History of Oregon Newspapers/Growth of Oregon Newspapers

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NOW a few words about the growth of the newspaper business in Oregon since the beginning.

In 1850 Oregon was credited with four newspapers (1), all weeklies, having a total circulation of 58,968 copies (2).

By 1860 this number had greatly increased (3). Oregon had two dailies (this was before the Oregonian), 11 weeklies, and one religious weekly (4). The neighboring territory of Washington had no dailies as yet, and four weeklies. California had 22 dailies, 68 to bring the weeklies, and enough of other types of publications total to 112, or nearly half as many publications as Oregon has now. The United States as a whole had 372 dailies, 74 semi-weeklies, 84 tri-weeklies, 2694 weeklies, and enough other periodicals to bring the total to 3242 (listed as political) publications. Two other types of publications, religious and literary, many of which would today be classed as newspapers of general circulation, totalled 277 and 298 respectively. Oregon's newspapers circulated in 1860 a total of 800 copies daily, 14,820 weekly, 4,000 monthly, 8,000 annually, bringing the annual total to 1,074,640, or close to 20,000 a week. In the whole country periodicals were circulating 927,951,548 copies an nually, or nearly 1,000 times as many as the new state of Oregon. Oregon had 52,465 population in 1860, and the population of the country was 31,443,321, or 600 times as many as Oregon. Oregon in those days was far from the 1 per cent (of the nation) state that she later became.

By 1868 Oregon had 19 periodical publications, as against 14 in 1860 (5). Of these only three were dailies—the Oregonian and the Herald of Portland, and the Record of Salem. The rest were weeklies.

In 1878 (6) Oregon had 49 publications, of which 6 were dailies, 42 weeklies, and 1 monthly; Washington had 23, of which four were dailies, 17 weeklies, and two monthlies. California had a total of 237 publications, and the United States as a whole 8,133.

In 1880, federal census reports show, Oregon had 74 newspapers, of which 7 were dailies, 3 of these published in the morning; 59 weeklies, 6 monthlies, 1 semi-monthly, and 1 quarterly.

By 1890 the state had 142 periodical publications in 70 cities, — of which 16 were dailies, 1 semi-weekly, 27 of them county seats, 114 weeklies, 2 semi-weeklies, and 9 monthlies. (7).

The figures for 1901 (8) gave Oregon a total of 218 papers — of which 17 were dailies, 12 semi- weeklies, 162 weeklies, 1 fort nightly, 2 semi-monthly, 24 monthly. By this time Washington had passed Oregon in the number of publications—222, of which 19 were dailies and 176 weeklies.

For 1910 the Oregon figures had advanced to 248—of which 28 were dailies, 11 semi-weeklies, 184 weeklies, 1 semi-monthly, and 24 monthlies (9).

The second newspaper directory for Oregon (issued by the University of Oregon School of Journalism and published in Oregon Exchanges in February 1924) listed 253 publications issued in Oregon, excluding school, college, and university periodicals and house organs for other institutions. Of those listed, 31 were dailies, including 7 in Portland; 180 weeklies; 7 semi-weeklies; 2 twice-a-month; 30 monthlies, and 3 quarterlies. Addition of school publications would bring the number far past 300.

The last directory prepared in the School of Journalism and published in the Oregon Publisher, organ of the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association (February 1937) listed 268 publications, as compared with 278 for the year 1930, before the depression had done its worst with Oregon papers. In dailies, weeklies, and semi-weeklies, however, the falling off is negligible; 1936 (1937 directory) had 28 dailies as against 29 in 1930, 175 weeklies as against 176, and 5 semi-weeklies, the same number.

Let's see how newspapers have kept pace, in numbers, with increase in population:

1880 1890 1900 1910 1920 1930
Population 174,000 317,000 413,000 672,000 783,000 953,000
No. of Papers. 74 142 218 248 253 278

This indicates the heaviest increase in number of papers relative to population in the decade between 1880 and 1890—a decade of opening up the country, establishing towns and cities, a decade of land and timber notices. From then on the decline in rate of increase is steady. Circulations, however, are a different story, and the record, frequently cited, indicates, as time goes on, fewer and larger papers, with circulations heavily increased, over widely extended areas. The present decade shows an actual decline in number of publications but a considerable advance in circulation of those remaining.


1. Census of 1850, Statistics of Territories, 1011.

2. See page 1.

3. Eighth Census, 1860, under Mortality and Miscellaneous Statistics, 1205.

4. Classification is that of the Census, not of this writer.

5. McCormick's Almanac.

6. Figures from Pettengill's Newspaper Directory.

7. Ayer's Newspaper Directory for 1890.

8. Ayer's for 1901.

9. Ayer's for 1910.