The history of newspapers in Linn County goes back to 1851 and includes nearly 50 different newspapers before the year 1900.
Many were simple, small-town papers featuring editorials and information about local businesses and civic groups.
They also carried world and national news, ag-related tidbits, news of who was calling on who socially, short stories, police and legislative stories, obituaries, legislative happenings, public announcements and, of course, ads.
Many of Iowa’s early newspapers were published and edited by men whose business endeavors, standing in the community and political parties benefited from the boosterism their newspapers provided.
Some papers catered to people with a common vocation, religion or cultural connection.
Most of Linn County’s early newspaper history revolves around Marion and Cedar Rapids.
The Progressive Era was Linn County’s first newspaper. Founded in Cedar Rapids in 1851 by Dan O. Finch, the paper was a mouthpiece for Democratic causes. Finch sold it to Joseph Greene, who would sell part of his stake to James L. Enos, an editor whose family would be involved in many Linn County newspapers over the years.
The paper changed its name to the Cedar Valley Times and eventually its opinions became more in line with the Republican Party. The paper became the Cedar Rapids Times in 1868 and then the Cedar Rapids Weekly Times in 1874. The paper folded in 1897, selling its furnishings and subscription list to The Gazette.
In 1883, the Evening Gazette was launched by publishers E.L. Otis and L.H. Post with Fred W. Faulkes at the helm. Otis and Post would be out of the picture within a year, leaving Faulkes and his brother-in-law, Clarence L. Miller, in charge of the Gazette Company.
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Faulkes was known as a passionate writer who, as an editor, fought for humanitarian causes. Historians describe the early Gazette as a Republican newspaper that started to lean Democratic under Faulkes’ leadership before eventually adopting more of an independent editorial voice.
It was also published as the Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette, the Evening Gazette and Republican, and the Cedar Rapids Gazette before adopting the unadorned Gazette name in 1979.
Marion’s The Prairie Star was the second newspaper in Linn County. It was founded in 1852 by Azor Hoyt, a New Yorker who came and left within a year after finding that Iowa wasn’t to his liking.
When Hoyt left, the new owners gave the paper a Whig slant and changed its name to the Linn County Register.
As times changed, it supported Republican priorities. N.M. Hubbard ran the paper before becoming a judge. He was known for his blistering editorials that skewered opposing viewpoints and the politicians who held them. In 1864, it became the Linn County Patriot and then the Marion Register.
The Marion Register outlasted most other frontier-era papers, making it all the way to 1920.
In the meantime, a competing Marion paper, the Marion Sentinel, founded in 1890, emerged as a steady survivor that would last until 1988.
Other Marion papers include the 1857-founded Marion Herald, which became the Marion Democrat to support Stephen Douglas’ bid for the presidency. It folded when Lincoln defeated him.
More recently, the Marion Times was founded in 1980, printed until 2015 and continues today online.
SMALL TOWN PAPERS
Springville, Prairieburg and Central City had their own versions of a paper called The Independent dating back to 1879. Coggon had its own newspaper, too, The Monitor, which was founded in 1889. An issue from 1895 noted that citizens could pay their subscriptions in wood. The paper persevered mightily into the 1970s.
Mount Vernon’s Franklin Record launched in 1865 and became the Mount Vernon Citizen a year later.
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The Mount Vernon Hawk-Eye was published in 1869 and even printed its balance sheet that year: an income of $1,450, expenses at $900 and $550 to pay staff. Consider that the population of Mount Vernon was about 900 in 1870, and an annual subscription to the paper was $2.
The paper changed its name to the Linn County Hawk-Eye and then the Linn County Pilot before moving to Marion in 1874.
There also was the Linn County Signal, which was founded in 1868 and later became the Linn County Liberal, the Standard and then the Cedar Rapids Standard, which lasted until 1896.
The county’s earliest cultural papers include the Slovan-Ameriky (1869), a twice-weekly Democratic Boheme paper; the German Cedar Rapids Staats-Zeitung (1879); the Scandinavian Kvinden og Hjemmet/Quinnan och Hemmet (1888); and the Cedar Rapidske Liste (1906), a weekly Bohemian paper that featured humorous takes on local affairs.
Joe Coffey is a freelance writer and content marketer in Cedar Rapids. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org