With the advent of the internet and cable television, Americans now have literally hundreds of choices when it comes to getting our latest news updates. When I was a young boy, growing up in small town Iowa, our choices were limited to: 1) daily newspapers – which my dad, being a newspaperman, subscribed to several – 2) the evening news on ABC, CBS, and NBC, and/or 3) short news updates on the radio.
And if we turn the clock back to the earliest days of rural Iowa, the choices were even fewer. When the Boller family arrived in Johnson County, for example, in 1853, developing farmland just north of Kalona, the best option for getting the latest news was “going into town” and listening to the townspeople chatter as you bought your winter supply of staples!
For those living in the bustling state capital of Iowa City in 1853, there were actually two different newspapers from which to choose. Not unlike today, politics and news-reporting went hand-in-hand in those days, so those folks who voted Whig/Republican read The Iowa Republican, while those leaning toward the Democrats chose The Iowa Capitol Reporter.
Which brings us now to two early Iowa City printing pioneers I’d like to introduce to you:
- William Crum, publisher of Iowa City’s first newspaper – political stance: Whig/Republican. Crum was born on February 4, 1818 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Feeling the call westward, he moved in 1838 to Bloomington (Muscatine) in the newly formed Territory of Iowa, one year before the community was incorporated (1839).
- Thomas Hughes, publisher of Iowa City’s second newspaper – political stance: Democrat. Unlike Crum, who settled in Bloomington right away, Hughes did a lot of traveling after he came to Iowa in October of 1838. Born three years earlier than Crum, on September 22, 1815 in Catawissa, Pennsylvania, Hughes grew up less than 100 miles north of Crum’s hometown of Lancaster (see map above). Settling first in Davenport, where he worked for the local newspaper, Hughes soon was off to Burlington, where the new Iowa Territorial Legislature was meeting. After those sessions ended in the spring of 1839, he traveled north to Dubuque, working in the printing business there before moving to Bloomington in October of 1840.
- Both men moved from Bloomington (Muscatine) to Iowa City in 1841.
Hughes and Crum were hard-nosed newspaper competitors during the earliest days of Iowa City. Crum, who teamed up with W.D. Bailey from Bloomington, is credited with starting Iowa City’s first newspaper, The Iowa City Standard, publishing his first edition on June 10, 1841. Hughes was quick to follow, teaming with V.P. Van Antwerp, to roll out The Iowa Capitol Reporter six months later, on December 4, 1841.
Now, before telling you more about our two warring Iowa City newspaper pioneers, I must give you a bit of a background on newspapers in Iowa. As you might recall, Iowa was officially opened to new settlers on June 1, 1833. That’s when the Black Hawk Purchase took effect, opening a large strip of land along the western shores of the Mississippi River (see map below).
Over the next four years (1836-1840), four additional Iowa cities, all located on the Mississippi River, came on-line with their own newspapers…
- June 28, 1837 – Montrose, Iowa – The Western Adventurer and Herald of the Upper Mississippi – Dr. Isaac Gallard, publisher.
- July 10, 1837 – Burlington, Iowa – The Wisconsin Territorial Gazette and Burlington Advertiser – James Clarke, publisher.
- March 28, 1838 – Ft.Madison, Iowa – The Ft. Madison Patriot – James G. Edwards, publisher. BTW, in June of 1839, Edwards relocated to Burlington to bring some head-to-head competition to Clarke – renaming his paper, in the fall of 1839 – The Burlington Hawk-eye. Click here to read more about that story.
- August 4, 1838 – Davenport, Iowa – The Iowa Sun and Davenport and Rock Island News – Andrew Logan, publisher.
Which now brings us back to our two competing entrepreneurs – William Crum and Thomas Hughes, who first met while competing for readers in Bloomington (Muscatine) in 1840.
As he would do in Iowa City one year later, William Crum, a Whig/Republican, struck first in Bloomington, joining with business partner W.D. Bailey to begin The Iowa Standard newspaper, with its first edition being printed on October 23, 1840. Four days later, on October 27, 1840, Thomas Hughes, a Democrat, and his business partner, John Russell, struck back, publishing their first edition of The Bloomington Herald. And the newspaper war was on!
While both Crum and Hughes had the will power and the talent to be successful in the newspaper business, both knew, full well, that the most successful printing business in the Territory would need to be located in the new capital city of Iowa City. Soon after his Bloomington debut in October 1840, William Crum also began distributing his Iowa Standard in Iowa City – 40 miles west – as well, including news from the capital city and Muscatine County. Knowing that it was best for his business, by April 1841, Crum decided to take the plunge, moving his entire printing operation to Johnson County – using a team of oxen – and, as we said earlier, published his first edition on June 10, 1841.
According to historic records, Isaac V. Dennis was Crum’s first typesetter and Dr. Jesse Bowen was a silent partner and co-editor. The paper was published in a building at the southeast corner Clinton Street and Iowa Avenue, built and owned by Charles H. Berryhill – the present location of Iowa Book and Supply- see map above.
- The Steamboat Ripple Rolls Into Iowa City.
Sadly, no copies of Crum’s first edition seem to have survived, but we do know that one of The Standard’s top stories during those first few months of publication happened only ten days later – June 20, 1841 – when Captain Dan Jones steered The Ripple up the Iowa River, becoming the very first steamboat to dock in Iowa City. Author John C. Parish, in his 1921 article from The Palimpsest, tells us more…
- Iowa’s Territorial Legislature Is Coming Soon!
The other exciting Iowa City news story The Standard covered that summer/fall of 1841 was the announcement that the Iowa Territorial Legislature was planning to move its 4th legislative session – scheduled to begin on December 6 – from Burlington to Iowa City, if, and only if, there was suitable meeting space offered to them at no cost!
It’s this big December 1841 Territorial news story that now brings us back to William Crum and his biggest competitor, Thomas Hughes. Because of this excitement surrounding the move of the Iowa Territorial Legislature, Hughes quickly relocated from Bloomington to Iowa City, just in time to publish his new paper with his new partner – V.P. Van Antwerp – The Iowa Capitol Reporter on December 4, 1841 – two days before the Legislature convened in Iowa City! Historian Douglas C. McMurtrie explains…
We must also mention that Crum and Thomas weren’t the only two newspaper men trying to compete for this growing Iowa City market. For a short time in 1841, a third option existed, The Iowa City Argus. Historian T.S. Parvin continues with that part of the story (below right), but by December, The Capitol Reporter’s editor – V.P. Van Antwerp – was railing against The Argus (below left)…
So, within one year, Iowa City went from zero newspapers to three and back to two! While Jackson’s Iowa City Argus didn’t make it, both Crum and Hughes successfully brought two reading options to the good citizens of Iowa City. A Whig paper – The Standard – which later became The Iowa Republican – and the Democrat paper – The Capitol Reporter – which eventually was taken over by The State Press.
Both men remained in Iowa City for the remainder of their lives, and one historical account even indicates that these two adversaries even teamed up at one point when tackling a large printing order from the Iowa Territorial office once everything moved from Burlington into the new capitol building in 1842.
In February 1844, William Crum married Elvira Odell, a Bloomington resident, and together they lived in Iowa City – two different homes – both of which remain today. Also that year (1844), Crum sold his interest in the Iowa City Standard, but went on to run a successful printing operation, first out of the city’s first brick building located on the southeast corner of Iowa Avenue and Clinton Street.
After a devastating June 23, 1867 fire that destroyed several buildings there, Crum moved his business to another building at the corner of Washington and Dubuque Streets. Crum was also a member of the Board of Regents for the State University of Iowa as well as the Iowa State School for the Deaf.
The Crum’s first home is located at 726 Iowa Avenue (above left) which was built in the early-mid 1840’s, and the second (above right) is located at 1110 Kirkwood Avenue, which Crum built around 1860. They had two children: daughter Mira (Crum) Webb (1848) and son, William Edwin Crum, (1845), who joined his father in his print shop in Iowa City, acquiring a thorough knowledge of the printing business before going on to be a student in the first graduating class of the School of Law at SUI in 1869. William Jr. then went on to become a prominent lawyer and business man in Bedford, Iowa until his death in 1916.
William Crum Sr. died at age 61 on November 13, 1879, while his wife Elvira Crum lived to age 67, dying on December 15, 1893. Both are buried in Oakland Cemetery in Iowa City. Unfortunately, no pictures of either William or Elvira have ever been found.
In 1979, Iowa City historian Irving Weber included William Crum in his list of 25 famous Iowa Citians. Read more here.
Thomas Hughes married Louisa King of Dubuque in September 1841, just as he was transitioning from Bloomington to Iowa City. Together, they had four children: Delia (1843), Ellis (1845), Annie (1851), and Louise (1855). In 1844, Hughes sold his interest in The Iowa Capitol Reporter and went on to become a state representative to the Iowa Legislature – Johnson, Muscatine, and Iowa Counties – from 1846 to 1848.
At age 47, Hughes signed up as a soldier in the Civil War – August 1862 – serving as a quartermaster of the 28th Regiment Iowa Volunteer Infantry, and was taken prisoner on the Red River expedition, where he was held for fourteen months at Fort Tyler, Texas.
While a Democrat when he started The Reporter, and while serving in the State Legislature, Hughes left the party, along with his friends, Robert Lucas and Samuel Kirkwood, when the national leadership of the party refused to support the strong abolitionist (freedom of slaves) movement of the 1850’s. Historian T.S. Parvin tells us more…
Thomas’ health was broken down and he was partially blind in one eye as a result of his time in a rebel prison during the war. He suffered a stroke in 1865 and again in 1880, finally dying of paralysis of the lungs, at age 65, on March 11, 1881 in Iowa City. Thomas Hughes is buried, along with his wife Louisa Hughes (1821-1902), in Oakland Cemetery in Iowa City.
Two very competitive newspapermen, with two political persuasions, but both key players in Iowa City’s earliest days. Here’s a tip of the old hat to you, William Crum and Thomas Hughes. Jobs well done!
Kudos to the amazing resources below for the many quotes, photographs, etc. used on this page.