Wednesday, October 31, 2012

31 October 1844: A Youth Library Offered "at the New York Price"

On this day, Albon Chase began advertising a new set of books, available together or individually at his "Book-Store," for the impressionable young men and women of Athens. 


Primary education in 1844 was reserved for those who could afford both to pay to have their children educated and did not require their labor at home. Athens had a highly literate population, but there were no free schools. The cheapest schools in the 1840s charged $3.00 per quarter for basic primary education, akin to $93.10 in today's dollars. 

Those with more money could hire private tutors for their children, or send them to one of the local academies that taught basic English, grammar, writing, rhetoric, arithmetic, geography, history, chemistry, astronomy, Latin Greek, natural philosophy, music, drawing, painting, and French. Schools such as The Female Academy (which offered co-ed education), offered subjects on a sliding scale ranging from $4.00 per quarter for the most basic instruction to $8.00 per quarter for everything except more artistic pursuits, which could be purchased as separate lessons. 

Most education for girls focused on softer learning, such as arts, recitation, and French, rather than the speeches of Cicero or higher mathematics. It was this lack of rigorous higher education for women that caused the Lucy Cobb Institute to be founded in 1858, for Athenians believed their daughters should be as well educated as their sons, and did not want to send them away to school for the necessity. 

Albon Chase was a member of the class who could afford education for his children. He was born in New Hampshire in 1808. became the publisher of the Southern Banner 1832. He established with John Linton the Pioneer Paper Manufacturing Company located on Barber Creek, just southeast of Athens, a venture that cleared 60% profit in its first year.

In 1845, he moved the newspaper offices to a three-story wooden building at the corner of College Avenue and Front Street (now Broad), with his newspaper offices above the bookstore. Many newspaper publishers also printed books, ledgers, and other sorts of paper materials for sale other than news; Chase also offered colored wrapping paper for gifts.

He retired from the Banner in 1846 after 14 years of work, but his son, William, purchased part of it in 1858 and acted as co-editor. According to the book Antebellum Athens, "political opposition charged that regardless who was the editor, the Banner was controlled by Howell Cobb."

Chase was a founding and guiding member of other local business ventures, such as the National Bank of Athens, the Athens Building & Loan Association, the Georgia Equitable Insurance Company, and the Southern Mutual Insurance Company, where he served as Secretary until his death in 1867.

He was also active in the practical running of Athens, serving as one of the city's first commissioners, starting in 1839, and representing Ward 2 off and on until 1859. In 1852, Albon Chase served as Intendent of the city, akin to being Mayor today; Chase Street is named for him.  Two of his homes are still standing in Athens, at the corner of Hull and Clayton Streets downtown (now apartments), and at 243 Dearing Street. He is buried at Oconee Hill Cemetery.

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