History of Oregon Newspapers/The Linotype, Hard Times, and the Sun

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THE LINOTYPE, HARD TIMES, AND THE SUN


Portland union printers, forced out of jobs by the hard times and the substitution of machine work for hand composition on the Oregonian, launched the Sun, a morning daily, in the fall of 1894 to help take care of the idle men. The Sun was an interesting paper—eight pages of six 13-em columns, with the service of the Eastern Associated Press, as one of the first-page ears announced while the other was proclaiming that the Sun's circulation books were open and that the paper already had 3,000 local subscribers.

The Oregonian was gracious in its welcome to the newcomer, saying of its first issue:

The Daily Sun came out yesterday with a bright appearance and a good deal of news. Its promoters are a body of printers working on the cooperative plan. The Oregonian notes its advent as a commendable enterprise and hopes it will do well. There is ample room in Oregon for new undertakings, in almost any line of effort. The future is always in the hands of those who work for it.

Capt. John A. O'Brien, officer of the typographical union, was one of the leaders in the Sun enterprise, which was semi-officially a union project. No names appeared at the masthead, and it was the aim and policy to emphasize the equality of all the workers rather than the leadership. In the September 2 meeting of Multnomah union No. 58, Captain O'Brien managed to get through the union an appropriation of $100 for stock in the Sun Publishing Co.

The salutatory editorial emphasized the cooperative character of the paper but gave no names of officers or staff and said nothing about its relation to the typographical union. It was a neat and rather well-edited paper, with a capable, even clever, staff. The type, of course was all hand-set.

The whole first page was occupied with telegraph news, in cluding one 80-word dispatch from New London, Conn., on the test of the new battleship Maine, to be held the next day. This was the vessel that within four years was to be "remembered" as a cause of a war that launched the United States on its career as a world power.

Times were too hard for the new paper to make much head way, and almost from the the first its failure seemed only a matter of time. Advertising was in small proportion to the bulk of the paper (13½ columns out of 48 in the first issue).

The salutatory was frank and businesslike:

This is the first of the Sun. It will be published every day in the year by the Sun Publishing Company. of many stockholders, the Sun Composed, as the company could hardly be otherwise than independent in politics. It will uphold the true business interests of the city, state, and tributary territory.

The Sun's business will to give the news how well do that will appear from day to day. . . After all, what one most desires home news, and the matter of local news, the Sun will be thorough and comprehensive.

. . . Its expressions will always be found fearless in the cause of good government, national, state, and municipal.

. . . The expensive details of the publication of paper of this size are reduced to minimum of cost by reason of its cooperative character. Every person, from the editorial force down to the newsboy who will deliver to the readers, enlisted in the cause and its success. . . With antagonism to none, and hearty good wishes to all, the Sun has been issue started.

Firms represented in the advertising columns of the first issue of the Sun were Hunt Hardware Co., Paragon Safety Oil Co., Lipman, Wolfe & Co., Famous Clothiers, Prager Bros., dry goods; Wait & Mann (Charles N. Wait, J. D. Mann), attorneys-at-law; Library association (membership cut from $9 a year to $5. 20,000 volumes . . . Stark street between Seventh and Park); Green Tank Oil Company; Golden West Baking Powder (Clossett & Devers); W. Gadsby, furniture (page ad); Carr & Goldsmith (money to loan); O. R. & N. (W. H. Hurlburt general passenger agent, E. McNeill receiver and general manager); Northern Pacific (A. D. Charlton assistant general passenger agent); Metropolitan Printing House (Robert Glen).

Hotel news consisted of 19 items filling half a column of space; the hotels mentioned are the St. Charles and the Perkins. Church news appeared under a four-column general label "God's Temples of Worship." Sermons are quoted, directly and indirectly, as delivered in First Baptist, Centenary Methodist, First Congregational, First Presbyterian, and Trinity Episcopalian.

Five and a half columns on page 5 were devoted to local news. One local feature, "At the County Jail," reads as follows:

Jailer Chamberlain has over 100 prisoners in his charge now at the county bastile, and they represent about all the crimes in the catalogue. Some kind Christian ladies gave a song and prayer service for the benefit of the inmates yesterday afternoon, and as their sweet voices rang through the history-haunted corrider many a wayward heart must have been touched and softened by sacred recollections, and perhaps, purified and exalted by the soft glow of awakened hope. Could they have seen it, what a contrast the warmer glamour of the afternoon sun, resting like a golden benediction on the pensive autumnal beauty of the world outside, would have been to those charged with the darker crimes! But it is still necessary for the jailer to see that the locks are secure.

A chatty, leisurely interview with a pioneer was a feature of this first number of the Sun. It is reproduced here for the sake of contrast with the interviewing of a later day:

"Speaking of the Sayers murder," said an old Portlander to a representative of the Sun, as the two were walking along First street yesterday afternoon engaged in a general conversation, during which the recent mysterious tragedy was brought up, "I have something to tell you. Come with me.'"

Accompanying the kindly and loquacious old gentleman as requested, the reporter and his escort went south on First street to Taylor, and thence east on Taylor toward Front, on the south side.

"Did you ever hear of the Balch murder case?" asked the old man.

"Only in a general way," answered the reporter; "it was long before my advent in Portland, you understand." (1857.)

(Here follows 2-3 of a column of the Balch-Stump murder story.)

The reporter, letting the reader see the wheels of the interview turning throughout, ends the story thus:

Then the old gentleman, suddenly taking out his watch, exclaimed: "Jemminy! I have talked until it is too late for church, and now let us go and. . ." Perhaps they did.

The story as a whole reinforces the probability that they "did."

The paper had hard sledding throughout its brief career. It was fairly readable and in easier times it might have had a measure of success. But this was 1894, the nadir of the depression. Money was tight, advertising hard to get, the Oregonian firmly intrenched. The paper dragged along until the next August. Then, August 1, 1895, the Oregonian ran the following journalistic obit:

THE DAILY SUN A CORPSE.— The Portland Sun will not appear this morning, nor hereafter. A meeting of the conductors of the Sun was held yesterday, and it was decided to suspend publication. The property was already in the hands of a sheriff's keeper, and the accumulating difficulties of the publishing company finally became so great that it was impossible to bear them longer. The Sun has . . been run continuously as a morning opposition newspaper. It has been no secret of late that it was sorely in need of money, and it is known strenuous efforts were made to raise funds. They were unsuccessful, and the end came yesterday.

Now, the foregoing was practically correct. But not quite. The Oregonian had not counted on the grim, gallant sense of humor of someone in the Sun organization, stimulated, perhaps, by two or three drinks. For the Sun did "rise" that morning, with 125 words of news, no editorial, and the space filled with miscellaneous boiler plate, advertising, and matter re-run from previous issues. The title logotype on page 1 had been turned upside down, big ads and some of the boiler-plate were upside-down or turned side-wise. Dr. Powell Reeves, virile advertising medico who offered to make any ailing young man (who had the money) fit for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—this massive man of medicine stood on his double-column head like Lewis Carroll's old Father William. This issue doubtless was expected to be the Sun's final blaze of glory, although one of the two or three bits of original composition in the paper was a "Special Notice" appealing for help. "Owing to certain circumstances," this notice read, "the Sun force has taken a tumble and refused to work last night. For nearly ten months the men have struggled to give the people an acceptable paper. It may not yet be too late to redeem it to its usefulness. Whatever is done must be done immediately. Will the business men and interested parties come to the rescue, or do they prefer to be dictated to and governed by rings and 10-cent politicians? If they choose the latter, vale Sun, vale Portland, vale freedom in the Northwest! Quien sabe?"

The next day the paper had gone back to something like its normal appearance, but at the head of the editorial column there appeared an assignee's notice signed by Hugh McGuire for the Sun Publishing Co. The final issue, containing four pages, appeared the next day, August 3.

One of the Sun's printers was young Amos E. Voorhies, a recent arrival in Oregon. He showed then the same kind of business ability which his activities in Grants Pass in the last 40 years, for he was selected from the staff to help to clean up the Sun's business affairs after the failure.