Chesterton Tribune

Historical Society hears history of newspapers from Tribune publisher

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The Duneland Historical Society had its fall dinner meeting Thursday night at the Westchester Library Service Center. The speaker of the evening was Warren Canright, publisher of the Chesterton Tribune, who spoke on early newspapers particularly in Porter County and Chesterton. Before the program the group enjoyed a delicious meal catered by Dawn’s Catering Service.

The next meeting of the society will be November 21 at 7:30 p.m. at the Westchester Library Service Center. The program will be Clarence “Chuck” Rivers appearing as Monsieur Joseph Bailly.

Election of officers for 2003 will take place at the November meeting. On the slate are Betty Canright, president; Eva Hopkins, first vice president; Joan Costello, second vice president/program; Sandra Shrader, membership secretary; Fran Meyer, recording secretary; Marilyn Cook, treasurer; Audrey Lipinski, corresponding secretary; and Ascher Yates, Nancy Hokanson, Dorothy Weidman Meyers, Nancy Vaillancourt, Bertha Still and Jane Walsh-Brown, board members.

Canright spoke briefly about the development of printing because until 1440 when Johnnes Gutenberg began to make moveable type printing of books and newspapers was not practical.

He showed pictures taken at Williamsburg, Va. of colonial printers making their own paper and printing on the same type of press Gutenberg used several hundred years before.

In the early 1800s the Gutenberg press was developed into the Washington Hand press which spread throughout the country to newspapers and printing shops. The Richard Hoe company made that press but also developed rotary presses which made it possible to have larger newspapers with bigger circulations. At the same time flat bed cylindar presses were developed and put into use by smaller newspapers.

Given credit for being the first newspaper in Boston was Publick Occurences both Foreign and Domestick in 1690. It lasted one issue before its publisher was run out of town. Later by 1721 James Franklin who employed his brother Ben as a printer began the New Endland Courant. By the Revolutionary War there were 35 papers being published in what would become the United States.

The printing of papers was still limited because of setting the reading matter by had. As an example of papers’ limitations the speaker used his great uncle Charles Canright as an example. His uncle would go to work to a Milwaukee newspaper early in the morning and set 3 or 4 columns of type. He would take an extended lunch break and then go back in the late afternoon to distribute his type back into the case.

The pleas of printers for a better way of doing it was answered in 1884 went Ottmar Merganthaler invited the linotype, and printers and newspapers began immediately to buy the machines.

Newspapers came to Porter County in 1842 when James Castle began the Weekly Republican set by hand and printed on a Washington Hand Press. Canright noted Porter County’s population was only 2200 so the paper’s subscription list could have been as small as 100. Like often happened with early papers, Castle gave up and sold to William Harrison, a democrat, who named the paper the Western Range. Harrison soon took in William Talcott as a partner. They were an odd couple. Harrison, the Democrat and Talcott, a Whig, signed their articles so readers knew what point of view they were getting.

By 1849 Talcott was the sole owner. He named it the Valparaiso Practical Observer. The paper expanded in a time. A lot was happening in the country and people were hungry for news. The paper grew to be published in single sheet form on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday plus the Thursday Weekly. Subscribers got the whole bunch for $5.00 a year. Talcott began to point the county toward Republican.

In 1857 Dr. R. A. Cameron bought the paper and called it the Republican. It was soon called the Republic. He was in and out of the paper until he went off to the Civil War and the paper was shut down.

Canright said Cameron returned in 1866 and restarted the paper maybe to have something to sell to get his investment out of it. In the meantime the Vidette was begun and Cameron soon sold out. The paper was the Vidette-Republic and soon the Republic disappeared from the name.

There were a number of other papers by names of Herald, Star, Democrat and Advertiser, but the most significant was the Messenger begun by Englebert Zimmerman. It was a democrat paper and it and the Vidette continued until they combined in 1927 to become the Vidette-Messenger.

In March of 1884, a group of Chesterton businessmen who had attempted to start and run a Chesterton Tribune, contacted Arthur Bowser, a 21-year-old reporter with the Vidette. They got Bowser and a Chesterton lawyer to take over the equipment for $800 at 8% and a pay when you can deal.

Canright told of Bowser’s remembrance of the four hour trip to Chesterton by wagon with his wordly goods, wife and 3-week old child.

As a feature for the Tribune’s 50th anniversary, Bowser remembered his disappointment with the shop. A rusty press, type covered with stale refreshments from the many dances which had been held in the room. He finally got things cleaned up and an issue ready to print for April 2, 1884. His paper was at the Express office C.O.D. and the business was out of cash. (Canright said ready print was paper printed with pages 2, 3, 6 and 7 that the early publisher could print their local news on the blank back sides.) The Tribune was saved when the owner of what would become Bartels hardware came in and placed an ad for a Flying Dutchman plow and paid cash.

Canright showed a picture of the ad. It was smaller than the birthday ads which run in the present paper, but the money saved the day. Bowser wrote a little homily in the first issue in which, among other things, he said the paper was here to stay.

It was tough going. Bowser said there were only 101 dwellings in Chesterton-Porter and some he described as brickyard shacks. After a year he wrote each issue cost $35.00 to produce and he wasn’t doing enough to make a living. He probably did job printing to get by.

Canright showed the old papers. Small type and no big headlines. Everything run in long columns which mixed together social news amongst what would not be headline news, legal notices, and obituaries. Bowser gathered his news by recruiting correspondents in all of the rural communities. So the paper contained columns from Crisman, McCool, Salt Creek Porter, Chesterton, Furnessville and Burdick to name a few.

In 1888 the paper moved twice into different buildings on Broadway. Canright showed a picture of the Chesterton State Bank and Mrs. Young’s bakery as they looked in the 1930s as places where the paper was located.

Finally the paper was settled. A new press was purchased for $1000. Bowser pleaded with subscribers to pay up or pay in advance to help him pay for the machine. He also bought a small steam engine to power the press.

Bowser from the start was ever a promoter. In the late 1880s he enticed Chicago developers to plat into lots what is now Chesterton west of eighth street. Train excursions were run on weekends and lots were sold in what was to be additions to the yet unincorporated Porter.

A panic (recession) ended it. Bowser made a try to revive it by building the Tribune building on Porter Ave. just west of 15th street and published a Porter Tribune from there. He linked his two offices with the town’s first telephone line. Postal regulations put an end to the enterprise. Canright showed a picture of the building which some in attendance remembered.

In 1902 Chesterton’s business district on the east side of Calumet road burned down. Bowser immediately announced he would build a building on Calumet and he did—the present building. The paper moved in 1904 and by 1905 had a press purchased from the LaPorte Herald which printed the Tribune until 1952.

Bowser promised in print that as soon as he had paid off the $4000 6% debt on the building he would buy a linotype. Canright showed pictures of the 1905 Chesterton baseball team and the Tribune cornet band. By 1907 the Tribune had its linotype which was in use until into the 1960s. The paper bought a Fairbanks Morse gasoline engine to power it and the press.

In 1894 Bowser hired John G. (Jack) Graessle to come to the Tribune. He became its production manager, and when Bowser was gone, he was the man in charge.

Canright said this made it possible for Bowser to be away from the business (which he often was) and in 1906 he became Joint Senator representing Lake and Porter counties in the Indiana Senate. Bowser’s work in the Senate made possible U.S. Steel coming to Gary.

Canright showed a picture from 1910 of the Tribune’s staff and back room. In the picture besides Graessle is Ed Lee, the first linotype operator and great grandfather of David Tucker, the Tribune’s present press operator.

Things went well for the business, job printing boomed as the towns grew. In 1919 Bowser was in ill health. He intended to sell to Graessle, but he was elected county treasurer and moved to Valparaiso. The paper was leased to C. G. Cheney with Bowser kind of watching over it. In 1923 Greassle bought the paper. He still had a year on his treasurer term but said he had long wanted to own the paper and he would for a year pay attention to the paper and the county job.

Greassle ran the paper successfully until early 1928 when he died. His widow Cora was left with the paper and a young daughter, Mona. Cora kept the paper going with her staff which included Burdette (Red) Slater, Marion Weimann, Harlan Bedenkop and Clara Nelson. By December 1928, Warren and Phyllis Canright bought the paper and moved to town with their 2 and half year old son, Warren Hayden.

Canright told of the difficult years his parents had after the stock market crash in 1929. Slater went to Westville to the Indicator, Bedenkop eventually went to the News-Dispatch and Weimann worked part time at the Tribune, at Westville and with his own paper in Valparaiso.

Things got better as the war clouds gathered over Europe and the area steel mills and railroads began to hum and it was at that point Canright ended his talk and answered questions.


Posted 10/23/2002