“The Sunday Sayings,” Started in 1884, Was the Foundation Stone on Which The Star Grew
In 1884 a printer and a reporter started a gossipy Sunday paper and called it The Sunday Sayings. Thus was born The St. Louis Star.
Charles E. Meade, the reporter, became editor. Charles A. Gitchell, the printer, was also business manager. A Kansas City man, J.E. Munford, was made president of The Sayings Company, principally, as far as can be established, because he owned a large Clawse cylinder press.
The old press, operated by steam power and capable of turning out 20,000 papers an hour – when it ran – was installed in the basement of 513 Elm street, with some old type cases and several fonts of type, and a publication was started.
On May 4, 1884, the first issue appeared. It was a large affair – four 9 column pages of closely set matter – and sold for 5 cents.
Three Columns of Ads
Terse telegraph briefs were scattered throughout the sheet, which contained three columns of advertising. It is interesting to note that four columns of the first page were devoted to sports.
A fire nearly destroyed the Elm street plant in November, 1887, but the publishers carried on, this time in larger quarters at 107 North Sixth street. Munford had dropped out of the company shortly after its inception, and about this time a brazen young reporter was added to the staff.
He was William Marion Reedy destined to achieve a national reputation as publisher of The Mirror. Some years later Reedy, in a special contribution to The Star, described how John Gilbert, a New York opera singer, succeeded Meade in December, 1887, and induced Gitchell to change the paper to a daily, called The Star-Sayings.
Boasted One Reporter
“Gitchell had a good, big press,” Reedy continued. “There was a wire service called the Press News Service. The force was gathered together, Gilbert and I. There was one reporter. I can’t recall his name. Gilbert was managing editor and telegraph editor. I was the city editor. The one reporter was the staff and he didn’t know the town…”
In 1889, Nathan Frank, a young lawyer seeking the Republican congressional nomination, bought into the concern and Gitchell retired.
The playtime of editing Star Sayings was over…Serious journalism was the course of the day,” Reedy wrote.
Frank soon acquired control of the journal, the business prospered, despire many adversities, and in 1891 the quarters were extended to 105 North Sixth street. Gitchell, in the meantime, had installed the first linotype machine to be used west of the Mississippi. The Star-Sayings also was the first paper to use chalk plates in making engravings of illustrations, a method now extinct.
Fight for Circulation
The period between 1889 and 1894 was a strenuous one for the new paper. The Post-Dispatch, determined to stifle its growing rival, resorted to various methods to reduce its circulation. Newsboy fights were frequent. Besides the Post-Dispatch and The Star-Sayings there was another afternoon paper, the Chronicle, established in 1880. The Chronicle was the first paper in St. Louis to adopt the 1-cent selling scale.
The daily Star-Sayings sold for 2 cents, while the Post-Dispatch sold for 5 cents. Few pennies were in circulation , and newsboys conceived the plan, sponsored by the Star-Sayings and the Chronicle, of selling all three papers for a nickel. The two papers straddled the circulation of their larger contemporary and the number of their readers increased tremendously.
Men were employed to sell the Post-Dispatch exclusively, but members of The Star staff were sent out to buy up copies, which were given to Star dealers, who continued to sell the three-for-a-nickel combination. At the time Grand boulevard was considered the western terminus of the city. Papers were delivered by horse and wagon. The Star-Sayings then printed three editions, the Noon, Carrier and Sport Extra.
Editor Entered Politics
On Frank’s advent into journalism, Tobias Mitchell was managing editor of Star-Sayings. Gilbert, in return for supporting Noonan for mayor, had been made city supply commissioner when the latter was elected.
In April, 1894, the plant was removed to the then palatial Odd Fellows Building on the southeastern corner of Ninth and Olive streets, the site now occupied by the Paul Brown Building. On January 1, 1895, the name of the paper was abbreviated to The St. Louis Star.
(From The St.Louis Star 6/23/1932).
Inside of two weeks we shall have in operation our new printing machine, with a capacity of more than double that of our present ones. We shall then add as a regular feature, a complete telegraphic service, making in every respect the most complete Sunday paper issued in St. Louis. We expect by keeping up with the boom that is upon us to continue gathering up subscriptions at the same rapid rate as during the past six months. There is not a foot of territory within the city of St. Louis in which we cannot deliver the Sayings within an hour after it is printed. The Sayings aims at nothing short of eclipsing in circulation all other Sunday papers as well as in general excellence.
(From the Sunday Star Sayings April 26, 1885).
Var.: Sunday Sayings