Racine Newspaper History

As published in "The History of Racine and Kenosha Counties" (Chicago: 1879)

The Press of Racine

The first newspaper ever printed in Racine, was dated February 14, 1838, and called the Racine Argus. The paper was a five column folio, tastefully gotten up, and neatly printed. The name of N. Delavan Wood was conspicuously inserted in the heading as editor, and the announcement was made that the laws of the United States and of the Territory of Wisconsin would be published by authority, but wherein those interesting statutes were to be made public, was not stated, and one is left to infer that the Argus was destined to become a highly influential organ, with the powers that were in those days. One is constrained to admit that the national legal printing must have been a pleasant fiction, calculated to deceive the newly arrived immigrant, for not one line of such advertising ever added to the wealth of the office. Certain Territorial laws were published in some of the issues. In the first number of the paper, there appeared one-half of a column of advertisements, and those were: a notice of the Racine House, by J. M. Myers; Marshall M. Strong, attorney at law; C. R. Alton, District Surveyor; Lorenzo Janes, attorney at law; J. S. Lovell, attorney at law; Knight & Capron, drapers and tailors Heath & Parsons, cash dealers in merchandise; a Sheriff's sale, advertised by E. R. Hugunin, who threatened to sell a quantity of potatoes; and a short notice of the proposed sailing of the sloop, Commodore Baron, A. Leice, Master, the following June. The remaining nineteen and one half columns were filled with reading matter. On the first page was a long "Ode to Columbia," and miscellaneous selections of prose. The second page was given up mainly to a notice of Canadian troubles, and news from China. President Van Buren was memorialized, concerning the proposed pre-emption law. The third page informed the public that the Argus was owned by J. M. Myers, A. Carey, Gilbert Knapp, Steven Ives, Lorenzo Janes and M. Strong. The paper wns declared to be Jeffersonian Democratic in creed, and would not be furnished to anyone without the "ready coon," which doubtless was the synonym of "greenbacks," in those days. The weather furnished the only local topic of interest the coldest day of the season was thirteen degrees below zero. The arrival and departure of mails were published b B. B. Cary, Postmaster. Eastern and Northern mails arrived Monday evenings, Wednesdays and Fridays, usually in the evening, and departed the following mornings. Western mails arrived Monday evenings, and departed Tuesday mornings. A list of the appointed Justices and Notaries was given. The former were: Samuel Hale, Jr., Roland Ives, Seth Warner, Origin Perkins and Adna Lampson; the latter, Lorenzo Janes, Henry F. Cox, Jr., and F. S. Lovell.

The Racine Mutual Fire Insurance Company held a meeting at the Racine House, February 13, and elected Gilbert Knapp, President, and Lorenzo Janes Secretary. Hons. Gilbert Knapp and Charles Durkee, members of the Territorial Legislature, were then in Washington. The fourth page of the paper was filled with miscellaneousl reading. The second issue of the paper was made, March 3, and the delay was caused by the dishonorable conduct of N. Delavan Wood, Editor, who appropriated divers chattels pertaining to the office, and silently conveyed them to other localities. The proprietors announce that "the causes which led to this premature separation, are of such a character that we feel unwilling to disclose them," and that arrangements were about to be made by which proper assistance could be obtained. The issue of March 10, contained a "postscript, " announcing the duel between Hon. Jonathan Cilley, of Maine, and Hon. William I. Graves, of Kentucky, in which Cilley was killed. Hon. George W. Jones, from Wisconsin, acted as Cilley's second. The local news was the election returns, showing that the southern half of the county beat the northern half, and elected Samuel Hale, Jr., Hammon Marsh and Nathaniel Bell, County Commissioners; Isaac G. Northway, Assessor, and Henry F. Cox, Jr., Treasurer. There was a bitter fight in the Convention of February 22, which nominated these men; a split occurred, dividing the county into sections instead of political parties. Dr. B. B. Cary advertised as a practicing physician; he was the first in the county to carry on a regular practice. March 17, the official canvass of votes was published, showing a total of 850 ballots cast. March 31, for the issue of the Argus was not as regular as it might have been, an advertisement signed "many settlers" called a meeting of the interested citizens, at the Racine House, April 13, to consider the propriety of petitioning the President of the United States, to have the fractional townships on the lake, from the Territorial line to Milwaukee, brought into market in 1838. Meetings of the shareholders of the Racine Library, and of the Bank of Racine, were also called for that day, at the same place. Lorenzo Janes was elected President of the Bank. The mails for the West were detained in Racine for two weeks, during May, because a Postmaster somewhere on the line sent the small mail-bag instead of the large one, and there was not room in the pouch. The next paper was issued June 2; the publishers ran out of paper, and the invoice shipped by schooner could not be landed, because of rough weatber, off the mouth of the river. In those days, if the wind blew, the vessels were obliged to run by Racine and carry their goods consigned there back to Chicago. There were eigbteen members of the Argus issued, covering the period from February 14, to October 6 1838. The force of circumstances crushed the life out of the little paper; but it was ably conducted by Marshall M. Strong and Lorenzo Janes, while it did last.

The Racine Advocate was established November 23, 1842, by Thomas J. Wisner, editor and proprietor; F. B. Ward, printer. The announcement made in the heading was to the effect that the new journal would be "devoted to politics, foreign and domestic intelligence, mechanic arts, education, temperance, agriculture, general news, etc.," and in that diversified and widely extended field the Advocate began its labors. Prominently displayed was the statement that "country produce" would be taken in exchange for the paper, and the location of the office was also given in the same column, viz., corner of Wisconsin and Sixth streets. Those subscribers who resided in the village were suppliod, at their own doors, at $3 per annum. Mail subscribers were charged $2. Letters to the editor required prepayment by the writer. in its leading editorial, the Advocate announced its policy as follows: " We are opposed to an unlimited credit, and consequentlyin favor of a separation from banks - in favor of a free and unrestrained commercial intercourse with all nations - retrenchment, and strict regard for the Constitution - opposed to becoming a State - and insist upon our preference to the attention of the General Government over the States - with less regard for party discipline than for the public good." The first number contained no "local" news, and ample excuse was apparent. Mr. Wisner conducted his paper with ability, and made most of the meager materials at hand for constructing a newspaper. His career as a journalist was, unfortunately, a brief one. On the 12th of August, 1843, he suddenly died from typhus fever, in the twenty-seventh year of his age. He had studied for the ministry, but abandoned that profession for the law, and accepted the editorial conduct of the Advocate evidently as a side issue.

From the time of Mr. Wisner's dqath until October 31, 1843. the Advocate was issued regularly, but without the name of its editor. With the number bearing the above date, Marshall M. Strong assumed editorship and proprietorship. December 17, 1844, Philo White became editorial and business manager of the paper, during Mr. Strong's absence, while serving as a member of the Territorial Council, to which office he was elected the preceding fall.

March 24, 1846, Philo White disposed of the Advocate to J. C. Bunner and O. A. Stafford, with J. C. Bunner as editor. The paper took a decided stand on political questions, and announced that it would advocate Democratic principles with energy." In this issue of the paper appeared for the first time a "local" department. It was but a meager effort to infuse a new element of interest into the journal, but it was commendable. Not more than one quarter of a column of space was required, and that filled with items concerning the harbor and shipping. The attempt proved abortive, however, and for two years the Advocate might have been removed from Racine without injury to the prosperity of the place. Politics, the Mexican war and general topics, occupied the mind of the editor. No local news was given, and but one or two articles descriptive of the village were published during 1846-47. January 19, 1848, the Advocate donned a handsome new dress, and was enlarged to a seven-column paper. It supported Martin Van Buren for the Presidency, and advocated "Free Territory" principles. It opposed the "dictatorial party of the South." January, 1848, the Advocate, after having waged a bitter warfare against Cass and Democracy, found itself without ammunition of a political character, and for the first time in months turned its attention to local matters. Racine was very neatly written up in a series of papers styled "Racine in Sandwiches," wherein the editor's fancy ran after the fashion of Lamb, and right skillfully did he carry out his plan. There was nothing of a historic nature in the sketches, but they must have been readable in those days, since even now they seem fresh and breezy. We discover many delicate touches of humor which have since - either by a happy similarity of thought or a possible glimpse of these sheets - made "Mark Twain" and other writers famous. For example, in describing the Executive of the city in January, 1848, Mr. Bunner wrote:

Our Mayor! We have a Mayor * * * who is engaged not only in city affairs, but who also furnishes a portion of Europe with beef. He generously supplies the wants of famishing Europe for the sake of humanity- and a consideration!

Again the editor displayed his wit by quoting the famous chapter concerning owls in Iceland, which read, "There are no owls in 1celand," as drawing the inference that brevity was frequently more valuable than verbosity in the "Sandwich" papers, especially at holiday time, when tables were loaded with the viands incident to that joyous season.

A portion of the files of the Advocate is missing- that of the period embraced within March 14, 1849, and Jan. 15, 1851. At the latter date no names appear in connection with the paper, but it is remembered that Mr. John W. Trowbridge was editor after Bunner and Stafford retired. April 16, 1851, the names of J. C. Bunner, 0. A. Stafford and J. W. Trowbridge, as proprietors, and J. C. Bunner, editor, again appeared in the paper. August 13, 1851, Bunner & Trowbridge succeeded to the proprietorship: December 21, 1851, John A. Harrison bought out Mr. Trowbridge's interest.

In 1852, the Advocate supported John P. Hale for President and George W. Julian for Vice President, who were the nominees of the National Free Democratic party.

December 15, 1852, Mr. Bunner retired from the Advocate and Mr. Harrison became sole proprietor. During his long association with the press of the village and city, Mr. Bunner exerted a wide-spread influence, if we may judge by the vigorous and outspoken style of his editorials. His taste inclined naturally toward politics, and he was ever ready to express his sentiments - which were always radical - upon the leading issues of the day. Mr. Bunner removed to Delavan, where he established the Walworth County Journal, January, 1853.

With the beginning of the eleventh volume of the paper, January 26, 1853, Charles Clement purchased the office of Mr. Harrison. May 11, a daily edition was begun and continued successfully for about two years, although the financial success did not equal the editorial. November 29, 1853, Andre Matteson became associate editor with Mr. Clement, who made the Advocate a radical Antislavery paper. April 24, 1854, Mr. Clement appeared again as sole editor. With the close of the year 1854, Mr. Clement retired from the paper, having sold his office to Mr. A. C. Sandford. The energy which Mr. Clement infused into his journal, based upon a high sense of right and a bold devotion to duty, had elevated the Advocate to the foremost rank of Wisconsin newspapers.

After Mr. Sandford's entrance upon the labors of the office, the daily edition was continued until March 24, 1855, having lasted from December 12, 1853, up to that date. In January,1856, John Tapley was associated, as local editor, with Mr. Sandford. June 11, 1856, Mr. Sandford named John C. Fremont for the Presidency, of course in anticipation of the nomination by the Philadelphia Convention. With the beginning of the fifteenth volume, Messrs. Sandford & Tapley also began the publication of a morning edition of the Advocate as a penny paper. The daily was not profitable, being conducted on a plan far in advance of the times. In May, the proprietors wisely discontinued the daily and improved their weekly issue.

January 1, 1862, Mr. Tapley retired from the Advocate, aud Mr. Sandford became sole editor and proprietor thereof. May 30, 1866, the Advocate named its choice of Presidential candidates for 1868, and placed U. S. Grant and Charles Francis Adams as President and Vice President, at the head of its columns. This was probably the first announcement of Gen. Grant's name for that office in the State, if not in the nation. January 2, 1867, the form of the Advocate was changed from that of an eight-column folio to a six-column quarto. January 16, 1867, Mr. Sandford substituted the name of Charles Sumner for that of Charles Francis Adams for Vice President on the National Republican ticket, as he desired to see it. When Grant and Colfax were nominated in May, 1868, the Advocate warmly espoused their cause. October 2, 1869, the form of the Advocate was restored to a folio, nine columns to the page. In the issue of December 16, 1876, the name of C. Fred Bliss appeared as local editor. Mr. Sandford is still editing the paper, and conducts it upon a broad and liberal plan, which his abilities as a writer and his liberal ideas as a thinker peculiarly qualify him to do.

The Racine County Argus is the only Democratic paper published in the county. It was established September 1, 1868, with William Innes Martin as editor. The first twenty-five numbers of the paper are not to be found, but with No. 26, Z. C. & H. M. Wentworth became editors and proprietors. Those gentlemen conducted the Argus in a vigorous manner, devoting much space to local affairs, but by no means neglecting to strike sturdy blows for the political principles espoused by them. On the 5th of October, 1871, H. M. Wentworth retired from the paper; but, on the 8th of March, 1872, he again became identified with it. July 31, 1873, Z. C. Wentworth became sole proprietor, and August 13, 1874, associated his sons with him in the management. In April, 1877, C. F. George purchased the concern, and continued as proprietor until April 4, 1878, at which date Mr. E. A. Egery bought the office. Mr. Egery has conducted the paper with fidelity to the principles of the party of his choice, and makes special efforts to advance the local interests of Racine - a purpose not only commendable in itself, but which gives additional interest to the journal under his direction. An examination of the files of the Argus proved beneficial to this work, as many incidents were related in its columns which find appropriate place elsewhere in the pages of this volume.

The first newspaper in the Bohemian language in the United States, made its appearance in Racine on the Ist of January, 1860, entitled Slovan Amerikansky, Frank Korizek being editor and publisher. It had the first year an average circulation of 400 copies, and was a small folio sheet. October 30, 1861, the name was changed to Slavie, or Slavia, which means the ideal mother, or, properly, the personification of the whole "Slavonic" or Slavic race. The size of the paper was somewhat enlarged and the form changed to a small quarto. It started with about 600 regular subscribers. Frank Korizek was publisher, and Voyta Masek editor.

On the 1st of June, 1863, Charles Jonas assumed editorial control of the Slavie. In the following years, there were several changes in the proprietorship, and from April, 1870, to December, 1872, the paper was edited by Vaclaw Snyder. Since that time, Charles Jonas and Frederick Jonas have been sole publishers and editors of the Slavie. During the first year and a half of its existence the Slavie was the only Bohemian newspaper this side of the Atlantic; at the present day there are about twenty Bohemian papers issued in the United States, three of which are daily. The circulation of the Slavie has reached 3,200 copies. Since 1863, the size of the paper has been enlarged three times, and it now has eight pages, being printed on a sheet.

From the Slavie office were issued different other periodical publications, and also books. Among the first we mention the Amerikan, a weekly paper, devoted particularly to the wants of fresh Bohemian immigrants and settlers, which was started in April, 1872, soon reached a circulation of 1,200, but in December of the same year was sold and transferred to Nebraska. Among the books we mention the Dictionary of the English and Bohemian Languages, both parts written by Charles Jonas, and issued in June, 1876. It is a book of 1,200 pages, and is the first dictionary of those two languages ever published.

From a communication kindly furnished for the use of the writer, over the signature of S. P. Rounds, the following items are extracted:

"In reoard to my early history, the facts in brief are these: I served my apprenticeship in the offices of the Southport American and the Telegraph five years, then acted as foreman of the American, and Assistant Postmaster under Gov. L. P. Harvey, then graduated at his academy. Then went to Madison, Wis., and served as foreman for W. W. Wyman, and his son, late Treasurer of the United States, was my roller-boy. Then I went to Milwaukee, and set up the first type for the first daily paper in the State, the Sentinel, under Gen. King. Then I went to Racine, and was foreman of the Racine County Whig, established in the spring of 1846, by Edward Bliss, for two years. I had then worked at my trade nine years, but having an earnest desire to perfect myself as a first-class printer, I then went to Buffalo, and took a situation 'under instruction' in the job office of the Daily Commercial, by Jewett, Thomas & Co. Mr. Jewett was my relative, and offered me my choice to go into the news office at the highest salary then paid to printers - $9 per week - or go into the job office I 'under instruction,' at $3.50 per week. I chose the latter, and, after working at my trade for about two years, I 'graduated,' and Mr. Thomas, then the best printer in the country, pronounced me a 'thorough, first-class printer.' At this time, the great excitement of the Sons of Temperance prevailed and Mr. Bliss came down to Buffalo to see me, bringing with him a letter from Rev. A. C. Barry, who proposed to be the editor, and I bought the office of the Old Oaken Bucket, and came with it to Racine by the first boat, the 'Old Niagara,' in the spring, of, I think, 1849. The paper was printed and owned by the firm of Bliss & Rounds for the first year. Then I retired, taking the job office, and for a short time Bliss printed it; then Mr. Barry took it, until finally it all came back in my hands. The second or third year I was persuaded by Dr. B. B. Cary to go in with him and print also the Democratic Union, and finally to go to Milwaukee with him, where we bought out Luke Seaver and his Commercial Advertiser, now the Milwaukee News. I took the Old Oaken Bucket away and continued its publication at that city until the spring of 1851, when I sold it to Mr. Hyer, of Madison, who moved the publication office there, until it finally died at that place. After having, the entire mechanical operations of the Milwaukee office in my charge, and working night and day, I finally found the concern involved in debt, so that I proposed to give Dr. Cary my entire interest in the office, worth about $3,000, if he would give me his bond to pay all the debts; this he did, and I borrowed $5 and came to Chicago, and in December, 1851, 1 formed a partnership with James J. Langdon, who started my present business, which I have steadily prosecuted ever since.

"When I was at work as a 'devil' in Kenosha, I was the first person who stepped from the first pier ever built on Lake Michigan on the deck of a steamer, the Old Nile,' with a bundle of papers in my arms, which I sold out to the passengers in less than five minutes. At the time I worked for Bliss, in the Whig office, there was a bitter rivalry between that office and Bunner & Stafford's Advocate, beginning with the editors and extending down to the 'devils,' a constant warfare, and when the President's Message - I think Tyler's - came, both offices sent special messengers to Chicago (by coach), for copies. Our man played roots on the other one, who did not know there was 'another Richmond in the field,' or that our office had any one after the copy. So the other 'house,' thinking they had the only 'copy,' went to work very leisurely one Saturday night, getting it out. But we did have the copy. Bliss darkened all the windows of our office, got hold of an extra 'comp,' and all hands pitched in for dear life setting it up. The result was that, bright and early Sunday morning, we'uns had the Message out and around the town, while the Advocate folks got out theirs some time the next afternoon - a great victory! Edward Bliss died at Ogden, Utah, on his way home from California, two years ago. Most of the folks in Racine will remember one of our then printers, Bill McCartey; he followed me to Chicago, worked for me some sixteen years, and is now on his farm in Western Michigan."

The Racine County Whig was established by Edward Bliss, in the spring of 1846.

A paper called the Racine Express existed about 1852, but it appears not to have enjoyed much prominence, as nothing can be ascertained regarding its history.

The Racine Journal was established in the beginning of 1856, as a daily and weekly, by Hulett & Harrison. Subsequently, the firm changed to J. A. Carswell, Harrison & Co., and for a time John Hawkes conducted it. About 1861, it passed into the hands of Charles Clement, who discontinued the daily issue. In the spring of 1862, Mr. Clement disposed of the paper to Charles W. Fitch, who conducted the same as a Democratic sheet for two years, when it again reverted to Charles Clement, who changed its politics to Republican. A few months later, the establishment was purchased by Col. William L. Utley, who, after two years, associated with himself his son Hamilton. In January, 1874, the senior partner sold his interest to J. W. Starbuck, and the business was carried on under the firm of Utley & Starbuck. In February, 1875, Mr. Starbuck bought out Hamilton Utley, and has since remained sole proprietor. The Journal has been conducted as a Republican paper since 1865.

The Hyrde Stemmen, a Danish paper, was published in Racine, by Rev. Chr. Freider & C. Eltzholtz, in 1876, and in the fall of 1877 it was moved to Chicago.

The Dannebrog, also a Danish publication, was started by T. Sornson, in 1876. It was a campaign paper.

A paper called the Folkets Avis had a short career, and S. Cadwallader at one time published the Press.

A paper named the Daily Herald was published about 1867.

The Racine Independent was started in November, 1877, by the Wentworth Bros., who sold it to A. C. Arveson, and it died in April, 1879.

A sheet is published by the Racine College, known as the College Mercury, one of the neatest college papers in the United States.

A publication called the Ladies' Reporter figured in the history of Racine journalism in a very moderate degree.

The Son of Temperance was started in January 1877, by William R. Bloomfield, who conducted it one year, and sold out to, Levi K. Alden. The paper flourished for two years, and died for want of support. lt was the official organ of the Sons of Temperance.

The Daily Herald was started December 16, 1878, by Levi K. Alden & Co., and died April 24, 1879.

The Daily News was commenced April 25, 1879, by Levi K. Alden, editor and proprietor; C. W. Kemmes, associate. In politics it is independent.

The New Deal was started, by Col. William L. Utley as an organ of the Greenback party, June 1, 1878.

The Dansk-Luttursk Kirke Blad was started in August, 1877, agreeable to arrangements made by the Norwegian-Danish Conference. It is published by the Danish Pastors of that society, and edited by A. M. Andersen, Pastor of the Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran congregation of Racine. It is devoted to the interests of the Danish and Norwegian Lutherans of North America, among whom it circulates. At its beginning, it was a monthly paper, but since January, 1879, it has become a semi-monthly issue. It has a good circulation, and is quite prosperous.

The Racine Agriculturalist, edited by A. C. Fish and published by George S. Bliss, is devoted mainly to the interest of the farm and fireside, but the editorial pen keeps in mind the general reader.

About the year 1849, Dr. B. B. Cary commenced the publication of an eight-column weekly, called the Democratic Union. It was, of course, Democratic in politics, and presented a fine typographic appearance. The paper was the organ of the good old Doctor and his friends. He removed it to Milwaukee, in 1850. The paper was printed by S. P. Rounds, who also published a temperance paper, called the Old Oaken Bucket, which was edited by Rev. A. C. Barry, and was the organ of the Sons of Temperance of Wisconsin. It was printed in quarto form, double sheets, making sixteen pages. Its circulation extended over the entire State, for the temperance wave had visited every town, village and logging camp within its limits. Probably no more popular paper was ever published in the State, before or since.

The Commercial Advertiser, published first by Butterfield & Warren, was an eight-column paper, and the organ of the Whig party. It As purchased, in the fall of 1850, by Judge Willam R. Perry, who associated with him his son George in its publication. The Judge had friends at Washington, and received a large amount of advertising patronage from the Administration of President Fillmore, in the shape of advertising of mail lettings and land sales. They were the "fattest takes," as the printers say, ever enjoyed by any paper in Racine, but they were cut off by the election of a Democratic President in 1852, and the paper was discontinued. Judge Perry was a gentleman of the old school. After engaging in the book business in Milwaukee for several years, he removed to Superior City, on Lake Superior, where he died in the year 1878, at a ripe old age. His son George survives him alone of all his children, and is a lawyer of high repute.

The Wiseonsin Farmer was published by Mark Miller, and gained an extensive circulation. He removed to Janesville, and afterward to Madison. The Farmer was a fine specimen of typography for those days, and was finely illustrated by engravings made by Mr. Miller himself, who was no mean artist.

It may be well to call to mind that there was no such machine as a "power press" of any kind in Racine in the year 1850. Everything was done by hand. S. P. Rounds, who had spent two years in the office of the Buffalo Commercial Advertiser, astonished the people by printing some large cards in different colored inks. A small card, about the size of a half sheet letter, for J. I. Case, which had a line shaded with gold-leaf, was a special marvel among all the printer boys, who looked up to "Sterl," as they called Mr. Rounds, as though he was little less to be revered than old Ben Franklin.

German Newspapers

The Wisconsin Rode, published by Kohlmann Bros., in 1850, existed one year, and is the first German journal we have any account of in Racine. The Racine County Demokrat, edited by one Bauer, and published by Kohlmann Bros., only lived a few weeks. Then came the Racine Volksblatt, first published in 1855, by one Erdmann, who was succeeded by Henry F. Hillgard, at which time the paper bore the name of A. Winter & Co., as publishers. Under the latter arrangement it only existed one month. At this period, Samuel Ritchie became interested in the paper, with Mr. Winter, and subsequently was its sole proprietor. From 1859-60, it was issued daily and weekly. About the same time, the National Demokrat made its appearance, being published by C. Lohmann, with whom M. Grahl was in some way interested. It finally passed into the hands of Fred Krahe and went out of existence after about one year.

The Wisconsin Volksblatt, published by A. Winter, lived three months. In 1860, a paper was started, called the Volksfreund, to which, Rev. F. H. Sailer, a Catholic Priest, was a liberal contributor of poetry; it lasted until 1863. The Omnibus, published by Henry Bonn, was started in 1869, and lived some thirteen months. The last German journal published by Ludwig Schramm, and named the Racine Post, came out in 1876, and was discontinued after nine months.