updated 03/10/07

Allamakee co. Newspaper

The earliest Allamakee county newspapers

Lansing Intelligencer was begun under the direction of the veteran H.H. HOUGHTON of Galena, Ill., November 23, 1852, as the first paper in the state north of Dubuque.

HOUGHTON's editor, W.H. SUMNER, an able writer, died soon after and was replaced by H.R. CHATTERTON whose editorial brilliance proved apt to be dimmed by too frequent visits to the barroom. The two printers whom SUMNER had hired, Tom BUTLER and Joe TAYLOR, the latter a negro, left the plant.

In 1860 we find the paper, now called the Mirror, ekeing out a sickly existence. Two boys who did the printing and most of the other work seldom were paid enough to settle their laundry bills. The town politicians gathered round the office stove and "cluttered up" the office. An occasional issue was missed for want of paper, since it was all home print. The circulation was about 350.

Frank PEASE, a clever dandy who did most of the writing during the winter of 1860, was followed by Stephen W. SMITH, whose proper place was in the print shop. Charles SMITH, a carpenter by trade, took up typesetting and aided him. The sheet finally died in 1861. The material was stored in an old warehouse and for some months Lansing was without a paper.

In the fall of 1863, George HAISLETT bought the outfit. He called his Republican paper the Union and managed to support it until 1866. In February of that year, T.C. MEDARY and F.P. PRICE bought it, changing the name to Mirror again. Though the Union had struggled in a losing fight because of the same party affiliations, this paper flourished. MEDARY sold out in 1870 to James T. METCALF and his son for $1,200, though his price to HAISLETT had been only $500 four years before.

Waukon Journal was the second paper in the county. Free Soil like its contemporary, it was issued first in the spring of 1857 by Frank BELFOY, who soon disposed of it to Frank PEASE. PEASE changed the name to the Allamakee Herald and its politics to those of the Democratic party. The first issue appeared February 26, 1857, a six-column folio. After M.M. WEBSTER and R.K. SMITH had been connected with it for a time, the paper was discontinued in May, 1859, and not revived until August.

T.H. EcELROY and PARKER took charge then and began the first Democratic paper in Lansing, the Northwestern Democrat. Their first issue appeared in February, 1861, and contained the longest tax list ever published in the county -- amounting to $800. The editors had to buy 300 pounds of new long primer type in order to set it. Since it was financially unsuccessful, the Democrat was taken over by creditors in 1862.

C. LOHMAN bought the material after a year of suspension, and began the Lansing Argus. After a few months, he moved the plant to Wisconsin, under cover of darkness and a mortgage.

Waukon Transcript was being published in 1857.

North Iowa Journal was begun as a Republican journal by E.L. BABBITT and W.H. MERRILL May 29, 1860, in Waukon. After several changes of ownership and a temporary suspension in April, 1862, the office was moved to Lansing by Charles COLE, Democrat. He published the sheet there beginning in March, 1863, and sold to John G. ARMSTRONG in 1864. Armstrong continued it for three years, still as a Democratic organ. TAYLOR and HAISLETT bought the paper and continued it as an Independent journal named the Chronicle until they were burned out in 1871.

Waukon Standard first appeared January 9, 1868, under Charles W. McDONALD, who sold out after three months to R.L. HAYWARD and A.M. MAY. The latter continued it for thirty-three years as a Republican, family paper. HAYWARD sold his interest to his partner in March, 1869, and during the next year, MAY assumed entire control.

Allamakee Democrat was begun by R.V. SHURLEY in Lansing in the summer of 1870. He sold out after a year.


Allamakee county Newspapers in 1860

Lansing Mirror, Lansing, Republican in character, publisher H.R. Chatterton

North Iowa Journal, Waukon, Republican journal, publishers E.L. Babbitt & W.H. Merrill

Waukon Transcript, Waukon, Democratic in character, publisher T.H. McElroy


Allamakee Journal 1880-1980
by Elnora J. Robey

Allamakee Journal Office in Lansing
Allamakee Journal Office in Lansing

When the presses roll on Jan. 23, 1980, the Allamakee Journal will be in its second century. That's a unique achievement in Allamakee County, where it would take longer to read the list of newspapers that have been published than many of the papers lasted. Moreover, the Journal has been owned and edited by Dunlevys for its entire history.

The Journal's anniversary issue will focus on progress in the area's businesses, churches and schools. "We're not going to brag about ourselves," John Dunlevy says. "The story of the paper is the story of the community." A study of its files shows the Journal has been a hometown booster for three generations.

John J. Dunlevy
John J. Dunlevy
first Generation
Three Generations of

Joe Dunlevy, 2nd generation
Joe Dunlevy
second generation
John R. Dunlevy, 3rd generation
John R. Dunlevy
third generation

During the first generation this meant being a two-town booster, for Tom lived in Waukon and edited its news, while John ran the plant in Lansing.

Modesty has also been a Dunlevy trait. Joe, who kept the Journal going during times when it was common for weeklies to fail, merge or sell out, says, "I enjoyed newspaper work, but I was never a writer or an editor. "Oh, I could proofread. Let's say I was a general handyman. I was a poor mechanic, but I could feed the press. Bob was the pressman. He's a good man." Bob Kious, who has been pressman for 22 years, says Joe "taught me. He's super."

Bob Kious
Bob Kious, pressman for 22 years at the Allamakee Journal, operates a 1910 Linotype

Today being Journal pressman means supervising the backroom and running the job presses, since the paper, like those of 10 other towns in the area, is printed at Graphics Inc., in Calmar.

The Journal's l00-year-old press was removed in 1972 to make space for a darkroom. Much of the darkroom work is done by Dawn Holt. Arty Sanderson operates the typesetter, and Edie Hogan is the bookkeeper. Wednesday has always been press day at the Journal. That day, the pasted-up pages go 50 miles to Calmar by 8 a.m., and by 11:40 a.m. the first papers are ready for the Lansing Post Office.

John J. and Thomas Dunlevy learned their trade as apprentices, printer's devils they were called, John in Lansing and Tom in Dubuque.

They were born in Illinois, but went to Texas with their mother after their father died when John was 4 and Tom 2. Mrs. Dunlevy married Thomas Healey, a teacher. The family moved to New Orleans when the Civil War broke out. The boys sold papers. But Tom, coached by Healey, won an oratorical contest and was rewarded with a job as a messenger in the city library. He earned $30 a month, which was much more than a school teacher earned at that time. The family came north in 1864, and Healey began teaching in Lansing. John, 11, went to Prairie du Chien in 1865, passed a teacher's examination and for six months taught at Roache School on Buck Creek near Ferryville. It was after that he became a printer's devil for T.C. Medary.

John married Jeanette McGarrity, a school teacher, in Lansing in 1877. The next year the brothers went to Grand Meadow, Minn., where they operated a paper for 15 months. Tom married Estella Cary there in November 1879. They returned to Lansing and published the first issue of the Lansing Journal on Jan. 21, 1880.

The courthouse had been located briefly in Lansing, but it and all the news and business it generated seemed settled in Waukon. So in 1882, Tom Dunlevy moved his family to Waukon and the name of the paper was changed to the Allamakee Journal. Tom gathered the Waukon material, set the type in galleys, locked them and shipped them by train to Waukon Junction, and then north to Lansing. John ran the Lansing plant upstairs across the street from its present building, where it has been since 1922. The first building was gutted by fire, but was rebuilt in 1885. The paper was also located for a time in a building across the street.

Looking back in 1934, John J. Dunlevy wrote that much of the success of the Journal was due to the Waukon branch and to always seeking to advance the best interests of both communities.

In 1922, the Dunlevys bought the 70-year-old Mirror. They also bought the subscription lists of at least two short-lived New Albin papers. It is still common to hear the Journal referred to as "the county paper." But about a third of its subscribers live outside the county, indicating a loyalty on the part of former residents as well as an interest in it on the part of people who come to Lansing for recreation.

John R. Dunlevy sees the community's recreation resources as an asset for the paper. Looking into the Journal's second century, he says the paper's future depends upon what happens to the town, since a paper needs both subscribers and advertisers. Considering the ratio of local subscribers to population, the Journal has no complaint. Acquisition of the Livewire, a shopper, three years ago, improved the advertising situation. The Journal has reflected dominant community interests. The founders were interested in politics in a time when even small towns tried to have both Republican and Democratic newspapers. The Dunlevys were Democrats. Their political comments made lively reading into the '30s. In recent years, controversial issues are more likely to be raised in letters to the editor.

Joe sees the Black Hawk Bridge as probably the paper's biggest story. It was both a progress and a conflict story, and it came at a time when partisan politics in weekly newspapers began to go out of fashion. First, there was the struggle to sell stock in the bridge -- the Dunlevys bought the first $1,000 worth -- then the drama of the construction and the glamorous opening in 1931, followed closely by years of battle between rival groups of stockholders, a disastrous ice jam that closed the bridge and the years of struggle to reopen it. The biggest event of Joe's time was the Piccard balloon descent south of Lansing. "We even got a call from London on that," he says. "The first report we had was from a fellow in Lafayette Township who announced, 'They found Amelia Earhart.'"

During the '50s and '60s, business remodeling, school building and church renovation stories were common. A major event was the 1969 opening of the industrial park, including a new Lansing Co. plant and a Northern Engraving Co. plant. At the same time expansion of Kerndt Bank and Brown Department Store and other remodeling and building in the city made the Journal predict spectacular growth in population and economy -- a growth that has not occurred yet.

What the editions of the '70s show is an expanded community awareness. Local people organized and built Thornton Manor Nursing Home; the Journal has a weekly column of news from there. It also has a weekly school newspaper page.

When John exchanged a career as a Spanish teacher for full-time newspaper work 10 years ago, he found a wealth of material awaiting his camera and pen. Like his cousin, Thomas Mark, who worked on the paper from 1949 to 1951, he is a hunter and fisherman. Articles relating to outdoor recreation are a distinctive element in the paper's personality.

And for the more distant future, John and his wife, Frederica, have a daughter, Margaret, and a son, David. So more Dunlevys are waiting in the wings.

Source: La Crosse Tribune, La Crosse, Wisconsin, January 10, 1980
Transcribed by Errin Wilker


Allamakee county Newspapers in 1884

Lansing, Lansing Mirror, Weekly News & politics, est. 1852
Lansing, Lansing Journal, Weekly News & politics, est. 1880
New Albin, Spectator, Weekly News & politics, est. 1879, Suspended March, 1880
Postville, Postville Review, Weekly News & politics, est. 1873
Waukon, Waukon Standard, Weekly News & politics, est. 1868
Waukon, Waukon Democrat, Weekly News & politics, est. 1877


Allamakee county Newspapers in 1916

Allamakee Journal, weekly on Wednesday, Democratic, Lansing, Dunlevy Bros. Ed. & publishers.

Lansing Mirror, weekly on Friday, Republican, Lansing, Geo. W. Metcalf, Ed.

New Albin News, weekly on Thursday, Republican, New Albin, Ludwig Schubbert, Ed.

Iowa Volksblatt, weekly on Friday, independant, Postville, Ronneburger & Klingbell, Ed. & publishers.

Postville Review, weekly on Friday, Republican, Postville, Burt E. Tuttle, Ed.

Waukon Democrat, weekly on Wednesday, Democratic, Waukon, Edgar F. Medary, Ed.

Waukon Republican, weekly on Wednesday, Republican, Waukon, A.P. Bock, Ed.

Waukon Standard, weekly on Thursday, Republican, Waukon, W.R. Dutton, Ed.


Unless otherwise credited, this data was compiled by Sharyl Ferrall for Allamakee county IAGenWeb, from the following sources:
-The Iowa State Almanac and Statistical Register; 1860
-Notes on the History of Iowa Newspapers, 1836-1870;
by Katherine Young Macy; University of Iowa Extension Bulletin, July 1, 1927.
-History and Present Condition of the Newspaper and Periodical Press of the United States, with a Catalogue of the Publications of the Census Year, by S.N.D. North, Special Agent; Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C.; 1884
-Iowa Official Register, 1915/1916

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