HABS in Mississippi: Marschalk Printing Office, Natchez

Interestingly, given our discussion about photographers on last week’s HABS post, this week’s subject, the Marschalk Printing Office in downtown Natchez, was photographed on different occasions by two different HABS photographers, the first our familiar friend James Butters, and the second, four years later, Lester Jones, who we’ve seen a couple of times on Natchez buildings before (Lawyer’s Row and Stanton Hall).

**muttering to myself* would’ve been nice if they had taken different angles at least, or maybe an interior or two**

GENERAL FRONT VIEW (SOUTHWEST ELEVATION) - Marschalk Printing Office, Wall & Franklin Streets, Natchez, Adams County, MS. James Butters, Photographer. Mar, 28, 1936.

GENERAL FRONT VIEW (SOUTHWEST ELEVATION) – Marschalk Printing Office, Wall & Franklin Streets, Natchez, Adams County, MS. James Butters, Photographer. Mar, 28, 1936.

VIEW FROM SOUTHWEST -Lester Jones, HABS Photographer. February 21, 1940.

The data sheet that James Butters filled out gives the reason he took the picture of this building, which had seen better days by the 1930s:

This old building housed the first printing shop in Mississippi. The first newspaper was edited here by Andrew Marschalk in 1801.

The data sheet also gives a construction date of 1798, which, if accurate, would put it in competition with Texada (c.1799), generally understood and cited in early newspapers as the first brick house in Natchez. I suspect this is not an accurate date given this other history of Andrew Marschalk where Marschalk himself says in a letter that he set up his first press in Vicksburg (or Walnut Hills as it was then called), and he did not set up shop in Natchez until July 1802. The MDAH Historic Resources Database is non-commital about the construction date. Even if built by 1805, it would have been an early substantial brick house and office.

Marschalk Data2

Marschalk Data1

The MDAH database also doesn’t mention when the building was demolished, but its lot is vacant on the 1958 Natchez Sanborn map, so sometime between 1940 and 1958. The lot is still vacant today.

As a side note, as I was putting together this post, I noticed that the Library of Congress has revamped its website and the HABS collection is SO MUCH MORE NAVIGABLE! Not only is there now a nice homepage for this huge, significant collection, complete with a brief essay about the history of the HABS/HAER program, but now, for what I think is the first time, you can easily browse by state without having to type “Mississippi” in the search bar. If you’ve ever had to search for Mississippi (the state), you know you usually end up having to wade through all sorts of junk returns having to do with Mississippi (the river) or even the common phrase “east of the Mississippi,” so this feature will be a special help for us. Check it out for yourself!

HABS Survey #: HABS MS-40

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Categories: Antebellum, Lost Mississippi, Natchez

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5 replies

  1. So what you are saying, is that a HABS photographer, when documenting a historic building, should photograph the exterior.

    Then, they should take a photograph of exterior details.

    And then, they should go inside and take a photograph of the interior.

    While inside, they should make sure to get a photograph of a mantelpiece or other interesting detail.

    And finally, they should take a photograph that illustrates how the building was constructed.

    What type of HABS office would do things in such a foolish manner just for some old commercial building that people pass by and do not appreciate because it does not have white columns?

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  2. This was another interesting story of the early years of Mississippi. I located a book by Clayton Rand (1940, Men of Spine, published by the Dixie Press) that provided the following information: Marschalk brought a “small mahogany press (4×6 inches)” to America in 1790, which he sold when he joined the army. In 1797, he regained his press, moved to Mississippi Territory outside Vicksburg. When the transfer of Natchez was made in 1798, Marschalk and his press went to Vicksburg. Territorial governor Sargent, in 1798, requested a press to print the territorial laws, and Marschalk build a press that would print 11×14 inches. His supervisor in the army did not think that befitting a soldier, and reassigned him. He sold the press in 1799 to B. M. Stokes, who published the Mississippi Gazette. On discharge from the army in 1802, he returned to Natchez and began the publication of the Mississippi Herald.

    Extracts from American Newspapers (William Nelson) listed the Mississippi Herald and Natchez Gazette as printed and published by Andrew Marschalk, at the corner of Third, and South First Streets in 1804. In 1805, the place of publication was listed as North First, Near Second Street. Where would that have been in present day Natchez?

    Finally, I located in the 1805 Natchez Messenger and ad for a “brick house” corner of N. First and Second Streets, describing a two story house. A subsequent ad for the American Eagle Tavern opening was identified as “that large and elegant brick house” on the corner of Second and South Second Streets. Where would that have been in present day Natchez?

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    • I am not sure about your streets. Looking at the street grid of Natchez, Broadway is the “First” street along the bluff. I wonder if Broadway is original to the grid, seeing as the blocks bounded by it are unequal to all the other ones in the original grid. Canal seems a much more logical “First” street. I also do not believe that the norths and souths mentioned are the same as currently exist in Natchez, where north-south running streets are today divided into north and south by Main Street. I think the ones in your newspapers are east-west running streets measured off Main Street, i.e. North First Street would be the first street north of Main. My interpretation of these street locations would place the American Eagle Tavern at what is today Texada. Your two story house at the corner of North First and Second would be at the same corner as Marschalk’s Printing Office. The corner of Third and South First would be South Pearl and State today.

      That being said, I do not think my interpretation system is perfect by any means. It ignores Market Street, which runs only a short distance, and Broadway, which does not seem to fit in with the adjacent grid. However, based on surviving buildings and those surveyed by HABS, the earliest Natchez buildings seem to be concentrated on Canal and Wall between Washington and Jefferson (though there is also a cluster farther away on Jefferson between Union and Rankin). So the buildings you have mentioned are highly likely to be (or have been) in that Canal and Wall area.

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