ELKTON — A fine cigar is one of life’s guilty pleasures and Arthur Franklin Stanley learned the art of cigar making while working with his father, John Wood Stanley, at W.R. Matlack in Woodstown, N.J.
Arthur was born in Salem, N.J. on Nov. 1, 1882, and married Helen Deborah Newkirk in 1912. Arthur and Helen had three children: Ruth in 1912, John in 1916 and Arthur in 1919. Taking advice from his uncle Howard who had a newsstand in Salem, Arthur purchased a newsstand and it’s inventory in Elkton in 1919 from Joseph Hinchcliffe for $1,070.87.
Hinchcliffe had purchased the business from Mrs. Taylor in 1865 who had bought it from William Giles in 1842. Stanley’s Newsstand, located under the Howard Hotel, sold Stanley’s New Puff, a perfecto cigar made personally by Arthur. After the Howard House caught fire, Arthur moved the newsstand across the street to a building dating back to the Revolutionary War and later expanded into space occupied by Lydia Reynolds who had a dry goods store.
In 1925, Helen died at the age of 35 after attending an ice cream social at the Elkton Methodist Church. Arthur then married Helen Mahan and they had two children, Thomas and James. After Arthur Sr. died in 1940, his wife Helen, John and Arthur Jr. took over the store.
John was a graduate of Elkton High School and in 1938 graduated from Washington College with a degree in chemistry and plans to become a doctor. He served for five years in World War II and, in 1943, he married Helen Maloney. They were friends in high school but Maloney wouldn’t marry him before he went to war.
While he was away he told his brother Arthur to go to Minister’s Jewelers and buy a diamond ring. John wasn’t specific about how much to spend and was shocked to hear that Arthur had purchased a 1-carat diamond. Unfortunately, Helen chipped the diamond and took it back to Mr. Minister who asked her if she washed her floors in her evening gown.
“Of course not,” she replied.
“Then you don’t wear your ring when washing the floor either – keep it in a cup,” he said.
A May wedding was planned around John’s discharge, although he was unfortunately detained and the wedding didn’t take place until June 1943. Helen had to purchase a different dress and her mother, having already used her ration tickets, had to borrow the wedding cake ingredients from a neighbor.
Margaret Mary, the first grandchild, was born in 1947 and was beloved by all, but sadly she developed leukemia and died in 1957 at age 11. Helen Deborah, named after her grandmother, arrived in 1950, followed by Philip John in 1951. John served four terms as town commissioner beginning in 1955 and was mayor of Elkton from 1963 to 1967. He was also a member of the Maryland Municipal League, a charter member of the American Legion, Chamber of Commerce, Civil Defense and the Historical Society of Cecil County. John passed away in 1985 before he could see his grandchildren Mollie Storke Graham and Michael Storke graduate from his alma mater, Washington College.
Arthur Jr. attended the Maryland Institute of Art but worked at the newsstand until his death in 1969.
Arthur Sr.’s death ended the family’s cigar-making business, as Arthur Jr. bought tobacco products directly from the General Tobacco Co. The cigars were kept in a humidor, a cabinet that had a water reservoir with a fan, to keep them moist. He also initiated the sale of greeting cards, candy, pens and stationary, and in the 1960s they began selling office supplies.
John’s children were put to work at an early age. Phil started delivering papers at age 11, rising at 4 a.m. on Sundays to put the newspapers together. There were too many papers to fit in the store so they were stacked on the street. Stanley’s owned two trucks and they delivered in the Elkton town limits, finishing about 1 p.m. There were seven paper routes. You supplied your own bike fitted with a paper basket and delivered papers in the morning and evening. There was a machine that tied string around the paper and they had to be stacked a certain way to fit them all in your basket.
John showed the other delivery boys how to glide with their feet up on the handlebars so dogs couldn’t bite them and he also instructed them on how to throw a paper so it didn’t go through a window. Phil went to work in the store as a full-time clerk after graduating from Elkton High School in 1970. To supplement his income, he also worked on watches with jeweler’s tools that he had purchased from Tony Trotta, a barber, whose father-in-law had been a jeweler.
Debbie’s first job at 11 was to collect the late racing results. The train delivered the News American but it wouldn’t always stop, sometimes only slowing enough to pitch them out to a courier. She recalled that she would hear the train whistle and take off on her bike to pick them up. The racing forms were much anticipated by the local men waiting at the store. One day, Debbie wrecked her bike and the men rushed to pick up the racing forms, leaving her lying in the street. She walked back to the store leaving her broken bike.
She made 50 cents for six nights work. Eventually she was promoted to clerk, but at the same wage and worked after school cutting the headings off the unsold papers. If you returned them you got credit. The unsold papers were piled in the back of the store and people would take them for fire logs, crafts and as bedding for farm animals. Papers accumulated into a large pile and one day they fell over. Anticipating having to re-stack the pile, Debbie quit, only to be replaced by someone making $2.50 a week.
Stanley’s Newsstand was an institution in Elkton, a place you went to hear the news even before the newspapers printed it. Generations of customers and friends came there for advice, directions and socializing. A special friend to the family was Birtchell Kingslow, who helped Debbie and Phil after John died. The Stanley family had a strong sense of community spirit and gladly volunteered countless hours to make Elkton a better place. Their contributions were often unrecognized and the assistance they gave so many was not advertised. Their payment was the loyalty and respect of their community. Stanley’s remained the pulse of downtown until 1996, when they could no longer compete with the large discount stores.
When asked what her favorite memory of the store was, Debbie replied that it was their kind and loyal customers. But perhaps the customers only reciprocated the treatment they received from the Stanley family.