The Gilded Age Press, 1865-1900

By Ted Curtis Smythe | Go to book overview

3

Rural and Regional Journalism, 1865-1882

The weekly press increased faster than the dailies in the United States, for towns, counties, and townships were popping up all over the country, especially in the West. The western press encompassed a large territory with vastly different stages of development. What was true of small cities in the Midwest, with its growing population, relatively easy access to major cities, well-established governments, and established lines of transportation, was not true of most areas west of the Mississippi. Much of the West still lacked statehood. Political efforts in the territories were directed toward pacifying Indians and achieving statehood. To accomplish both goals, territories needed population. Publishers, as did land speculators, bankers, and railroad executives, promoted population growth. They needed one another.

The expansion of the West attracted newspapers to those areas in which growth was expected. When growth failed to materialize or was delayed, the newspaper was sure to fail. In Washington territory twenty-five newspapers were founded during the 1860s. Only one of them lasted long enough to announce statehood in 1889. 1

Western weeklies were started for a multitude of reasons, some of which were political, but most of them were started to promote the community in which they were published. A town's success in attracting settlers assured the success of local merchants as well as the newspaper. In fact, most western newspapers were nonpartisan, at least until someone started a competitor in the same or nearby community, in which case the new editor might attempt to differentiate his newspaper through political orientation. 2

Eugene Virgil Smalley, who traveled the region for a railroad magazine, noted the change from antebellum journalism. He had started in journalism in 1854 as an apprentice and, over the years, had worked on many newspapers.

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