History of Oregon Newspapers/Rise of the Sunday Newspaper

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THE Oregon Herald was the first Oregon newspaper to publish a Sunday edition. This was issued for a few months in 1866, and it was 15 years before economic conditions became favorable enough to permit a regularly issued Sunday edition of a daily paper in Oregon. The Sunday Oregonian led the list.

The Sunday newspaper was relatively late in becoming an established Oregon institution. The churches were unfriendly to Sunday newspapers. Ministers had expressed opposition to a paper circulated for Sunday reading, while making less objection to a paper circulated Monday, the work on which had been done on the Sabbath.

The first Oregonian printed for Sunday circulation was not, strictly speaking, a Sunday Oregonian. It was an extra of the Morning Oregonian, so announced in a note at the head of the editorial column the previous day, Saturday, June 5, 1880, and so marked in the dateline June 6. The Republican national convention which nominated Garfield and Arthur was in session that week, and the announcement pointed out that news of this gathering had not "for years been sought with as much interest." The paper would, there fore, "issue a special edition tomorrow morning. It will contain full convention, general, and local news, and will be distributed free to all city subscribers. Single copies can be had at the business office and from newsboys." The paper, it is recalled, was selling in those days at 10 cents the copy.

A line on the intensity of advertising soliciting at that time may, perhaps, be gained from the statement, in this announcement, that "advertisers requiring space should apply before 8 o'clock this evening."

It was a seven-column four-page paper, and the advertisers "required" only about three columns of space out of the 28, a mere fraction of the average amount running daily. It is possible that if the advertising response had been heavier, the practice of running this Sunday edition would have been continued. But there was no announcement of any intention to continue; the "special," or "extra," as it was called, fulfilled its purpose, and the next week there was the usual gap between the Saturday and the Monday paper.

The convention, incidentally, did not reach the nomination in time for the Sunday paper, which was decidedly a straight-news paper, with a minimum of Sunday "feature" stuff. Two and a half solid columns of type on the first page were devoted to the convention. The other big story was carried on page 2. Three columns and a quarter were devoted to the "grand picnic at Dallas" Friday to celebrate the completion of the narrow-gauge line of railroad into Dallas. (The headline said Independence).

With the increased business of the early 1880's, publishing conditions began to grow more propitious for a regular Sunday paper. The opposition of the ministers had not yet been entirely allayed, but the editors felt that it could be handled.

For months before that time, however, the paper had been issuing six-page papers to handle a heavy run of news, a big special event, an extra rush of advertising, or some highly desirable miscellany. Usually, the extra two pages were added on Saturday, but they were added also on other days of the week.

These two-page supplements were in seven-column format, one column smaller than the regular news section; they were run on the old, smaller press. The Sunday paper itself was a seven-column four-page section at the start.

Finally, there came, Monday, November 28, the definite announcement that the Sunday Oregonian would be launched on December 4. The announcement came in the form of the leading editorial, headed The Sunday Oregonian.

Portland (the editorial said) has long wanted a Sunday newspaper. It has long been the intention of the proprietors of the Oregonian to supply the want. In their opinion the time has now arrived.

The primary object is to furnish a news paper.

It was explained that there would be a regular service of telegraphic news reports. Local matters were to receive

special attention . . . not only a report of current matters but a review of the events of each week and of comment thereon. . . . All the matter in the Sunday paper will be prepared expressly for it. . . . The paper will be entirely distinct from the Morning Oregonian. . . .

It is expected that the Sunday paper will somewhat relieve the embarrassing pressure of advertisements on the week-day issue . . . Our regular issues have long been so crowded with ads . . . have been obliged to exclude ... many features which would add to their interest and value.

The first number of the Sunday Oregonian, labeled volume 1, number 1, which came out December 4, 1881, on the 31st birthday of the weekly and close to 21 years from the start of the daily, read a lot better than it looked. Lacking a lot of the mechanical finish of the later Sunday Oregonians, it was a pretty smart little paper and must have pleased the Portland of that day exceedingly with its homely, personal touch.

Let's sketch the contents briefly:

The first page, all clear of advertising, while the regular daily edition was carrying three and a half columns or so on the right side of the page, started off rather unpromisingly with an 18-inch poem which began like this:

A youth and a maid on a lonely veranda
Were taking a purely platonic meander.

There were 16 more lines of this; but nothing happened, so let's leave them there. The rest of the column is clipped miscellany.

The second and third columns are taken up largely with dramatics. The reviewer took his job seriously, and wrote and wrote. W. E. Sheridan, tragedian of the day, was at the New Market on the waterfront (close to where the Skidmore fountain is now), and he drew a whole column of space, in a day when they used to get twelve or fourteen hundred words into a column. The critic compares him with J. B. McCullough and displays a bit of familiarity with Shakespeare.

In the next two columns appeared about one and one-third columns written from "notes gathered during a trip to Boise how the trade of Boise was lost and how it may be regained." Some miscellaneous stuff follows, including 150 words or so on the use of short words, by Horatio Seymour.

A rather sprightly woman columnist (wonder who she was) under the general headline "A Medley from Madge" talked, so the headline went on to say, "a Little While About Art Schools—And a Good Deal About Bonnets—She Tells Our Dear Lady Readers What is Pretty and What Isn't—A Stupid Britisher, Etc."

The seventh and last column is taken up, for the most part, with an article from the Detroit Free Press on the work of Mrs. Anna Etheridge in the war hospitals. The rest of the column deals with Gath's picture of Guiteau, the assassin of President Garfield, and a lot of current religious discussion, chiefly from church papers.

Page 2 carried 2½ columns of editorial, letters to the editor, and miscellaneous bits; 1¾ columns of book reviews under a 1-column head, "New Publications," a column or so of miscellaneous matter clipped from other papers, and 1¾ columns of advertising.

Page 3 was occupied with a column of social and personal, reviewing the week, more or less; more than a column and a half of local news under the heading "The Local Budget"; under the head "Short Portland Pulpit Notes," 14 items totaling 300 words; then Brief Shipping Notes. Finally, on that page there was nearly a column and a half of "column stuff" under the heading "Chaff. Prattle About Various Matters from a Man About Town."

After some rather irreverent comment on religious affairs, which are usually omitted from "columns" in these days; something on dramatics and more on politics, there came a rather detailed story of a recent municipal election. There had been a see-saw count between Joseph Simon and D. P. Thompson, it seems, for mayor, June 20 (almost six months before). Finally, the city council canvassed the vote, recounted it in committee of the whole, decided the vote was a tie, and concluded to let the incumbent Thompson hold over for three years. Simon went to court. Judge Scott ruled that the state courts had no jurisdiction and that the action of the council was final. "That," the columnist went on to say, "confirms Thompson's position and establishes beyond doubt his title to the mayoralty for the next three years. The justice of this decision is so evident to all familiar with the detail of the matter that it seems useless to argue it. No one except a very few smarting and unreasonable, under defeat, has ever questioned this result."

On the church side of things the columnist was equally frank and positive. "In this age," he said, "salvation is not free. . . . Let me suggest on behalf of the very large number of impecunious men about town that the contribution plate be passed morning and evening by the same man, and let me mildly hint that he look not upon the coins which the people drop in, with an eye to their size and value."

Oh, yes, and it seems that the columnist had his own ideas about matters theatrical too, and music.

"On Tuesday night," he said, "the beautiful Miss Lingard and her poor company departed. I am glad the company has gone. I wish that the local orchestra which played during the season had gone. I hope that Mr. Norris will never come again. I hope Mrs. Belle Douglas will never come again. I hope that when Miss Lingard next comes she will have a support worthy of her beauty and talents."

The columnist was bored, too, with society. And he said:

Portland society is monotonous. People go to a party at eight or nine o'clock, dance till eleven, take supper and dance again and keep on dancing till about two hours past the proper time to go home. There is no variation in the entertainment—dancing, supper, and a little gossip along the walls. . . .

But the evening tea is the source of much sorrow. The company must be limited to the capacity of the hostess' dining-room, and as dining-rooms are often small, the invitations must be few. Then doth the heart of the forgotten girl burn, and then doth the iron sink deep into the soul of the slighted society young man. . . . If any lady wants to stir up bitterness in the hearts of her unreasoning friends, and cause them to dislike her for all time, to come, let her give an evening tea. . . .

On the fifth column of the page there was a survey of the qualifications needed for chief engineer of the Portland fire department; list of passengers on the Columbia for San Francisco; new books at the Portland library; hotel arrivals. The last two columns were taken up with a big ad for Millis Bros. & Co., 126, 127, 190 First street—A New Deal in the Toy Business.

On page 4 the first two columns were miscellaneous clipped matter interesting in varying degree to various groups; then three columns of general news by wire, from America and abroad. Guiteau was on trial for the murder of Garfield and a column was taken up with the testimony of Guiteau on the stand. Then, finally, two columns of advertising.

The paper was doubled in size the next Sunday. The same features were back, and someone else, tempted, no doubt, by the success of the Man About Town, was in with "Trespasses, by Grizzly," humorous stories from around town. An added feature was a column and a half on trotting-horses in Oregon and elsewhere, on page one. There was also a review of inventions—headed "Things That Busy Brains Effect While Sluggards Sleep."

The society column ends with the following dignified note, which, somehow, suggests a male society editor— the rule in those days, as a matter of fact. Here is the last stanza of a six-section ballad from the Toledo Blade which appealed to the society editor for the column:

They eloped on a clear April night,
When the orchards with blossoms were whight;
Now she cares not for style —
She's been married a whyle,
And is cured of such foolishness quight.

Comics, colored or otherwise, were conspicuously absent in '81. The processes were not yet invented.

The absence of sport features is noticeable. Organized sports were in their infancy.

Naturally there was no automobile department, no aviation department, no radio; no counterpart of the columns devoted to bridge instruction, and no movies or talkies, of course.

A feature of the papers that was popular a generation ago and appears to have faded out, is "Tales of the Streets and Town," gossipy little yarns told to the reporters, most frequently to the hotel man, and served up, usually, as Sunday features. Lute Pease had such a column in the Oregonian in 1905. In one issue he had four rather smart little anecdotes, dealing with persons well known in Portland and over the Northwest. One of these dealt with W. W. Cotton, prominent railroad official, and another played up Leonard Fowler, picturesque editor of a Wenatchee daily (the Republic) in those days. Let's retell the Fowler one, which, perhaps, is better ap preciated by those who knew this debonair figure, so active and picturesque that he seemed almost like a story-book journalist:

Editor Fowler, of the only great paper of Wenatchee, Wash., (so went the story under Pease's by-line) has quite a striking letterhead for his business correspondence paper. It pictures a section of orchard, hanging fruit, and bears the legend

"Land of the Big Red Apple,
Where Dollars Grow on Trees.

Away back East lives a man who considers himself a creditor of Editor Fowler, on a long-disputed claim. He once secured one of these letterheads, and, clipping it off, he pasted it on a sheet, on which he wrote: "Please shake a tree for me.

In due time he received a small package from Fowler. Opening it he found a single apple-seed and the following note from the editor: "Dear Sir: I have no time to shake the tree for you, but I herewith enclose a seed from its fruit. Plant it, let it grow, and then shake the tree for yourself. Yours truly, Fowler."

There was also running a column headed "Short Talks with Travelers." This was a forerunner of the hotel column later handled by John W. Kelly and conducted by Fred Lockley on the Journal for so many years. This interesting feature has now passed from virtually all metropolitan papers.

The policy of burying the news on the back page was to be changed, and the telegraph news was ultimately to get more space than was available in the whole Sunday paper in 1881. Glance at your current Sunday paper and notice the many contrasts.

The Sunday Oregon Journal, which started in 1904, almost exactly two years after the daily and close to a year and a half after C. S. Jackson had acquired the paper, evolved pretty much as had the Sunday Oregonian, which had been launched 23 years before.

The Journal crashed into the Sunday field with a wide array of feature matter, both local and syndicate, and from time to time the paper reported an excellent reception given their Sunday effort.

One of the early "Sunday" papers published in Oregon was a weekly, issued on Saturday, called Sunday Welcome, started in 1875. The Sunday Welcome was owned by J. F. Atkinson, who had come to Portland in 1867 and started the Evening Bulletin in January 1868. He cut costs on the Bulletin by doing most of the work himself, acting as editor, business manager, and foreman of the composing-room. Atkinson was one of the busiest newspapermen in the history of Oregon. The Sunday Welcome was not the only Sunday newspaper started by Atkinson, who, February 13, 1890, launched the Sunday Chronicle, publishing it for some time, only to sell it out and enter another business.

Down from The Dalles came Thomas B. Merry, editor, canoeist, and all-around sportsman, to be Sunday editor of the Oregonian—the first in Oregon. Much of the sparkling column stuff in the Sunday Oregonian was his.

A contemporary, Allan B. Slauson, recalls Merry as a very entertaining and prolific writer, one of the best Slauson ever knew. He spent his whole week preparing copy for his Sunday features, the "Grizzly" column and others.

Another who stands out was Col. William Lightfoot Visscher, who, after a short stay in 1888 went to C. X. Larrabee's boom town of Fairhaven, Wash., to edit the Herald, soon moving east to build up a national reputation in Chicago as poet and columnist of the Eugene Field type. Slauson succeeded him in 1889. Then came Henry E. Reed, followed by A. L. Parker, Joe Levinson, and George A. White, now major general in charge of the Oregon National Guard. The Sunday magazine section, which, as newspaper men know, is the only part of the paper for which the "Sunday editor" was responsible, was necessarily small in those days before the development of heavy advertising and pulp paper. It is no disrespect to the memory of any of the very able men who handled the Sunday features of those early days to say that the development of the real Sunday paper, with home-produced rather than syndicated features, is a matter al most of the last decade or so, and that the later Sunday editors—Clark Williams, Philip H. Parrish, W. H. Warren, and Edward M. Miller on the Oregonian, and Donald Sterling, O. C. Merrick, and Sam Raddon Jr. on the Journal have done more than a full share in this development.


THE development of sports and sport-reporting was about what one would expect in a pioneer country. Professional sport and even amateur sport were yet to be organized when the Spectator began publication in 1846. A mathematical check probably would demonstrate that it took ten years for all the newspapers of pioneer Oregon—Spectator, Free Press, Oregonian, Argus, Umpqua Gazette, Columbian, Pioneer and Democrat, and the rest—to publish as much volume of sports news as is now contained in a single issue of a Portland Sunday newspaper.

Hunting and fishing were so much a matter of the day's work so little recognized as sport, that they were taken as a matter of course and received no attention in the newspapers. Chronologically, horseracing came first; and it was a racing meet at Vancouver, 25 miles or so from the seat of publication of the old Spectator, that was the first actual bit of sports news ever covered in the Oregon country. The lack of enthusiasm of early-day editors for this sort of thing is indicated in the way it was handled.

A brief reference to these races has been made in the chapter dealing with the old Spectator. Here is the exact account of the occasion (July 25, 1846) as described in the issue of August 20 with no reference to the delay of 26 days in getting the story into print; the secret is probably revealed in the words "by request" at the top and "Communicated" at the end; it was not the habit of the papers in hose days to go after news.

Here is the story, which, in the modest style of those days, carried no headline:

Saturday, the 25th ult., was a great day for Vancouver, being that on which the first public exhibition on the "turf" took place in this locality. A race course, one mile in extent, was lately laid out upon the plains adjoining the Fort, and riders could be seen for days previous, coursing and training, with keen and anxious countenances. The weather proved very favorable, cool and dry, and as the hour of 1 o'clock approached, vast multitudes moved to the scene of action. An elegant stand had been erected at the winning post, upon which stood the worthy judge (P. S. Ogden, Ésq.) surrounded by numerous friends and a brilliant circle of the fair sex; honored also by the presence of Capt. Howison and officers of the U. S. Sch'r. Shark, and Capt. Baillie and of cers of the H. B. M. S. (Her Britannic Majesty's Ship) Modeste. A noble array of horses were on the ground, taste fully decorated, and arranged by the committee to contest