Sunday, December 18, 2016

Weiser Signal Newspaper Publishes Its first Issue [otd 12/18]

On December 18, 1890, Robert E. Lockwood published the first issue of the Weiser Signal newspaper.
Vintage printing press.
American Local History Network,
Clark County, Wisconsin.

Lockwood was born in southwestern Oregon, near the California border, in 1858. The family later moved to east-central Oregon, where Robert learned the printer’s trade. In 1878, he found work on the railroad in eastern Idaho. It then seems likely that he moved on with the Oregon Short Line as it laid track west, toward Weiser and the Oregon border.

Meanwhile, in 1882, Weiser’s first newspaper, the Weiser Leader, began publication. Founded by two partners, one with considerable newspaper experience, the other with none, the Leader passed through a succession of owners through most of a decade.

At some point, Lockwood went to work at the Leader for awhile. He then took a job in Caldwell for three months before returning to Weiser to begin publication of the Signal. The newspaper did very well. In September 1891, Lockwood bought the Leader and combined it with the Signal. Although Lockwood did not retain the Leader name, the purchase established a publishing lineage back to Weiser’s earliest days. The Illustrated History considered the Signal to be “one of the best [newspapers] in southwestern Idaho.”

Lockwood took up an active role in Democratic Party politics. The party nominated him to run for the state Senate from Washington County in 1898, but he was defeated and never ran for public office again. Lockwood also served as an officer of the Idaho Press Association.

In 1899, the Signal gained a long-time competitor, the Weiser American, a weekly. Three years later, Lockwood sold a half-interest in the paper to Frank S. Harding. A Michigan native, Harding was two years younger than Lockwood. However, having been associated with newspapers in the Midwest and in Oregon since about 1875, Harding actually had more experience in the business.

The partnership continued until 1906, when Harding sold his interest and moved to Boise. Four years later, he would return and purchase a controlling interest in the Weiser American. Meanwhile, the Signal reported (December 8, 1906) that “R. E. Lockwood has severed his connection with the Signal to engage in other interests.”
Downtown Weiser, ca 1908. Vintage postcard.

Those interests included a ranch near Riggins, and mining properties about twenty miles east of that town. Sadly, less than a year later (October 26, 1907) the Signal reported, “Former Signal editor, Robert Edwin Lockwood, accidentally shot and killed himself at his ranch at Riggins.”

During this general period, the Signal Publishing Company was formed to control the paper, then published twice weekly. After some turn-over in management, Lester I. Purcell, an experienced newspaperman from Kansas, purchased a controlling interest and took over as Editor. The paper backed off to a weekly schedule in 1912-1913, then returned to semi-weekly publication. It became a daily in 1925.

The Signal and the American both served the city until 1985, when they combined to form the Weiser Signal American. Today, the newspaper proudly traces its roots back to the Weiser Leader of 1882.
References]: [French], [Illust-State]
Chronicling America: Historic Newspapers, The Library of Congress (online).
Frank Harris, “History of Washington County and Adams County,” Weiser Signal (Series, 1940s).

1 comment:

  1. Mr. Filby, I read this article with interest because I am writing a novel that takes place in Weiser in the time frame between the 1920s to 1950. I have one little question I wonder if you might be able to answer. Do you know who the publisher of the Signal American was in 1948? I plan to visit Weiser in the fall, and am hoping to talk with some historians while I'm there. If you would be interested, you may contact me at Thank you.