On the morning of Tuesday, July 1, 1873, a crowd milled at the corner of 10th and Commercial streets until Tri-Weekly Astorian Publisher DeWitt Clinton Ireland threw open his office doors and started selling papers.
The book "The Astorian" by Roger Tetlow reports that the city's first newspaper since 1866 sold out by noon that day – and Ireland said he wished he had printed more than 500 copies.
Business? It was booming.
That four-page issue of the Tri-Weekly Astorian established a tradition that celebrates its 129th "birthday" on July 1.
The news of the day was presented differently in 1873. Headlines, when they were used, were in small type and confined to one column, as were the stories. Tiny news briefs, sometimes no more than a sentence long, were front-page news and had to share space with classified advertising.
These excerpts are taken from the pages of the first issue:
• "Capt. George Flavel, who has been to California overseeing work on the barkentine Jane A. Falkinburg for a month past, is expected home to-day."
• "OUT OF SORTS – For the want of certain letters in the alphabet which the type founders neglected to send with the bulk of the type ordered, much that we wished to say to-day in the first issue of the ASTORIAN is necessarily omitted."
• "U.S. Mail and Express. From Astoria to Clatsop Beach! Fast Horses! Good Carriage!"
• J.W. Gearhart – Dealer in hay, grain, and feed with "a general assortment of groceries" including "flour, bacon, hams, shoulders, lard, butter, cheese, and eggs."
• The Steam Tug Varuna leaves Astoria Tuesday and Saturday mornings for Fort Stevens, Cape Disappointment, and Unity carrying mail, passengers, and freight.
• A year subscription to the four-page paper, published on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, cost only $5. Ads cost $1.50 per square per month.
Small beginnings, big dreams
With no education beyond age 12, Ireland learned the newspaper trade as an apprentice in South Bend, Ind. At 19, he founded his first paper in Mishawaka, Ind.
Three years after he began the Tri-Weekly Astorian, Ireland grew ambitious. The Tri-Weekly Astorian evolved into The Morning Astorian on May 1, 1876, Astoria's first daily newspaper.
The daily glory lasted just over a month. Faced with low profits, Ireland was forced to cut publication to weekly status on June 19, 1876.
To raise financial stability, the company branched out, printing salmon canning labels. In another year – on June 2, 1877 – the paper went daily again.
In 1881, Ireland sold the paper to John F. Halloran and Pitman W. Parker. The paper would change hands several times until 1930, when it merged with the Astoria Evening Budget, a separate paper founded in 1893 by Oscar W. Dunbar and John Gratke.
In 125 years, the Astorian – be it Morning, Evening, Budget, Tri-Weekly, or Daily – has changed. News used to come to the small city of Astoria by horse and buggy; now, high-speed computers and satellite links transmit news from around the world. Gone forever are the days of hand-engraved and handset types and pictures; our journalists write and edit local stories, compose headlines, and design pages on desktop computers.
However, some things never change. The names and places in the articles and advertisements from that July 1, 1873 issue are familiar. Gearhart, Van Dusen, and Flavel are in the Astorian today.