Chesterton Tribune

Chesterton Tribune marks 125 years as community newspaper

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This week the Chesterton Tribune adds “125 Years Ago” to the Echoes of the Past column. Volume 1, No. 1 came off the press 125 years ago this week. Today’s issue begins Volume 126.

The first edition of the current Chesterton Tribune, Bowser & Watson publishers, was dated April 2, 1884.

It was eight pages including preprinted pages of national news. Newsy columns were headed Local Items, Hageman Items, Crisman Items, Salt Creek Items, Furnessville Items and Valparaiso Items.

The editor was Valparaiso-native Arthur J. Bowser, who had packed his wife and new baby in a wagon for the four-hour trip to Chesterton after being approached by Chesterton business owners to run a community newspaper.

The Washington handpress that was used to print each edition limited the first issues of the paper to four-page sections.

By the 1890s the paper was published every Saturday, had seven columns of print, and ran to eight pages in length. Each issue was packed with serious news but also contained serials, religious material, and reports of social events, such as dinner visits and travels to distant cities, in the “about the country” column.

In April 1896 the Chesterton and Porter editions of the Tribune were merged, and the combined journal was renamed the Westchester Tribune in hopes that the name change would reflect the townshipwide interest of the paper.

Bowser was forced to change the title back to the Chesterton Tribune in November 1897, however, because the post office would not renew the postal permit with the new name.

Bowser actively participated in the community. He was born in Valparaiso and graduated from the Northern Indiana Normal School (later renamed Valparaiso University). He became the reading clerk for the Indiana senate in 1899, served on the Porter County Council, and won election to the state senate, serving in 1907 and 1909. He belonged to several local social societies and led the fight for better roads, zoning regulations, and the incorporation of the town of Chesterton. He also helped organize the town’s first permanent police force and fire department.

Before America’s entry into the First World War the number of columns shrank by one, and the price rose from its 1884 price of $1.50 a year to $2.00 a year.

In 1904, following the disastrous downtown fire of 1902, Bowser built the brick building on Calumet Road which is the current location of the Tribune.

Early newspapers were set by hand one letter at a time by skilled typesetters.

In 1907 Bowser purchased a linotype which was powered by a Fairbanks Morse gas engine. The machine allowed type to be cast from molten lead one line at a time. The lead could be recycled into new type each week as needed.

Bowser’s health began to fail during the last year of World War I, and he leased the journal to John G. Graessle, the head printer of the Tribune since 1894. A little more than a year later, in December 1919, C. Galen Chaney took over for Graessle, who was fulfilling the duties of county treasurer. Four years later Graessle acquired the Tribune from Bowser, and he continued to publish the weekly until his death in February 1928. Graessle’s widow, Cora, sold the paper ten months later to Warren R. Canright.

During the Graessle and Chaney era the publication day was moved to Thursdays. During the 1920s the paper’s editors opposed the Ku Klux Klan and argued for various municipal reforms.

At the age of thirteen Canright started his newspaper career as a printer’s devil at the East Troy (Wis.) News, a job that required keeping the printing area tidy and the fires for the presses hot.

He attended Lawrence College, working his way through as a reporter for the Appleton Daily Post and as the editor of his college newspaper.

After receiving his bachelor’s degree in 1917 he joined the United States Army. After World War I ended he worked as a Linotype operator for the Chicago Tribune and married Phyllis Post, an area schoolteacher. Three years after their marriage, the couple decided to buy a small-town newspaper, and the only one available in their price range was the Chesterton Tribune.

Once in town, Canright, like his predecessors, became deeply involved in the community, becoming president of the park board, a member of the planning commission, president of the chamber of commerce, and an active member of both the Red Cross and the local Boy Scouts.

Almost immediately after Canright purchased the weekly the stock market crashed, and America descended into the Great Depression. Times were tough financially, and the publisher bartered for products when he needed to and had to cut the hours of full-time staff. Phyllis Canright worked as a messenger and ran errands so that Warren could operate the presses. The price for a year’s subscription remained at $2.00, but the number of columns increased to seven.

During World War II Canright sent a free copy of the Tribune to all Chesterton and Porter soldiers. The GIs who read the weekly kept up on who had visited whom and which neighbors had gotten married. They also read about Sunday sermons as well as other local and national items. Meanwhile, the folks back home kept up with the duty assignments of soldiers in the “With the Boys in Uniform” column.

When the war ended the weekly grew to sixteen pages and carried syndicated columnists. The Canrights purchased a newer Linotype machine in 1944 and an automatic job press a year later. The town of Porter continued to have its own page.

In 1950 Canright purchased a new folder machine, and three years later he bought a seventy-five-year-old Miehle cylinder press to take the place of a Campbell press acquired in 1907. At the same time Canright remodeled the basement of the Tribune building to make it into a pressroom. In 1955 the paper began using a Goss Duplex eight-page web-feed press that allowed the company to print and fold four-to-eight-page sections in one operation; the press continued to be used until 1970.

Canright’s sons, Warren H. and John E., joined their father in the business after World War II. Both men had begun to work at the paper from an early age, Warren H. beginning at age ten and John starting at age eight. Both the Canright sons had graduated from Indiana University’s Department of Journalism.

In April 1961, in an era when many newspapers were either folding or shortening their publication schedules, the Chesterton Tribune changed from a weekly to a daily, a move so out of step with the times it garnered a mention by Time magazine. Home delivery was started with young carriers in the towns and motor route drivers in rural areas. The delivery area was eventually established as the Duneland School district.

In 1970 the Tribune switched to an offset printing process, the first paper in the county to do so. Six years later the brothers bought a new unit for the Goss Community Offset Press, which allowed the paper to publish as many as twelve pages in each section.

After 1976 each issue contained six columns of print space and ran from eight to fourteen pages. The excellent work of the paper’s writers and editors was acknowledged during the 1980s by both the Hoosier Press Association and journalism’s honorary fraternity. In 1981 John sold his interest in the family business to his brother and to his sister-in-law, Elizabeth.

In 2009 Warren H. and Elizabeth Canright publish the Tribune daily, and their oldest son, David, is the managing editor. His wife Margaret Willis is photo editor.

National news, sports and photographs are available through the Tribune’s membership in the Associated Press.

In 1884 Bowser’s focus was printing news by, for and about local residents. In 2009 that mission remains the same.

Reporters Vicki Urbanik, Kevin Nevers, Paulene Poparad, Alexandra Newman and Sports Editor TR Harlan continue the 125 year tradition of covering the news residents need to be effective citizens and parents.


Not the first Trib in Chesterton

It was not the first time a newspaper was published in Chesterton. Vol. 1, No. 1 of the first Chesterton Tribune was dated October 28, 1882, W.W. Mikels editor. Only a few issues of that first paper still exist. Some are at the Tribune office and some are in the archives of the Westchester Township History Museum. By issue No. 10, Mikels is no longer listed as editor.

That version of the paper said it advocated the principles of the national Greenback Party. The latest issue found is dated June 21, 1983 and the front page is missing. Editor is Dr. G. H. Riley.

Tribune founder A.J. Bowser’s description of the previous attempt to publish a newspaper was this: “The business men of Chesterton decided they wanted a newspaper for the village. They organized themselves into a stock company, hired an editor from Bourbon, Ind., some printers, and bought a printing plant consisting of a Washington hand press, a little jobber and a few fonts of type. The Bourbon editor lasted a few weeks and then faded out of the picture. Dr. Riley and Prof. Phares came to the rescue and between them made the Tribune a very live paper. The venture lasted nine months and then expired for lack of financial support.”



Posted 4/1/2009