A worthy and ambitious citizen was Samuel Fleet, a decendant of Thomas
Fleet who brought his family from England in his own boat, and anchored
it in Fleet's Hole near Huntington Harbor about 1660. As well as serving
the community as, Merchant, postmaster, Overseer of the Poor, Librarian
of Huntington Library, and Principal of Huntington Academy, Samual Fleet
became the first native editor of Huntington and was responsible for the
publication of Long Island's first magazine - The Long Island Journal of
Philosophy and Cabinet of Variety.
In his home on the east side of Park Avenue, Huntington, now owned by Reginald H. Runge, Fleet kept store. From this spot looking west could be seen on the hill and facing north, the Huntington Academy, standing about on the site of the present High School. Built in 1794 by public funds, this building had provided a center for education of varying kinds, sometimes classical and sometimes little above the ordinary common school. It is evident from gleanings of the magazine which Samuel Fleet edited for use in this establishment, that during his tenure of office as Principal, a high educational standing was maintained.
Proposals for the magazine had appeared in the American Eagle, the local newspaper published by Hiram Herskell 1824 -1826, and it was in Herskell's plant that the magazine was printed. Its first issue, May 1825, heralded a most ambitious educational enterprise. The front cover of the magazine, which measured 9 1/2 inches by 6 inches, contained the following inscription
CABINET OF VARIETY
Assisted by a number of Literary Gentlemen
Huntington, L. I.
Printed by Hiram Herskell
On the back cover of several numbers was a picture of the Huntington Academy,
accompanied by announcements concerning the magazine and academy. From
these we gather certain interesting facts. Mr. Fleet established a boarding house
for pupils, offering to care for their health and morals as well as provide conveniences,
among which was washing, for a charge of thirteen shillings per week. Tuition at the
academy was from two to, five dollars.
In September Fleet announced having engaged Mr. C.B. Sherman a graduate of
Yale, as his assistant, and in October that Mr. J. W. Case of Southold had joined the
staff. That maps and globes were, used in the establishment was also proudly stated,
also that pages in the magazine "are read and corrected by the more advanced pupils
who, board in the family", in order that they may apply the printer's rules.
Given free to the pupils, the magazine substantiated the editor's claim
that he had access to the most valuable journals published in this country,
and in Europe, thus being able to enrich his pages with new discoveries
made in science, etc. Also, he offered one volume gratis to- anyone who
would contribute four to six pages of original verse or prose.
Biography, Fine and Useful Arts, Science, History; General Intelligence and Poetry were some of the subjects treated, much of which was copied from other publications. A study of Samuel Fleet's teaching methods is contained in a series of three articles entitled -"Letters to the Parents of the Scholars of Huntington Academy", which makes profitable reading even today.
The journal; which was published monthly, cost $3.50 per year. - Mr. Bradford Rogers toured the island to obtain subscriptions, while postmasters and others were solicited to promote circulation. The September number stated that The Journal of Philosophy is printed on fine paper with new type, and that each volume would be embellished with an engraving, the one for the present volume to be a Map of Long Island. As there is no evidence that this promise was fulfilled, it would be interesting to know if such a map exists.
The last issue of the magazine, April 1826, bears a notice that this is the "end of volume first" and that this number completes this publication, also that "We are grateful for the encouragement received, and should have continued the publication even gratis, had not a different arrangement in the editor's business made it inadvisable for the present. We find our literary gentlemen rather backward in fulfilling their promises".
Samuel Fleet had previously become proprietor of the American Eagle, and had changed its name to the Portico. This apparently was the reason for ending the life of Long Island's first magazine. A year later Mr. Fleet became interested in journalistic activities in Brooklyn, and in March 1827 the Portico office was offered for sale. Samuel Fleet had transferred his talents and energy to a wider field.