Historical reminiscences of the city of Des Moines, together with a full description of the city and county. H. B. Turrill, 1857 Transcribed by Ralph Leonard

History of the Des Moines Newspapers.


The IOWA STAR, the first newspaper printed in Des Moines, was commenced in 1849, by Barlow Granger & Co., and advocated Democratic principles. Shortly afterwards it passed into the hands of Bates & Johnson. Johnson edited the paper for some eight months, when he died, and upon Hon. Curtis Bates the whole control of the Star devolved for more than a year. From August, 1851, to May, 1852, Dr. A. Y. Hull was co-editor of the Iowa Star, when he retired, declaring that he could not live by politics. It is somewhat singular to note, that notwithstanding his opinion of the precarious rewards of politics, he soon after accepted a nomination as State Senator, was elected, and served his time. From May, 1851, until the spring of 1854, Judge Bates was sole editor. When he was nominated by his party for Governor, he retired from the editorial chair, since which he has devoted himself exclusively to the practice of his profession. He remained a partial proprietor in the Star until 1856. D. O. Finch, his partner, succeeded him as editor. From thence a rapid succession of editors ensued, and it is almost impossible to give them correctly. The name of the paper changed to the “Fort Des Moines Star,” “Fort Des Moines Argus,” and “Iowa Statesman.” During all these mutations its political character continued unwavering. In January, 1857, Will Porter, the present editor, assumed charge of this paper, and its name was again changed to the “Iowa State Journal.” Porter & Hedge are its proprietors.

Soon after the “Star” was commenced a journal advocating Whig principles, appeared under the cognomen of The


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FORT DES MOINES GAZETTE, edited and published by L. P. Sherman & Co. After being issued for a year, it was discontinued for want of an adequate support.

Immediately, however, Peter Myers & Co. commenced the State Journal, a small paper advocating the same political tenets as the “Gazette.” It bore up gallantly, for a while, but at the end of the year followed its predecessor into nonentity.

The “Star” then continued to be the only paper published in the county for about three years. In 1855 T. H. Sypherd & Co. started a Republican paper, under the name and style of The Iowa Weekly Citizen. In 1857, T. H. Sypherd disposed of his interest to Mr. W. H. Farmer, who continues in charge of it at the present time.

Before relinquishing this topic, injustice to those whose enterprise, capital and talents have been engaged in editing and publishing newspapers in Des Moines, it is essential to mention the fact that they have had many and serious difficulties to surmount, some of which still exist. The most trying and unavoidable of these was the utter impracticability of procuring a regular supply of paper. Whatever was needed had to be procured at Chicago or St. Louis, and hauled by wagons, at least from the Mississippi, a distance of two hundred miles. Paper, as well as other freight, was often delayed beyond all endurance. It is only within the past year that the M. & M. Railroad was completed to Iowa City, which shortened the distance of transporting by wagon fifty miles, but even now little dependence can be placed on the arrival of any kind of freight. The papers, therefore, were often obliged to issue only a half sheet, and sometimes even none at all, for weeks at a time, while their supply of paper ordered three months before, was slowly performing its long and tedious journey to the press.

Skilful (sic) and efficient compositors and pressmen were also very difficult to obtain, and the files of old Des Moines

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papers, which have been preserved, are by no means models of typographical accuracy, but exhibit the errors of the tyro, rather than the artistic finish of the expert workman.

Payment from subscribers was never demanded in advance. This was an error, and one that caused a vast deal of trouble. Probably this was more of an obstacle to the newspaper enterprise than any other. The present editors have wisely profited from the follies of their predecessors, and their efficiency and success result, in a great measure, from the adoption of the pay-in-advance principle.

Des Moines can now boast of two as large, ably-conducted, and well-executed weekly newspapers, as any issued in the State, and at a period not far in the future, when a telegraph to this city shall give us hourly news from the Atlantic States, and even the kingdoms of Europe—when business, now rapidly increasing, shall be sufficiently augmented, the public will demand a daily newspaper, and the enter-prising publishers will not fail to meet the demand.

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