History of Oregon Newspapers/Dailies That Struggled and Died

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The Daily News of Portland was the first daily newspaper in Oregon. Its first issue, with Alonzo Leland editor, came off the press April 18, 1859. The publishers, S. A. English and the W. B. Taylor Company, soon appointed E. D. Shattuck, discoverer of Harvey Scott, as editor, when Leland left to take over the editorship of the Advertiser, Oregon's second daily. W. D. Carter, formerly of the Western Star and the Times, soon succeeded Shattuck, who was a lawyer rather than a journalist (though a versatile man who could turn his hand to anything including teaching classics in a college).

The News was a five column tabloid, four pages, issued from an office on Washington street two doors east of the Times office. By August the name of J. M. Wilbur was carried in the masthead as one of the publishers, with W. B. Taylor. Henry Miller, who later did some editorial work on the Oregonian, was editor for Taylor & Co. in January 1860. (32). He retired in June, succeeded by A. C. Russell. The size of the paper was changed several times. By fall, F. Kenyon, George H. Porter, H. N. Maguire were listed as the editors, publishers, and proprietors. In November H. N. Maguire was editor, and associated with him as publishers and proprietors were William Cowen, Frank Kenyon, George B. Porter. The size of the paper was changed back from six columns to five in that month.

The News soon became an independent weekly but failed to survive, and the plant was moved to Salem. (33)

The Advertiser, second daily, edited first by Leland, then by S. J. McCormick, busy publisher and bookstore-proprietor, and finally by George L. Curry, was conceived, as Leland announced, "as the Standard was, to crush out the Salem clique." The first issue appeared May 31, 1859. On the arrival of the eastern mail or the steamers from California an edition for gratuitous circulation of 3,000 was issued. The paper came out every morning except Sun day, and semi-weekly from its office at Front and Alder, where it was a near neighbor of the Oregonian. The circulation price was 25 cents a month by carrier. It was a neat little tabloid, a five-column folio, the columns 12 ems (2 inches), the more recent standard width for newspaper columns. After a few issues T. H. Mallory was associated in the direction of the paper. An interesting feature of the Advertiser's issue of August 19, 1859, was a business directory, run as advertising, which gives an excellent idea of what the Portland of those early statehood days was like.

High points appear to be the top rank, numerically, attained by licensed drinking-places—a rather typical pioneer western situation, the large number of hotels, the small number of land agents, the reference to the lone photographer as a daguerrean artist. No statistics were given on the printing and publishing industry.

Nearly three-fourths of the little paper ordinarily was given up to advertising. As was usual in the pioneer papers, less than a column was occupied with what could be termed local news—ten rather short items. Editorial far outran the news in volume; the longest bit of home-written material in the issue was an editorial appeal for troops to clear hostile Indians from the path of the emigrant trains from the East.

In the second volume the size of the Advertiser was increased to six 15-em (2½-inch) columns.

The Advertiser ran only about two years; it was among the papers suppressed by the government for seditious utterances in 1862. The third daily to offer itself to the Portland reading public was the Times, which under the name Western Star had been started by Lot Whitcomb in Portland's whilom rival Milwaukie in 1850. It seems to have been almost impossible to get a daily paper started in Portland in those days without the editorial services of Alonzo Leland, who already had served on the News and the Advertiser. So when volume 1, number 1 of the Daily Times appeared, December 19, 1860, published by R. D. Austin & Co., Leland's name was in the masthead as editor. Like the Advertiser and most of the other early dailies, the Times was a little tabloid, with four five-column pages. A moderate policy was promised by Leland in his salutatory, in which he announced:

We do not always expect to be brilliant and abounding in thought which will awaken the best energy of our readers.—But we promise to treat all questions discussed with candor and fairness, and to strive to be equal in interest to the temperature of the public mind.

Striking features of its first issue were the great volume of advertising— fifteen columns of the total twenty—and a grisly little item on which the Times made an anti-war comment:

A vessel recently arrived in England from Sebastopol (in the recent Crimean War zone) with a cargo of two hundred and thirty-seven tons of human bones to be used for manure. They are remnants of soldiers in a reduced state. What a lesson for those who seek for glory!

Ye men who think of dissolving this Union (commented the Times), just consider the "two hundred and thirty-seven tons of human bones to be used for manure!"

Nearly half of the three-quarters of a column of news space, February 6, 1861, was devoted to a detailed account of the peculiar error of a man who had crawled into a house, the home of Colonel Farrar, supposing it to be unoccupied, and gone to bed. Interrupted by the owner, who had him arrested, the man (not named in the story) pleaded drunkenness and Farrar would not appear against him. The last paragraph is awkwardly typical of the editorial latitude allowed news-writers in those days:

These pleas of ignorance and stupidity should be received with some mistrust. The entering of a dwelling house a window requires a little more than drunken through ignorance, or, at any rate, such acts render a perpetrator liable to run against a piece of cold lead from the chamber of one of Colt's revolvers. It were better to make one's bed in open air than for a man to make similar attempts to occupy the bed chambers of our citizens.

The paper did not continue prosperous. The Morning Oregonian came along within a few weeks, and with the Advertiser also in the small field, the competition was too keen.

It was suspended in December, 1863. Editors following Leland, who seems never to have remained long in one position, were Henry Shipley, A. S. Gould, W. N. Walter, and W. Lair Hill, the latter an editor of considerable ability.

The Times was followed up by the Daily Evening Tribune, printed in the Times' plant by Coll Van Cleve, later of Yaquina, Albany, and other Willamette valley towns, and Ward Latta for a month after its start on January 16, 1865. It was regarded as a good little paper but could not compete with the Oregonian.

Next came the Morning Oregonian, February 4, 1861. It has survived all other dailies in the field at the time of its establishment. (It is discussed elsewhere in this volume.)

The population of Portland was not such as would be expected to support many daily papers. There were fewer than three thousand persons in the new city according to the 1860 census, taken in 1859. The exact figures were 2,874, or about one-tenth of the size of Salem at this time.

A peculiar set of circumstances, political and economic, led to the establishment of Portland's sixth daily newspaper, the Daily Union, founded in January, 1864, and running until May. Amory Holbrook, then editor of the Oregonian, had incurred the displeasure of the pro-Union group, and at the same time the newly formed typographical union in Portland had come into controversy with the Oregonian over the question of piece-scale vs. day wages, the printers contending for a rate per thousand ems on newspaper composition.

The politicians and the labor group got together and backed the establishment of a rival paper to the Oregonian. H. L. Pittock, man ager of the Oregonian, describes, from the employers' point of view, Portland's first real strike—one of only two newspaper strikes in the history of typographical organization in Portland (34), and young Harrison R. Kincaid of Eugene, publisher of the new Oregon State Journal in Eugene and a stanch Union Republican, tells what it was the Union men were charging against Holbrook. Let's take up the labor end first. The men, Mr. Pittock relates, actually struck to enforce their demands on the publisher and went to work on the new paper, which had its office in the same building and on the same floor as the Oregonian—a juxtaposition not without its embarrassing features.

The Union was, as Mr. Pittock related, "notable because of the number of well-known men connected with among them Governor competitors Gibbs and W. Lair Hill. Other competitors (of the Oregonian) had meanwhile disappeared. . . Opposition did not last long. Differences arose among the printers, and the paper suspended." Among the Union editorial group one not mentioned by Mr. Pittock was James Newton Gale, recently publisher of the Republican at Eugene, who was editor for a short time. Gibbs and Hill also were among the editors. The daily suspended in May but was followed by a weekly edition, for which H. R. Kincaid's Oregon State Journal (June 18, 1864) gives the following favorable little notice: "We have received the second number of the Portland Weekly Union. It contains twenty-eight columns of reading matter, and is not only the largest and cheapest but one of the best papers in the state. Terms $3 per year." It failed, however, to last many issues.

Now as to what was the matter with Editor Holbrook, now nearing the end of his editorial career on the Oregonian, to arouse the antagonism of the strong Union group represented by Mr. Kincaid. The young Eugene editor gives their complaint in the Oregon State Journal for April 23, 1864:

Amory Holbrook, editor of the Oregonian, has incurred the displeasure of the Union papers generally, and they are pouring hot shot into him from all sides. The points they make against him are numerous, but we will mention only the most prominent. First, that he violently opposed the election of the lamented patriot, Col. Baker, to the United States Senate. Second, that after the election of President Lincoln he made a direct fight, not only against Senator Baker and his measures, but against the Administration because it favor ed Baker's views. Third, that he used all his influence to defeat a portion of the Republican electoral ticket in this State in 1860. Fourth, that he aided, and in a great measure was instrumental in the election of Cole, a Copperhead candidate for Congress, from Washington territory. We hope that Mr. Holbrook will be able to explain his action in these matters satisfactorily, and unless he does the Union men of Oregon will, for good cause, look with suspicion upon him.

Holbrook, of course, had his answer; he simply was not very regular in his partisanship. He failed to win back the suspicious pro-Union group.

So the Union faded out. Mr. Gale, who had retired from the editorship, was engaged first in traveling about as a representative of the Oregon State Journal but by midsummer was in Astoria, as editor of the first newspaper in Astoria, the old Marine Gazette, in August of 1864.

Two abortive little Portland dailies may be mentioned here. One was the Daily Plaindealer and the other the Evening Gazette. The Plaindealer, under the editorial and business direction of A. C. Edmunds, issued a few numbers of a four-page four-column tabloid evening edition in May, 1862. This too was a Union party paper. Devoid of news and almost devoid of advertising, it failed to live by politics alone and soon passed. The other was the Evening Gazette, favorably noticed by the Oregonian December 19, 1863. The Oregonian commented, however, that its "position on the great national issue has not been editorially set forth."

Portland's next daily paper (all the others but the Oregonian were now dead) was the Oregon Herald, Democratic, the first number of which appeared March 17, 1866.

The salutatory, a column and a half in length, by M. H. Abbott, told the readers that:

The Herald will contain full daily telegraphic reports. We cannot, however, say that these will always be correct, as we shall be dependent upon persons hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of miles distant, for the statements which they may, from day to day, embody. We will give them to our readers as we get them. . . Our telegraphic reports will cost us not less than One Hundred Dollars per week, and it will be no fault of ours if at times they will be incorrect.

The telegraph editor of a newspaper in those days was a lot more helpless than today. No newspaper today would feel able to feed its for the accuracy readers such a plea in avoidance of responsibility of its world news.

Continuing, the salutatory promised to make a "speciality" of publishing all the important local news of Portland and the state generally. It would be, the salutatory promised, the

fast and firm friend, of Science, Agriculture, Mechanics, an humble advocate Literature, Morality, and Religion of Democratic principles. . . While the Republican party has had its party organs by the dozen, scattering their sheets like autumnal leaves in a wintry blast all over the land, the Democratic party of Oregon has had but three. . .

The Herald, professing its confidence in the future, told the Portlanders:

So great is our faith in Portland that we say to it, as the Moabitess said to Naomi: "Entreat me not to leave thee, nor to cease from following after thee; for where thou will go; thy people shall be my people, and thy God goest shall die, and there will be my God. Where thou diest buried."

The Herald, dying in 1873, had no chance to put its faith to the test.

Though the Oregon Herald lasted for only a brief seven years, prominent names in Oregon and Washington history are involved in its brief annals. M. H. Abbott and N. L. Butler started the paper. Abbott three years later (1869) was one of the founders of the Baker Democrat, which in consolidated status has come down to the present. Abbott withdrew from the Herald almost immediately, and a stock company made up of Democratic leaders was formed to manage its affairs. Members were Aaron E. Wait, who had succeeded George Law Curry as editor of the Spectator and run it for some year; W. Weatherford, J. K. Kelly, L. F. Grover, who within a few years was to be, successively, governor and United States senator; J. S. Smith, N. L. Butler, J. C. Hawthorne.

Beriah Brown, well known in the journalism of California, Oregon and Washington, who came north after a San Francisco mob, disliking his attitude toward the war, threw his plant out in the street, became editor June 10, 1866, and conducted for a year the only pro- Johnson organ in the state. He was succeeded by Sylvester Pennoyer, who bought the paper, only to sell it the next year (July to T. Patterson & Co. Pennoyer also became a governor 1, 1869) of Oregon in later years. His successor as editor was Eugene Semple, who while never a governor of Oregon, achieved something similar before many years by becoming governor of Washington territory. Patterson sold out to a stock company December 1, 1871, and in a year and a half (May 25, 1873), the paper was suspended.

Two items of journalistic interest appeared in April (1866) numbers of the Herald. One, in the issue of the 18th, is part of a quarrel with H. L. Pittock and the Oregonian.

We had hoped (the editorial said, in part) that Henry L. Pittock, Esq., the State Printer of the State of Oregon, would discuss political and other subjects in a gentlemanly, dignified manner. We hate, aye, we loathe, from our inmost soul this mode of warfare; and whenever Mr. Pittock wishes it to cease, all he has to do is call off his yelping hounds off our track, and that of our friends, and treat us with that decorum and propriety which always obtain amongst gentlemen.

The other item, printed April 20, told of the attack, referred to elsewhere in this volume, against D. C. Ireland, local reporter of the Oregonian. Here's the wordy, bombastic way the Herald man told the story, interesting also as illustrating the hazards of news-reporting:

A RENCONTRE.— We are credibly informed that, yesterday afternoon, A. M. Burns, master of the steamship Orizaba, met D. C. Ireland, Esq., local reporter of the Oregonian, on Couch's wharf, and by throwing a handful of bones with uncomfortable force and precision unerring, on the nasal protuberance of our friend Ireland, succeeded in capsizing his applecart quite handsomely. What . . . raised the ire of this son of Neptune we have not learned. (It was personal references that the captain did not like in Ireland's news reports.)

Pennoyer, mentioned a few lines above, was governor of the state for two terms, serving from 1887 to 1895. During his tenure occurred the hard times of the 90's, the railroad strike, and the Coxey's army march across the continent to the national capital. Pennoyer was particularly hostile to President Cleveland's "sound money" stand and lost no opportunity to discredit the chief executive, so far as it was possible for him to do it. T. T. Geer, governor from 1899 to 1903, refers to this in his book Fifty Years in Oregon. "General" Jacob S. Coxey, of Massillon, Ohio, organized the march of the jobless on the capital, in 1894, the same year as the big rail road strike of Eugene V. Debs and his American Railway Union. President Cleveland sent messages to many of the governors directing them how to handle the situation. This gave Pennoyer his opportunity, and he replied:

To the President: Yours is received. If you will attend to your business, I will attend to mine. Sylvester Pennoyer, Governor.

Pennoyer carried his opposition to the President to the point of ignoring his Thanksgiving proclamation and setting a different day for Oregon.

During a big eastern Oregon flood some time later than the governor's snub of the President, that particular chicken came home to roost. Pennoyer, forced to walk by the interruption of railroad service and the bad road conditions, knocked at a cabin door for shelter. The Irish occupant of the shanty refused to get up out of bed to let him in, declined to be impressed when the governor identified himself, and said, finally: "You attend to your business, and I will attend to mine. Go away!"

For a time, during the campaign of 1868, the Herald conducted a weekly, published every Saturday, called the Campaign Herald, edited by Beriah Brown. The campaign paper, Democratic, was a four-page, four-column tabloid, with wide (15-em) columns.