DEVELOPMENT OF NEWSPAPERS
Today our daily newspapers bring us news from
all the world. How different this is from newspapers of early
Iowa. They were published weekly and had little news from
outside of the state or even their own locality. They
championed one political party and expected the men of that
party to support them. For instance, in 1849 a number of Polk
County Whigs subscribed nearly $350 as a bonus to anyone who
would publish a Whig paper in Fort Des Moines. Depending upon
this and a promise of many subscribers, a man began publishing
The Fort Des Moines Gazette. A year later he quit, saying
that of the five hundred Whigs in the county only one hundred
twenty-five were subscribers and half of these had not paid
If the party which a newspaper supported was
successful in an election a picture of a crowing rooster would
appear on the front page of the next issue.
Editors of early newspapers usually became
prominent men in the local community. They were proud of the
articles which they wrote for their papers. They often made
fun of each other and called each other uncomplimentary names.
One editor would often call the editor of another paper a
liar, villain, skunk, or blackguard. One certain paper called
another the "loco foco rag."
Many papers were started in pioneer days.
Fourteen had their beginning in Dubuque between 1836 and
1860. Some of these lasted less than two years.
By 1840 there were a number of such weekly
papers in Iowa. Most of them were of four pages. They had no
headlines, no cartoons, no comics, no large advertisements;
and most of their space was taken up with local news. What
little news the papers carried from eastern states or foreign
countries was weeks and often months late.
There have been literally hundreds of
newspapers in Iowa since pioneer days which have ceased
publication or have combined with other papers. In Des Moines
alone, more than twenty newspapers have been from time to time
started. Today our large cities have but one or two daily
papers of large circulation.
IOWA'S FIRST NEWSPAPERS
John King was the first man to enter the
newspaper business in Iowa. He came to Dubuque from Ohio in
1834. A year later he returned to Cincinnati and in the
spring of 1836 bought a Smith press and the type necessary to
start printing a small newspaper. He brought with him, from
Ohio, a young man to do the typesetting.
Mr. King called his newspaper the Dubuque
Visitor. Politically it was neutral and had as its motto,
"Truth Our Guide - The Public Good Our Aim." The first issue
was dated May 11, 1836, and bore the heading "Dubuque Lead
Mines, Wisconsin Territory." In reality, Dubuque was then a
part of the Michigan Territory but was to become part of the
newly created Wisconsin Territory on July 4, 1836.
The paper changed hands and names several
times in the first five years. Mr. King was its publisher for
only a few months. When it was a year old it became a
ROMANCE OF A PRESS
The first press which John King brought to
Dubuque had an interesting and romantic history. In 1842 it
was sold to a man who started a paper in Wisconsin. From
there it went to Saint Paul where it is said to have been used
to print the first newspaper in Minnesota. From Saint Paul it
is supposed to have been taken to a place near Sioux Falls,
South Dakota. There it was used by the Dacotah Democrat,
the first paper to be published in the unorganized Dacotah
Territory. The Indians attacked and burned that settlement,
thereby ruining the press.
This old press thus printed the first
newspapers in the Iowa Territory, the Minnesota Territory, and
the Dakota Territory.
THE SECOND NEWSPAPER
The second newspaper to make its appearance in
Iowa was The Western Adventurer, published by Dr. Isaac
Galland at Montrose, Iowa. The first issue was dated June 28,
1837. This paper was a financial failure. After a few issues
had been printed, it was sold to James G. Edwards, who moved
it to Fort Madison. There, in the spring of 1838, he began
publishing the Fort Madison Patriot.
It is said that Chief Black Hawk and his sons
watched the printing of the first paper at Fort Madison. They
thought the press a wonderful affair. Indians were frequent
visitors at the Fort Madison printing office and always
enjoyed watching the press at work.
OTHER EARLY PRESSES
The third paper in Iowa had been started in
Belmont, Wisconsin, and then was moved to Burlington, Iowa.
It was called the Wisconsin Territorial Gazette and
Early newspapers often had long names. The
Iowa Sun and the Davenport and Rock Island News was the
first paper to be printed in Davenport. It was started in
1838 and lasted but a few years.
The first newspaper in Des Moines was called
The Star. It began publication in 1849.
THE FIRST DAILY PAPERS
The Dubuque Tribune was probably the
first daily paper in Iowa. It began publication on March 26,
1851, and lasted but a short while. The Daily Miners
Express, which started at Dubuque on August 19, 1851, was
The first regular daily to be published in Des
Moines was The State Register, which began daily
publication on January 12, 1862. This paper had obtained the
first telegraph news in Iowa in 1860, a feature which soon
became important in the daily editions. The present
Register and Tribune is its descendant.
IMPORTANCE OF NEWSPAPERS
The art of writing first found expression in
Iowa through the newspapers. Here, in small weekly papers,
many writers who later became prominent saw their first
efforts at writing. Some of them became Iowa's historians.
Their works have set a high standard for future Iowa writers.
Today Iowa's newspapers are on a high plane.
Some of her weekly papers, as well as her daily papers, have
gained national recognition for their excellence.