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The Missouri Democrat History

The Missouri Democrat

Richard Edwards and Dr. M. Hopewell

The Missouri Democrat was established in 1852 by William McKee and William Hill under propitious auspices. All the patronage which had been bestowed upon the Sentinel and Union, two popular journals, was turned upon the new enterprise; for both of these papers were discontinued at the commencement of the Democrat, so that it could enter upon its career with the fairest prospects.
The wants of the community required the establishment of a journal of political tenets advocated by the Democrat, for since the establishment of the “Barnburner” some years previously by Mr. McKee, in 1848, freesoilism had become very popular, and the new journal came into being with hosts of friends. In consequence of feeble health, Mr. Hill sold out his interest to Mr. George M. Fishback, a son of Judge Fishback, and a humorous and popular writer. He is the commercial editor of the paper, and is most efficient in that department.
Day by day, the Democrat has been gathering strength and popularity, and now, in the eighth year of its existence, ranks second to no other paper in the great Mississippi Valley.
(From Edwards’ Great West…And A Complete History of St. Louis, 1860).

By newspaper standards of the time it was a tiny paper with four pages, only seven columns wide. It was at once scorned by the Southerners and ridiculed by its competitors. Yet this was the paper which became the mouthpiece for the emerging Republican Party. This was the paper that instigated and led the fight to keep Missouri from seceding from the Union. Abraham Lincoln was to praise its efforts as being worth more to the North than ten regiments of soldiers.
(From The Missouri Democrat, 1852-1860 by Jim A. Hart, published in the Missouri Historical Review, LV, 1/1961).

When the Union was acquired by the Democrat in March of 1853, the publishing operation was moved from Third (near Pine) to the old Union offices on Locust, between Main and Second, where it remained for a number of years. The St. Louis Democrat Company was an outgrowth of the combined operations of The St. Louis Argus and The Signal, both owned by William McKee and associates. B. Gratz Brown and George Fishback both bought interest in the paper, with Brown later selling his percentage to Fishback. One of McKee’s original associates, the Hon. F.P. Blair (then a Congressman from Missouri) sold his interest to Daniel Houser in 1863. After more machinations, Fishback reached an agreement to buy controlling interest in the Democrat in 1872 for $456,100. One member of his new ownership team, Joseph McCullagh, served as the paper’s chief editor.
General John Schofield had William McKee arrested in 1863 because he had published a letter written by President Lincoln to the general. McKee was released after many influential St. Louisans wrote to the president in protest.
In 1873, the previous ownership team (McKee and Houser) established The Morning Globe, which competed with The Democrat, leading to a merger of the two on May 18, 1876. (another source lists merger date as 6/1/1875).