Newspapers of the Old West

Hi everyone, Winnie Griggs here. Whenever I go to an estate sale or thrift store, one of the things I like to check out are the book shelves. Over the years I’ve found some nice, eclectic research nuggets.

One such book is one I picked up recently call “Newspapering In The Old West.” I know most folks get their news via television or some form of online access these days, but it wasn’t so long ago that the morning paper was a fixture in just about everyone’s home.

This tome not only talks about newspapermen, printing presses and practices of the time, but it also contains a wealth of excerpts from the papers themselves including news stories, photographs and advertisements. Thumbing through this book provides a fascinating glimpse into the history of the old west from the perspective of the early news media.

One story, titled From Dodge City to Potato Hill reads as follows: “Embry, who shot Anthony, editor of the Leavenworth Times, has been acquitted. That’s just the way with some juries – they think it no more harm to shoot an editor than a Jack-rabbit.” Marion County Record, Marion, Kansas, 1876.

The book is also full of fascinating little tidbits, like this one: “Some frontier publishers printed on cloth because of paper shortages. In 1887, however, the Omaha Daily World printed just four copies of its October 12 edition on satin in honor of a visit to that city by President Cleveland.”

Another interesting little fact I learned was that many of the old west newspapers were not averse to hiring women as typesetters and linotype operators. And then there was this  side note: “Husband and wife publishing teams were commonplace on the frontier. Before 1900 the women were more often found in the back shop rather than in editorial positions.” These tidbits will undoubtedly find their way into a book of mine someday.

I was also fascinated by some of the colorful names these early newspapers had, names like The Solid Muldoon, The Tombstone Prospector, The Territorial Enterprise, The Epitaph, The Pick and Drill, The Colorado Chieftain, The Frontier Scout, The Thomas County Cat and The Red-wing Carrier Pigeon.

There was a whole lot more, and the photos were fascinating. If you’re interested in checking it out, you can find copies at THIS LINK

So what do you think? Do you still get the newspaper delivered to your home? And do you know any fun or unusual names of newspapers to add to my list?

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Winnie Griggs is the author of Historical (and occasionally Contemporary) romances that focus on Small Towns, Big Hearts, Amazing Grace. She is also a list maker, a lover of dragonflies and holds an advanced degree in the art of procrastination.
Three of Winnie’s books have been nominated for the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award, and one of those nominations resulted in a win.
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23 thoughts on “Newspapers of the Old West”

  1. We always had a paper delivered every day and then my one brother had a paper route I helped out with. In my family it’s interesting that I had an uncle work at a New England paper, then that brother worked for on for decades and I even worked for one for over 5 years myself. But that book sound fascinating and informative as well as fun and interesting all at the same time. A true rare tidbit of a gem and I am sure a lot will end up in different stories of yours as well Amanda. Historical facts like these might be great trivia game answers too.

  2. Hi Winnie,
    Newspapers of the Old West are fascinating and I have a book coming out next year in which the heroine owns her own newspaper. I found a lot of surprising things in those old newspapers including an article that asked if the climate was changing. Some were bluntly written with a lot of name calling.

    I still get the local newspaper delivered, but there’s no real journalism anymore. I used to cut out human interest articles for story ideas, but those no longer exist. Digging for a story takes time and that’s where TV and Internet reporting fall short. I really miss the newspapers of old.

    Thanks for sharing.

  3. My husband still reads the newspaper but I’ve given it up. Besides different news channels, I do a lot of my reading online. I actually get the paper online too!

  4. We had the same English teacher for the last three years of high school who had us always reading The New York Times, which I still read to this day, every day, only online now. I think it’s the best paper in the USA.

    When I was doing family research in Oklahoma, one of my sources was The Eufaula Indian Journal, founded in 1876, the oldest paper in the area that I understand is still going. What I saw from those early days was a combination of national news (mostly Washington) that was “imported” from other sources, and local doings, from parties to deaths to shoot-outs to whatever. It printed the deaths and the causes of both my great grandparents as well as their siblings. One great uncle was in a shoot-out. An incredible experience to read those papers to see the large and the small events of their lives–absolutely transporting me back in time.

    I don’t recall what old papers and court records I read in Fort Smith, Arkansas, but it was somewhat close, the difference being that Fort Smith was part of the USA while Indian Territory was not yet. So, court hearings by Judge Parker were reported (the last bastion of frontier justice in the US back then), and I read about my grandfather and his friends testifying at a trial for Belle and Sam Starr and who had been accused of stealing a horse, and who lived near by great granddad and others in I.T.

    Just by chance, I just finished reading a historical Love Inspired series by Cheryl St John, Sherri Shackelford and Karen Kirst where the newspaper printer plays a key role in 1868 Kansas setting.

    Thank you so much for the blog and for the lead on that book, Winnie, which I am very interested in.

      • Yes, I felt blessed by those newspapers because Indian nations didn’t have the usual U.S. records we rely on, and I felt blessed to be able to share them with my family who were all still alive at the time. So blessed, because all are gone now. My son and I are the last of the family and so I will put my records in a genealogical library for preservation and possible future use. Heck, I may even finally write my family book one day although it would be for just the two of us, and perhaps as an example of a family story in America from the 1600s, and in English records back to the 1500s, including DNA studies that take us back to the Anglo-Saxon invasions of central England (about 459 AD).

  5. We get two newspapers delivered by mail…our little local paper and our bigger “city” paper. I grew up in a very small Texas town , Ferris. Our newspaper was naturally called The Ferris Wheel.

  6. Winnie, I love this post. Old Newspapers provided a snapshot of daily life on the American frontier, as well as important events. I recently found a copy of Tombstone’s Epitaph in a used book store. It’s a first edition written in 1951 by Douglas D. Martin and published by The University of New Mexico Press. It’s the actual articles that were published in Tombstone from the 1870s to 1900. It has a detailed account of the gunfight at the OK Corral. And it’s clear from the articles that the Earps and Doc Holiday were very well respected by the citizens. I really found a gold nugget when I ran across this book.

  7. Great post, Winnie! I love newspapers, old and new. We visited the Territorial Enterprise in Virginia City, what an awesome historic place. We get two newspapers every morning, and I over every word with my morning coffee.

    I think you made a lucky find with this neat book of yours!

  8. Interesting post. I too search auctions, estate sales, and junk shops for old books. I have found some pretty interesting ones, some also good for research. I am going to keep my eyes open for some like this one. I always enjoy getting these old books. They are such wonderful windows into a part of the past.

    • And yes, we do get a couple of papers. They cover the community in which they are printed and give a local view of national and international events. Our town’s local paper also has a full page of local history every issue.

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