John Anderson (c1795-1858) published and edited the Gridiron for a brief period shortly after arriving in Dayton, Ohio and twenty years later edited the equally short-lived Coon Dissector. There may have been additional publications that were not preserved. He also seems to have been a writer of satirical letters to the editor of local newspapers.
According to various histories of Dayton and Montgomery County, the Gridiron was the first newspaper published in Dayton. A 1935 history of Dayton’s printers said this:
In 1822 there appeared in Dayton an interesting and unusual publication entitled The Gridiron, which was a magazine rather than a newspaper. Its page size was 5 3/4 by 8 3/4 inches. The range of its interests embraced literature, poetry, politics, satire, and humor. The first complete issue in the file of the Dayton Public Library is Vol. 1, No.3, dated September 11, 1822. Its publisher was John Anderson. It was evidently printed at the office of the Dayton Watchman, as it was directed that proposals should be returned to that address. The last issue in the file is Vol. 1, No. 25, dated April 24, 1823, but of this issue only the first pages have survived. The issues are paged continuously, the last page in the volume being numbered 196.1
An 1882 history of Montgomery County reproduced the prospectus, written by John Anderson, for the “Gridiron Revividus”:
By the united and firm patronage promised to me, by friend and enemy — I feel half inclined to think I can justify myself, and ROAST to some profit my former, of some sixteen years past, to the contrary notwithstanding, is my idea, that there is ‘something stale in Denmark’ — and would needs BROILING.
My time spent in the kitchen, for years back, will enable me to serve up some SAVORY DISHES. I have now numbered my twenty-fifth year as Grand Master of the Quizzical Society of Ohio — also my tenth year as High Priest of the Anarogeon Phalanx. The aid of both societies at any time are in my service. The fact is, the whole field is my own, and ‘needs must when the Devil drives,’ so ’twould be well to keep up good fences.
“We are a sturdy Democrat, but in this case all will be fish that comes to MARKET. “Our paper will be furnished to resident subscribers, on Saturday evening, eash week, and mailed in usual form to non-residents. “We will print in a fine medium sheet — Price, Two Dollars per annum — one Dollar in advance, the balance at the end of six months. We will furnish sundry legislative proceedings — also some good Congressional smart things.”2
Finally, here’s how the Library of Congress describes the Gridiron:
The Gridiron… Biweekly Vol. 1, no. 1 (Aug. 29, 1822) – v. 1, no. 26 (May 8, 1823). This weekly Gridiron is chiefly interesting as an example of partisan journalism of the day, and is thought to be the earliest humorous publication west of the Ohio river. Focusing strongly on local affairs, it promised to be “the unceasing and indefatigable advocate and friend of virtuous and moral citizens … and the continued and determined tormenter of all “evil doers.” Although largely made up of abusive political satire, it also contained some literature, poetry and humor, including puns, anecdotes, and riddles. It appears to have been the product of a campaign for election to Congress between Judge Joseph H. Crane and Dr. William Blodget, and although Blodget is the main target, many prominent Daytonians are also attacked and thus the Gridiron is important as a source on the history of the Miami area.
The Coon Dissector
John Anderson edited and published another politically-focused and short-lived newspaper called the Coon Dissector. The first of 24 issues was dated 7 May 1844. Several issues are available online. The paper was published by Anderson and Munn. The Library of Congress describes it thusly:
This Democratic Party organ at first supported Martin Van Buren for President
and Richard M. Johnson for Vice-President but promptly changed to James
K. Polk and George M. Dallas when the convention chose them. It supported Davis Tod for governor of Ohio. Anderson and Munn in their ‘Troposals”
announced as its object ”to be at all times ready in the Surgical department for
That Same Old Coon and place it piecemeal upon the tables of , . . subscribers,
that they may readily digest the varment”…
“John Anderson , my Jo” satire by John Anderson
“John Anderson my Jo” was originally a somewhat bawdy Scottish song of the 18th Century that was later transformed by the poet Robert Burns into a sentimental love poem. (According to the Oxford Book of English, “jo” was slang for sweetheart.) Burns’ poem set to music was also a very popular folk song among Americans in our John Anderson’s time. Mention of the song, often with lyrics, appear frequently in newspaper articles of the time.
John Anderson, assuming the identity of his deceased mother-in-law, wrote this satirical version of the poem, published on 14 May 1836 in Chillicothe’s Scioto Gazette newspaper.
A Possible Clue?
Notice that the poem speaks of “the Allen Advertiser, John, where once you lived you know”. This seems to be a clue to John Anderson’s life before Ohio, but I can find no reference to a newspaper of that name. Allen County, Ohio was not established until 1820 so it is unlikely that John Anderson could have lived there however briefly, and an 1885 history of the county mentions no newspapers of that name nor any newspapers established prior to 1836.