JIM McKEE for Lincoln Journal Star
The earliest newspapers in what would become Nebraska Territory were presumably printed at Winter Quarters, now the Omaha district of Florence, by Mormons in the 1840s, or even earlier at Fort Atkinson in the 1820s, but no physical copies of either exist.
The earliest known Nebraska newspapers were printed in Iowa for circulation in Nebraska. The Nebraska City News was printed in Sidney, Iowa, and the Omaha Arrow in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Even Lincoln’s first newspaper, the Nebraska Commonwealth, was printed in 1867 by Charles Gere, not in Lincoln but in Nebraska City.
Phineas Hitchcock arrived in Omaha City from New York in 1857. A lawyer, Hitchcock was also involved in real estate and insurance. Politically, he was a delegate to the territorial legislature, appointed surveyor general of Nebraska, elected to Congress in 1864 and to the United States Senate in 1871.
Phineas’s son, Gilbert Monell Hitchcock, was born in Omaha City in 1859. After graduating from high school, Gilbert studied for two years in Germany, then attended law school at the University of Michigan, graduating in 1881.
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The weekly Omaha Arrow was printed at Council Bluffs at the Bugle’s office from July 28, 1854. The four-page, six-column sheet was “dated in Omaha City”, bore the motto “The people – the rulers of the soil” , with attorney Joseph Johnson as editor.
One of the first editorials began “We are here on Nebraska soil sitting on the stump of an old oak tree, which serves as an editorial chair.”
Only 12 issues of The Arrow were published, with Johnson later moving to Omaha and being admitted to the Nebraska bar. After November 10, Mr. Pattison, the owner of the newspaper, “gave up his newspaper and his real estate business and left town! There were not enough people in Omaha to make newspaper publishing a very profitable business.
The first truly published newspaper in Nebraska, the Nebraskian, first appeared on January 17, 1855.
Another Nebraska-produced newspaper began publication by Dr. George Miller and Daniel Carpenter in October 1865 as the Omaha Daily Herald.
In 1882, a constitutional amendment granting women the right to vote led to a debate in Omaha between Edward Rosewater of the Omaha Bee and Susan B. Anthony. A few days later, Gilbert Hitchcock faced well-known feminist Phoebe Cousins in a public debate in which Cousins jumped up and shouted, “Mr. Hitchcock, you are a disgrace to the mother who bore you. Hitchcock was warmly applauded and deemed the winner of the debate.
In August 1885, Hitchcock and four others founded the evening world. In 1889, the Daily Herald was losing $1,000 a month and the Evening World nearly $5,000 a month.
Hitchcock then purchased the Daily Herald and arranged for the merger of the two papers in March as the Democratic-leaning Omaha World-Herald and purchased a three-story building between 14th and 15th Streets in Farnam as his office.
Rosewater quickly published an op-ed in the Bee asking how consolidating the two losers could be profitable. Success came, however, in 1898, during the Spanish–American War, when the World-Herald obtained the press services of the New York Journal and the New York Herald, which moved the World-Herald to No. 1 Omaha paper above the bee.
In 1916, the World-Herald moved to new quarters in a new purpose-built eight-story building at the northwest corner of 15th and Farnam streets. With the new headquarters, the stock of the World-Herald was owned primarily by Hitchcock, his son-in-law, Henry Doorly, and his father-in-law Wm. G. Crounse.
Hitchcock was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1902, defeated for re-election in 1904, but succeeded again in 1906 and 1908. In 1911 he was elected to the United States Senate, re-elected in 1917 and became Majority Leader and Chairman of the Democratic Caucus, then defeated in 1922.
In 1934, “Gilbert M. Hitchcock, the youngest man ever to represent Nebraska in the United States Senate,” died in Washington, DC, and was buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Omaha.
In 1963, his daughter, Margaret Hitchcock Doorly, donated $750,000 to establish the Henry Doorly Zoo, named after her husband, also publisher of the World-Herald.
Gilbert M. Hitchcock was elected to the Nebraska Hall of Fame in 1984 and also lives in the park named in his honor at 42nd and Q streets in Omaha.
A complete new building was constructed in 1948 at 14th and Dodge streets for the World-Herald, which would later be the last American newspaper to print both a morning and afternoon edition.
The newspaper is now owned by Lee Enterprises, so the Omaha newspaper is again owned by an Iowa company.
Historian Jim McKee, who always writes with a fountain pen, invites comments or questions. Write to him care of Journal Star or [email protected]