Colorful Journalism in Fort Wayne; A continuation of Herbert G. Bredemeier’s story that he delivered before the Fort Wayne Quest Club on January 28, 1966: Settlers who had come from newspaper-endowed cities in the east brought their reading habit with them to the Western frontier (Indiana). The decentralized political system, with a constant round of local, county and state elections, created a demand for news, notes and arguments on public affairs. Merchants and speculators were anxious to have a means of advertising moreover, the position of a newspaper gave a township a certain consequence, important to lawyers, would be legislators, bankers and builders who had a stake in Fort Wayne’s growth. Civic leaders were thus ready, in fact eager, to encourage the establishment of local newspapers.
Although French trappers and traders were within the present limits of Indiana as early as 1679, the Indians were not disturbed too much until the later part of the eighteenth century. The Indiana territory was created in 1800 and Indiana became a state in 1816. By 1810 about one-third of the present state was under the control of whites and by 1830 two-thirds. A large population surge began in 1838 and after that the northern part of the state continued to receive a large influx of new inhabitants. In 1800 Indiana had less than 5,000 inhabitants, but by 1830 that number had increased to more than 243,000. The path of the reporter-printer-editor corresponds roughly to the moving frontier line. Before 1810 there was just one newspaper in the territory at Vincennes. By 1830 there were 15 more towns in the southern two-thirds of the state that had printing presses. When one considers the difficulties of getting a printing press, paper, ink and type hauled into the territory, as well as the small number of people who could read or afford to buy a newspaper or the things advertised in it, it is amazing that there were as many printers as there were. These reporter-editor-printers, certainly had great faith in the future of Indiana.
The pioneer editor and printer was a hardy soul, and he had to be a very ingenious type of individual. The scarcity of news was always a problem. Many an editor excused the lack of regular publication by saying the mails had been delayed or perhaps that unseasonable weather, swollen streams, and etc. had forced the delay in delivery of eastern newspapers from which his national news articles depended on. Lack of financial support was always a problem. It is no wonder then that many a pioneer editor and printer, if he could not make a living in one place, might try another. After one knows the predominantly political function of many early newspapers, it is not surprising that some editors ended their days as lawyers, mayors, postmasters and congressmen. G.W. Wood, publisher and editor of the Fort Wayne Times, for example, was elected mayor in 1836.
The early newspapers were all similar in format, problems and content. There usually were four pages with three to five columns to the page. They were printed on hand presses on full rag paper. Hand rollers were used to distribute the ink and the finished paper was no more than a proof sheet of the handset forms. Sometimes ink was put on with balls made of dressed deerskin stuffed with wool, which when out of use were kept soft by the application of raccoon oil. To be continued…
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