Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Reynolds Distributes First Issue of The Idaho Statesman, in Boise [otd 07/26]

Statesman inaugural issue.
On Tuesday, July 26, 1864, the first issue of the Idaho Tri-Weekly Statesman, a small four-column publication, came off the presses in Boise City. The newspaper debuted that day because of some enthusiastic, and practical, advocacy by a team of Boise businessmen.

Statesman founder James S. Reynolds told an 1870 Census taker he had been born in New York State, in 1830. However, the Illustrated History of the State of Idaho had information that he was born in Maine, and had worked “in the lumber camps of the Pine Tree State.” In any case, he later made his way to Oregon by way of California. At The Dalles, he met two brothers, Thomas and Richard Reynolds (who bore no relation to James). These young men owned a printing outfit and knew how to use it.

At that time, the Boise Basin gold fields were booming. The men compared notes and decided that a newspaper in Idaho City could be a money-making venture. So off they went, getting as far as Boise City on July 15, 1864. There, they stopped at the Riggs & Agnew store to ask about the best way to get their heavy load to their destination.

Henry C. Riggs and James D. Agnew, two of the founders of Boise City, grew very excited when they learned what the threesome intended. They quickly gathered a group of fellow businessmen to propose that the Reynolds site their newspaper in their small hamlet on the Boise River. They surely must have also pointed out that Idaho City already had three established newspapers.

Just eleven days later that first issue hit the streets. The publication included generally standard fare: news of the war, Territorial political conventions, many advertisements, and so on. It also contained a slam at the editor of a rival newspaper, the Boise News in Idaho City. The brief item described him as “a large sized brick.”

They had only been able to find a two-room log cabin to house their venture, but made do. James Reynolds served as editor, giving the paper a Republican, abolitionist, and pro-Union bent. Oddly enough, the Reynolds brothers, from Missouri, and many of the paper's backers and readers held Southern sympathies.
Statesman building, 1866. Idaho Statesman archives.

Still, the partners managed to work together and the newspaper became a resounding success. Early subscriptions ran $1 for a week, $3 for a month, or $20 for a year.

About two years after that first issue, the Reynolds brothers sold their share to James and moved back to Missouri. In 1869, Reynolds tried to sell the paper, but the deal fell through. Three years later, he finally found a buyer, former judge Milton Kelly.

Kelly changed the paper to a daily in 1888, which has been its main schedule ever since. A year later, he sold the Statesman to a group led by livestock dealer Calvin Cobb. Cobb operated the paper until his death in 1928. Under his leadership, the newspaper became less and less partisan, but still held its generally-acknowledged position as the "lead" newspaper for the state of Idaho.

The Statesman remained under local ownership until 1963, when it became part of a large newspaper holding company.
References: [French], [Hawley], [Illust-State]
Rocky Barker, “It's the Statesman's 145th anniversary! From Lincoln to Obama, we have been there,” The Idaho Statesman, Boise (July 26, 2009).
“James S. Reynolds, ca. 1830-September 14, 1897,” Reference Series No. 593, Idaho State Historical Society (1981).
Idaho Statesman, Official Web Site.

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