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Pioneer Press

Pioneer Press. St. Paul, Minnesota, newspaper first issued in April 1875 after the merger of the Minnesota Pioneer (founded in 1849 by James Goodhue) and the St. Paul Daily Press (founded in 1861 by Joseph A. Wheelock).

One dollar for the Weekly Pioneer Press, twelve months. – De Smet Leader, October 4, 1884.

Although multiple newspapers were published in De Smet during the 1880s, the De Smet Little House books imply that Charles Ingalls also read the Pioneer Press, published in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Pa may have taken advantage of the offer to receive both The De Smet Leader and the weekly Pioneer Press for $2.50 per year. Little House book chapters in which the newspaper is mentioned suggest that Pa was reading an issue from November 1880 (in The Long Winter) and January 1884 (in These Happy Golden Years).

The Pioneer Press was first issued in April 1875 following the merger of the Minnesota Pioneer (founded in 1849 by James Goodhue) and the St. Paul Daily Press (founded in 1861 by J. A. Wheelock). The merged paper was published as the Pioneer-Press (with a hyphen) weekly from April 16, 1875, until April 27, 1876. In May 1876, the Minneapolis Weekly Tribune merged with the Pioneer-Press to form the weekly Pioneer-Press and Tribune (published in St. Paul), which published until late October of that year. The title then changed to The Pioneer Press (no hyphen) and was published weekly in St. Paul until the Christmas issue in 1879. With the first issue in January 1880, the paper changed to The Weekly Pioneer Press, as reported in the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

The Pioneer Press, which enlarged its size a few days ago to seven columns to the page, celebrates the New Year with an immense issue of twenty pages, containing illustrated descriptions of its new press, its building, etc., with a history of the origin and progress of the paper, including a mention of the various journals swallowed by it at various times. In addition to this are reviews of the business of St. Paul and Minneapolis, and of a number of other Minnesota and Dakota cities for the past year, and much other statistical matter. It is the biggest paper ever issued north or west of Chicago, and embodies an amount of labor, energy and enterprise that is a vast credit to its managers and to the region for which it speaks. The Chicago papers have now few points of superiority to The Pioneer Press, and those of Buffalo, Cincinnati, Cleveland, St. Louis and other large interior cities none at all.

The improved weekly was advertised in January 1880 for $1.10 per year via subscription, with ten pages per regular issue. By 1883, the annual subscription had increased a nickel, and was said to contain “Facts for the farmer! Markets for the merchant! Miscellany for the mechanic! Wisdom for their wives!” according to The De Smet Leader in January 1883. The Brookings County Sentinel in July 1882 advertised that The Pioneer Press was published “For Northwestern people, by Northwestern men, on Northwestern material, in the Northwestern Metropolis.”

Published in both daily and weekly editions, The Pioneer Press was a Republican newspaper, and its editor, Joseph Wheelock, and manager, Fred Driscoll, ran the paper together until Wheelock’s death in 1909. The paper, according to Richard Eide in his North Star Editor: a Brief Sketch of Joseph A. Wheelock and his policies as editor of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, published in New York in 1944 by King’s Crown Press, advocated “Municipal ownership and private operation of natural monopolies, speedy court procedure, parkways and boulevards, better paid teachers, industrial schools, military training, municipal university, high liquor prices, playgrounds and music in parks, extensive city paving, diversified farming, crop rotation, forest conservation, national parks, cheap water transportation, traveling libraries, state hospitals and schools, non-partisan civil service, the right of labor to combine, hard money, [and] Nationalistic spirit. [Wheelock] desired to see respect for the United States and to see the country grow in commercial and military strength.” [-Eide, page 37] In the 1880s, Wheelock denounced sensational journalism, believing that freedom of the press was “accompanied with grave responsibility.” [-Eide, page 54]

During the Little House years, The Pioneer Press was was published from their St. Paul building at the corner of 4th and Robert, utilizing over a dozen printing presses in the 1880s as well as telephones, typewriters and a skilled team of lithographers. Thanks to the railroad, the paper could be delivered to towns in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Dakota Territory up to a full day ahead of Chicago papers. In 1899, the newspaper moved into a new building on East Third Street in St. Paul. At twelve stories, it was the tallest building west of Chicago when constructed. Although the “sky scraper” no longer houses the newspaper plant, it is still standing. The St. Paul Pioneer Press – or Pioneer Press, as the title now reads – is still published today.


Pioneer Press (TLW 18, 33; THGY 4)