Muscatine County, Iowa
Muscatine Journal & News-Tribune
Centennial Edition
31 May 1940

Section 1 - Page 2 & 3, Submitted by Charlene Nichols Hixon, July 2, 2012

Photo of building ~ Journal Home Before the War. Quarters on the third floor of this structure on East Second street, known as the Masonic building, were occupied by The Journal between about 1855 and the early days of the Civil war. The office was moved to a location on Iowa avenue in 1861.

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The Journal’s First Century, Chapter One
First copies of Bloomington Herald issued from hand powered press;
John Mahin enters office as apprentice;
Mahins buy paper.

One hundred years ago this year – on Oct. 27, 1840 – was planted in the small village of Bloomington, Iowa Territory, the seed from which today’s Muscatine Journal has grown. From a primitive hand-power press came the first issue of The Bloomington Herald, printed, edited and distributed to the 507 citizens of the community by the firm of Hughes and Russell, of which Thomas Hughes and John b. Russell were the proprietors.

Judged by the standards of today, it was a primitive appearing publication, consisting of four six column pages, and bearing but little resemblance to the newspaper which readers of today are accustomed to find on their doorstep in the late afternoon. Headlines were conspicuous by their absence, there was no wire service to provide news of state and national importance, and comparatively little mention of doing in the locality. Advertising, as it appears in papers of today, was comparatively meager.

The two proprietors did practically all of the work, gathering the news and advertising copy, setting the type and operating the press on which the papers were printed. Russell had previous to his entry into the newspaper publishing field in Muscatine, been employed as a printer at Dubuque. He remained with The Bloomington Herald for five years, disposing of his interest in the publication in 1845 to Dr. Charles Waters; moving to Keokuk, where he died in 1850.

Of the other original partner in The Herald, but little is known. After Dr. Waters purchased an interest in the paper, Hughes remained as a partner for about a year, moving to Iowa City in 1846 where he continued in newspaper work and where he died March 13, 1881. When Dr. Waters bought an interest in the paper he assumed the editorial duties and the tone of The Herald was generally improved.

The year 1846 saw another change in ownership of The Herald. When Thomas Hughes left, M. T. Emerson, a printer, bought the paper. It then was changed to Whig in its political complexion, it having previously been democratic. Emerson’s career as a Muscatine journalist was but brief, his death occurring within a few months.

N. P. Stout and William Isreal were the next owners of The Bloomington Herald, the former being the editor and the latter the printer. They conducted the paper from 1846 to 1848. The paper at this period was decidedly abolitionist in character, Stout being a vigorous partisan.

An important event, which had a far-reaching influence on the publication’s subsequent history and development, occurred during the management of The Herald by Stout and Isreal. This was the entrance of John Mahin into The Herald office. This was in 1847. John Mahin was, at that time, a boy of 13. He had shown in inclination toward the newspaper business and hence his father, Jacob Mahin, apprenticed him to Stout and Isreal for a three year period, to learn the printers trade.

Under the terms of the agreement between Jacob Mahin and The Herald’s proprietors, Mahin was to receive board and clothing his first year, $50 in addition to board and clothing the second year, and $100 additional the third year.

Mahin’s duties at first bore but remote connection with the important role he was later to exercise in the affairs of The Journal. As he recalled, in subsequent years, when he became an apprentice, his duties consisted of sweeping out the office, then located at 108 West Second street, carrying wood and water, keeping up the fires when necessary, and of setting type during the remainder of his time at the office. On Saturdays, when the paper was issued, he was also the carrier boy.

At the time John Mahin entered upon his apprenticeship, The Herald office was still a primitive place. According to his description, it consisted of three double racks of type, a Washington hand press and an imposing stone, about four by eight feet. Typographical work was done in one room, which also served to accommodate the editorial staff, which in those days was the same as the mechanical staff.

Early Difficulties Recalled.

Some of the difficulties of getting out a weekly paper were later reviewed by Mr. Mahin as follows:

    “Although The Herald was only four pages of six columns each and was issued once a week, its two printers and one apprentice seemed hard pressed to do all the mechanical work on it. Issue day was Saturday, but almost invariably we had to work all Friday night to get the paper out on time.”

Some job printing work was also handled at The Herald office in those days. “All kinds of job,” Mahin recalled, “were printed on the Washington press as there was no other kind of a press in the office.”

The first year of Mahin’s connection with The Herald had been scarcely more than completed when Stout and Isreal were forced to quit business due to financial troubles. Publication was suspended for a time in 1848.

However, during the winter of 1848, not long after Stout and Isreal had encountered distress, a New Boston man, F. A. C. Foreman, who had previously operated a newspaper in that downriver town, undertook publication of The Herald. After continuing in business for a few months, Foreman was forced to suspend publication. This marked the close of The Bloomington Herald.

Publication of a newspaper was resumed in the city in 1849, with the arrival here of Noah H. McCormick from St. Louis, who purchased The Herald plant.

Name Journal Adopted.

At the June term of district court that year, the name of the town was changed from Bloomington to Muscatine, so that when McCormick took over the property of The Bloomington Herald and started issuing his paper, he changed the name to correspond, and The Muscatine Journal appeared for the first time.

McCormick was a poor and pointless writer but a fair business man and was able to do better, financially with the newspaper than his predecessors. However, in July of 1852 he sold his interests to John and Jacob Mahin.

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Staff Changes of 1898 Noted In Journal Item

Announcement of the promotion of the late Will M. Narvis to the position of news editor of The Muscatine Journal was contained in a Journal story which appeared Jan. 4, 1898. At that time, John Mahin, who was 64 years of age, declared his intentions of devoting his energies more exclusively to editorial duties, and placed responsibilities for conduct of other departments of the paper with his son, John Lee Mahin, and others, which follows:

    “The Journal commences the new year with some changes, which mean a better and stronger paper. We claim that it is a very good paper now, but its ambition is to be the very best that the opportunity will permit. As a local newspaper, The Journal proposes to excel, and the things which especially interest the people of Muscatine and its surroundings will receive its most particular attention.

    “John Mahin has been editor of The Journal since 1852. He will be editor-in-chief and control its policy as long as he lives, should his health permit. In order to devote more time to purely editorial matter as well as to take life a little easier, he will delegate the collecting and editing of the news to Will M. Narvis, who thus becomes the “news editor.” The local correspondents and such reporters as may be necessary will be under the direct supervision of Mr. Narvis. The editorial and news departments of The Journal will be made as distinct and separate from the business department as possible. Editorial opinions and the publication or suppression of items of news will be influenced solely by their value as such.

    “The business policy of The Journal will be shaped and controlled by John Lee Mahin, and actively administered by W. C. Hoefflin as business manager, Frank W. Eichoff as advertising manager, and John A. Jelly as traveling solicitor.

    The Journal will not solicit business because it does not publish certain items of news. The subscription department will be dominated by the policy that The Journal should be read and paid for because it publishes all the legitimate news without fear of favor, and this is worth the price asked. The advertising department will solicit business because a paper which has the eye and ear of the public is the most effective and economical method of telling business news (which is all that a good advertisement is) to people who are benefitted by that information.

    “The Journal job room will maintain its high standards, and Fred Eggers, in charge of the press work, and H. M. Leyda, in charge of the job composing room, will have that interest and pride in their work which accompanies proprietorship, as they will have a working interest in the business.

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    Paper Shortage Perplexed Early Journal Editor

      “We are yet under the necessity of issuing the Herald in its present curtailed form. The agent of the paper manufactory having as yet failed to receive his stock for the winter. He is in daily expectation of its arrival at the foot of the lower rapids from which place it will be brought by land should the state of the river prevent its coming by water.”

    This lead off item in the list of local happenings appeared to be the “main headache,” for John B. Russell just a few days after he ascended to the position of editor of the Bloomington Herald, the Nov. 19, 1841 issue stated. The paper, considerably smaller than its ordinary size, continued in that form for several days. Publication after publication – in the early days – bemoaned the lateness of exchange papers, news letters and other informative material.

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    “Good for Iowa – The Chicago Tribune quotes the bills of the iowa State bank at 4 per cent above Illinois currency. This is a deserved compliment to our state banking system.” – Muscatine Journal, Jan. 15, 1861.

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    “Persons wanting water hauled for cisterns or other uses, please leave orders with J. D. Dyer’s Post Office News Stand. Price $1.10 per load of 10 barrels. – A. T. Miller.” – Muscatine Journal, Jan. 16, 1877.

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    Always Kidding “The coming spring bonnet is said to be a dandy. It will have a cow catcher in front, a dashboard behind, a flower garden on top, a bunch of grass on one side and a bird carcass on the other. The whole will be elaborately banded together with crushed ribbons and topped off with a very loud millinery bill.” – Muscatine Journal, April 3, 1899.

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    Page 3

    Photo of Nietzel Drug Store ~ New Establishment A far cry from the old-fashioned village store architecture of early-day Muscatine is this modern front on the new Nietzel drug store No. 2 at 203 East Second street, recently completed. The large show windows display to the best advantage a neat array of products handled by the store.

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    Page created July 5, 2012 by Lynn McCleary