The Albany Owl (later of Troy) might be the only newspaper ever to have been specifically banned in Lansingburgh, and was banned in a number of other municipalities in New York. No surviving copies of it were recorded by the NYS Newspaper Project, nor are any listed in WorldCat (check your attics!).
Carlos B. Conant, one of the principals behind The Owl, later became involved with the West Troy Truth, and ran into trouble publishing it as well.
John Parr was arrested this afternoon on complaint of Joseph Whitney, who charged him with criminal libel in “The Owl.” The article was read to Parr, who acknowledged that he wrote it; but said that it was written because of threats Whitney had made to clean out the office of the “Owl,” and that he had told others that a gang was being organized to do it. This the complainant denied. Justice Clute recommended that the two settle it between them. No agreement was reached. The justice read the law, and held that the article was a direct violation thereof. The case was adjourned to 3 P. M. Monday.
Albany Times. August 14, 1886: 3 col 6.
“Police Items.” Lansingburgh Courier. August 21, 1886: 3 col 5.
—As we pick up our exchanges of late we find in one and another mutterings relative to the sale of an obscene sheet known as the Albany Owl. It has been suppressed in Schenectady, Amsterdam, and other places, and in Hudson to-day a young man has given bail in the sum of $500 for offering it for sale. While we are upon the side of decency and fair play always, and foremost, we are even yet more grieved to find that John Parr, of Albany, a son of old “Jack” parr, former foreman of the Albany Argus, and himself a typo, has descended from the “Art Preservative” to such low and nefarious business, and only by his agility and fleetness of foot escaped the lock-up in Amsterdam. Ye Gods, “How have the Mighty fallen.”
“Newspaper Echoes; Pen and Scissors Sketches from Our Exchanges.” Newburgh Register. September 10, 1886: 3 col 7.
—The Hudson authorities are about to suppress the sale of the disreputable Albany Owl in that city. The police will arrest all persons found selling it and the postmaster will not allow it to go through the mails.
Amsterdam Daily Democrat. September 10, 1886: 6 col 3.
The Owl is a scurrilous sheet published in Albany, which is sold upon the streets of Troy every Saturday, and which finds a good many purchasers. Its only claim to attention is that it deals in “personals” of the most unjustifiable character, and furnishes its readers with anonymous scandal and slander. There are no means of defense against its attacks no matter how unjust or untruthful they may be, for the man or woman who attempts such defense is met with the jeers of a thoughtless publish who regard this very defense as a sort of confession. Let respectable people in future give it a wide birth.
The Clarion. September 11, 1886: 2 col 4.
—At the request of citizens Mayor Fitzgerald to-day directed Superintendent Willard to suppress the sale of the Albany Owl in this city. The superintendent gave the necessary orders to the force.
“City Notes.” Troy Daily Times. September 16, 1886: 3 col 2.
—The sale of the Owl, a scurrilous sheet published in Albany, was quite properly suppressed by Amsterdam’s Mayor, Saturday. The paper is one of the lowest character conceivable, and has a number of correspondents throughout Central New York, Gloversville included, whose contributions are made up almost exclusively of dirty slurs and reflections upon well-known individuals, often of the highest respectability. Gloversville’s authorities would do well to follow the example of Mayor Kline.
“Gloversville Items.” Fulton County Republican. September 16, 1886: col 1.
—Mayor Garside will to-morrow issue orders to have the sale of the Albany Owl suppressed.
Troy Daily Times. September 16, 1886: 3 col 5.
Village President Powell has ordered the sale of the Albany Owl suppressed.
“Waterford.” Troy Daily Times. September 17, 1886: 3 col 5.
BOYCOTT the Owl, published in Albany, and sold upon the streets of Troy every Saturday.
The Clarion [Troy, NY]. September 18, 1886: 2 col 5.
A vendor of the Owl was put in prison in Hudson last week, and in both Schenectady and Amsterdam its sale was suppressed. […]
A number of persons having complained to Mayor Fitzgerald against the sale of the Albany Owl, setting forth that it is an obscene and immoral publication, an order has been issued to arrest all persons found crying out the name of the paper or offering it for sale, and to confiscate the papers.
“City and Vicinity.” The Clarion [Troy, NY]. September 18, 1886: 3 col 2.
Suppressing a Disreputable Paper.
The case of the young man arrested for circulating obscene literature came up for a hearing 2 o’clock, this afternoon. When arrested prisoner gave the name of Lemon Gordon. He gave his name wrong, as was shown by evidence, it being Lansing Goodwin, instead of Lemon Gordon. Several witnesses were sworn and the case was closed. The court said the paper hawked through the streets came within the meaning of the law of an “indecent paper,” and he should hold the prisoner to await the action of the grand jury. Bail was fixed at $500, and was given by the mother of young Goodwin, for his appearance when wanted.
The Schenectady Star says: “To-day, when the 9 o’clock train arrived from Albany, a young man named D. E. Chamberlain alighted with 500 copies of The Owl and immediately began offering them for sale. He had scarcely opened his mouth to shout “The Owl” before Chief of Police Campbell pounced upon him and ordered him to take his stock out of town unless he wished to see the inside of the police station. Chamberlain left.”
At Amsterdam the sale of the Albany Owl was suppressed, and John Parr, a printer, who offered it for sale, only escaped arrest by shaking the dust of Amsterdam from his feet as expeditiously as possible.
Hudson Daily Evening Register. September 18, 1886: 3 col 3.
The police have been directed by President Flack to prevent the sale of the Albany Owl.
“Lansingburgh.” Troy Daily Times. September 20, 1886: 3 col 5.
Chief Kline, of Amsterdam, by order of the mayor, instructed the police to arrest all persons selling the Albany Owl on the streets.
“Through the State.” Coeymans Herald. September 29, 1886: 2 col 2.
He Asks for a Stay of Proceedings.
Counsel for Parr, editor of a disreputable Albany newspaper called “The Owl,” appeared before Judge Parker at Rondout to-day and asked for a stay of proceedings, on the ground that the court which convicted and sent him to the penitentiary had no jurisdiction under the questions raised. The case will be taken before the general term. The prisoner asked to be allowed to give bail. Judge Parker reserved his decision.
Albany Times. October 20, 1886: col 5.
…It will be unhealthy to attempt to circulate The Owl here any more. Not only have the police been instructed to prevent the sale of the scurrilous sheet, but several other persons, with blood in their eyes and clubs in their hands, are on the lookout for its carriers.
“Odd and End Gatherings.” Catskill Recorder. October 22, 1886: 3 col 1.
—John Parr, proprietor of the Albany Owl, was convicted of libel yesterday in the Albany Court of Special Sessions and sentenced to six months imprisonment in the penitentiary. The conviction will be appealed from. The publication of the vile sheet should be stopped.
“Bubbles.” Daily Saratogian. October 23, 1886: 5 col 3.
John Parr, the proprietor of the Owl, has been sentenced to the penitentiary six months for libel. […]
John Parr, the proprietor of the Albany Owl, is again in trouble. He will have a trial in Albany on a charge of libelling Leo Oppenheim.
“Notes About Town.” Lansingburgh Courier. October 23, 1886: 3
James Hughes and William Cane, newsboys, were arrested by Sergeant Bailey, to-day, for selling the Owl. They were taken before Justice Clute, who examined a copy of the paper, could find nothing in it obscene, and discharged the prisoners.
Albany Times. October 23, 1866: 3 col 4.
—John Parr of the Albany Owl was yesterday taken to the penitentiary to serve out his six months’ sentence.
“Vicinity Jottings.” Glens Falls Daily Times. October 29, 1886: 1 col 4.
The paper called the Owl appeared in this village last Saturday with a half column of Voorheesville items. Many were pleased to see their initials. It seems that the bird has got around and the young men will hereafter have to keep shady or it will give them away.
“Voorheesville.” Knowersville Enterprise. October 30, 1886: 2 col 2.
John Parr, proprietor of the Albany Owl, has been convicted in the court of special sessions in Albany of criminal libel, and sent to the penitentiary for six months.
“Facts and Fancies.” The Clarion. October 30, 1886: 3 col 2.
The divorced wife of Jack Parr of the Albany Owl, who is in the penitentiary, arrived in Albany Saturday and took possession of her child, which at the time of their divorce was awarded to the father. An effort made by Parr’s relatives to retain the child and cause Mrs. Parr’s arrest failed.
Glens Falls Daily Times. November 8, 1886: 1 col 7.
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, RESPONDENT, v. JOHN PARR, APPELLANT.
Evidence — the opinion of a witness, at to who is the person alluded to in a libelous publication, is not admissible — meaning of the term ” infamous crime ” — a libel is not one.
Upon the trial of the defendant for an alleged libel upon one Leo Oppenheim, it appeared that Oppenheim’s name was not mentioned in the libel, but it was claimed by The People that he was the person intended, and that he was pointed out by the words “the Pearl street tailor” and by the name “Leo.” A witness, called by The People, who was asked, “When you read this article did you recognize its application to any particular individual? ” answered “I did.” To the question, “Who was the person that you recognized that this article referred to?” he answered “Leo Oppenheim.”
Held, that the court erred in admitting the evidence against the objection and exception of the defendant.
That it was for the people to show facts from which the jury might infer that Oppenheim was the person intended by the defendant, and that the opinion of the witness should not have been received.
People v. Croswell (3 Johns. Cases, 340); Genet v. Mitchell (7 Johns., 120); Hayes v. Ball (72 N. Y., 420) distinguished.
Libel is not an “infamous crime” within the meaning of that term as used in section 68 of the Code of Civil Procedure, conferring upon the Court of Special Sessions, in the city of Albany, jurisdiction to try and determine all cases of petit larceny charged as a first offense, and all misdemeanors, “not being infamous crimes,” committed within the city.
Appeal from a judgment of the Court of Special Sessions in the city of Albany, convicting the defendant, John Parr, of the crime of libel, and sentencing him to imprisonment in the penitentiary for the term of six months.
The libel was published by the defendant in a newspaper called “The Owl.”
Edward J. Meegan, for the appellant.
Hugh Reilly, district attorney, for the respondent.
LEARNED, P. J.:
This was a prosecution for an alleged libel upon Leo Oppenheim. His name was not mentioned in the libel, but it was claimed by the people that he was intended, and that he was pointed out by the words “the Pearl street tailor,” and by the name “Leo.” On the trial a witness was asked, on behalf of the people, “”When you read this article did you recognize its application to any particular individual?” He answered “I did.” Then he was asked, “Who was the person that you recognized that this article referred to?” and he answered, “Leo Oppenheim.” These questions were duly objected to and exception taken. Similar questions were put to two other witnesses; objections made and exceptions taken.
This evidence was improper. It was for the people to show facts from which the jury might infer that Oppenheim was the person intended by defendant. The testimony of witnesses that they recognized Oppenheim, as referred to, was only the statement of their opinion. And this matter was not one for experts. Their opinion must have been based upon facts known to them. They should have testified only to such facts.
If this kind of testimony were proper, then the defendant could have called witnesses to testity that they did not recognize Oppenheim as the person referred to. But such testimony would be plainly improper. This principle is distinctly decided in Van Vechten v. Hopkins (5 John., 211); Gibson v. Williams (4 Wend., 320); Maynard v. Beardsley (7 id., 561, in the Ct. of Errors); Weed v Bibbins (32 Barb., 315); and by implication in Wright v. Page (36 id., 441). Two cases were cited by the people as sustaining the court below, viz: People v Croswell (3 Johns, cases, 340), and Genet v. Mitchell (7 Johns., 120). In the former no question or decision was made upon this point. The whole discussion is upon the right of a jury to determine the whole issue, and on the right of defendant to show the truth of the statement alleged to be a libel. In the other case the court recognize Van Vechten v. Hopkins as sound law. The testimony given by the witness had not been objected to, and was quite immaterial.
It is said by the counsel for the people that the judgment should not be reversed, because there is evidence that defendant admitted to a witness that Oppenheim was intended. But we cannot say that the jury would have believed the evidence as to this admission, if it had not been fortified by the illegal evidence of the opinions of witnesses.
We are referred to the language of the court in Hayes v. Ball (72 N. Y., 420), as supporting the position of the people. The question now under consideration was not involved in that case. It is very possible that in the case of verbal slander, if all the persons who heard the alleged slander testify that they understood the words in a sense entirely harmless, this may be a good defence; because, in that case, the defendant has not conveyed to the mind of any person a charge or disgraceful statement in respect to the plaintiff.
But the present is a very different case. Here is a libelous publication. The attempt is not to show that it was understood by all readers in a harmless sense. But the attempt is to show that it is aimed at a particular person by the opinion of several who read it. It is unquestionably proper and important to show that fact. But it must be shown by circumstances surrounding the parties. The circumstances which induced the belief in the minds of the witnesses that Oppenheim was the man intended, would have perhaps produced the same belief in the minds of the jury. At any rate the defendant was entitled to the judgment of the jury on that point.
A question is raised as to the jurisdiction of the Court of Special Sessions of Albany. It has jurisdiction, among other things, of “all misdemeanors, not being infamous crimes, committed within the city.” (Sec. 68 Code Crim. Proc.)
The defendant claims that the publication of a libel is an infamous crime. .
The repeal, by chapter 593, Laws of 1886 of section 31, title 7, chapter I, part 4, Revised Statutes, has left us to the common law to determine what are infamous crimes. It is quite unfortunate that so important an exception should be expressed in words which have always been somewhat vague in their meaning.
The question what crimes were infamous used to be important principally because a convictiou for any of such crimes excluded the convicted person from being a witness. That rule is abrogated. (Penal Code, 714; Code Civ. Proc, 832.)
Still, the words “infamous crimes” in section 68 above cited, must apply to such crimes as were infamous at common law.
Blackstone mentions, as making one infamous, “treason, felony, perjury or conspiracy, or if, for some infamous offense, he hath received judgment of the pillory, tumbrel or tho like, or to be branded, whipt or stigmatized, or if he be outlawed or excommunicated, or hath been attainted of false verdict, praemunire or forgery.” (3 Bl. Com. 370, 364.)
If the punishment inflicted were to determine the question of infamy, then the publication of a libel might have been an infamous crime. (Tutchin’s Case, 14 State Trials, 1095.)
But the better opinion is, that it is the nature of the crime, and not the punishment, which determines the question, and that an infamous crime is an offense “implying such a dereliction of moral principle as carries with it a conviction of a total disregard to the obligation of an oath.” (Per Sir Win. Scott, quoted in 1 Green. Ev. 373; Abbott’s Law Diet., title “Infamous Crimes.”)
In that section Greenleaf gives as the enumeration of infamous crimes: treason, felony and the crimen falsi. The publication of a libel certainly is not within the first or the second. Nor is it within the third, the crimen falsi; which implies some fraud or deceit, and which of itself must indicate a bad and immoral character.
Now, on the contrary, the publication of a libel, while it may sometimes be done with a very bad intent, does not necessarily imply disgraceful or immoral motives. It is not necessary to refer to the many well known convictions in England of men influenced by patriotic motives, which prove this assertion. Certainly, the crime is not one which involves, necessarily, deception or dishonesty. On the contrary, its publicity is of the essence of the wrong.
We do not think, therefore, that the publication of a libel is, in its nature, an infamous crime; though it may sometimes show a malevolent or a contemptible spirit.
The judgment and conviction should be reversed, and new trial granted.
BOCKES and LANDON, J.T., concurred.
Judgment and conviction reversed, new trial granted.
Cases Determined in the Fifth Department, at General Term. Albany, NY: Argus Co., 1886. 313-317.
Justice Learned has rendered a decision reversing the conviction for libel in the case of John Parr, publisher of the Owl, and granting the accused a new trial. Parr has been released from the penitentiary.
Troy Daily Times. November 26, 1886: 3 col 6.
The conviction and sentence of John Parr, proprietor of the Albany Owl, for criminal libel, had been reversed in the General Term at Albany, and a new trial granted.
“Facts and Fancies.” The Clarion. November 27, 1886: 3 col 2.
—A gentleman recently conversing in one of the stores was remarking the merits of certain religious papers when “Steve” very irrelevantly inquired “if he ever took the Owl?”
“Home Matters.” Knowersville Enterprise. November 27, 1886: 3 col 2.
The case of John Kilmartin, John Ryan and Stephen Evers, newsboys, arrested for selling the Owl Saturday night, came up in the Troy Police Court for trial yesterday morning. Magistrate Donohue said if the paper was obscene, as it was claimed, the people should proceed against the proprietors of the sheet. Assistant District Attorney McManus said that course would be taken, and the boys were discharged.
Albany Morning Express. April 14, 1887: col 5.
A Lively Time in the Troy Office of the Owl Yesterday.
A small room in the third story of the Warren building, on the corner of River and Second streets, Troy, has for some time been the office and composing room of a paper known as the Owl. C. B. Conant has charge of the composing department of the paper, which, he says, is operated for James B. Hunter, of this city. About 11 o’clock yesterday morning the room was visited by several men, none of whom was recognized, and when they left, after a brief visit, the place resembled a western town.
Mr. Conant says he and a boy named Quest were alone in the office yesterday morning at the time of the visit. The door was locked. The visitors rapped. The boy asked who was at the door, and the answer came “McCarthy.” The boy opened the door and, he says, a dozen or more men rushed in, breaking the glass in the door. The forms of type were all made up, ready for the press for to-day’s issue. The stones on which the forms were placed were overthrown and broken. The cases of type and type already set were also scattered over the floor. There were cases for three compositors, and these were demolished. The boy was scared and he yelled, and with this additional noise there was an uproar that startled the other tenants of the building. Conant says he tried to pull a revolver, when one of the raiders struck him on the head with a heavy board, which dazed him. His face was
and his clothing was torn. A policeman was called to the place, but before he could reach the scene the raiders had departed. The case was given to the detectives, who are making an investigation. W. W. Rousseau, who rents the building for the owners, said that when Conant had engaged the rooms, if he had known that the Owl was to be printed there, Mr. Rousseau would not have leased the room. Conant says that the office was entered Tuesday, and that ten galleys of type that had been set for to-day’s edition were strewn about the floor. It is supposed the visitors had been angered by an article in the Owl. The stone on which the pages of the Owl were made up is a grave stone, which had been obtained in this city. It bears an inscription.
Albany Morning Express. April 16, 1887: 4 col 6.
—The West Troy Truth this week has the following: “Edward J. Meegan makes his client’s cause his own and seldom loses a case,” remarked an old court officer. A better encomium could not be bestowed upon a lawyer, and we but voice the general opinion in saying that as an advocate Mr. Meegan has no superior among the members of the legal profession in New York state.
“Personal.” Albany Morning Express. May 29, 1887: 8 col 1.
THE West Troy Truth would like to see ex-Mayor Nolan nominated for mayor again, and believes he could be elected.
“City Notes.” Albany Journal. May 30, 1887: 7 col 1.
The third issue of Truth, a weekly West Troy paper, appeared Saturday, and the papers were confiscated when offered for sale on the streets and the newsboys arrested. The paper has been burlesquing the police court. Carlos B. Conant, the owner, has put the matter in the hands of an attorney.
Albany Journal. June 6, 1887: col 5.
Carlos B. Conant, said to be the editor of a newspaper called Truth, published on Federal street in Troy, was arrested yesterday afternoon by Detective Markham on a charge of libel. The complainant is LeMott W. Rhodes, district attorney of Rensselaer county. The libel is alleged to have been published in Truth last Saturday in an article headed “Crooked Rhodes.” Conant is the person who was assaulted at the time the Owl office was sacked in Troy, and later in West Troy, when he was knocked down by a man with a piece of lead pipe.
Albany Morning Express. July 2, 1887: 1 col 5.
Facing a Charge of Libel—Conant in Court Again—Interesting Testimony.
Carlos B. Conant was given an examination in police court this morning before Assistant Police Magistrate Myers on a charge of libel, preferred by Police Justice Patrick Grogan of West Troy. L. E. Griffith Appeared for the people and L. R. Beckley for Conant. The alleged libel was printed in a paper called Truth, which was published in Troy July 2, 1887. […]
Troy Daily Times. July 15, 1887: col 5.
Editor Conant Held Yesterday on Charge of Criminal Libel.
Carlos B. Conant, of West Troy, late editor of Truth, an alleged newspaper, and the former conductor of the defunct Owl of unsavory local reputation, must evidently at present consider himself a much abused man. He was brought up for trial for libel before Magistrate Myers in the Troy Police Court yesterday morning, and after a somewhat lengthy examination held for the grand jury’s action. The complainant was Police Justice Patrick Grogan, of West Troy, who objected to
which appeared in Truth on July 2, 1887, under the heading “Brief Resume of Groganism for Thirty Days,” hence the action. Conant had only just been bailed on a similar charge preferred by District Attorney Rhodes, of Rensselaer county, when confronted with the present action. Attorney L. E. Griffith, of Troy, appeared for the people and L. R. Beckley defended Conant. After the paper with the article objected to had been offered in evidence, William C. Schermerhorn and George W. Guerineau, printers employed on the sheet, were sworn. They testified that Conant was foreman and manager, and even set type, but they did not know of his writing for the paper. They said John Brophy wrote for the paper. West Troy’s deputy post-master, John E. Reiley, produced the certificate of publication of Truth filed in the West Troy post office by Conant, and a Congress street store-keeper, James J. Geoghan, said Conant came into his store after he had been assaulted with the lead pipe and asked for a revolver. He asserted then he was assaulted because he was publishing a paper called Truth and printing in it
Officer James Stewart, of West Troy, said Conant and Patrick Reiley, postmaster of West Troy, had a conversation recently, and Conant said he was publishing Truth and he intended to publish it until he made Grogan, Captain Storen and the West Troy keno gang get down on their knees to him. Counsel for the defense, when the people rested, tried to secure a postponement until to-morrow, as he had been unable to get his witnesses into court. The people objected, but a recess until afternoon was accorded. The defense attempted to prove Conant only an employe, not the paper’s publisher. Only one witness was examined, and Beckley moved for his client’s discharge. He said the evidence only allowed him to be a compositor. The defendent, he said, was not responsible for the article against Justice Grogan, because the paper containing the article was published when Conant was in jail. The people, through Mr. Griffith, claimed it had been shown when he wrote the obnoxious article, and the judge decided to hold him.
Albany Morning Express. July 16, 1887: 2 col 4.
A CASE which looks a good deal like persecution is before the Troy courts. C. B. Conant of West Troy started a little paper which he called Truth and in which he vigorously denounced a number of gamblers and political tricksters who have been running or trying to run that village. A villainous attempt to kill Conant was made but failed. Next he was charged with libel and by some hocus-pocus process the case was taken over the adjoining county of Rensselaer instead of to the courts of Albany county. Conant was promptly bailed, but other suits were brought until it became impossible for him to obtain sufficient bail to secure his release. At last accounts the unfortunate man was in jail. Political machinery which permits low pot-house politicians thus to wreak their vengeance on their enemies deserves to be smashed. What say the committee of thirteen?
Albany Evening Journal. July 18, 1887: 4 col 2.
Carlos B. Conant, well-known printer in this section for 60 years, died yesterday at his home, 492 Second Avenue, Lansingburgh, at the age of 80 years. He had been ill about a week. In the point of service he was one of the oldest printers in this section of the country, having become publisher and editor of the Fort Edward Gazette at the age of 18. He was born at Poultney, Vt., January 25, 1845. Following his first business venture at fort Edward, he moved to Troy, residing near the site of the present Postoffice on Broadway. During the next half century he lived in this section. For several years he was foreman of the job printing department of The Troy Times, later acting as foreman for Henry Stowell. For 25 years he worked in a similar capacity for the Journal Co., of which his son, Charles C. Conant, is the principal owner. Mr. Conant was a member of the Troy Typographical Union, No. 52. Surviving him are one son, Charles C. Conant, and two daughters, Miss Mary E. Conant and Miss Frances A. Conant, of Lansingburgh. At the funeral services to be held privately at the residence, 492 Second Avenue, Lansingburgh, Monday afternoon at 2:30 o’clock Rev. John Sheridan Zelie, D. D., pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Troy, will officiate.
“Obituary.” Troy Times. April 11, 1925: 5 col 3.