History of The Dalles Chronicle
The following article was published October 13, 2001 in a special section commemorating The Dalles Chronicle's Grand Opening in the former Sawyer’s True Value Hardware store at 315 Federal Street, The Dalles OR 97058. The building was remodeled through the year 2000, and moving day came on June 1, 2001. This article was written by then-editor, Dan Spatz.
The Dalles hosted region’s first paper
‘The Dalles Journal’
began within weeks of
By DAN SPATZ
formerly of The Chronicle
|EARLY EDITORS in The Dalles included Lt. William Hand, left, and John Michell.
The Dalles, Oregon is known for its history, and newspapers have been part of that heritage since Oregon statehood in 1859.
The first newspaper in Eastern Oregon was published in The Dalles. In the following decades no fewer than 20 newspapers — competing dailies, a multitude of weeklies and even a monthly — would document the history of The Dalles, from its days as a military outpost on the frontier through the momentous events of the 20th century, into a new century and millennium.
While The Dalles Chronicle today is the oldest newspaper in this region, it started out as a new kid on the block when its first edition hit the street on Dec. 10, 1890. By that time, there was already a 30-year tradition of newspapers here, and the Chronicle was only one of several Johnny-Come-Latelies to enter the fray.
For a better perspective, let’s start at the beginning, just a few short weeks after Oregon was admitted to the Union.
It was April 1, 1859, and Capt. Thomas Jordan, commander of the US Army garrison at Ft. Dalles, directed establishment of a newspaper to document local affairs.
Two “educated soldiers” edited the “The Dalles Journal,” according to an early resident named Mrs. Lord. The printer was a Virginian by the name of Thomas Snyder, who later joined the Oregonian staff where he reportedly helped produce the April 15, 1865 special edition on Lincoln’s assassination, according to University of Oregon journalism professor George S. Turnbull, whose 1939 “History of Oregon Newspapers” (published by Binfords & Mort) is still the most important reference on 19th century Oregon journalism.
The “Journal” was renamed “The Dalles Weekly” in 1860, according to a copy of the “Dalles City Directory” apparently published in the early to mid-1880s.
A 1925 newspaper clipping, reporting events already 65 years old by that writing, said that “during the first year of the Journal’s existence a syndicate of citizens, headed by H.P. Isaacs, took over the paper, and moved the plant from the Garrison downtown.”
On its first anniversary, April 1, 1860, the weekly was sold to W.H. Newell, who would later become publisher of the Walla Walla Statesman, oldest newspaper in Eastern Washington.
On August 11, 1862, Newell launched a new publication, the “Weekly Mountaineer,” and shortly afterward discontinued The Dalles Weekly, according to the old city directory account. The newspaper’s offices were reportedly in the Victor Trevitt building; the location is also given as the corner of First and Union.
Newell ran the paper for five years, the last three as a morning daily — but only after surmounting myriad difficulties.
Newell had shipped his new Gordon press around the Horn of South America (remember, this was decades before construction of the Panama Canal) and it arrived disassembled.
Newell had no idea how to put it together. To complicate matters, reports indicate he was quite deaf.
Now arrives DeWitt Clinton Ireland — who would later figure as one of The Dalles Chronicle’s first editors — en route to Canyon City in 1861 (according to Roger S. Tetlow, as published in the Chronicle on July 2, 1982. Tetlow prepared his master’s thesis on D.C. Ireland). Ireland not only knew how to build the press, he’d helped design parts of it, so he paused on his journey long enough to roll up his sleeves and put the machine together.
“I managed to get his Gordon job press operating properly but I don’t think he heard a word I said while I was doing it,” Ireland would later write.
On another occasion, as reported originally by Mrs. Lord and recounted by Professor Turnbull, a particularly strong gust of wind ripped the wooden front from the newspaper’s office building. Someone rushed in to inform Newell, who was working in back.
“Well, well, I thought I heard something,” he reportedly said.
|TYPICAL FRONT PAGE of The Daily Mountaineer, as published in The Dalles in the 1860s. This newspaper’s predecessor was The Dalles Journal, first newspaper in Eastern Oregon. The Mountaineer measured 11.5 inches wide. Its descendant, the Times-Mountaineer, was of much larger proportions and continued into the first years of the 20th century. The Daily Mountaineer was one of two competing dailies serving The Dalles during the Civil War era.
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Those early editions were quality affairs printed on sturdy white stock, each page measuring 11.5 by 15.5 inches. Ironically, these first papers would weather the insults of time much better than newspapers printed afterward, and today the old copies still appear not too long off the press.
Newell left The Dalles for the publisher’s job in Walla Walla on Nov. 1, 1865, selling the Daily Mountaineer to E.C. Crown and J. Holloran.
Another year of daily publication remained before the new owners resumed a weekly schedule from offices on Union Street.
The four years of daily publication covered the heydays of Idaho mining activity, and The Dalles was a major outfitting center for the trail east.
And by then there was competition, too.
An upstart paper, the “Daily Journal,” battled for readers with the Daily Mountaineer during the Civil War era. This paper, established by W.W. Bancroft, had only a short existence, though.
Stronger competition arrived on April 27, 1880, when R.J. Marsh and John Michell established “The Dalles Times.”
By this time the Mountaineer was being edited by Lt. William M. Hand, described as “a man of great personal affability,” who had succeeded Crown and Holloran somewhere around 1869.
He “jollied his way along for 12 years, until his untimely death, September 19, 1881, when he was only 47,” states the 1982 Chronicle account. “Col. T.S. Lang conducted the paper until its consolidation with The Dalles Times, August 14, 1882.”
So began a union still remembered by historians today, for the Times-Mountaineer would become a well-known newspaper in Eastern Oregon. The reason, in large part, was Times editor John Michell.
Michell had purchased his partner R.J. Marsh’s interest in the Times earlier, and the consolidated Times-Mountaineer continued daily publication for another 18 years. (Its first issue was an evening paper, but it soon changed to a morning daily.)
Michell bears special note.
Born in England on April 8, 1846, Michell came to The Dalles with two brothers in 1863. He was a printer by trade, studied law at the University of Michigan in 1875, and made a name for himself as a Republican leader, elected as state senator in 1896 from Wasco and Sherman counties.
“As a journalist, Mr. Michell was a fearless and able writer, possessing the courage of his convictions,” according to a Dec. 24, 1918 tribute published in The Dalles Chronicle following his death on Dec. 11, 1918, in Los Angeles.
“Under his editorial management the Times-Mountaineer was one of the leading Republican papers of the state,” according to a Times-Mountaineer supplement printed in 1898. “But while a strong partisan, Mr. Michell always opposed bossism and the rule of cliques in political organizations ... He has been from early boyhood associated with the growth and prosperity of the city.”
In newspaper parlance, the old Times-Mountaineer was a “blanket sheet,” referring to the vast physical spread of its pages — each page measured roughly 22 inches wide by 28 inches tall — fully eight inches wider and five inches taller than a page in today’s Chronicle, which itself is wider than The Oregonian.
And those were the days before modern “web” presses. Each page would have been fed, probably by hand, individually through a flat-bed press.
“It was printed on one of the oldest presses on the Pacific Coast — the old Potter which had been used to print the Alta California, historic California publication,” Professor Turnbull reported.
Yet the Times-Mountaineer was scarcely alone among local newspapers.
M.H. Abbott, who would edit or establish papers in Albany, Baker, La Grande and Pendleton, launched The Dalles Tribune, a Democratic weekly, on Oct. 28, 1875. The Tribune ran for two years, after which time it was discontinued. Its press was moved to La Grande to publish the Gazette, according to Turnbull.
There was also The Dalles “Inland Empire,” launched by T.B. Merry on July 6, 1878. Merry later became the first editor of the Sunday Oregonian, although the Inland Empire foundered after only a two-year run, on Dec. 10, 1880.
The Great Flood of 1894 claimed one newspaper as victim — the Wasco Weekly Sun ran for 13 years, until the flood washed out its offices. Its founder was T. Draper; its last publisher was a fellow we’ve already met — D.C. Ireland, who assembled W.H. Newell’s press back in 1861.
Other papers in The Dalles, still according to Professor Turnbull, included the Oregon Democratic Journal (1884-85), edited by M.H. Abbott; the Trade Journal (1896), edited by T.J. Simpson; the Morning Dispatch (1896), edited by J.G. Miller; the Baptist Sentinel (weekly, founded in 1889 and continued for several years); the Economist (1889-90), a monthly published by the American Progressive League at the Times-Mountaineer office, edited by a Dr. Wingate; and — oh, yes — a semi-weekly founded on Dec. 10, 1890.
This latest publication’s name was The Dalles Chronicle, and it was born of a civic dispute.
|PAGE ONE of The Dalles Chronicle, Vol. 1, No. 1, published Dec. 10, 1890.
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Who controls the water?
The times were not gentle then.
Citizens of The Dalles were bitterly divided over the city’s municipal water system, a battle royale described by Fred Lockley in his “History of the Columbia River Valley from The Dalles to the Sea,” and recounted by local historian Pat May in 1982.
Originally a private system, the service began with a franchise to James S. Reynolds in 1862; a few months later he transferred the franchise to R. Pentland, who piped water into the city. He sold his interest, and in 1883 the system came under the ownership of The Dalles Milling and Water Company.
In 1888, a new city charter allowed The Dalles to issue bonds for a municipal water system — and fury’s floodgates soon opened wide.
Some people wanted to build a new system, while others wanted to reimburse The Dalles Milling and Water Company for its losses should the new system be built. Counselors approved purchase of the old plant, but Mayor Malcolm A. Moody vetoed the ordinance. Councilors overrode his veto, but the mayor refused to sign a warrant for the water system purchase. A local taxpayer secured an injunction against purchasing the old, “obsolete” system. The mayor was impeached, the injunction dissolved.
Councilors moved forward with the purchase, while installing a new system consisting of Wicks Reservoir, with a flume bringing water from Mill Creek and Dog River. (This is basically the same system that still supplies the city today, in 2001.)
Newspapers were blatantly partisan, and none too diplomatic, in those days. An early edition of the Chronicle leaves little doubt of its inclinations, while casting aspersions upon the older Times-Mountaineer:
“If the good citizens of the town had any doubt before that there was a combination on the part of Moody’s strikers to enable him to continue the plundering of the city treasury for the benefit of his bank, that doubt must have been entirely dispelled by the proceedings Saturday at the primary,” the Chronicle editorialized. “Boss Moody was there in the front rank with ... a whole array of strikers, including non-residents, political hacks and hired shouters at his back.”
As for competing editor John Michell of the Times-Mountaineer, the Chronicle added: “When Mr. Michell says that the Rev. J.A. Orchard and C.F. Hobart are not residents of this city, he on the one hand comes as near the truth as is customary with him and on the other is contemptable (sic) disingenuous.”
Divisive times, indeed.
Change came on Sept. 1, 1895, when J.H. Douthit purchased the Times-Mountaineer from John Michell, who was becoming increasingly active in politics. (Michell’s election to the state senate came the following year.)
The Times-Mountaineer, direct descendant of the first newspaper in Eastern Oregon, now began to publish infrequently in the face of competition from The Dalles Chronicle; daily publication was suspended on Nov. 23, 1900. The paper attempted a semi-weekly edition (published Tuesdays and Thursdays) a year later, but the Times-Mountaineer ultimately folded, on Sept. 30, 1904. It had been losing money for three years.
Meanwhile, The Dalles Chronicle grew steadily, bolstered perhaps by its early adoption of the Associated Press wire.
The first editor was described as “a bright, energetic young man” named J.H. Cradlebaugh. The paper’s early stockholders were D.M. French, Robert Mays, J.W. French, B.F. Laughlin, Wintworth Lord, I.C. Nickelson, Maximilian Vogt, Hugh Glenn, S.L. Brooks, C.L. Phillips and A.S. McAllister.
The Chronicle was named by C.L. Phillips, a resident of The Dalles who proudly claimed his contribution in the Chronicle’s 25th anniversary edition of December 1915. The title expressed the idea “of having a newspaper that would represent the real sentiment and thought of the people of this community, fairly and impartially,” Phillips said. The first edition rolled off an old press in a print shop at the northwest corner of Second and Washington streets, on a site now occupied by the Granada Theatre (which wasn’t built until the 1920s). The paper printed both a daily and a weekly edition, continuing the weekly until 1945.
That first front page carried the paper’s subscription rates ($6 a year), railroad timetables, national news dispatches, a story on the Idaho senate, other articles from New York, Dublin and Chicago, and a two-column, above-the-fold advertisement for underwear.
There were four pages in the first edition.
A lasting presence for The Dalles Chronicle made his first appearance in 1907, when Ben R. Litfin arrived as a printer from Clearwater, Minn. The paper’s manager then was H.G. Miller, but it was Litfin who would fully bridge the transition from the dawning years of a new century into the modern era.
The Chronicle was an evening paper by then; it attempted morning publication for about a month in 1908, then resumed evening publication. Meanwhile, Miller and Litfin, who was now composing room foreman, had been purchasing stock and, in 1909, joined editor Harold T. Hopkins as sole owners of The Dalles Publishing Company.
Hopkins had become the Chronicle’s city editor in 1908 and its editor in 1911. He officially joined the city’s social set on Sept. 12, 1915, with his marriage to Anita Bennett, daughter of Judge Alfred S. Bennett and his wife Mary.
Judge Bennett was an imposing and highly respected figure in local and statewide jurisprudence; he served at one time on the Oregon Supreme Court, and his Victorian home, the Bennett-Williams House, still stands today at the foot of Trevitt Street.
Alas, tragedy struck judge and editor alike with the death of Anita Bennett Hopkins in 1918; she died of Bright’s disease (a kidney ailment) shortly after childbirth.
Hopkins had already sold his interest in the Chronicle in 1912, and after Anita’s death left the community. Hopkins would work for the United Press, first in Portland as Northwest manager and later in New York, according to Mary Garrett, daughter of Anita Bennett Hopkins and granddaughter of Judge Bennett (telephone interview, 1998).
(Tragedy would revisit the family later in 1918, with the death of Judge Bennett’s youngest daughter, Erma, of the Spanish influenza.)
War changed the world
World War I changed the world, and newspapers in The Dalles were not immune. There was yet another newcomer on the scene, for starters, although apparently a short-lived one. “The Dalles Sun” was a morning daily established in 1914, and its publisher as of December 1915 was Millard T. Johnson (this according to The Dalles Chronicle’s 25th anniversary edition of Dec. 15, 1915.)
Change came to the Chronicle, too. Clarence Hedges of Salinas, Calif., bought out Miller and Litfin during World War I; Miller retired, but Litfin continued as business manager and, on May 2, 1920, joined W.P. Mary of Detroit in buying out Hedges. Litfin became publisher, bought out Mary’s stock after three years, and continued at the paper’s helm until 1947.
Litfin carved a lasting niche in newspaper history when he faced down a threatened advertising boycott shortly after he became publisher.
As recounted by Professor Turnbull, Litfin addressed the advertisers, who were pressuring him to spike a controversial story, with these words:
“I’m going to print the news, and people are going to take my paper because of that. I’m going to make my paper so widely read that you’ll have to buy space in its columns. And if you boycott, I’ll fill up the columns with Portland advertising.”
As Turnbull reports, “There was no boycott.”
(Years later, Litfin hired as his wire editor a man named James Weeks, who would serve as the Chronicle’s editor for nearly three decades. Weeks started at the paper in 1944 and retired in 1974; his story appears separately in this publication.)
Litfin’s retirement was precipitated by a heart attack, when fire swept through the Chronicle’s office at 317 East Second on Sept. 25, 1946. The blaze apparently started from an electrical malfunction (see James Weeks’ story in this special section for details), and damaged much of the equipment. Luckily, it spared the newspaper’s bound volumes.
In the aftermath, a single issue of the paper was printed by the Chronicle’s weekly rival, The Dalles Optimist, to inform readers of the fire and reconstruction plans. The paper then suspended publication until Oct. 14, 1946 — evidently the longest hiatus in the Chronicle’ history — before resuming publication at a temporary printing plant in the Columbia Cooperative Growers Warehouse.
The Dalles Optimist
The Dalles Optimist had been established on June 19, 1906 by Addison Bennett (later a staff correspondent for the Oregonian), filling the weekly niche left vacant by the old Times-Mountaineer. The Optimist continued under various owners, according to Professor Turnbull: George Flagg starting in 1922, Ralph Bennett in 1932, and George Lindsay and Ralph Hogan of Buhl, Idaho, starting July 5, 1946.
The Optimist was published for 62 years, ultimately selling to The Dalles Chronicle on Oct. 1, 1963. Lindsay and Hogan were still the Optimist’s publishers then, and Fred Heldt was the Chronicle’s publisher.
Even then, the Chronicle continued to publish the Optimist into the 1960s, although it changed the format from a broadsheet newspaper to a tabloid version, called “The Mid-Columbian,” on March 10, 1966. This featured George Lindsay’s front page column “Barbed Wire,” which would later run in The Dalles Weekly Reminder. (Lindsay joined the news staff of the Chronicle following its purchase of the Optimist.)
The Dalles Optimist “Mid-Columbian” was published through December 1968.
Litfin sells Chronicle
Meanwhile, there were new owners and a new location for The Dalles Chronicle, which Ben Litfin sold in 1947 to Victor Morgan of Clearwater, Florida. Morgan replaced the Saturday evening edition with a Sunday morning paper, and he also saw the paper into its new quarters at First and Madison after months of makeshift operation in temporary offices. The move came in January 1948, and Morgan sold his interests the following December to Robert S. Howard.
Howard came here from Minnesota, joined by his mother Helen, who read proof for the newspaper, according to Nadine Dunn and her daughter Candace (interview, September 2001). Both Nadine and Candace worked for the Chronicle, along with their husband and father, the late Milton Dunn, who started at the paper in January 1949.
Dunn would play a key role not only at the Chronicle but with its parent corporation in the decades that followed, traveling the United States as he converted a long succession of newspapers from the old “hot lead” method of typesetting to a new technology called “phototypesetting.”
This was a dramatic departure for papers, and Dunn’s role brought him lasting praise from the company.
“Milt became one of the most proficient newspaper paste-up men in the industry and was one of the most important members of our ’flying squad’ that moved around the country helping other newspapers in our country convert to the new processes,” wrote Bob Paulos, who hired Dunn as foreman at the Chronicle, in a letter to Nadine Dunn following Milt’s death on Feb. 11, 1994.
“Sometimes he’d be gone two or three months at a time,” recalls Nadine, who would occasionally join her husband on the road as she purchased antiques for the business she operated here for 47 years, “Fort Dalles Antiques.”
“He’d been in the newspaper business since he was a little boy,” she added, describing how Dunn delivered papers for the Portland Telegram at age 7. He later wrote sports for the old Hood River Sun before deciding to enter production work, first at the Sun and then in The Dalles.
On one occasion, the family watched a ballgame in Portland, back in the ’40s. As they left the parking lot after the game Milt couldn’t find an attendant to pay the parking fee ... so they returned to Portland the following weekend to make good on the bill.
“He was the nicest man you’d ever meet,” Candace recalls of her father. “All the people at The Dalles Chronicle were like a big family — those friendships lasted a lifetime.”
Scripps enters the scene
The paper’s owners continued to change along the way.
Robert Howard sold part interest in the Chronicle to the Scripps family, creating a new corporate entity, Scripps-Howard, with newspapers across the United States.
There was also another change of location, when the Chronicle moved from its First and Madison offices to a newly-constructed building at the corner of Fourth and Federal, just across the street from the Civic Auditorium, in the spring of 1965. The paper would stay at 414 Federal St. for the next 36 years.
The newspaper continued to be part of the Scripps chain until 1994, when it was acquired by the Pulitzer group, another national media corporation.
As it had through most of its history, The Dalles Chronicle also competed with a weekly upstart. “The Dalles Weekly Reminder” developed from a shopper, “The Dalles Reminder,” established here by Martin Otos in the early 1950s.
The shopper came under a new owner, Eagle Newspapers, Inc., in the late 1970s, and with the encouragement of publisher David Thouvenel the Reminder began to produce a weekly newspaper on January 8, 1982.
“I grew up in The Dalles, and a lot of people would come up to me on the street and say ’Why don’t you start a newspaper?’” Thouvenel recalls (telephone interview, September 2001). “People were complaining that there wasn’t enough local coverage.”
It was just in time for one of the biggest news stories in Wasco County history, as thousands of red-clad followers of the Bagwhan Shree Rajneesh began to exert growing political influence in the county.
Ultimately, the Rajneeshees created their own city at the Big Muddy Ranch and usurped control of the nearby City of Antelope before attempting takeover of the county government itself. The cult fell asunder amid convictions for wiretapping and attempted poisonings of county residents, including the introduction of Salmonella bacteria into salad bars in The Dalles.
The Bhagwan was deported, and some of his key followers were either arrested or fled the country.
The Dalles Weekly Reminder, under editor Wil Phinney and photographer David Clear, followed the story closely — so closely, in fact, that Phinney reportedly ended up on the Rajneeshees’ list of enemies.
While the cult eventually faded away, The Dalles Weekly Reminder continued, first under publisher David Thouvenel and later Marilyn Roth.
Eagle brings more changes
Once again, change was coming to The Dalles Chronicle, this time in 1996 when Pulitzer sold the paper to the Reminder’s parent firm, Eagle Newspapers, Inc. of Salem.
For the first time since the 1940s, The Dalles Chronicle’s ownership returned to Oregon. Eagle Newspapers, Inc., is a homegrown Oregon corporation co-founded by the late Elmo Smith, a former governor, in partnership with veteran Oregon newspaperman Richard Nafsinger. (Smith’s son, former US Congressman Denny Smith, leads the company today. Nafsinger retired in 2001 as the company’s chief executive officer. James Smith, former publisher of the Prineville Central Oregonian, became Eagle’s new president.)
Eagle had owned other papers in the Columbia Gorge for decades — the Hood River News, White Salmon Enterprise, Goldendale Sentinel and The Dalles Reminder — but the Chronicle became one of only two dailies in the corporation.
The ownership change also brought a fundamental change in the means by which the paper was published: The Dalles Weekly Reminder had already adopted a “pagination” system to replace the older, phototypesetting technology. With pagination, the newspaper is typeset and designed entirely on computer screens; that new technology was transferred to The Dalles Chronicle with the 1996 sale to Eagle Newspapers, and it continues as the basis for daily publication.
Another significant date for the Chronicle arrived in April 1999, when the paper first began to produce an Internet version, published in conjunction with the Hood River News, White Salmon Enterprise and Goldendale Sentinel. Titled “GorgeNews,” this was the first on-line venture for any of the four participating newspapers, and it marked the dawn of a new era in publishing, as significant as the transition from hot lead type to phototypesetting, or phototypesetting to pagination. Although the printed page continues to be the primary means of communication for the newspapers, the on-line version for the first time makes at least some of the papers’ content instantly accessible to computer users worldwide.
Meanwhile, a top priority for the Chronicle’s new owners was to find larger quarters for the newspaper, which by now had outgrown its 414 Federal location. After a few years of searching, Eagle settled upon a building recently vacated by Sawyer’s True Value Hardware, and occupied before that by Coast to Coast Hardware and Brady’s Market. The move wasn’t very far — just a block north and west to the corner of Third and Federal — but the new location, fully remodeled, more than doubled the office space available for The Dalles Chronicle.
Ironically, this latest move also placed the newspaper within a short walk of its original location — that 1890 print shop on the northwest corner of Second & Washington.
Addendum: After Jim Weeks’
retirement in 1974, Austin Abrams
became the Chronicle’s editor, a post he held until 1994, when Tom Stevenson
assumed the job. Kathy Gray, former editor of The Dalles Weekly Reminder, worked with Stevenson as news editor. Stevenson left the Chronicle in 1997,
and Daniel Spatz became
the paper’s exective editor, serving in that position until 2006 when Kathy Gray assumed the position of editor of The Dalles Chronicle.
Editor’s note: The Dalles Chronicle wishes to express its gratitude to the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center & Museum’s library staff, and to the staff of The Dalles-Wasco County Library, for research assistance with this article.
Legend has it that the “Linotype” was so named when an editor, looking over Mergenthaler’s shoulder at the first prototype, beheld the result and exclaimed, “A line of type!”
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Printing technology forever changing
No description of the newspaper business would be complete without a look at the technology of printing itself, because this has changed dramatically over the centuries.
Let’s start by describing the tools that preceded our current “offset” technique of producing newspapers.
The very earliest method of printing was to cut out a reverse image of the subject in a wooden block, ink the surface, and press it against paper. The Chinese invented this, but it took a German by the name of Johannes Gutenberg to make the idea catch on in the West, through his invention of movable type. Printers continued this tradition from the 15th through 18th centuries and much of the 19th century, setting individual letters by hand. Needless to say, it was time-consuming.
A technological revolution occurred in 1886, when Ottmar Mergenthaler invented a machine that allowed a keyboard operator to set type much more quickly. Legend has it that the “Linotype” was so named when an editor, looking over Mergenthaler’s shoulder at the first prototype, beheld the result and exclaimed, “A line of type!”
A working Linotype is a sight to behold. It was hundreds of moving parts, all of which operate on a basic premise: when the operator hits a key (on a keyboard bearing scant resemblance to its computerized descendant), the machine retrieves a brass mat or letter mold from a storage magazine; this is sent by various mysterious passages down into the bowels of the machine, where it lines up with other mats. Molten lead is then injected into these mats, forming a line, or slug, of raised lettering. The slug spits out to cool. So does molten lead upon occasion, leading to an unusual occupational hazard for those few Linotype operators who are still plying their trade.
The Linotype was quite an advance, although its cumbersome mechanics limited speed: a good operator soon reached the machine’s capacity, at which time he was said to be “hanging type.”
The slugs were arranged in metal trays or “forms,” along with larger lead or wooden headline letters. Expanding metal brackets called “quoins” locked these into place, and the form was placed in a press. Single sheets of newsprint were then fed through either automatically or by hand to produce the newspaper.
Long before the Linotype and letterpress (“hot type”) technologies receded (after all, they’re still with us in limited applications), their replacement was already on the horizon. Offset lithography was invented in the 19th century, but didn’t overtake the newspaper business until the 1950s and 1960s, when nearly all weeklies and dailies adopted offset.
Lithography (“cold type”) still uses a reverse image to produce a printed image, but the manner in which the image is produced differs entirely from letterpress. Instead of a raised surface, it relies upon chemicals to attract and repel ink.
It works like this: the page plate is placed, or “hung,” upon the press, where it contacts a rubber “jacket” roller. The jacket accepts the plate’s positive, or “right-reading” image, turning it into a reverse image. Paper then contacts the jacket, picking up a positive image.
Why does it work? Not because of any raised lettering — there isn’t any on the plate or the jacket. Instead, a chemical wash, added to water, is distributed across the plate. This adheres to those portions of the plate that weren’t exposed originally — the white areas between the type and photos and headlines. It doesn’t adhere to exposed areas, which appear black on the plate. Press wash repels ink; thus, when an ink distribution roller applies ink to the plate’s surface, ink is deposited only on the text and photos (or, more accurately, on the black dots of those half-tones); this is transferred to the jacket, and thence to the paper.
Beginning in the 1950s and ’60s, newspapers made the switch to lithography, adopting as they did so a new method of typography. A new step was necessary, because with the disappearance of letterpress forms there was no longer a raised surface to create the printing impression.
Instead, a new technology called “phototypesetting” was developed. Basically, this used long strips of photo-sensitive paper (“galleys”) which were exposed to a focused beam of light bearing the shapes of the various letters and numbers.
Magnifying lenses shaped the light along the way, allowing the production of larger or smaller text. These lenses replicated the old text sizes of letterpress days — 18 point, 24 points, 48 point, 60 point and so on.
Photographic images were created in “halftones,” or patterns of dots that, when viewed at any distance, merged into the printed photo.
Galleys and halftones alike were coated on one side with adhesive wax and arranged on a grid-like layout sheet, and this was then photographed in a stationary camera to produce a page negative. The negative was then (and still is) used to produce the printing plate.
Phototypesetting technology lasted only about 30 years, though, before another typesetting revolution swept the newspaper business.
“Pagination” or “desktop publishing” replaced phototypesetting with a completely computerized process. News stories, photographs and page designs are all created and stored as digital information on a computer’s hard drive. All that information is arranged visually on computer screens and transmitted electronically to the printing plant. There are no paste-up sheets, no galleys, no heavy trays of lead type.
This is the way The Dalles Chronicle is produced today, and it requires a significant level of computer knowledge by writers and designers alike.
But the information revolution didn’t stop there.
Computerization of this information allowed one final step, bypassing the printed page itself to transmit information directly from one computer to another. In this form, the newspaper becomes a “website,” and the overall system itself, of course, is called “the Internet.”
A limited version of the Chronicle is also produced in this fashion, at the website www.thedalleschronicle.com.
The following information was published in The Dalles Chronicle,
July 7, 1950.
The Dalles was the first town between the Missouri and the Columbia rivers to have a newspaper. April 1, 1859 was the date of issue number one of the first paper here, The Dalles Journal. It was published in the garrison at Ft. Dalles.
The Mountaineer became a daily paper in 1862 but reverted to a weekly four years later. By 1881, the paper had gone through the hands of two more owners
and in that year was finally acquired by Co. T.S. Lang. In 1880, The Dalles Times had been established, and the two publications were consolidated in 1882 to become The Times-Mountaineer. This was a nine-column paper, at first published as an afternoon edition, and later as a morning sheet.
The year 1900 saw the Times-Mountaineeer become a weekly, then a semi-weekly in 1901. In 1904, the owner, J.A. Douthit, retired, and the newspaper which had served The Dalles for more than 40 years died. In 1860, The Dalles had a paper called The Weekly, but it lasted only a short time. Another, The Daily Journal, was born in 1883 and died two years later. The Dalles Tribune came in about 1875, and it lasted only two years.
The Inland Empire was next on the scene, in 1876, but passed on in 1880. The Wasco Weekly Sun was created on July 4, 1881. The paper was incorporated under the name of The Dalles Publishing company six years later. The Sun continued to be published regularly until the flood of 1884 and was called The Oregon Democrat-Journal. It lasted for about one and a half years.
But in 1890 another paper had come on the scene. It was one of many papers which lasted from four weeks to 40 years. This new one was a daily. No one knew how long it would last, although its stockholders naturally hoped it would grow to huge proportions.
This new paper was named The Dalles Chronicle.
The first editor of The Chronicle was described as a bright, energetic young man, named J.H. Cradlebaugh. In its Dec. 15, 1915 25th birthday edition, The Chronicle said that "today he is one of the best known newspapermen in the Northwest."
A list of stockholders of The Chronicle shows the now famous names of D.M. French, Robert Mays, J.W. French, B.F. Laughlin, Wintworth Lord, I.C. Nickelson, Maxmillian Vogt, Hugh Glenn, S.L. Brooks, C.L. Phillips and A.S. McAllister.
The corporation was The Chronicle Publishing Company.
In 1907, a new man joined the staff of The Chronicle as a printer - he stayed for a number of years. His name was Ben. R. Litfin and he came here from Clearwater, Minn.
Manager of the paper by 1907 was H.G. Miller.
The next year, The Chronicle was changed to a morning paper and Litfin was appointed foreman in the composing room.
The paper returned to being an evening publication in about one month.
That same year, 1908, stockholders gave Manager Miller an option to buy stock. He and Litfin picked up what stock they could while the options were good. In 1909, Miller and Litfin bought the remaining stock and, with Editor, H.T. Hopins, became sole owners to The Chronicle Publishing company.
This partnership lasted for three years, until, in 1912, Hopkins sold his interest and withdrew from the company. Clarence Hedges, of Salinas, Calif., came on the scene and purchased all stock from Miller and Litfin, Miller left the field and is retired in The Dalles today, but Litfin stayed on as business manager.
May 2, 1920 was the date for the next shakeup. Litfin and W.P. Mary of Detroit bought out Hedges. Litfin became publisher, a position he retained until his retirement in 1947.
Three years later, Litfin bought Mary’s stock and became owner of The Chronicle by himself.
On Jan. 1, 1923, the size of The Chronicle was changed. It had been six columns by 20 inches, but another inch was added to the length and it became a seven-column paper. This page size underwent another change in 1927, when it took its present shape, eight columns by 21 inches.
Fire in 1946 eventually moved The Chronicle to its new building, but only after months of patient location in make-shift quarters.
In 1947, Litfin sold the paper and retired. It went to Victor Morgan of Clearwater, Fla., who quickly put into action a modernization plan. A Sunday morning paper was published instead of a Saturday evening edition, and extra comics and features were added to make the overall paper larger on Sunday.
Then in January 1948, the new Chronicle's building opened - a modern plant with adequate engraving and stereotyping shops. In December 1948, Morgan sold his interests in the paper to Robert S. Howard. Howard sold part interest to the Scripps league in the summer of 1949. The ownership [resided] in the Western Publishing Company, under the management of George R. Skaugset, publisher.
The Dalles Chronicle printed its first edition in December 1890 on the northwest corner of East Second and Union. There was a print shop on that corner then; today it’s the site of the Granada Theatre, but distant though it is in time, it’s quite close in another sense: the Chronicle’s original home is only a block from its new location at 315 E. Federal St. in The Dalles, Oregon.