Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Newspaper Publisher Ben Read, Lurid Headlines Attract Readers [otd 10/18]

Ben Read. J. H. Hawley photo.
Idaho Falls newspaperman Benjamin Harrison Read was born October 18, 1888 in Palco, located about 25 miles north of Hayes, Kansas. His father, a storekeeper, moved the family to Iowa when Ben was a young man. After high school he attended Grinnell College, graduating in 1910. (Grinnell is about 45 miles east of Des Moines.) After graduation, Ben worked at the Ames Times newspaper.

Within two years, he attained a partnership in the newspaper, which became the Ames Evening Times. He soon assumed management of the paper, which he took from a weekly to a daily in about 1916. Like many newspapers of that day, the company also maintained a lucrative job printing operation.

In 1917, Ben sold the Ames newspaper and moved to Idaho. There, he and his brother Clifford bought a controlling interest in the Idaho Falls Daily Post. The earliest known operators of the Post were brothers Charles and Ernest Sumner in partnership with Henry Gabbe. In 1905, the partners shipped equipment in from Colorado and began publishing the first daily newspaper in Idaho Falls. (Library of Congress records indicate that an Idaho Falls paper of that name began in 1903, but nothing is known of its circulation or management.)

The Post had to compete with two existing weekly newspapers: the Idaho Register and Idaho Falls Times. The presence of a daily did force the Register to go semi-weekly, in 1908. However, it soon became apparent that three newspapers might be too many for the town to support. When the novelty wore off, the Daily Post struggled, going through a succession of owners before the Read’s bought it.

Daily Post offices. Idaho Falls Post Register archives.
Ben and Cliff rejuvenated the paper: They contracted for a dedicated newswire so they could feature the hottest events from around the world, and published full-color Sunday comics. They also packed their pages with sensational stories: notorious (preferably bloody) murders, white slavery, marquee sporting events … whatever would grab attention. On the side, they ran the usual printing operation.

Their competitors merged in 1920 to form the Times-Register, which also went to daily publication. In 1922-1923, Ben served a couple months as private secretary to newly-elected Idaho Governor Charles C. Moore (Idaho Statesman, December 24, 1922). In 1925, the brothers sold the Daily Post to J. Robb Brady, son of former Idaho Governor and U. S. Senator James H. Brady. Ben and Cliff moved to the Los Angeles, California, area. Ben remained in southern California until his death in 1972. Cliff returned to Idaho for a time to run another newspaper.

Robb Brady had originally moved to Idaho to settle the estate of Senator Brady, who died in office from a heart attack. Ironically, a year after purchasing the Post, J. Robb also had a heart attack and died. The manager he hired, E. F. McDermott, arranged a merger with the Times Register, changing the name to the Post-Register. McDermott operated the paper for the next half century. The Post Register is still being published today, six days a week (no issue on Monday).
                                                                                                                                     
References: [Hawley]
Chronicling America: Historic Newspapers, Library of Congress (online).
Mary Jane Fritzen, Idaho Falls, City of Destiny, Bonneville County Historical Society, Idaho Falls (1991).
“Golden Jubilee Edition, 1884–1934,” Idaho Falls Post-Register (September 10, 1934).
William Hathaway, Images of America: Idaho Falls, Arcadia Publishing, Charleston, SC (2006).

No comments:

Post a Comment