History of the Press in Lincoln, Nebraska
From: Lincoln the Capitol City and
Lancaster County, Nebraska
BY: Andrew J. Sawyer
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company
Chicago, Illinois 1916


Upon the day after the commissioners selected the site of the new capital of Nebraska the Nebraska City Press contained an announcement, signed by C. H. Gere, that the publication of a new paper at Lincoln, to be called the Commonwealth, would be started soon. On September 7, 1867, the first copy of the Commonwealth was run off the Press at Nebraska City, no printing facilities having been installed yet in Lincoln. The second issue of the paper did not appear until November ad. This was printed in Lincoln, in the office of S. B. Galey, a stone building on the north side of the square; W. W. Carder, publisher; and C. H. Gere, editor. It was a seven column sheet, of shabby appearance, the type being some cast off primer and nonpareil which had been discarded by the Press. It was printed upon the first Washington press brought across the Missouri River into Nebraska Territory. The third number came out two weeks later, having been printed from its own office, a small stone building which stood on the Academy of Music Block. The appearance of the Commonwealth every week from this time was very regular until the spring of 1869, when the name of the paper was changed to the Nebraska State Journal. The history of the paper since this time may be found upon a later page.

The first morning paper to represent democratic principles was the Nebraska Statesman, founded in 1867 by Augustus Harvey. Later it was sold to Capt. W. T. Donovan, and a year afterwards he disposed of it to Randall & Smails. In 1874 the Statesman was sold to Nat W. Smails & Company and two years later died, the material going to the office of the Fremont Tribune.

The Daily Democrat was launched on January 9. 1879, by Gen. Victor Vifquain. Albert Watkins afterwards became interested in the publication, also A. J. Sawyer and A. B. Coffroth. On August 1, 1886. the paper passed into the hands of J. D. Calhoun, a writer on the State Journal, who ran the sheet for two years. At this time he sold out to Al Fairbrother, Sam D Cox and H. M. Bushnell, whereupon the paper changed politics from democratic to republican. Fairbrother remained with the firm about a year and then sold out to them. The paper was rechristened the Call after Calhoun disposed of his interest to the above mentioned firm. Cox and Bushnell gave the city a lively paper for a number of years. In 1894, when the hard times were in full swing, the Call was sold to W. Morton Smith and L. L. H. Austin. Smith retired six months later. Austin continued the publication of the Call until July 1, 1898, when it was sold under mortgage foreclosure, later being purchased by the owners of the News. During the timed that Austin controlled the paper its existence was full of trouble; he was of a very pugnacious temperament.

The first evening paper of which there is any record was the Leader. It was first published in 1873 and survived two years. It was operated by a stock company and C. C. Rawlings was the managing editor.

The Daily Globe appeared in 1874. It was published by Willis Sweet. In 1876 it was sold to F. T. Hedges, who ran it until May. 1879. The paper was then disposed of to Wilson & Higginson. In 188o Webster Eaton, a former assistant postmaster of Lincoln, became its editor. Soon after this Mr. Calkins of Kearney assumed control of the publication. A few months afterwards the paper expired under peaceful conditions. I. L. Lyman was city editor of the sheet for some time.

The Blade, which made its bow to the public in 1875, was run by Major Coffray of Brownville. Its life was short. In six months it was dead and decently interred.

The Western World was the comprehensive title of a paper started January 1, 1879, by Col. L. C. Pace, once a councilman of the city. Strange to relate, when the publication of this paper ceased within a year's time, the colonel said the venture had been a paying one. He said that he had quit because he was tired of doing two men's work in order to make money.

In 1889 J. C. Seacrest and Walter L. Hunter began the publication of the Evening Globe. They ran the paper from October 1st to December 31st and then quit.

The Evening Sun was the first populist evening paper. It was issued January 16, 1892. H. S. Bowers and B. S. Littlefield were its editors. It was run by a stock company consisting of A. P. S. Stuart, G. B. Chapman, D. N. Johnson, H. S. Bowers, E. Kearns, C. W. Hoxie, and O. E. Goodell. It survived less than a year, but it made political matters hum while it lived.

It was not until 1896, four years later, that F. S. Eager and W. F. Schwind began the publication of another populist paper called the Post. Two years later, in 1898, it was sold to H. F. Rockery, of Freeport, Ill. In 1903 Mr. Rockey, through financial difficulties, was compelled to suspend publication. Some time later W. B. Price revived the Post in the form of a weekly paper, but continued just a short time, when the publication died a natural and merciful death.

The old Commonwealth continued under that name until the spring of 1869. Then it became the Nebraska State Journal. On July 2o, 187o, the first issue of the Daily State Journal was published. Prior to this, in November, 1869, J. O. Brownlee had succeeded Carder in the firm. On the same clay that the first daily issue was placed before the public the first train on the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad steamed into Lincoln. A daily edition had prior to this been worked off on the hand press, during the session of the Legislatures in the winter of 1869-70, but it contained little more than a summary of the legislative proceedings. In the spring of 1871 the Journal returned to the State Block, took possession of the rooms over Rudolph's grocery, where more space was available for the increased work of the paper.

Shortly after this Brownlee disposed of his interests to H. D. Hathaway, of the Plattsmouth Herald, taking an interest in the latter paper as part payment, and the firm became Gere & Hathaway. In 1872 the job business of the publication was separated from it and A. H. Mendenhall and George W. Roberts, of Peoria, Ill., joined the forces. They took charge of the job printing department and built up a creditable trade. The name of the new corporation was the State Journal Company.

In the early part of the year 1882 the working quarters of the company again became too cramped and the present building was constructed on the corner of Ninth and P streets, northeast. Ground was broken for the construction in June, 188o, and the building was ready for occupancy in December, 1881. The Journal is published from this same building at the present time.

In 1887 Mr. Roberts sold out his interest to John R. Clark, then cashier of the First National Bank Mr. Gere became president; Mr. Mendenhall, vice president; Mr. Clark, secretary; and Mr. Hathaway, treasurer, of the corporation. The corporation has existed until now, various changes of stock having occurred at different times. The Gere estate continues to hold a large share of the stock.

In August, 1897, the Journal Company bought the News plant, quite an important addition to the former.

Col. Thomas H. Hyde, the founder of the News, wrote the following of the paper: "In 1881 there were four daily newspapers, the Journal, Globe, Democrat and News. The supply of weekly and monthly publications was large, representing manifold interests, all of which effectually drained the finances of sympathetic merchants, manufacturers, breeders of pet stock, and others interested in the production and sale of miscellaneous goods and wares they advertised. The News made its first appearance September 26th, the funeral occasion of the lamented President James A. Garfield. Four hundred and eighty copies, four columns each, were printed and five young lads, all bloated with noise, started the sale and delivery, with instructions to place all advertisers on the free list. Within less than three hours the entire edition was exhausted and nearly sufficient returns in the cash box to pay for paper and composition of reading matter.

"Eastern Nebraska was recovering from the disastrous effects of the grasshopper plague, and although crops had been excellent for several years, prejudice had not been entirely removed. Settlers were becoming numerous and so were the excursionists. A grand revival was evident. The city directory showed a large increase of business and citizens. The big railroads were headed this way, real estate, city lots especially, were advancing in price. Pastern capital flooded the banks and safes of money loaners. Opeles line of Herdice was in operation at 5 cents a jog, and Harry Durfee with a street railroad was on his way from Illinois."

The first start of the News was as a morning paper by Hyde & Fleming. It was then printed in a small office in the basement of the southeast corner of Eleventh and O streets. Fleming remained but a few months. It was then moved upstairs over 1136 O Street, and issued from the job office of E. B. Hyde. It was four column folio, but finally reached a maximum of four pages, eight column.

In 1885 Walter Hoge of Streator, Ill., purchased a third interest, the paper then being issued from the third story of the block at the southwest corner of Tenth and 0 streets. Later it was moved to North Tenth Street, and then to 125 North Ninth Street, where it remained until purchased by the Journal. Mr. Hoge withdrew in 1888, and the paper passed into the hands of the Lincoln News Company, with T. H. Hyde, E. B. Hyde and J. W. Jordan as the principal stockholders. In December, 1891, the newspaper was purchased by a stock company composed of H. T. Westermann, Fritz Westermanns, Max Westermanns, Sam E. Low and H. T. Dobbins. W. Morton Smith became its managing editor. Later he was succeeded by Sam E Low and when he resigned, because of ill health, he was succeeded in 1893 by H. T. Dobbins, who has remained as editor ever since.

In March, 1897, the News passed into the hands of H. H. Tyndale, of New York, an uncle of the Westermann. Two years previously the company installed the first linotypes in the City of Lincoln, and the heavy expense, followed closely by the hard times, compelled the mortgaging of the plant. Mr. Tyndale purchased it in foreclosure proceedings. He ran it for six months through his brother, T. H. Tyndale. In August, 1897, J. C. Seacrest purchased the newspaper and a few weeks later disposed of it to the State Journal Company, which operates it as a newspaper independent of other publications, with a distinct staff and news service.

The Journal and the News are both independent republican in politics and maintain a large influence throughout the eastern part of Nebraska. Will Owen Jones, who has been connected with the paper since 1892, is managing editor of the Nebraska State Journal. H. T. Dobbins, editor of the News, has been with the paper for twenty eight years. Under the guidance of these two newspaper veterans the Journal and the News have maintained a strict policy, editorially, and have won popularity through honesty and fairness in giving the latest news to the public in the shortest time.

In May, 1902, there started in the City of Lincoln a daily newspaper, independent democratic in politics, which was destined to gain an enviable position in the newspaper field of Nebraska. This was the Lincoln Daily Star. The Star Publishing Company, which issues the publication, was incorporated on May 22, 1902, by D. E. Thompson, H. F. Rose, W. B. Comstock. The company was reincorporated on September 26th of the same year, with D. E. Thompson, president, and C. D. Mullen, secretary. A handsome building was constructed on the southeast corner of Eleventh and M streets in 1902. On September 13, 1910, a change of ownership occurred, D. E. Thompson, the principal stockholder, disposing of his interests, although he still owns the building occupied by the paper. Herbert E. Gooch now owns the principal stock of the company. J. W. Cutright is the editor of the Lincoln Star at the present time. Mr. Cutright started in newspaper work in Lincoln as early as 1892, having been a member of the News staff at that time.

The first German newspaper published in the city was the Staats-Zeitung, which was owned and edited by Dr. F. Renner. This paper was aftenvards removed to Nebraska City.

The Germans residing in the city in 1880 contributed certain sums of money and the Nebraska Staats-Anzeiger was first published in May of that year by Peter Karberg, who had come here from Dubuque, Iowa. The paper became very influential in the state. Mr. Karberg died on July 2, 1884, and it became necessary to dispose of the paper, the plant finally going to Henry Brugmann. In October, 1887, however, financial difficulties compelled the foreclosure and sale of this publication.

The Lincoln Freie Presse was first published on September 1, 1884, by G. Z. Bluedhorn, who afterwards sold it to J. D. Kluetsch. The Freie Presse is still published in Lincoln and is very prominent in the State of Nebraska as well as in surrounding states. The circulation is large among the German people in this territory, and, both mechanically and editorially, the Presse is of high standard.

The Nebraska Farmer was the first agricultural paper to be published in Lincoln, having been established in 1872 by Gen. J. C. McBride and J. C. Clarkson. At the time this publication was established the farming and live stock interests of Nebraska amounted to very little in comparison to their present status, but the main reason for establishment of the Nebraska Farmer was to promote, by its influence, the success of certain land deals in the state in connection with a railway project. It was not many years until the farming interests of the state began to gain appreciably and the paper became more successful. It is now being published in Lincoln and is one of the most successful farm and livestock papers in the Middle West.

The Commoner is a monthly paper which has gained national reputation, owing to the prominence of its owner, William Jennings Bryan. Mr. Bryan established the Commoner in January, 19o1, and it has been published regularly since that time. The first office of this paper was in the building on the east side of Twelfth, between L and M, but it is now housed in the Press Building at Thirteenth and N. Mr. Charles W. Bryan is the editor of the paper, which has an extensive circulation over the whole country. Bryan democracy in all its phases, even to ultra-pacifism, 1916, is the editorial tone of the sheet.

Numerous other publications are now issued from Lincoln, including the various university and college papers, and many more have been established in the past and died for want of support. The ones mentioned, however, are the leaders in a field of much varied journalism.

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