With 54 years of
printing behind him, the career of Daniel W. (Prize) Avery
reads like a history of Shelby county newspaper business itself, and
at a youthful 69, he still sets a wicked galley of type as composing
room foreman at The Democrat.
The Shelbyville Republican
Monday June 23, 1947
Page 3 column 2
DANIEL W. AVERY
Oldest employee of The Democrat
both in service and summers, he was first “bitten by type lice”
in 1893 when he went to work for W. Scott Ray, owner of The
Shelbyville Democrat, great-grandparents of the current
Shelbyville newspapers. He was a youth of 17 then and served his
apprenticeship setting type by hand after being stepped up from a
paper route to a composing room job.
Not until October of 1902 did the
International Typographical Union establish its local here, so
an apprenticeship in those days served under the eagle eye of a
composing room foreman. Offices of The Democrat were located
then in the upstairs rooms at the northwest corner of Harrison and
Prior to his initial taste of
printer’s ink, Avery ventured into the business world as sandpaper
boy at Spiegel’s furniture factory. His father, Herman Avery,
was a carpenter from St. Paul, but brought his family to Shelbyville
in 1890. From Spiegel’s, D. W. worked for a short time as messenger
boy for the local Western Union office and then began carrying
After Scott Ray’s death, the task of
operating The Democrat fell to his four sisters, the Misses
Hattie, Fannie and Mary Ray and Mrs. Sadie Kamp.
Hopefully they hired a manager from Michigan, a move which met with
open disfavor by their employees who quit their jobs in protest.
“The very day I walked out,” Avery
recalled, “I met John J. Wingate and his son who owned
Republican paper at that time, and they “signed me up.” Later, when George M. Ray, Scott’s brother, replaced the
out-of-town manager on The Democrat, Avery returned to the
fold. George Ray, incidentally, founded in later years what Avery
called a “spite sheet” known as “The Liberal,” but
which survived only a few years. Avery, himself, was affiliated with
the paper for a short time and selected composing room materials for
the ill-fated venture.
After his short hitch with George Ray,
he returned to The Republican, lured, he said, by a new
linotype machine - Shelbyville’s first. Harry E. Riggelsberger,
regular man then at the Republican, taught him the intricacies
of the linotype. Later he and Avery both went to Charleston, West
Virginia, to the Mose Donley Publishing Company. He worked
there on state printing composition for about a year, returning to
Shelbyville in August of 1905.
In the meantime, John Day DePrez
and a few others had bought The Democrat, which Avery
described as having “gone to pot.” At that time The Democrat
was getting all its type composition from “The Morning News,”
but finding that arrangement highly unsatisfactory, bought their own
linotype which Avery took over when he returned from Charleston. Incidentally, they bought that old-time linotype for around
$4,000-present day linotypes sell for around $8,000.
By that time the
Typographical Union No. 532 was in existence, effecting salary
and hour improvements for composing room men. Avery was the local’s
first secretary and served almost continuously in that position until
about five years ago. A stock-holder in The Democrat Publishing
Company, he holds the presidency of the company, which was formed
In June, 1920,
The Democrat was
transplanted from its North Harrison location to its present site - without missing an issue.
“I had been down here getting the
composing room set up,” Avery said. “We moved on a Saturday
after we got the paper out and were ready to roll again Monday.” The present plant formerly was occupied by
Oscar Hand & Son,
undertakers and furniture dealers.
Mr. Avery joined forced with another
linotype operator on June 25, 1932 - matrimonial forces, that is. His
bride, was Miss Emma M. Cook, who ran a linotype on the
Batesville Herald. Their first home was at 628 Elm Street;
the Avery’s live now at 1639 Meridian. They share a joint hobby in
automobile vacation trips, which have been many and distant.
By why Prize is called “Prize”
remains unanswered. He won’t tell, and he claims Mrs. Avery has
never been able to find out either.
Contributed by Barb Huff