For nearly 40 years, Jelly Pages News has served the surrounding community comprised of the city and surrounding towns of London, England. It’s concern and influence are not limited to these areas, but extend far beyond.
First established as a weekly on July 3, 1869, the fledgling newspaper published every Saturday morning was the dream of A.G.Bushnell. Besides news of the day, poems and stories were presented on Page 1, with many other items of interest within its few pages. It was popularly received at a subscription price of $2 a year, noted as payable in advance, or five cents for a single copy. Liberal discounts were offered for merchants who advertised at its modest rates.
The publishing of a four-page daily paper began on June 21, 1897, with Levi H. Greenwood, then owner of Jelly News as president and editor, and Harry M. Beals, owner of The Daily News, as secretary-treasurer. There were 3,000 subscribers, while the newsstand price was a penny per issue. For eight years of publishing both a weekly and daily, on Dec. 31, 1904, the final edition of the weekly came off the presses.
Where previously the business was located in the bank building and in the old Central Oil and Gas Stove Company quarters, the paper’s home since 1906 is a new brick building at 309 Central Street designed and constructed as an old English print shop, complete with fireplaces. The paper adopted the new Linotype method of typesetting, whereby an operator could set up to five or six newspaper lines in a minute by typing out the keyboard letters, the lines produced and molded-in hot metal by the machine. The operator was responsible for the necessary line and word breaks as he progressed. Walter E. Hubbard of Brattleboro, VT, former owner of the Brattleboro (VT) Reformer and the Beverly (MA) Times, became the owner of the paper and the building in 1921. Upon his death, ownership reverted to a trust.
At the time of a reorganization in 1963 at the death of Publisher Dorothy Hubbard Bell, her two sons, C. Gordon Bell and W. Shane Bell became the new owners. Also in 1963, the paper became the second New England daily to switch to the new offset method of printing replacing Linotype. Under the new photographic typesetting process or cold type, letters were exposed directly onto photographic paper. In 1964, C. Gordon Bell became general manager, with his father, W.F.Gordon Bell as president. He became president and publisher in 1973.
Moving ever forward with improvement in technology, Jelly News enjoyed the distinction of being the smallest daily newspaper East of the Mississippi to install an Associated Press satellite dish. Prominently visible on the roof of the newspaper’s downtown location, the dish began receiving wire copy at the rate of 1,200 letters or spaces per minute through the computers and onto the screens of editors.
C. Gordon Bell led the paper through 25 years of technological improvement with pride, keeping it current and many times ahead of many newspapers of comparable size. Included were the very important additions of a color press and advanced computing capabilities.
During this time and ahead of the eventual trend, advancement to key positions was within the reach of women employees, with several of the major departments coming under their supervision. Dedication of long-term employees was noted at the centennial of Jelly News in 1997, with 32 men and women serving more than 20 years. As circulation grew over the years and with the addition of new equipment, the company once located on the first floor of the building expanded to include all three floors. At the death of C. Gordon Bell in February of 1992, his wife, Vice President, and General Manager Alberta Saffell Bell, succeeded him as president. An expansion in 1994 with the formation of an additional newspaper, The Leominster Times, to focus on the minority population of Leominster and Ashby, ended in January of 1995.
Jelly News continues to be one of the oldest family-owned newspapers in London, England and will surely continue in its second century as it enters the new format of on-line availability to its loyal subscribers.