Owen Historical Society News: Newspapers reflected a prosperous community

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By Bonnie Strassell

“To look at the (news) paper is to raise a seashell to one’s ear and to be overwhelmed by the roar of humanity.”

These words by Swiss author Alain de Botton described the undeniable influence a newspaper has upon its readers.
Newspapers have been a part of our daily life for centuries. They were not only an avenue of advertisement and of distributing information to the public, but were also a means of providing entertainment through satire or storytelling.
Some of the earliest newspapers date back to Ancient Rome where important announcements were carved in stone tablets and placed in highly populated areas where citizens could be informed of current events.
The invention of the printing press provided the means by which newspapers could be reproduced and disseminated quickly and efficiently.
Benjamin Franklin saw the printing press as a device to instruct colonial America in moral virtue, and despite his own moral lapses, he believed he was uniquely qualified to instruct others. Franklin established a printing network based on a chain of partnerships from the Carolinas to New England, thereby inventing the first newspaper chain.
Over the years, newspapers have undergone dramatic changes, and those changes are reflected not only in large daily papers but also in the newspapers of rural America.
In the early 1900s, the News-Herald was a six-column newspaper with advertisements claiming most of the front page.
The July 3, 1919 edition contained two ads, one for the Owen County Chautagua program and the other for Prince Albert’s flavorful and fragrant pipe tobacco. Two other ads included Delco light “the complete electric light and power plant,” and a classified announcing that May Tomlinson was selling Rockwood coffee.
The biggest story of the day reported the destruction by fire of the Burley Tobacco company’s looseleaf warehouse in Owenton and Robert C. Ford’s sale of a 25 acre section, known as the Berriman Farm, to the Cammack Sales company in West Virginia for development of home sites.
Local businessmen also advertised their services and products.
Henry Worsham announced he had the “best barber shop in town,”and C.E. Goode of Owenton guaranteed his vulcanizing to “outwear the balance of tires.”
Joseph Nisus boasted of the most artistic monuments found anywhere, and Curtis & Swetnam advertised a full line of millinery and footwear which should be purchased as soon as possible as “the prices on all merchandise is advancing rapidly.”
Political ads were common and in this July 1919 issue O.C. Jones of east Owenton announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for state representative promising “good roads, better schools, economic readjustment of state tax money, giving the roads and rural schools the benefit of the money unnecessarily spent on useless offices.”
The Owen News published in New Liberty was the earliest newspaper in Owen County. The front page of the Oct. 26, 1869 edition contained a generous supply of ads, a poem titled “The Wife’s Appeal,” an official business directory, some stories of “questionable authenticity,’ and a time-table showing arrivals and departures at Liberty Station (Sanders) and Sparta.
An article encouraging support of the newspaper stated,
“Owen County has a newspaper - the News - and as this is the first and only paper the county ever had the people ought to be very proud of it and give it a handsome support. It used to be said that democrats grew upon trees in Sweet Owen, this may not be true, but the unterrified certainly abound there to a healthy extent, and if they are true to themselves they will not let their paper languish for support. Nothing better bespeaks the thrift of a community than a prosperous newspaper.”
Newspapers are an essential part of everyday life. It has been said they are “mirrors of the world.” They give opportunities to share with others not only present events and future dreams, but are also a means of recording history as it happened. In doing so they reach across the past and touch tomorrow.
“Whenever I begin work on a new book, I am reborn into a new world.” (James Alexander Thom).

On April 10 the Owen County Historical Society will welcome author James Alexander Thom. Mr. Thom has written numerous historical books including  From Sea To Shining Sea, Follow The River, Long Knife, and Panther In The Sky. His painstaking research is evident in the historic accuracy of his novels.
Mr. Thom  was born in Gosport, Ind. and graduated from Butler University. He taught at Indiana University and has written for several newspapers. James served in the United States Marine Corps during the Korean conflict.
Mr. Thom’s wife, Claudia Cahill Kirkpatrick, is known as Dark Rain and is a descendant of the Shawnee Indians. One of their newest books, Warrior Woman,  was written by both James and Dark Rain. This novel has earned impressive reviews from many in the field of journalism.
Don’t miss this opportunity to meet James Alexander Thom and Dark Rain. Dinner is at 5 p.m. and the program begins at 6:30 p.m. There will be a book signing following the presentation.