Years in print:
History of the St. Louis Republic – Established 1808
Early in 1808 Joseph Charless arrived at St. Louis by keelboat from Ohio. He gave out the information that the first printing press to be set up west of the Mississippi was on the way from Pennsylvania and that type had been shipped from Louisville. As he went about the town, the western limit of which was Fourth street, Mr. Charless circulated a prospectus, reading:
"It is self-evident that, in every country where the rays of the press are not clouded by despotic power, the people have arrived to the highest grade of civilization. There science holds her head erect and bids her sons to call into action those talents which lie in a good soil inviting cultivation. The inviolation of the press is co-existent with the liberties of the people. They live or die together. It is the vestal fire upon the preservation of which the fate of nations depends; and the most pure hands, officiating for the whole community, should be incessantly employed in keeping it alive."
Below the prospectus, which was partly in French for the benefit of the pioneer inhabitants, Mr. Charless left space for subscriptions. On the 12th day of July, 1808, was issued Number 1 of Volume 1, Missouri Gazette, now the St. Louis Republic. Suitable paper could not be obtained. The first issue was gotten out on a sheet twelve inches long by eight inches wide. It was distributed to 170 subscribers, who has promised to “pay three dollars in advance, or four dollars in country produce.”
The third issue of The Gazette announced the result of the first election in St. Louis, held at the courthouse, to choose five trustees, who were to govern the town just incorporated. St. Louis had a population of 1,100, living in 200 houses, about one-third of them stone; the others of posts.
Joseph Charless left Ireland because of his participation in the revolutionary movement of 1795. He set type in Philadelphia on the first quarto edition of the Bible issued in the United States. He was connected with newspapers in Lexington and Louisville before coming to St. Louis.
In September, 1820, after twelve years of strenuous editorial life, Mr. Charless sold The Gazette to James C. Cummins, a recent arrival from Pittsburg. The circulation had increased fro 170 to 1,000. An experience of eighteen months satisfied Mr. Cummins. Edward Charless, son of the founder, bought out Cummins, changed the name to The Missouri Rebublican, and engaged as editor Josiah Spaulding, a graduate of Yale, who had come from Cincinnati to grow up with St. Louis.
Two men, destined to be impressive figures in the journalism of the United States, began in the early days as apprentices in this newspaper office. Nathaniel Paschall, a boy of 12, from Knoxville, Tenn., became a bound-boy to Mr. Charless in 1812. He learned typesetting, was sent out for news and became a writer. Edward Charless took Paschall into partnership in 1828 and made hin the editor.
In 1827 George Knapp began as an apprentice in The Republican office. The Knapp family came to St. Louis from New York City in 1819. George Knapp’s earliest duties were the delivery of The Republican each week to subscribers. Forty-six years afterwards he was able to remember that subscription list.
On the 15th of December, 1829, was scored the first great beat in St. Louis journalism. The Republican printed Andrew Jackson’s first message to Congress four days and two hours after its delivery to Congress.
In 1834 George Knapp acquired a part interest in the book and job department and in 1837 A.B. Chambers and Oliver Harris, who had published The Salt River in Pike County, came to St. Louis, formed a partnership with George Knapp and bought The Republican. Nathaniel Paschall retired for a few years, but returned as editorial writer.
On the 20th of September, 1936, The Republican became a daily paper, with six issues a week. In September, 1848, the Sunday issue was added.
The Republican advocated Jefferson’s principles and the Whig creed of Henry Clay. It parted squarely with those who went into the American or Know-Nothing movement. It helped elect the Democratic ticket when Buchanan was chosen. It opposed secession. The Missouri Republican’s policy aligned the State in the presidential election of 1860 for Douglas against the secession movement. In the three months which followed the election, before the outbreak of hostilities, The Missouri Republican deplored the growing friction between the Republicans and the secessionists: it advocated a course intended to avert the shedding of blood in the streets of St. Louis; it did not waver in its support of the National Government as against the claimed right to secede. Since the Civil War the paper has been faithful to the principles of Democracy; never slavish to party organization. The name was changed from The Republican to The Republic in 1888.
When The Missouri Republican reached the half-century mark, July 12, 1858, the editor wrote:
“Fifty years ago to-day this paper came into existence. The cycle of fifty years is a rare event in human life – it is an epoch in the history of the country – it is a miracle in journalism.” Looking backward, the editor accounted for the miracle in this was:
"The success of The Republican originated with its constant efforts to promote all departments of business in their diversified channels and to identify itself with the whole interest of St. Louis; it has been the firm friend of the city by being for half a century the faithful and reliable organ of every class of business. The Republican looks to the people for its success, by devoting a portion of its columns to all the various ramifications of commerce, trade and professional pursuits which make the life and being of St. Louis. Its destiny is linked with that of the city.
"Long ago it was declared the policy of The Republic 'to issue a sheet full of legitimate, current news, editorially commented upon honestly, intelligently, fairly, alike welcome in the family circle as by professional and business men.'"
Its attitude toward competitors was expressed in the semicentennial issue with this reference:
"Since the establishment of The Republican many journals have come into existence, sprung upon the arena to dispute the prize of championship and public patronage, but after a short display of futile efforts retired from the lists and sunk into oblivion. We could mention more than twenty papers which have come into being, sickened and died from the want of support which the public ever accords to a merited journal; but the revelation will neither profit us nor our readers, and we would not probe wounds of disappointment which have probably never healed.
If the semicentennial of a newspaper is a miracle, what shall be said of its centennial? That is an event in the history of a city, of a State, of a country, of the world.
Nathaniel Paschall’s active connection with The Republican was forty five-years. In the fifty-six years of his association with the paper, George Knapp had a proprietary interest during forty-nine of them. John Knapp, who came in as a partner in 1855, after the death of Mr. Chambers, was in charge of the publication office thirty years. William Hyde became editor after the death of Nathaniel Paschall. He was connected with the paper twenty-eight years.
The present editor, Charles W. Knapp, is in the forty-second year of his active connection with The St. Louis Republic. He has been for twenty-two years the executive head of the paper. The head of the business office is a Paschall – William B. Call.
In the history of American journalism there is but one parallel to what is true of the proprietary interests in The St. Louis Republic. More than half a century the proprietary control of the paper has been in the Knapp and Paschall families. Since 1828 a Knapp or a Pashcall has been at the head of either the editorial or the business department, or of both.
With the exception of the two years, or somewhat less than two years, from 1820 to 1822, when The Missouri Gazette was in the possession of James Cummins, there has been at no time a radical change in ownership. Interests have changed hands; new blood has been brought into the organization, but the virile character, the traditions which made the paper enduring, the policies which gave it vitality when so many other newspaper enterprises failed, have remained with it from the foundation through the end of its century.
(From Century Club – American Newspapers, published by George Knapp and Company, 1909)