Brief History of The Mount Pleasant News

Fifty-four years ago, January 2, 1892, this writer became a newspaper publisher. We think that of the contemporary business and professional men active on that date, all have passed on or retired from active business with the exception of Mr. Will Dyall, still active and efficient in his line, photography.

On the above date, after a few months as an advertising solicitor on that old and splendid morning daily, the Burlington Hawkeye, we purchased the Evening News of this community which since the spring of 1878 has been published without interruption, almost 68 years. The paper was started by Charles Morehous, who for some time previously had been employed on the early weekly newspapers, The Observer, Home Journal and Free Press. The paper was first called the Evening Reporter and later changed to the News. It has changed ownership but three times. In the fall of 1883 Mr. Morehous sold the Reporter to Mr. T.M. McAdam, a lawyer of the community, who after a few months sold the paper to R.C. and W.E. Brown and a year later Mr. Morehous again became the owner. And on Jan. 2, 1892, he sold the paper to this writer. And the price? $800.00.

In going over some of the old records of our first years as publisher of the paper, we were almost bewildered by the picture conjured up by those old facts and figures. We note that the office rent was $5,00 per month. Heat was by the old stoves of the day; water was brought into the shop by the bucket; illumination was by the old gas jets.

The only piece of machinery was an old Washington hand press, an exact duplicate of which is now guarded in the office as a museum item. The publishing force consisted of this writer, Ed. Whitney, foreman, salary $6.00 per week, and two hand compositors, Newt Strawn and Oscar Sanquist, who pulled down $3.00 per week each, and pay for overtime was unheard of in those days.

When we took over the paper it was located on the third story of a building adjacent to the former Waugh Drug store, and now part of the Hoaglin department store. However, after a few weeks, the paper was moved to the second floor of what is now also part of the Hoaglin store and reached by the present stairway, which at the time reached the ground floor at the street. The News occupied the front room north of the stairs and on the south side of the east half of the space was the office of Doctor George E. Smith, and the rear portion of the same was the telephone office with Miss Ida Davis as operator.

We started out on a rather low level of volume of business and less of experience, but as ignorance is bliss, we were very happy. the subscription was under 200. In those days paper was bought by the quire ,25 sheets, and we printed 8 quire, which supplied the subscribers, exchanges, files and extras. There were four carrier boys who were paid $1.00 per week and there was always a waiting list.

Figures for our first month are rather sketchy but we note that our second month showed an encouraging increase in income from the first month. We were evidently getting our teeth into the business. In February the income from the daily was the gratifying $77.30; the weekly $5.75 and advertising had jumped up to a total of $96.74. The following April, however, was reactionary, a slump we might say, for the income from the daily was but $26.70.

In 1898 [?] a panic swept over the country, but we were still young and unsophisticated and it meant nothing to us. We did not know the difference between a panic, a panacea, or a pancake. Indeed the spring of the next year we defied economic dislocation by adding to our responsibilities a bride.

She, too, was unsophisticated as to the past, present, and future tenses of the publishing business. So we made a fine pair of Babes in Wonderland. But youth is adventurous and usually finds a path out into the open. And we did, even if it was the hard way.

Those old record books spell out the true story of a half century and over of newspaper publishing. Those fading pages conceal nothing, reveal everything. They tell the story as honestly as the printed pages of the paper tell the story of the community in which the paper is published, and that, too, is a good story, the story of a good community.

-- "Bystander's Notes" by Charles S. Rogers, Publisher-Editor of The News [weekly newspaper published in Mt. Pleasant, IA] January 4, 1946 p. 2

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