Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of the Ozarks region and surrounding area.

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I'm a freelance writer specializing in the history of the Ozarks and surrounding region. I've written fifteen nonfiction books, two historical novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Bushwhacker Belles, Wicked Women of Missouri, and Yanked Into Eternity: Lynchings and Hangings in Missouri.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Old-time Newspaper Editors

I do a lot of perusing of old newspapers, and I am often amused by the sardonic wit that editors of the nineteenth century exhibited, a sense of humor that is often missing in today's more matter-of-fact approach to journalism. Another thing that characterized reporting from the 1800s that is largely absent today was a keen competition between rival newspapers. (Perhaps the main reason it's missing today is the simple fact that there are not nearly as many papers as there used to be.)
Often these two traits of nineteenth century reporting (humor and competition)were combined when the editor of one newspaper would snipe at the editor of a rival paper. If the rival papers happened to be situated in rival towns (as opposed to being located in the same town), the sniping was often accompanied by bragging on one's own town while poking fun at the rival town. It's amusing today to look back at some of these editorial jabs.
Here, for instance, is a brief comment from the editor of the Springfield Times that appeared in his November 7, 1877 edition: "Blessed is Granby! She only has 37 dogs within her corporate limits. Our marshal sees to it that more than that number are killed every week." This little item was no doubt in response to a complaint about dogs that had recently appeared in the Granby Miner. Another item from a later edition of the same Springfield paper gives a hint of the rivalry that existed between Springfield and Joplin: "The following, from the Joplin Herald, is cool and refreshing in a village like ours: 'Main street presented its old-time appearance last night. The gambling halls and saloons were crowded and money seems to be plenty.'" The editor may have been a bit smug about Springfield's superior morality, but many Springfieldians couldn't resist the lure of the money that flowed in Joplin during the mining boom and moved 70 miles west to get in on the riches.

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