Notes on the History
of Iowa Newspapers, 1836-1870

University of Iowa Extension Bulletin,

July 1, 1927;
Bulletin No. 175;
by Katherine Young Macy, pg 85-89

Iowa Star

Iowa Star appeared July 26, 1849, following a prospectus issued in the spring by one Blair, who announced that he meant to start in Fort Des Moines a paper to be called the Upper Des Moines Republic, published by A.W. Blair and Company, with Granger as editor. But the almost impassable roads kept Blair from bringing the plant from Iowa City, and Granger backed by Curtis Bates, bought equipment at a more convenient place, and began publication. He planned to call his paper the Fort Des Moines Star, but there was not enough type to set up so long a name. Iowa Star was by announcement "firmly, radically, and decidedly Democratic," thought the editor would "Hold himself responsible to no party, sect, creed, or clique." It was a seven-column sheet, published in one of the barrack buildings, and by the end of Granger's control the subscription list contained about eight hundred names. Granger made his adieu January 15, 1852, his last editorial telling the readers some of the joys and sorrows of editing a "seven-column paper in a five-column town."

Judge Curtis Bates took charge in February, 1850, with Luther Johnson as editor. Johnson died in May, and Bates was left both editor and publisher by November, 1850. He began with an apology for his enforced absence, and left the office in charge of M.L. Morris, "who will do everything up about right." during the campaign of 1850, eloquent battle was waged between the Star and its rival, the Gazette, the latter the "mouthpiece of Whiggery."

A.Y. Hull began his editorial charge September 4, 1851, "intending to make the Star no less Democratic than before." The paper suffered a two week's suspension in October, 1851, soon after the incorporation of Des Moines. On June 17, Hull retired, and Bates again became editor. Struggling along with frequent apologies for missed issues, the Star did not appear at all between February 3, and April 28, 1853.

Bates decided to run for Governor, and on January 19, 1854, S. W. Hill and Company were announced as publishers of the paper with D.O. Finch editor. Under their direction the paper was continued until its suspension, August 17, 1854.

In May, 1854, Hill and Company were named publishers and Finch editor of the Des Moines Argus, successor to the Star; in June the name Star was resumed, with no editorial comment on either change, but with Hill and O'Grady as publishers. The last issue announced the death of O'Grady, who had bought an interest in the Star in April, 1854.

 The following winter, the plant was bought by Will Tomilson, and the paper was rechristened the Iowa Statesman. Dr. W.H. Farmer became associated, and in 1855 Will Porter and B.D. Thomas entered service in the office. Tomilson was a bellicose editor, and his vigor and Farmer's "masterly inactivity" made the life of the paper an unhappy one. In the fall of 1856, Tomilson, and eastside supporter, moved the plant to that side of the river, much to the disgust of his west-side subscribers. By the time it reached its destination, it had been renamed the Iowa State Journal. Tomilson attempted to revive the Statesman, but after a precarious few months it died.

The first number of the new weekly Journal was issued in February, 1857. It continued under Porter, with Robert Hedge as associate, until late in 1858, when Stilson Hutchins and George M. Todd acquired it and continued the paper under the name Iowa Statesman. The new owners continued a tri-weekly Journal begun by Porter inconnection with his weekly, January 13, 1858; it was planned especially to cover the new legislative field. Warring against the rival Citizen, which had appeared a day earlier, the tri-weekly went on until the legislative session closed. Hutchins came into sole control in 1860. Sometime before that, the paper had evidently resumed the name Iowa State Journal. Hutchins conducted it ably, and as a democratic sheet, fearless even in those days just before the war, until 1862, when he sold to George M. Todd, former business associated of Hutchins, who waged war against Abolitionists and Republicans. Though the name had been changed to the Des Moines Times, the paper died soon after.

Fort Des Moines Gazette

Fort Des Moines Gazette was issued during the first of January, 1850, with Lampson P. Sherman editor and owner of the seven-column Whig sheet. The plant was located in an unused barracks, opposite the Star office. The effort of issuing the first number was so great that none appeared the second week. But the paper lived for fifty-one numbers which struck wrath into the hearts of the Locofocos, as Sherman called the Democrats. The editor succeeded editorially and financially, becoming uncomfortable only when the snow flew and filled the cracks in his shop walls and froze inks and presses.

The project had begun on a $300 bonus offered anyone who would establish a Whig paper in Fort Des Moines. When the second year approached, Sherman found that out of the five hundred Whigs in the county, but one hundred and twenty-five were signed subscribers, and that half their pledges were unredeemed. Hence, with only "gratefull recollections" of those who had stood by him, he was forced to suspend publication in February, 1851.

Four weeks later the Iowa State Journal appeared, printed on the old material, and edited by William W. Williamson, a prominent and ambitious Whig politician. The Journal was published by Peter Myers and Company, with Sherman presumably the Company. It was, to quote the Iowa City Republican, "really the Gazette galvanized into live." As such, it fought with the Star, through the editorial rule of Williamson, until he retired, August 15, 1851. Charles B. Darwin took his place as editor in the issue of August 29, and his Whig bombast filled interminable columns of the paper.

The issue of July 1, 1852, announced that it was the first newspaper printed on paper of Iowa manufacture -- that made in the new mill of Green and Company in Bentonsport. The next issue appeared with one column of print missing, and with the column rules turned to mourn the death of Henry Clay, eminent Whig, who had died three months before! The Journal of August 12 made peremptory demand for better financial support; on August 26, the editor pathetically pleaded that his call for funds had received little attention and that "our necessities are pressing and demand all our resources -- we cannot wait any longer, and what's more, we won't!" He didn't. The Journal ceased.

Iowa Citizen

Iowa Citizen came into the field to share the effulgent glory of the Star in February, 1856, when it was established by Thomas H. Shepherd and A.J. Stephens. The former retired in February, 1857, and was succeeded by J.M. Dixon and W.H. Farner, who had changed to the Free Soil party. James C. Savery took control in August, leaving Dixon sole editor until December 7, when John Teesdale purchased the concern, leaving Dixon associate editor. The tri-weekly Citizen appeared during the legislative session in 1858, beginning on January 12, a day ahead of the rival Journal. their wordy war continued until the tri-weekly Citizen closed its career, March 23. The Citizen became the Iowa State Register in January or February, 1860, with John Teesdale as editor and publisher. It was an unpretentious four-page, five-column tri-weekly, issued the first day of the eight general assembly.

Frank Palmer bought the plant May 8, 1860. He enlarged the Register and on January 12, 1862, issued the first regular daily to appear in Des Moines. Prominent on the staff in those days were Thomas F. Withrow, J.M. Dixon, John S. Runnells, and the Clarkson brothers. Mills and Company bought the paper in 1866, retaining Dixon and Palmer as editors. Dixon became blind and was forced to resign. Palmer retired later, and J.W. Mills assumed the editorship. In the composing room at that time were three young printers destined to become famous in the history of Iowa journalism. James S. Clarkson, Albert W. Swalm and Lafayette Young. The foreman and night editor of the plant was L.F. Andrews. In 1866, a younger brother of Clarkson, R.O. Clarkson, found employment in the same office. Both brothers were advanced from the composing room to the main office, and December 6, 1870, they bought the Register plant with their father, Coker F. Clarkson. They conducted the Republican paper through 1870 with great success.

Iowa Farmer

Iowa Farmer was a monthly published at Des Moines after it had been removed from Mount Pleasant in the winter of 1857-58. It was edited by William Duane Wilson and changed to a weekly in its new location. A few months later it was sold to Hiram Torrey, who changed the name to the Pioneer Farmer. It was sold a few months later to W. Simmons, who soon tired of paying expenses without income. He sold to Mark Miller, who changed the named of the five-column sheet to the Iowa Homestead.

H.W. Pettitt, a versatile genius, bought the paper soon and made it attractive. When he died in 1866, the Homestead passed into the hands of Mills and Company. W.D. Wilson soon bought it again and retained it through 1870.


Post was being published in 1860

Iowa School Journal

Iowa School Journal was started in 1859 by Mills Brothers. It was a monthly organ of the state department of public instruction and continued under them through 1870.


Commonwealth was founded late in 1860 by Andrew J. Stevens and William H. Hoxie. Stevens left soon. In 1861, Hoxie turned over the plant to J.B. Bausman and S.W. Russell, who soon wearied and were glad to consolidate with the Journal and sell a controlling interest to Dr. D.V. Cole. The combined papers became the Times, which died soon afterwards. Late in 1862, William H. Merritt bought the material of the Times and revived the name Statesman. He put into the paper such energy and ability that soon it became one of the leading Democratic journals of the state. After four years he sold to Staub and Jenkins, who turned it over to G.W. Snow. Snow's health failed, and publication was susupended. In 1870, W.W. Witmer bought the plant for himself and Barnhart Brothers. They began the Democratic Leader.

Temperance Platform

Temperance Platform was moved from Dubuque to Des Moines by W.S. Peterson in January, 1866. It was a weekly devoted to total abstinence and prohibition. In 1868, it was sold to the Grand Lodge of Good Templars, and the name became the Temperance Standard. S.M. Holt and W.H. Fleming were the editors. It was sold to Holt and moved to Marshalltown in 1869.

Western Jurist

Western Jurist began in 1866, under Mills and Company. It was a law magizine with W.G. Hammond as editor.

National Platform

National Platform was being published in 1868.

New Broom

New Broom lasted two years. It was a spicy sheet begun November, 25, 1869, by Tac Hussey, with Carter and Curl in charge of publication . It was a four-column semi-monthly.


Bulletin, a pungent Republican sheet, was begun March 11, 1869, by R.G. Orwig, as a daily and weekly. In 1870 it was sold to Mills and Company.


Review, a hebdomadal papers, was begun December 31, 1870, by Stewart, Waterman and Speed.

Plain Talk

Plain Talk was begun in 1870 by H.M. Bishard. It was a small weekly published on the east side of Des Moines.--The PeopleThe People was a daily begun in 1870 in the interest of the newly-formed Greenback party. J.F. Thompson was editor. When he retired, Porte C. Welch conducted the paper for a short time.


Anzeiger, a German paper, was begun in 1870.

Western Pomologist

Western Pomologist was being published in 1870.

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