History of Reading Newspapers

2013-08-10
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There was no newspaper published in Berks County before 1789. News was communicated by persons to one another mostly at inns and stores, of which the number was large in proportion to the population, more especially at Reading. The latest accident, death, transaction or crookedness of any kind was communicated from one to the other, or to small groups of persons; and so it was carried from building to building and from place to place, not in the English language (for English was little spoken then by those who assembled at inns) but German, which was used almost entirely throughout the county in the daily affairs of life, both secular and religious.

During this early period, the Pennsylvania Gazette, published at Philadelphia, had a limited circulation in Reading and in the county. It was an interesting messenger to the people; and its weekly arrival must have been an event of more than ordinary importance. A copy was doubtless busy in passing amongst persons who could read English - not for the personal matters which it contained, but for foreign affairs, market reports, letters published, etc. Christopher Sauer's Journal, a newspaper printed in German, and published at Germantown, had a more extended circulation in this vicinity, and it exercised a large influence over the residents.

In 1876 William S. Ritter, founder of the Daily Eagle and publisher
of the Adler, erected this spacious building
(no longer standing) on the southeast corner of
Sixth and Court Streets as the headquarters for the
Adler. The engraving, made in 1876, has "Established 1797"
over the front door. This, of course,
is an error since the first Adler appeared in 1796.

Forty years in the history of Reading elapsed before the newspaper became a local institution. The entire period of its local life as a town, with all its many important events, passed away without having it introduced. This would seem to be a long while for such a factor to obtain a foothold in a community otherwise energetic and progressive; but this delay is capable of explanation. The people were interested in home rather than in foreign affairs, and strove to give them successful development. Local matters required no printed publication, for, the town being small and the population limited, they were easily communicated. But as the town grew into a borough, and especially as the borough grew into a city, with its territory enlarged, the inhabitants more widely scattered and the population largely increased, the natural way became more and more incapable of satisfying the inquisitiveness of the people and an artificial way had to be introduced - and this was supplied by the newspaper.

After the lapse of a century, general progress came to be so wonderful, the people so numerous and scattered, and their relations so intermingled, that, just as the natural way had to yield to the artificial, so did the old and slow process of printing on a hand-press, with its limited capacity, have to make way for the new and spirited process, by a steam-press, with its unlimited capacity. In the beginning, the newspaper was weak in every respect, small in size, limited in circulation, uncertain in financial support, and wanting in mental vigor and originality; but afterward it became strong, rich, energetic and inventive. The newspapers of the city comprised two classes, weekly and daily. Some of them were printed in the German language, but most of them in the English. The following list shows the names of the several newspapers instituted at Reading; also the names of the founders, the time when instituted, and the duration of the publication.

Weekly Newspapers at Reading

1789-1793 - Neue Unpartheyische Readinger Zeitung Und Anzeigs-Nachrichten by Johnson, Barto, & Jungmann

1796-1816 - Weekly Advertiser by Gottlob Jungmann

1796-1796 - Reading Herald by Jacob Schneider and George Gerrish

1796-1913 - Reading Adler* by Jacob Schneider and George Gerrish

1810 - Welt Bothe by Henry B. Sage

1816-1910 - Berks and Schuylkill Journal** by George Getz

1816-1826 - Readinger Post Bote by Charles A. Bruckman

1822-1836 - Chronicle of the Times by Samuel Myers and Douglass W. Hyde

1826-1826 - Jackson Democrat by Charles J. Jack

1826-1835 - Reading Democrat by Jeremiah Schneider and Samuel Myers

1835-1865 - Berks County Press by Samuel Myers

1838-1848 - Jefferson Democrat by Robert W. Albright

1839-1865 - Liberale Beobachter by Arnold Puwelle

1840-1878 - Reading Gazette and Democrat by Jacob Knabb and and J. Lawrence

1840-1845 - Alt Berks by William B. Schoener

1845-1848 - Sonne von Alt Berks by Charles W. Guenther

1846-1850 - Reading Herald by Abraham S. Whitman

1850-1852 - People’s Advocate by A. S. Whitman and Joseph E. Berret

1858-1858 - Berks County Democrat by Samuel L. Young and Andrew M. Sallade

1858-1859 - School Album by James Millholland and Albert R. Durham

1860-1861 - Weekly Leader by J. Robley Dunglison

1867-1904 - Reformirter Hausfreund by Daniel Miller

1864-1909 - Banner von Berks by William Rosenthal***

1867-1909 - Die Biene by William Rosenthal***

1869-1909 - Die Deutsche Eiche by William Rosenthal***

1869-1899 - Republikaner von Berks by Daniel Miller

1876-1881 - Spirit of Berks by Daniel S. Francis

1878-1926 - Reading Weekly Eagle by Jesses G. Hawley

1881-1896 - Reading Weekly Herald by John B. Dampmann

1881-1909 - Reading Weekly News by William S. Ritter

1888-1905 - Reformed Church Record by B. Bausman

1894-1899 - Reading Democrat by W. Oscar Miller

1900-1960 - Labor Advocate by Harry F. De Gour

1901-? - Union Sentinel by Federated Trades Council

* Ritter family connected with publication since 1802.

** Owned by publishers of Reading Times since 1866.

***John Weiler, an employer and manager for many years, became the proprietor June 20, 1908.


Monthly Newspapers at Reading

1883-1900 - Litteratur Blatt by August Bendel

1884-? - Illustrirte Jugendblatte by August Bendel

1891-1903 - Pennsylvania Philatelist by Clifford N. Kissinger

1897-1898 - Greater Reading by Walter S. Hamaker

1898-1903 - Greater America by Walter S. Hamaker

1889-1909 - Preacher’s Assistant by Frank J. Boyer

Daily Newspapers at Reading

Weekly newspaper publications were carried on at Reading for over sixty years before a daily was thought of, at least before a public proposition to this end was made. Many weeklies had been instituted in that time; but they all suspended excepting two, the Adler and the Journal, the former a German publication founded in 1796, and the latter an English publication founded in 1816, which was a continuation of the Weekly Advertiser, started also in 1796. The population was certainly here to support a daily newspaper. The rapid increase of the people would seem to have warranted - if it did not inspire - such an enterprise in that period of time. Education was quite general, though stimulated with marked public energy after 1834; and the English language was growing gradually into favor. The railroad was constructed, various shops and factories, especially for the manufacture of iron goods, were erected; even English churches were founded.

The second period of Reading was unusually prolific in producing great things for the common progress of its citizens. In 1840 the population was 8,410, and in 1847 it was about 12,000; and in the respective years named the entire county had about 65,000 and 70,000. The railroad extended through the entire Schuylkill Valley to the north and to the south, and the stages ran daily in every direction. These means facilitated the distribution of newspapers, and encouraged the spirit of publication; and the borough was advanced into a city. Still there was no daily newspaper.

When the third period was begun there were seven weekly newspapers carried on successfully, Adler, Journal, Berks County Press, Liberate Beobachter, Alt Berks, Jefferson Democrat and Reading Gazette. They were issued upon different days in the week, but mostly on Saturday. Naturally, this number was sufficient to discourage the thought of a daily publication. But the spirit of enterprise was working its way through the people in different channels; buildings were multiplying, trade was growing, population was increasing, and many strangers were locating here permanently. The daily events necessarily grew with the general growth, and the disposition to know them at once was preparing the way for a step beyond the weekly publication, and just as the stage-coach and canal-boat, through the energy of trading, came to be slow and had to make way for the steam-car, so the weekly newspaper was coming to be late in communicating news, the feeling against the delay was growing stronger and stronger, public eagerness clamoring for an improvement.

J. Lawrence Getz made the first effort to print a daily newspaper in Reading. The first number was dated July 12, 1847. The town at that time had a population of about 13,000. The Reading Daily Gazette, a morning paper of four pages, ran for only nine editions because of a lack of support. Some 300 papers had been printed each day but not all were sold. Selling price was 2 cents a copy.

It was ten years before another attempt was made to establish a daily newspaper. In that time two new railroads were extended from this business center, one to the west through Lebanon Valley, the other to the northeast through East Penn Valley. From 12,000 the population of the city had increased to 20,000, and from 70,000 the population of the county had increased to 90,000. The post-offices round about in the county had multiplied from forty-one to seventy - a wonderful increase in this department of the public service. The added wealth to the community from all sources was estimated not by the thousands of dollars, but by the millions, and the hand-press for newspapers had become supplanted by the steam-press.

Getz tried again with slightly better results. But after eight months he ceased publication again as only 16 of Reading's 240 businessmen provided advertising patronage. At the time of the Gazette's demise there were 450 subscribers.

Immediately after the suspension of the Gazette, a stronger feeling for a daily newspaper manifested itself by the citizens and so a third attempt was made. This was by J. Robley Dunglison, a young man who had come to Reading to work as a reporter for Getz. He issued the first number of his paper on July 19, 1858, which was entitled "Reading Daily Times." It was a folio, printed in the English language, 16 by 24 inches, with five columns to the page, and issued in the morning.

The paper was served to Reading subscribers every morning, except Sunday, at or before daylight, and was delivered to the principal villages along the P&R lines at an early hour the same morning. Cost was 1 cent a copy.

The following December, Dunglison took over publication of the Berks County Democrat, an English-language weekly (Tuesdays) started in September 1858 by Andrew M. Sallade and Samuel L. Young for the express purpose of electing John Scwartz to Congress. It was successful in the cause it espoused.

In all respects, this dollar-a-year paper was a weekly edition of the Times, in that it embraced all the principal editorials and local items contained in the Times during the week preceding publications.

Each issue contained 28 large columns, half of which were in English and the other half in German. It was intended for the rural trade.

Dunglison published the Times until Dec. 9, 1859, when he sold it to Henry Lantz.

Henry A. Lantz, a bookseller who handled an astonishing variety of out-of-town newspapers and magazines, became the next owner and publisher, having purchased the Times for $150. He had been one of Dunglison's biggest advertisers.

Lantz retained the printing plant at 359 Penn Street but conducted editorial affairs at his store at 535 Penn Street. Lantz published the Times until September, 1861, when (owing to his enlistment in the Civil war) he sold the paper to Abraham S. Whitman and Charles F. Haas, who published it very successfully during the Civil war.

Whitman and Haas were left with a thriving enterprise, thanks in large measure to the policies of their predecessor. Under Lantz, the Times had become one of the leading dailies in the state. Operations were transferred to 3-5 N. Fifth St. in the old State House, a commodious structure used for county offices prior to the erection of the second Court House at Sixth and Court in 1840.

Whitman and Hass increased the price of the paper to 3 cents a copy and, according to historian Morton L. Montgomery, "issued it during the progress of the war with great ability and success, displaying firm patriotism in advocating its vigorous prosecution and in encouraging all measures for the preservation of the Union."

B .F. Shalters Jr. secured an interest in the paper in March 1865 and by 1868 was sole owner and editor. During Shalter's tenure, price of the paper dropped to 2 cents.

A. C. Buck and Charles B. Rhoads became the next proprietors of the Times, on April 3, 1869.

On June 19, 1869, the Times was purchased by J. Knabb & Co., publishers of the Berks and Schuylkill Journal, a weekly paper dating back to 1816. Operations were consolidated at Knabb's plant at 9 N. Sixth St., a lucky move, as the Old State House was destroyed by fire in 1872.

The Berks and Schuylkill Journal, a deceptive name because the publication was primarily Reading and Berks oriented, became, in essence, the weekly Times and was published as such until the end of 1910. The best of what appeared in the Times during the week reappeared word-for-word in Saturday's Journal.

The Berks and Schuylkill Journal, an end-of-the-week "best-of-the-Times publication," was long operated by the same Jacob Knabb who, with J. Lawrence Getz, established the Reading Gazette in 1840.

The Gazette eventually wound up in the hands, in 1868, of William S. Ritter and Jesse G. Hawley, who issued it as a weekly version of their Daily Eagle. In 1878 Hawley renamed the Gazette the Reading Weekly Eagle, which continued in print until the mid-1920's.

The Daily Eagle was founded by William S. Ritter and Jesse G. Hawley (publishers of the Reading Adler), on Jan. 28, 1868. In 1874, Hawley purchased the entire interest, and published the paper until his death in 1903. By his great enterprise he enlarged its circulation very much and distributed its issue not only into every town and township of the county, but into neighboring and distant counties in the Schuylkill, East Penn and Lebanon Valleys.

On Nov. 17, 1904 the Reading Eagle Company was incorporated. Prior to the incorporation, it was a proprietorship of Hawley. Kate Ritter was president until she died in 1906. Her son-in-law William Seyfert became president until 1936, when he died.

Jacob Knabb was a progressive newspaperman. Under his direction the Times began to take on a more modern look. He introduced bold headlines, cartoons, illustrations, and a type-size much easier to read than had been the case previously. He installed some of the first typesetting machines used in this country.

In 1870, Knabb purchased The Evening Dispatch, a "strong Republican paper" begun in 1868. Thereafter, for a period of 12 years, the newspaper circulated as the Reading Times and Dispatch.

Thomas C. Zimmerman, part owner of the Times and the Journal from 1866 to 1908, served as editor of both papers from 1871 onward.

In 1881 Knabb constructed a new four-story building to contain his printing interests on the site of his earlier one at 9-11 N. Sixth St. This stood until razed during urban renewal around the year 1968.

When Knabb died in 1889, the Times was continued by his associates, Thomas C. Zimmerman, editor and later president, and William Sterrett and W. H. Zimmerman, who served as secretary and treasurer respectively. In 1903, the firm moved to 107 and 109 N. Sixth St.

This group of men, reorganized as "The Reading Times Publishing Co." in 1897, sold the Times and the Journal in 1908 to Col. Henry W. Shoemaker, a diplomat, and historian. He is best remembered as the driving force that led to the establishment of a zoo in Pendora Park.

Two years later the Times and Journal papers again changed hands, with Herbert and Henry Green and William Hall acquiring possession. G. Scott Smith served as editor and general manager. It was this regime that ceased publication of the 94-year-old Berks and Schuylkill Journal, sister paper to the Times for over half a century. Headquarters were now at the northwest corner of Sixth and Walnut.

In 1913 Alexander Troup was president of the Reading Times Publishing company and Walter F. Dumser filled the positions of secretary, treasurer, editor and general manager. Dumser held the same position with the Evening Telegram, a newly acquired sister paper, published at the same location.

The following year the Times bought out the Reading News. What resulted was a combined publication named The Reading News-Times, a designation that endured nearly a decade.

William McCormick, founder of four Olivet Boys Clubs, leased the News-Times on March 1, 1920, and served as editor and publisher until his death three years later. McCormick also issued the combined Herald-Telegram, an afternoon daily, from the same plant at Sixth and Walnut.

The Times changed greatly following its acquisition in 1923 by John H. Perry, a resident of New York City who owned a chain of newspapers. He chose as editors men whose style was vigorously liberal.

With the Perry take-over, the News-Times and the afternoon Herald-Telegram were consolidated into one morning newspaper, the Reading Times.

In 1926, the Reading Tribune, an evening paper published at 504 Penn St., was bought out and also absorbed.

Henceforth, Reading had but two major dailies, the Reading Times and the Reading Eagle.

In 1938 the Reading Eagle Company moved from Sixth and Penn streets to 340 Court St./30 N. Fourth St.

The Reading Eagle Building, Southwest Corner of 6th and Penn Streets

In 1940, John H. Perry sold the Times to the Reading Eagle Company. At that time the late Hawley Quier was publisher of the Eagle. Soon thereafter the two newspapers were united in a single plant at 30 N. Fourth St. The staff of the two papers was combined in 1982. In June 2002, the Reading Times ceased publishing, and the Eagle became a morning paper.

 

  • The first daily German newspaper at Reading was founded by William Rosenthal on June 1, 1868, under the title of Die Readinge Post. It was issued it successfully until 1908, when it was sold it to John Weiler. It was in operation from 1868-1913.

  • The Daily News was issued by William S. Ritter (proprietor of the Adler) from May, 1880, until May, 1886.

  • The Reading Telegram, a daily, owned by the Reading Telegram Publishing Company, operated from 1889-1920.

  • Other daily newspapers were started at Reading and issued for various periods, but not beyond several years, such as the Daily Leader, Evening Star, Evening Record, Daily People, Daily Graphic, Evening Review, and Evening World.

 


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