Thomas H. Todd, founder Long Island City Star

Thomas H. Todd founded the Long Island City Star newspaper before Long Island City was  incorporated, the first issue was published on October 20, 1865. It was the only paper in the area at the time. Todd was schooled in journalism at the Flushing Journal. Within a month of the first publishing, the friendship and patronage of the late Oliver Charlick, president of the Long Island Railroad, was secured. The railroad regularly took out paid ads in the paper, allowing it to continue when the initial years were quite lean .In 1876, the Star went daily. Its circulation grew from a few hundred to some twelve thousand per week by 1896.

Mr. Todd went missing in January 1901. A body was found in Flushing Creek in June 1902 and identified by his wife and 2 sons. But, after hearing evidence at an inquest, the family decided it wasn’t him. Meanwhile, other family members still swore it was Todd. But the inquest jury declared it wasn’t him.

By November 1902, there was a nasty battle of an “alleged will” presented by the two sons who charged that their mother and their sisters was not competent to serve as administrator of the will.

No one is sure what happened to Mr. Todd. The day he vanished, he reported for work in the morning, but looked so bad he was sent home. It was thought he would take the train to Flushing, where he lived, but instead he boarded a ferry bound for James Slip. He always had $100 with him and there is speculation that he just disappeared on his own.

Mr. Todd was highly respected for his newspaper and the work it did in the community. The paper existed until 1968 and had expanded to cover much of southern Queens and Greenpoint Brooklyn.

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