“Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before.” – The Advance, 1879
The Advance was a weekly publication of the Congregational church by an association known as the Advance Company, first issued in September 1867, in Chicago. Rev. Dr. William W. Patton, an earnest and influential upholder of Congregational ideals, was editor-in-chief from 1867 until 1873.
Marketed as a “family newspaper of the highest excellence,” The Advance contained the following sections: Editorial, Special Contributions, Correspondence, Christian Life, Sabbath School, The Children, Personals, Literature, Literary Small Talk, Opinions, Church News, General Religious News, Around Our Tables, Trifles, Foreign Correspondence, and Events of the Week. In 1879, an annual subscription was $3.
Publishing history: First issue September 5, 1867. A Congregational weekly established by an association know as the Advance Company. W.W. Patton, D.D., was editor-in-chief 1867-1873, with J.B.T. Marsh, office editor and publisher for the Advance Company. In 1870 A.B. Nettelton was publisher for the Advance Company, but by the year following, J.B.T. Marsh was again filling this post. In 1871 Mr. Marsh and H.L. Turner became the proprietors. Mr. Marsh soon sold his share to Mr. Turner, but continued on the editorial staff to 1875. In 1973 the paper was purchased by Charles H. Howard and Company. Dr. Patton was succeeded as editor by General Howard, who associated with himself Rev. Simeon Gilbert. In 1877 Rev. T. DeWitt Talmage and Gen. C.H. Howard were editors. The paper was dated from both New York and Chicago, in that year and in 1879. General Howard continued to 1882, when he sold to Rev. Dr. Robert West, who was editor and manager until 1886. Dr. Simeon Gilbert then became editor, with Dr. F.A. Noble as nominal editor-in-chief. After two years Dr. Noble retired and a Mr. Harrison became editor and general manager. In 1907 J. A. Adams was editor. The Advance Publishing Company was the publisher. — Frank William Scott, A list of Illinois newspapers and periodicals in Illinois libraries (Chicago: Illinois State Historical Library, 1910), 88-89.
Of interest to Little House readers is the information that the first book published by The Advance was “In His Steps,” written by Dr. Charles M. Sheldon, son of Rev. Stuart Sheldon, early missionary in Dakota Territory. At the time of its publication in 1897, The Advance was running “In His Steps” as a serial. It was a series of articles written in 1896 by Dr. Sheldon, pastor of Central Congregational Church in Topeka, Kansas, which he read to his congregation at Sunday evening services. The message was simple: love God and love your neighbor. Stuart encouraged everyone to take care of those less fortunate by asking, “What Would Jesus Do?”
While it is largely believed that Rev. Stuart Sheldon was the missionary who accompanied Rev. Alden to De Smet in 1879 as written about in By the Shores of Silver Lake, it is possible that Charles Sheldon was the young missionary Laura Ingalls Wilder called Rev. Scotty Stuart. In early 1881, both Rev. Alden and Rev. Charles Sheldon were assigned to new churches in Dakota Territory, Alden in Athol and Sheldon in Dell Rapids.
The Advance (TLW 18; LTP 3, 15, 17) – The Ingallses subscribed to what they called the “church paper,” and it was received with great excitement. Ma read the paper aloud, and from it the family learned many things of interest pertaining to the Congregational faith.