State residents have always turned to their newspapers



The Idaho Statesman.JPG

The Idaho Statesman’s second office, in the 1860s.


The first newspaper published in what is now Idaho was the weekly Lewiston Golden Age. Issue No. 1 appeared on Saturday, Aug. 2, 1862, when Lewiston was one of Washington Territory’s newest towns. The paper’s motto was “Je maintiendrai le droit — I shall maintain the right.” Publisher A.S. Gould was a pro-Union activist in that second year of the Civil War, surrounded by newly arrived Confederate sympathizers. It is said that when Gould displayed the American flag in front of his office, it was soon riddled with bullets.

Packer Lloyd Magruder, whose name became widely known after he and his party were brutally murdered on Sept. 15, 1863, for the gold they were carrying, had described himself only a few days earlier as a “Democrat, Copperhead or Butternut.” This led Gould to write of him on Sept. 5, 1863, that “fanatical bigotry (is) writhing through every pore of his skin.” It was typical of the colorful and imaginative insults used by early editors. It entertained readers and sold papers.

The name “Golden Age” reflected the gold discoveries that had brought enough prospectors and miners into North Idaho to create Lewiston and to support a newspaper. When the capital was moved to Boise in 1864, Lewiston’s population declined enough that Gould’s paper folded, and its printing press and equipment were sold and moved to Boise, the new capital. The Idaho Statesman began publication that summer and has outlasted all other Idaho newspapers by far. None of Lewiston’s later papers lasted very long. The Radiator was started in the summer of 1865. The Journal appeared on Jan. 17, 1867, the Idaho Signal on March 9, 1872, and the Northerner in September 1874. The Teller, the Daily Patriot, the Nez Perce News and the Lewiston Weekly Tribune of September 1892 round out the early list. Only the Tribune, in various forms, made it to the present day.

The names of Idaho newspapers continued to reflect both the interests of their communities and the politics of their publishers. Grangeville had the Idaho Gold Miner (1892), the Camas Prairie Cayuse (1895) and the Republican (1896). Wallace had the Democrat (1892), and Burke and Kingston each had an Independent. Other interesting and unusual names were the Coeur d’Alene Stars and Bars, named for the wartime flag of the Confederacy, the Juliaetta Potlatch, the Moscow Palouse Empire, the Harrison Searchlight and the Kendrick Canyon Echo.

One of the most notable names chosen for an Idaho newspaper was that of the Coeur d’Alene Barbarian. A 1903 History of North Idaho describes it: “This journal, which attained to considerable local fame in its life, was established as a monthly during the closing days of the year 1891 by R.E. Brown, who, because of his connection with the paper, was at once given the title ‘Barbarian Brown.’ At first the paper was published at Wallace; then an edition was published simultaneously at Wardner and in this form the Barbarian was published for a long period. Subsequently, a semi-weekly was issued. It passed into memory a decade ago.”

By 1912, Idaho’s 85 newspapers were published under tried and true but less-imaginative names. There were 16 Newses; 13 Timeses; eight Heralds; six Tribunes; and four Chronicles, Enterprises, Journals, Reviews and Sentinels.

Nearly all of these newspapers can be read from microfilm at the Idaho History Center or at our state university libraries. It is both entertaining and enlightening.

Arthur Hart writes this column on Idaho history for the Idaho Statesman each Sunday. Email

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