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The Press of Beloit

Published in History of Rock County, vol. II (1908)
By William Fiske Brown

 

     Journalism in Beloit dates back to September 4, 1846, when Messrs. Cooley and Civer established the "Beloit Messenger," a paper independent to politics; this was published but a short time when it suspended for lack of interest and no file of it is known to the editor.

     The existence of many other papers has been clearly established, but only faint traces of their existence have been found. Files are undiscoverable, and the only means or proofs of their existence are the memories of some of their old patrons.

     The Beloit "Journal," supposed to be the next paper published, made its first appearance on June 29, 1848, issued by Stokes and Briggs. This paper was a weekly, published in the interest of the Whig party and was edited by J. R. Briggs. With various changes of name and proprietors, this paper has been continuously published up to the present time, and still lives and flourishes as the Beloit "Free Press." In the fall of 1848, it passed under the control of J. R. Briggs, Jr., who was sole proprietor until September, 1849, when a partnership was formed with C. G. Foster, of Troy, New York. In May, 1854, Foster purchased the interest of his partner and continued the publication of a Republican paper until August, 1855, when he sold out to A. Paine, J. J. Bushnell and Lucius G. Fisher, under the name of A. Paine & Company. The paper was published by them but a few weeks when it was again sold to H. L. Devereux. In January, 1856, Devereux formed a partnership with B. E. Hale, who had charge of the editorial department. On May 27, 1856, the paper made its appearance under the name of B. E. Hale -- no explanation for the change being made in any of its columns. February 19, 1857, B. E. Hale & Company were announced as the publishers.

     In 1857 a weekly Democratic paper was started by De Lorma Brooks, and was called "The Herald"; shortly after that another Republican paper called "the Beloit Times," made its appearance and was published by N. O. Perkins, the two publishers effecting an arrangement whereby the Democratic "Herald" was printed on one side of the sheet, and the Republican "Times" on the other. D. P. Hinckling was associated but a short time with Mr. Brooks in the conduct of the "Herald." Mr. Perkins ultimately purchased Mr. Brooks' interest and becoming the sole proprietor of the "Herald," changed the name of the paper to the Beloit "Courier," and on January 1, 1860, having associated with himself Barret H. Smith, the firm changed to Perkins & Smith, with A. P. Waterman and Wright and Newcomb as silent partners.

     Under the management of B. E. Hale & Company, the "Journal" was continued until April 21, 1859, when it was purchased by William E. Hale and Horatio Pratt, with H. Pratt as editor. In 1860 Mr. Hale retired and the paper passed into the control of H. Pratt & Company -- the firm consisting of Horatio Pratt and James A. White.

     The field, however, being too small for the support of two Republican papers, negotiations were started and arrangements ultimately made, under which the two were consolidated and named the "Journal and Courier," managed by Perkins & Smith, N. O. Perkins the editor. A bound file of the Beloit "Journal and Courier," complete, from April 5, 1860, to March 27, 1862, has been preserved by Mrs. N. O. Perkins and loaned to the editor of this history. It is expected that this volume will be added to the meagre, scanty and imperfect files of Beloit papers now preserved in the Beloit college library. On October 31, 1861, the paper was reduced from eight to seven columns. On November 7, 1861, the "Journal and Courier" was transferred to Barret H. and Lathrop E. Smith. On the 22nd of January, 1863, Lathrop E. Smith retired and the paper was carried on by Barret H. Smith. April 21, 1864, Barret H. Smith severed his connection with the paper, and was succeeded by Mr. A. Paine, who announced that the paper would not be tied to any political party. June 9 the compound name was dropped and the paper reappeared as "The Beloit Journal."

     Chalmers Ingersoll started the "Beloit Free Press" in February, 1866, and soon absorbed the "Beloit Journal" by purchase. In the summer of 1869 Ingersoll sold his interest to M. Frank & Co., and the old name of the paper -- "The Journal" -- was revived. During the next winter the paper passed to the control of T. O. Thompson, and J. B. Dow, the latter disposing of his interest, in the fall of 1870, to E. D. Coe. The "Free Press" was resurrected September 21, 1870, by Chalmers Ingersoll became sole proprietor, but Perkins continued as editor. During the spring of 1871 the "Free Press" again absorbed the "Journal," Mr. Thompson and Mr. Coe acquiring a half interest in the "Free Press." The following fall Mr. Ingersoll bought out Mr. Coe and became sole owner. Mr. N. O. Perkins continued his editorial connection until the winter of 1872 and '73, when he changed to a position on the staff of the "Milwaukee Sentinel."

     May, 1873, Henry R. Hobart, after publishing a quarterly, called the "Beloit Crescent" for a year or so previous, became associate editor of the "Free Press" with Mr. Ingersoll; in March following bought a half interest in the business and, until March, 1877, conducted the paper under the firm name of Ingersoll & Hobart. In the latter year Mr. Hobart became the sole proprietor. In 1875 Messrs. Ingersoll & Hobart had enlarged the size of the "Free Press" to a nine column folio.

     July 1, 1878, Charles S. Guernsey and David J. Welch began publishing an evening paper, called the "Daily Herald," with Albert Ayer as manager of the advertising department.

     August 7, 1878, the "Free Press" office first issued a daily paper, called the "Phonograph," which was published and edited by J. W. Cary, G. E. Farrer, Ingalls & Hobart. In continuation of this, on the first of February, 1879, Henry F. Hobart started the "Daily Free Press," a four-column folio, with Albert F. Ayer as local reporter, merging in it also, later, the "Daily Herald," of which in 1880 Otis H. Brand was editor and proprietor.

     In 1882 Mr. Cham Ingersoll again became the owner, editor and publisher of the "Free Press," Mr. Ayer continuing as city editor.

     In the year 1903 Mr. M. C. Hanna, a Milwaukee newspaper man, was admitted to partnership. In 1907, June 1, Ingersoll and Hanna sold the paper to the Free Press Publishing Company, M. C. Hanna, President and Editor; A. F. Ayer, Vice President; D. H. Foster, Secretary; J. S. Hubbard, Treasurer. With the new firm arrangement the capacity for business of the office was doubled and the circulation has been largely increased. From the beginning this paper has been and still is strongly Republican.

     Another paper, of which no file has been preserved, was the semi-weekly "Register," started by Mr. Ehrman and Mr. Leland in the spring of 1870. It was soon numbered among the "lights that failed."

     The "Graphic," an eight-page Democratic weekly, made its appearance, January 13, 1877, with F. E. Fillmore and W. D. Matthews as the editors and proprietors. Early in 1878 Mr. Matthews withdrew from the paper and Mr. Fillmore continued it until his death in December of that year. He was succeeded in the proprietorship by O. H. Brand and a Mr. C. B. Case, who in August, 1879, sold his interest to Brand.

     In the summer of 1879 Mr. Julius A. Truesdell became associated in the editorial work with Mr. Hobart, on the "Free Press." Soon after Mr. Truesdell founded a weekly paper, called "The Outlook." In May, 1883, Mr. F. F. Livermore became editor and proprietor of the "Outlook" and served as its editor about three years. In or near 1886 a stock company was formed to publish a successor to the "Outlook," a paper called the "Daily Citizen," with Rev. Forest A. Marsh, pastor of the Baptist church, as its editor. This was continued about two years, when the plant was sold to a Mr. Wallace Brown. After conducting the paper about one year he sold it to the firm of Metzger & Reprogle. The latter soon after sold his interest to Metzger, who then continued the paper under the name of the "Daily News."

     January 1, 1897, D. B. Worthington, leaving a position on the staff of the Chicago "Times-Herald," came to Beloit and took active business and editorial management of the Beloit "Daily News," then an afternoon paper. The "Daily News" for several years had been conducted as a Democratic paper and the preponderance of Republicans in Beloit had made the paper's success impossible. It had drifted into the hands of two young men, who changed its name to the "Morning News," but the paper survived that name only a few months. Just as it had determined to go out of existence Mr. Worthington took hold of the paper and restored its original name, made it an afternoon instead of morning newspaper and at first, Independent in politics. A printer was associated with him in the venture, but after two years Mr. Worthington secured for a partner Walter S. Goodland, now owner of the "Racine Times," who, ten months later, sold his interest to Mr. Worthington. The latter's progressive, energetic policy resulted in the "Daily News" becoming a largely circulated, influential and prosperous paper, Republican since 1900. He modernized the plant and engaged extensively in high-grade color and half-tone printing and owned the business alone until July 1, 1906; then T. C. Hendley, a successful business man of Beloit, bought a half interest and a stock company was formed under the name of the "Daily News" Publishing Company. In 1907, this company erected a building of its own on Fourth street, Beloit, costing over $30,000, and added the latest types of presses and linotype machines, making the plant as a whole one of the most complete in Wisconsin. The circulation of the "Daily News" has now, 1908, reached about 3,500. It is Republican in politics and represents the so-called "progressive" wing of that party in the state.

     The Beloit College "Monthly" was established in 1853, and first edited by J. A. Brewster, Alexander Kerr and H. L. Marsh. The "Monthly" was published by a Publication Society, until the winter of 1872, when that society was merged into the Archaean Union. On September 18, 1875, the "Monthly" merged with the "Round Table," a journal founded by W. H. Carr, Booth M. Malone and J. A. Truesdell, all members of the class of 1877. The "Round Table" and "College Monthly" (as the publication was from that time called in order to preserve the name and prestige of the older journal), was published semi-monthly under the new management. The next year the class of 1877 arranged with the Archaean Society to assume the publication of the "Round Table," and the year following the management reverted to the society; the college magazine was edited by their board of editors, and has been called ever since, the "Round Table." It is published weekly during the college year by the Archaean Union, as the organ of the students, alumni and friends of Beloit College.