Ad-Express and Daily Iowegian, Centerville, IA

Correspondents

May 24, 2007

Local newspapers in the early days

(Editor’s note: Gremlins invaded the Iowegian newsroom last week and Bill Heusinkveld’s previous column was published a second time. We regret the error. Following is the correct May 17 column.)



The Appanoose Chieftain was the first venture in journalism to be launched in the county. Its hardy entrepreneurs were two young men by the name of Fairbrother. They established their paper upon receipt of a suitable bonus collected in the Centerville area and a further sum collected in advance payment for subscriptions. It was a six-column folio sheet, independent of politics. Several of these columns were devoted to advertising. The initial issue was published in May, 1856. It was printed on a hand press operated by man power or preferably by the cheaper “boy power”. The size of early papers was not flexible.



The founders of the Chieftain soon tired of the field in which they had cast their lot and went west within six months. They turned over the paper and its paraphernalia to Al and George Binckley, who continued the Chieftain for two years as a Democratic organ. W.P. Gill bought the outfit in 1858. Mr. Gill took in with him J.T. Place, who was assisted in the editorial department for a time by Livingston G. Parker. Finally Gill failed and sold his material to G.N. Udell who published the paper from January, 1863 until some time in 1864, having run about seven years, the only interruptions being when the stock of paper would run out. The plant equipment was still rudimentary, and an ordinary farm team and wagon could have hauled away the whole outfit in one load.



In those days, newspapers were devoted almost entirely to advertising and the sage observations of the editor, usually espousing a political cause. There were no reporter, and local news was almost non-existent. National news was always stale because it was dependent on the telegraph. There were no headlines. There were no pictures. There was never any mention of weddings, funerals, deaths or comings or goings of the residents. The language was stilted and formal. It was printed in extremely small print and was difficult to read. If one would turn the pages of a copy of the Chieftain seeking something in the form of news of Centerville and the county of that earlier day, one would wonder why the subscriber paid his newspaper bills at all and what he got for his money. Take one look at the microfilm of one of the old, old papers stored in the Drake Ave. Library and you will be completely turned off from trying to learn anything there.

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