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Chicago Inter-Ocean / Inter-Ocean

Republican political newspaper that began publication in 1852 as “Chicago’s Famed Inter Ocean.” Became the “Inter Ocean” in 1872, and ceased publication in 1914. — Webster, 1882

John A. Owen, an attorney of Chicago, furnishes a communication to the Chicago Inter-Ocean in which he tells the exact truth concerning Dakota. He spent several days last fall in visiting Brookings and Kingsbury counties and located a claim for himself near Lake Thompson. – Brookings County Press, February 19, 1880.

In the De Smet Little House books, Charles Ingalls reads two newspapers that he receives in the mail. One is the St. Paul Pioneer Press; the other is the Chicago Inter-Ocean. Although Laura Ingalls Wilder hyphenates the paper’s name, it had officially ceased using a hyphen years before the Hard Winter.

There were several subscription options available in 1881: the daily paper ($10 per year), semi-weekly ($2.50 per year), and the weekly or Sunday edition ($1.15 per year). By 1883, subscriptions had been added for only the Wednesday edition ($1.15 per year) or the Saturday edition ($2.00 per year). It is not known which edition Pa received. Wilder wrote that Ma and Pa read an article in the Inter-Ocean that explained how a sewing machine worked, and while there are thousands of mentions of the sewing machine in the online daily paper between 1880 and 1883 (archived on, there is no article with an illustration and explanation, which may mean that the article appeared in the Sunday edition.

The image here is from The Sunday Inter Ocean dated July 21, 1889. It featured a cut of the new Inter Ocean building then under construction on the northwest corner of Dearborn and Madison Streets. The building was demolished in 1941.


The Chicago Inter Ocean.

The first number of the Daily Inter Ocean was issued March 25, 1872. The founder was Mr. J. Young Scammon, an old, highly esteemed and public spirited citizen, who, realizing that there was a demand for an uncompromising republican daily, purchased the Associated Press franchise of the Republican, which had been wrecked in the disastrous fire of 1871. To keep the franchise alive, Mr. Scammon continued the publication of the Republican until all arrangements were perfected to start the new daily, with new men, new type and new machinery.

The republican of the initial number of the Inter Ocean was of the most stalwart order, the proprietor indicating the spirit of the paper in the crisp declaration: “Independent in nothing; republican in everything.”

Mr. Scammon went into the enterprise with characteristic zeal and energy, and calling his assistance a number of practical and experienced men, soon made the Inter Ocean a political power, not only in the city and state, but throughout the northwest.

Its radical republicanism and its devotion to the party it professed to represent were made so manifest during the presidential campaign of 1872 that it at once secured an influence in the party not equaled by many journals of much longer standing. The erratic course of other journals claiming to be republican also contributed much to the success of the new venture, and the circulation of the paper increased rapidly.

Mr. Scammon continued to be sole proprietor of the Inter Ocean until the spring of 1873, when the Hon. F.W. Palmer, of Des Moines, Iowa, bought a large interest and became editor-in-chief. Under his management the paper prospered until the panic of 1873 prostrated the affairs of the country and caused the financial embarrassment of Mr. Scammon, the principal proprietor. In the fall of 1875 the corporation, under pressure of large indebtedness, was compelled to sell the paper to a new organization. This transfer placed the Inter Ocean under the control of William Penn Nixon, who had been for some years the business manager.

Notwithstanding the great depression of the times, the paper was put on a firm footing by the infusion of new capital and the introduction of new and improved machinery, and entered upon a new era of prosperity. Through all its vicissitudes the Inter Ocean maintained its political integrity, constantly gaining in influence and circulation until the aggregate circulation of the several editions was probably larger than that of any other political paper in the country. The Inter Ocean was the first newspaper in the United States to perfect and use a folder, or machinery for cutting, pasting and folding, attached to the press. This contrivance was the invention of Mr. Walter Scott, at that time superintendent of the Inter Ocean‘s mechanical department. The Inter Ocean was the first newspaper in Chicago to print cable dispatches from London. It was also the first daily newspaper in Chicago to use illustrations.

From 1873 to May 1, 1880, the Inter Ocean was published at 119 Lake Street. The establishment was then moved to more commodious and convenient quarters, in the new Inter Ocean building, 85 Madison Street, and, May 1, 1890, to the still larger Inter Ocean building at the corner of Madison and Dearborn streets. In May, 1891, Mr. H.H. Kohlsaat bought a controlling interest in the Inter Ocean, and became the publisher. In May, 1894, Mr. Kohlsaat sold his interest to Mr. William Penn Nixon, who remained in control of the paper as editor and publisher until November 15, 1897, when Mr. Charles T. Yerkes purchased a controlling interest. Under the reorganization, Mr. Nixon continued as publisher, and Mr. George Wheeler Hinman was made editor-in-chief and manager.

Under the new management, the Inter Ocean was conspicuous for its vigorous editorial policy and for its improved news service. It was one of the first newspapers in the United States to urge a resolute war policy in 1898, and through the Spanish-American War and the war in the Philippines was the zealous supporter and defender of the army and navy. It led also in the advocacy of the expansion policy, and undoubtedly exercised a greater influence in shaping the sentiment of the middle west than any other newspaper. It was always “always American and always republican.”

Among the things that gave the Inter Ocean increased prestige and influence was that throughout the Spanish and Transvaal wars it had a superior and exclusive foreign and domestic news service. In developing and improving this, the Inter Ocean purchased the service of the New York Sun. As the Associated Press management had declared a boycott on the Sun, the Inter Ocean became involved in a controversy with the Associated Press. The latter, in pursuance of its contention that the boycott was legal, cut off the press service without notice. The Inter Ocean made a fight for its rights and the case was carried to the Illinois Supreme court, where all the contentions of the Inter Ocean were sustained and all its rights and privileges in the Associated Press were restored. The question of damages was submitted to arbitrators, who awarded the Inter Ocean $40,500 as compensation for the arbitrary withholding of the Associated Press service for more than two years.

The circulation of the Daily Inter Ocean [in 1900] has increased under the new management 100 per cent. The weekly edition has the largest circulation of any political weekly in the west.            — William H. Busbey in Rufus Blanchard’s Discovery and Conquests of the Northwest with the History of Chicago, VOl. II (Chicago: R. Blanchard and Company, 1900), 237-240.

In 1914, the Chicago Inter Ocean was sold for $50,000 to George W. Hinman, former editor and holder of several thousands in bonds of the company. The paper was combined with the Chicago Record-Herald, and the Inter Ocean ceased publication.


Chicago Inter-Ocean / Inter-Ocean (TLW 15; LTP 5)