Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Happy Birthday Free Press!

The Free Press turns 125 years old today.

The Free Press technically wasn't the first newspaper in Mankato. The first newspaper in Mankato, the Independent, began in 1857 and later was named the Mankato Union. In 1880, the Union merged with its rival Mankato paper, the Record, to become the Mankato Weekly Free Press. The newspaper kept that name for the next seven years.

Then, on April 4, 1887, the first daily newspaper to serve the area was established.

Its front-page stories were about issues journalists continue to report on today. Stories of school budgets, political conventions, crime, deaths and city council meetings filled the pages. Looking through it gives a reader a glimpse of life in a fledgling Mankato in the late 1800s, something those journalists may or may not have been aiming for, but something that goes with the nature of one of the roles of a newspaper as a chronicle of a community's life.

There were no photos in that first Daily Free Press. The halftone process used to produce photographs on newspaper pages didn't become widely used until 10 years later. The press itself has come a long way since 1887. Our press, the popular Goss Community press, is nearly as old as I am but continually pumps out more than 21,000 newspapers a day every day, a task that punishes even the best equipment. As some of these photographs show, the old Goss may have some battle scars, but she still cranks out the pages every day.

Worn steps leading down to the press room.
Concrete pillars that once held up a press upstairs.

Control switches for the press.

One of the press unit's controls.
Yellow ink in one of the inkwells.

A locker room for press operators.

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