The Anti-Slavery Bugle began publication on June 20, 1845, in New-Lisbon (now Lisbon), the seat of Columbiana County. The weekly organ of the Ohio American Anti-Slavery Society, later known as the Western Anti-Slavery Society, this paper’s motto declared “No Union with Slaveholders.” After only six issues, on September 5, 1845, the paper was moved to Salem, probably because this city was more welcoming to both the radical group and its paper, which served as the most significant--and perhaps the only--voice of Garrisonian radicalism west of the Appalachians. Columbiana County’s long history of abolitionism and its location in the northeast Ohio, close to the Western Reserve, put it in a favorable position for its predominately Quaker population to hear and adopt anti-slavery ideas. Salem was also an active Underground Railroad station.
Marius R. Robinson served as editor of the paper for over seven years during the 1850s and was extremely active in the Anti-Slavery Society, once serving as its president. Other notable editors of the paper include Benjamin S. Jones and J. Elizabeth Hitchcock, the paper’s first, and Oliver Johnson. James Barnaby served as the paper’s publisher for almost its entire 18-year run. Under their leadership, supplemented by other leaders in the Western Anti-Slavery Society such as Abby Kelley, the paper achieved strong circulation numbers and reached readers beyond Ohio’s borders in states such as Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana. This aligned with the Society’s overall goal of expansion, which is reflected in its name change from the Ohio American Anti-Slavery Society to the Western Anti-Slavery Society.
The paper printed letters and speeches, including Sojourner Truth’s 1851 “Ain’t I a Woman” speech, along with calls-for-meetings and editorials that supported its goals. In its first issue the Bugle declared: “Our mission is a great and glorious one. It is to preach deliverance to the captive, and the opening of the prison door to them that are bound; to hasten in the day when ‘liberty shall be proclaimed throughout all the land, unto all inhabitants thereof.’” To that end, the paper and the society supported women’s rights and criticized churches that neglected the anti-slavery cause. The Bugle was also involved in the peace movement, opposing the American government’s involvement in the Mexican War. Not willing to align itself with any one party, the Bugle and Anti-Slavery Society sought the endorsement of those who shared their principles regardless of political affiliation.
Columbiana County was full of partisan papers that reflected the varied interests of its citizens. The Anti-Slavery Bugle’s unique, extreme, and loud voice stood in contrast to papers representing Whigs, Republicans, Democrats, and Independents, as well as pro-slavery, temperance, and labor factions. Despite inadequate funding throughout much of its life, the Bugle lasted over 18 years. The last known issue appeared in 1861, though the newspaper did not officially cease publication until 1863, when with the emancipation of slaves, its primary objective was accomplished.