When The Cambrian began in 1880 as the personal enterprise of Rev. Daniel I. Jones, it was a bi-monthly magazine published in Cincinnati, Ohio. As the magazine grew, becoming a monthly, and subsequently a bi-weekly publication, its influence in Welsh America became larger.
Individuals from across the United States read The Cambrian. From New York State, Pennsylvania and Ohio, right across western states such as California, Washington and Colorado, the magazine brought a vast country of Welsh-Americans together in its pages.
The fact that The Cambrian was published for a total of 39 years is proof of its long lasting influence and success.
The reasons for publishing The Cambrian were numerous. In January 1880, when the first issue of The Cambrian appeared it was edited, published and owned by Rev. Daniel I. Jones of Cincinnati, Ohio. In that first issue, he stated clearly many of the reasons why he had brought out a new publication.
In his opinion there was a need for such a publication, to be a chronicler of all things Welsh-American. The aim of his new magazine was to give the histories of Welsh emigration and their settlements as well as collect biographical sketches of all prominent Welshmen and their descendents in American public life. The Cambrian's title page clearly stated that it was a magazine "Devoted to History, Biography and Literature."
Daniel Jones was worried that the Welsh-Americans would forget their past as a people. His duties as a pastor took him to several different Welsh settlements in many different states. It was obvious to him by his own experiences that the Welsh language was not as dominant within some Welsh-American communities as it had once been.
There was therefore a need for a publication that reflected the present society of the Welsh-Americans as well as being a keeper of their history. This was the reason why The Cambrian was published entirely in the English language, contrary to almost all other Welsh-American publications.
There was certainly no shortage of Welsh-American publications at the time that The Cambrian flourished. These included, to name but a few of the most popular titles:
There were some older publications such as Cymro America, Y Wasg and Baner America that were partly in English, but were primarily in the Welsh language.
The most influential publication by far in Welsh-America was Y Drych. Published weekly, Y Drych was the newspaper of choice for many Welsh Americans. It was the most widely read publication by Welsh communities and individuals across many states. It was their main source of news from both sides of the Atlantic, as well as being a source of comfort for many new Welsh emigrants. In a later period The Cambrian's success would lead it to become closely related to the Y Drych.
Y Drych was strongly supported by the Welsh-Americans who understood and could read the Welsh language; The Cambrian was aimed at serving the thousands of people in the United States who were of Welsh descent but who couldn't speak the language. This was, in Daniel Jones' opinion, essential for the success of the magazine, so that it could be of greater usefulness. There is no doubt either that the decision to publish The Cambrian in the English language prolonged its existence, and extended its influence in Welsh America.
It was to this backdrop that Rev. Daniel I. Jones persisted to make The Cambrian a success. It took two years to publish the six issues in the first volume of 1880-1881, largely due to the editor's efforts to promote his new magazine. He had travelled to many Welsh settlements to canvass for the magazine to secure an audience and a list of subscribers strong enough to support it in its early years.
By 1884, The Cambrian was published monthly, and the publisher had created a network of agents to sell, and collect subscriptions for the magazine. Many of these were students at Marietta College, Ohio, and did much to increase its circulation in Ohio and Pennsylvania. It was not long before The Cambrian could also boast subscribers from West Virginia, Missouri, Illinois, Colorado and California. In Y Drych for February 24th, 1881, W. J. Jones sang the praises of The Cambrian's editor, and his endeavor in bringing out the publication.
In 1886, Rev. Daniel I. Jones decided to sell the magazine, and to end his period as its editor. He had set strong foundations for the long-term future of the magazine, which was successfully built upon in the following years by his successor, Rev Edward C. Evans of Remsen, New York State.
Edward C. Evans was, from the fall of 1886, the editor, publisher and owner of The Cambrian. He would remain so for the following ten years, enhancing the magazine's appeal and professionalism. Being an astute businessman, he was the one who moved The Cambrian from its old home in Cincinnati to be printed at Utica, New York State. Here it was printed at the facilities of the famous T. J. Griffiths, the printer of Welsh-Americans newspapers such as Y Drych, as well as hundreds of Welsh-American books.
In this period, The Cambrian was a flourishing magazine, being published regularly at the beginning of each month as a 32-page issue. He extended the range of the magazine's content to include many scientific and religious discussions. He also upheld the original aims of The Cambrian to collect the history and biography of the Welsh-Americans.
The Cambrian also became more widely advertised in the pages of other publications such as Y Drych. It was possible for groups of ten or more to subscribe for only $1, and subscribe to The Cambrian and other magazines' for discounted prices.
In 1896 The Cambrian found itself at yet another turning point in its history. Rev. Edward C. Evans had decided to sell the magazine to its printer T. J. Griffiths. He would now also be its owner and publisher.
During these years, the magazine changed in many ways. The Cambrian received new energy and a new look at the professional printing facilities supplied by T. J. Griffiths. In 1909 he stated that he was
" . . . determined that The Cambrian shall keep pace, in appearance and content, with the best American Magazines."
He made many changes that supported his determination. The Cambrian became a bi-weekly magazine, in a glossier and shorter 16-page issue. Its renewal gave new life to the magazine's biographical might, with memoirs, biographies and obituaries all reinforced as important elements of the publication.
During this period, the magazine was offered on discount for individuals and families who wished to read both Y Drych and The Cambrian. It was possible to subscribe to both publications for $2.50 a year.
The Cambrian's content was fairly similar to that of other Welsh-American publications. It carried historical and biographical articles, as well as elements such as:
Throughout The Cambrian's existence, however, the most obvious features were the biographical and historical articles. These were more often than not given a prominent place on the front pages of the magazine.
An example of an historical article is the series of articles on "Paddy's Run, Butler County, Ohio". This is a good example of that which The Cambrian sets out to achieve in chronicling a history of emigration and settlement on new land, also taking account of the settlement in recent times, its people and customs.
The history is given of Ezekiel Hughes, Edward Bebb and William Gwilym's Atlantic voyage, and the subsequent purchase of land and settlement at Paddy's Run. It is told how William Gwilym commenced to clear the forest, and the family invested in a two-horse wagon and iron castings. It also gives detailed accounts of settlers who soon followed the pioneers, their early struggles and their later prosperity.
There are in The Cambrian historical articles of settlements, communities and various societies from across the United States. In early volumes the editor urged other subscribers and readers to contribute information about their settlements or localities. It seems that this encouragement was greeted with further contributions. Historical sketches of The Welsh Society of Philadelphia, and of the Mankato settlement, Minnesota appeared in following issues.
The biographical sketches are important features of The Cambrian. Many issues' front-pages were illustrated with sketches of the individual. Examples of these sketches are numerous, prominent in all issues of The Cambrian. They range from biographies of Welsh pioneers such as the infamous Rev. Benjamin Chidlaw of Ohio to influential figures such as former editor of Y Drych, John W. Jones, or sketches of successful Welsh businessmen, such as T. C. Jenkins, wholesale grocer and flour dealer of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.
Taking T. C. Jenkins as an example, we can see all that is notable about these types of articles in The Cambrian. It was almost a rule of thumb that these articles would include all information possible on their subjects; their place of nativity, all places of residence, who their families were, and the origin of their family (particularly in Wales). These articles were above all a celebration of Welsh-American success, praising their enterprise in business and aptitude in religious and family life. It is said of T. C. Jenkins:
"He is in every respect a self-made man, never receiving a dollar from any source save his own exertions. He says he never had any doubts but that he would turn up successfully somewhere."
Important, although brief, inclusions in The Cambrian were the directories. These were features mainly at the back of issues between 1880 and 1886.
Their initial purpose was to give lists of Welsh professionals and businessmen from certain settlements, and of students in many universities. Even though these directories depended upon voluntary contributions from individuals within their communities, they quickly became much longer lists, containing as many Welsh emigrants within communities as was possible to record.
One notable example from 1883 gives lists of 26 individuals from Lansford, in Carbon County, Pennsylvania. It notes where they emigrated from and, where available, all places of residence and worship since arriving in America. Many were mine workers and others were grocers or undertakers.
These directories were an important part of The Cambrian. They were aimed at reuniting families and friends scattered across the vast new land and to form brief family histories. These became very popular and grew suddenly. They may not always be totally representative of whole communities, but they are of good historical value to any individual studying Welsh-America.
In a magazine that contained more illustrated pages in its later years, we also see articles on St. David's Day and Welsh Day celebrations in Welsh-American communities.
One such example of "Welsh Day Celebrations" is in the August 1st, 1911 edition. This article gives details of celebrations at Philadelphia and Scranton in Pennsylvania, and Akron, Ohio, with reports on choirs, speakers and all manner of contributors to the festivities. It is also fully illustrated, a total of 8 portraits or pictures across the 4 pages. Compared to earlier volumes, it is increasingly these types of festivities that are reported upon in the pages of The Cambrian. This shows that the magazine is not only a chronicler of history but also a reporter of the current habits of the Welsh-Americans.
The Cambrian often aimed to be of interest to every individual. There was fictional literature as well as religious instruction in sections such as "For the Young People". There were monthly fashion tips in the "Mother and Daughters Department", written by May Manton.
The Cambrian was a magazine aimed at the whole Welsh-American public, and especially those who could not speak, read or understand the Welsh language.
It seems The Cambrian was given roles in Welsh-American families. One more than one occasion, we see The Cambrian being aimed at children and the young. Benjamin Thomas from Arkansas wrote in 1880:
"Give the children, our children, facts about their ancestors in the language which they read."
For a long period when it was possible to subscribe for Y Drych and The Cambrian together for $2.50, Y Drych was for the parents and The Cambrian for the children. As the content of The Cambrian suggests, it was a magazine that appealed to the whole family.
The Cambrian was published for a total of 39 years. At this time Welsh-American publications had a life expectancy of around 4 to 5 years. This proves that The Cambrian was an exceptional success.
It survived some financial hardships in the 1890s, but it came to an unfortunate end in 1919, when the price of labor, paper and postage had risen considerably. In its place came a short-term English language column in Y Drych in 1920.
There is no doubting, however, the far-reaching appeal and success of The Cambrian. Daniel Jones, the founder of the magazine rejoiced in 1886 as he said:
"It is not too much to say that The Cambrian has done more to bring the Welsh people and their literature before the American public than all Welsh papers and magazines combined; not because I claim intrinsic superiority over them, but because of the simple fact that it is published in the English language."
- The Cambrian, Vol. 6 no. 11, p.315.
The Cambrian has provided us with a wealth of information about the Welsh in America. It is hoped this new digital resource will highlight The Cambrian's value by making its content searchable by the material's relation to all American mainland states.
Following the digitisation of this magazine as part of the Wales-Ohio Project at the National Library of Wales, this website presents almost 19,000 images of its pages, made available to audiences worldwide. The Cambrian is a valuable resource for anyone with an interest in Welsh-American history and literature. It will also benefit:
Welsh-American newspapers, periodicals and publications: