The first edition of the Yakima Herald, one of the predecessors to the Yakima Herald-Republic. (Courtesy of the Library of Congress)

While the newspaper industry is going through a rough patch, to put it mildly, newspapers have always been a part of their communities.

And Yakima has had a rich journalistic history, with two daily newspapers at one time keeping people informed.

Even before the First Amendment’s guarantee of press freedom was penned, newspapers were a part of American life, from John Peter Zenger’s New York Weekly Journal to Benjamin Franklin’s Pennsylvania Gazette.

And as the country expanded westward, a newspaper was among the first businesses to spring up in a new city, since people must be informed of what’s going on around them.

The same was true here.

One of the first newspapers in the area, according to some accounts, was the Yakima Record, which was started in 1879 in Yakima City (today’s Union Gap), and relocated to North Yakima in 1885, taking on the name Yakima Republican, before becoming simply the Yakima Republic.

The Yakima Signal was started by J.M. Adams in 1883 in Yakima City. Adams used his paper to champion the construction of the Northern Pacific Railway, which residents hoped would bring prosperity to the city.

As regular readers of this column know, the railroad came to Yakima City, but didn’t stop. Instead, railroad officials said they would establish a new city several miles north to serve as the depot for the city, even though Yakima City officials offered half the vacant land in town to the railroad.

Adams, who is described in the book “Yakima: A Centennial Reflection” as a “vitriolic editor,” was appointed to a committee to go to New York to negotiate a deal with railroad owners that would save the city. The railroad’s take-it-or-leave-it offer was to offer to move buildings at the railroad’s expense from Yakima City to the new town.

Adams took the railroad up on the offer, but his building never made the trip across the prairie on wood rollers. As it was being prepared for the winching, someone blew it up with dynamite, apparently viewing Adams as a traitor.

Within four months of the new city’s creation, three weekly newspapers were operating there. Other amenities at time included 15 saloons, four large hotels, 126 homes and a church.

According to records at the Library of Congress, the Signal continued until 1888 when it ceased publication.

The 1902 issue of The Coast Magazine suggests that the Signal did relocate to North Yakima to be renamed the Yakima Herald. But the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America website indicates that the Yakima Herald, under the ownership of E.M. Reed and Joseph Coe was a successor to the Signal but not under the same ownership.

The paper’s first edition came out on Feb. 2, 1889, with a front page-article about the wonders of North Yakima’s area, “a land of peace and plenty, where everybody prospers and not one pauper among them.”

Reed and Coe, after each left the business for brief periods, sold the paper in 1897 to Charles F. Bailey and George N. Tuesley of Minnesota. There was a bit more shuffling among the upper management of the paper.

In 1905, the paper put out a daily edition, the Yakima Morning Herald after Tuesley purchased a linotype machine, a device that could cast type in lines after being typed in by a typesetter, as opposed having to use precast type for each letter.

One such machine is on display in the Yakima Herald-Republic’s lobby, with others that can be found at the Olde Yakima Letterpress Museum in Union Gap and the Kittitas County Historical Museum in Ellensburg.

The Herald’s main competition was the Yakima Republic, which was bought in 1898 by Wilbur Wade Robertson, who went by the nickname “Colonel” even though he never served in the military. Robertson had sold his interest in the Chehalis Nugget and turned down offers to buy The Seattle Times and the Tacoma Ledger when he decided to purchase the Republic.

His first day as “editor and business manager” did not exactly go well. Robertson broke his wrist starting the gasoline engine that ran the paper’s printing press, according to a later account of his life published in the paper.

The Republic was a weekly until 1902, when Robertson expanded circulation to daily during the election season. While he planned the daily paper to be temporary, business people persuaded him to not go back to weekly circulation.

In 1913, Robertson acquired the Herald, and operated both papers, encouraging the two newsrooms to develop their own voices even though they shared ownership. It’s a model that would later be seen in such joint-operating agreements between other newspapers, such as the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News or The Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News.

Robertson was noted for his editorials, which usually favored conservative Republican ideals. Robertson, in his columns, defended President Herbert Hoover’s handling of what became The Great Depression, derided the New Deal of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and took swipes at Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman William O. Douglas, a Yakima resident, for his liberal tendencies.

Douglas would later go on to become the longest-sitting justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.

In 1924, the Republic invited people to come to its North Second Street office during the World Series to get the score of the Washington Senators and New York Giants game in as close to real time as early 20th century technology — and restrictions by both Major League Baseball and the wire services — would allow.

As play-by-play accounts came through on the Associated Press’ telegraph, an announcer would read the dispatch to the assembled crowd while the game’s stats were written on a large board mounted on the building’s side. The Republic reported that the first day 1,500 people crowded the street to catch the score.

Robertson died in March 1938 of a heart attack, and his son, W.H. “Ted” Robertson, ascended to the publisher’s post.

In 1951, under the younger Robertson’s direction, the papers moved to its current home on North Fourth Street, to a building designed by famed Yakima architect John Maloney and dubbed the W.W. Robertson Building.

In 1968, the Herald and Republic merged to form the Yakima Herald-Republic as an all-day newspaper, with editions coming out in the morning and evening.

The Robertson family sold the paper in 1972 to Harte-Hanks, which discontinued afternoon editions in 1981. It then sold the paper to Garden State Newspapers, a subsidiary of MediaNews Group in 1986.

The Seattle Times Co., which Robertson declined to buy nearly a century before, purchased the paper in 1992 and organized it under a separate board of directors. Editorial and business decisions are made in by Publisher Bob Crider and his staff in Yakima.

It Happened here is a weekly history column by Yakima Herald-Republic reporter Donald W. Meyers. Reach him at dmeyers@yakimaherald.com.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This column has been changed to reflect that editorial and business decisions for the Yakima Herald-Republic are made locally.

Reach Donald W. Meyers at dmeyers@yakimaherald.com or on Twitter: donaldwmeyers, or https://www.facebook.com/donaldwmeyersjournalist.

Crime and Courts Reporter

Donald W. Meyers is a multimedia journalist at the Yakima Herald-Republic covering crime and courts. He is also the writer behind “It Happened Here,” a weekly history column. Before coming to Yakima, Meyers covered a wide variety of beats at The Salt Lake Tribune, Daily Herald, and daily and weekly newspapers across New Jersey. He is also a member of the Society of Professional Journalists, serving as a regional officer in the organization as well as on the national Freedom of Information Committee.

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