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Publication Name:

The St. Louis Star

Years in print:

1895- 1932


First owner was Nathan Frank. Changed name to St. Louis Star and Chronicle in 1905 after purchasing the Chronicle. Sold Chronicle to E.G. Lewis in 1908 and returned name to St. Louis Star. Front page was printed on green paper. In 1913, John Roberts, a founder of the Roberts, Johnson and Rand Shoe Company, bought the Star. Upon his death in 1924, the paper’s ownership was transferred to his sons, Elzey and John, Jr. Paper merged with The Times in 1932. (Looking Back on History of The Star in St. Louis Journalism)

“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, despite 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.
More linotype machines, a new Goss Press and other equipment were added. The circulation had grown in five years from a bare 1,000 to almost 40,000.
In control of the editorial department at various times were John F. Magner, John Whitman, George Garrett, Col. J.C.Aldridge and George H. Apperson. M..J. Lowenstein was business manager.
The Star early took the lead in promoting any plan which promised to benefit the community. It raised large sums for charity, settled strikes and worked for such important changes as the abolition of the smoke nuisance and the placing of all electrical wires underground.
On Twelfth Street Since 1901
The new Star Building on Twelfth boulevard, the present location of the paper, was completed by Frank in 1901 and the plant was removed there and again enlarged. About this time plans for the proposed Louisiana Exposition (the World’s Fair) were in progress.
The Star inaugurated a movement for the improvement and reconstruction of city thoroughfares in time for the exposition. It was The Star which finally evolved the plan by which the city at large stood part of the expense for this purpose. Previously all money for this purpose had been raised by assessing benefited property owners.
On June 6, 1905, The St. Louis Star absorbed The Chronicle, for years a losing venture, from the Scripps-McRae league of newspapers. The name of the paper was changed to The Star-Chronicle, later changed back to The Star.
In the meantime the paper had become a seven-column journal with twelve or more pages daily.
E.G. Lewis Obtained Control
Wire news was furnished by the Scripps-McRae Press Association. Frank entered the race for the United States Senate in August, 1908, and sold out his interest in the paper to the Lewis Publishing Company, controlled by E.G. Lewis, who had made rapid strides in the development of University City.
Lewis’ first issue appeared August 31, 1908, showing radical changes in the style of makeup and features. The circulation continued to advance, but the new owner’s activities in promoting various enterprises led him into difficulties.
Frank again took over the paper on April 21, 1912. A war on loan sharks was launched by The Star with an anti-loan shark bureau where victims could obtain free legal aid. The paper made thousands of additional friends.
Then in October, 1912, came an expose of vice conditions in St. Louis. Day after day, The Star hammered at the negligence of the police and other city officials. Corruption in the city workhouse was bared. It was a bitter fight, with all of the elements representing vice and crime against The Star, but the paper emerged victorious. Shake-ups in the police department and workhouse management followed.
Obtained by John C. Roberts
The ownership of The Star again changed hands May 13, 1913. The new owner was John C. Roberts, vice president of the International Shoe Company, the outgrowth of the Roberts, Johnson & Rand Shoe Company, which he had founded.
St. Louis knew John C. Roberts as a fighter for clean politics and for a greater city. In a manner of speaking, thousands of citizens sat by and watched to see what would happen. Would the shoe magnate’s genius for organization itself in journalism? The answer was not long in developing.
At the outset, the mechanical equipment of the paper was replaced with new and modern machinery. The first high speed newspaper press in the history of local journalism was bought and installed. Everywhere in the plant better equipment made its appearance with the immediate result that speed was possible in the handling of all classes of business, news and features.
News Facilities Increased
The telegraph news service was expanded, and instead of a minor news report from the state, nation and world at large, a comprehensive presentation was made of each day’s news.
The name of the paper was changed to The NEW St. Louis Star, Mr. Roberts’ idea having been to employ the adjective to notify the public, in effect, that there was a paper for sale for St. Louis readers differing from anything which previously had borne the name The Star. When the success of the new publication became discernible, the “New” was dropped and the established property again became known by its present title.
From the outset of the Roberts ownership, The Star’s course was marked by unusual initiative and big undertakings in the public welfare. News pictures were used in abundance. Comic strips, then in the early stage of development in comparison with their current widespread appeal, were printed daily by The Star, which pioneered in this field.
Public events, such as the Pageant and Masque, which attracted visitors to St. Louis by the thousands, were widely heralded by The Star. To make certain that visitors to the Pageant and Masque would not go away with a bad impression resulting from the activity at that time by an organized band of pickpockets, The Star printed daily a picture of a notorious pickpocket member of the group operating in St. Louis and warned anyone who saw the thief in a crowd or on a streetcar to should for help and a policeman.
Exodus of Pickpockets
The effect on the thieves was surprising. Dragged out into the full view of the public by publication of their pictures, they found it impossible to be certain of escape without recognition. One by one, they began to leave town. When the Pageant and Masque was concluded, not one case of pocket picking had been reported by an out-of-town visitor.
Sales of the paper began to increase and then came the nationwide draft of the city’s young manhood for the World War. The Star, by a large expenditure of money, gave St. Louis the names of all citizens drawn in the draft with the order of their call, almost simultaneously with the drawing of the numbers in Washington, D.C. The presses ran off editions almost continuously until well into the evening.
The Star’s carefully thought-out plan caught public attention on a wholesale scale. The paper soon was in the hands of many thousands of men and women who had not bought it previously. The circulation grew far beyond the expectations of anyone in the organization.
With mounting circulation came increased advertising patronage and for the first time in many years, the afternoon newspaper field in St. Louis was competitive.
The Star Fights Organized Evils
In a series of articles supplemented by pictures of actual conditions, The Star brought home to Missourians the plight of men, women and children subsisting in the ramshackle poorhouses of the state. As a result of this disclosure, legislation was enacted making it possible for poorer counties to cooperate in caring for the poor under sanitary and humane conditions.
As each election of state or national interest was held, The Star worked out a plan for getting prompt results for each of the 114 counties in Missouri, and gradually devised a system of collecting its own returns at great expense, which has attracted the attention of other newspapers and press associations because of its notable speed and thoroughness.
Diploma Mill Expose
The public was given an opportunity to see how a truly modern newspaper fights when, in 1923, The Star brought to light the medical diploma frauds and showed how, as a result of this unlawful conspiracy, men were enabled to buy educational credits and licenses to practice medicine. The Star’s expose became international in character and St. Louis journalism, as exemplified in this newspaper’s work, received many columns of favorable comment in the press of the nation.
Edward S. Lewis was the first president of the company formed when Mr. Roberts purchased the property. He was succeeded by the publisher’s son, Elzey Roberts, who has been president continuously since, coming into the direction of the paper eleven years ago.
On April 27, 1924, John C. Roberts died at his home in St. Louis County. His newspaper had long since “made good.” His son was its publisher. The work which his father had successfully undertaken against heavy odds was certain to be continued through the years as he would have wished it to be done.
112-Page Paper Issued
The steady, continuing growth of the paper has been evidenced in the increasing amount of advertising carried. On September 8, 1926, a “Progress” edition appeared with ninety-six pages, comprising the largest edition of a daily paper printed up to that time in St. Louis. This record was surpassed, however, on November 30, 1927, when a 112-page edition appeared.
Earlier that same year The Star had changed its type face to the one now in use, by far the most readable utilized by any St. Louis publication.
Publication continued of the type of features that have aided in maintaining the paper in public esteem. There were feature stories on moving picture stars, local baseball players, and other series, similar to the sketches of Municipal Opera principals just concluded. An annual event of increasing interest to young St. Louis has been the spring marble contest.
An outstanding achievement was the exclusive publication of the confessions of Ray Renard, notorious Egan gunman. Never before at a single stroke had a St. Louis paper obtained a story such as this. The Star could not print enough papers at the peak of public interest in the series to supply the demand.
Keeping pace with the constantly improved and local news service was the expansion at regular intervals of the world-wide telegraph services of the United Press, International News Service and Universal Service, which serve The Star twenty-four hours each day. The major portion of the entire news report is received over automatic printing machines which typewrite the dispatches as neatly as a careful stenographer could do the job and which record sixty words a minute on the high speed telegraph printers.
New Building Planned
Announcement was made in 1930 that a new building to house The Star would be erected at Twelfth boulevard and Morgan street and the foundation for that structure has been completed. Free want ads were run for the unemployed to aid in securing positions for them, and on December 3, 1930, The Star opened a Clothing Relief Station near Twelfth boulevard and Olive street for the needy. Only recently, The Star announced the successful conclusion of its milk campaign for children in need of nourishment.
Campaigns have been continued from year to year against the menace of careless automobile driving, with the encouraging results reflected in the annual auto death toll. The Star’s activities in this field have won frequent commendation from safety agencies.
(From The St. Louis Star 6/23/1932).

The St. Louis Star’s New Home at Twelfth and Olive
The new Building of the St. Louis Star, now under construction at the northwest corner of Twelfth and Olive streets, is to be the finest newspaper plant west of New York City.
It will occupy the most prominent corner in the New St. Louis, which is now centering in the district on either side of the site of the new Star building. Washington avenue is rapidly becoming the boulevard of wholesale business houses and Twelfth street itself is the attractive thoroughfare connecting the City Hall district with the future business center of St. Louis.
The opening of Pine and Chestnut streets for the World’s Fair driveways will begin in the spring. The new hotels to be built in anticipation of the World’s Fair business all point to Twelfth street as the center of action in business life for the next two years, when St. Louis will be the great objective point of continental travel.
The new Star building itself will be a fine example of the modern newspaper plant. It will be arranged on modern ideas of office construction, with a view to securing the best results of light and space. It will be equipped with the very latest machinery and appliances for the making of a great metropolitan newspaper.
The building is designed in the modern school of French renaissance. The first three stories will be constructed of Carthage while marble, and beautifully embellished with carving and decoration.
On Twelfth street and on the Olive street fronts elegant colonnade effects enhance the beauty of the exterior. Large marble entrances, beautifully carved, mark the doorways on both sides.
The building, from the third-story cornice line to the top of the parapet wall, is to be carried out in cream, dull, enameled brick, trimmed and decorated with white terra cotta.
The interior of the building will be modern and up-to-date in every respect; it will be fitted with high speed electric passenger and freight elevators. Hot and cold water in every room. The sanitary plumbing of the finest type on every floor.
A striking and beautiful feature of the interior will be the magnificent entrance corridor on Olive street, which will be designed in a Roman Doric style of architecture, and finished in costly imported marble.
The building will be absolutely fireproof throughout – steel construction, built upon the most approved and up-to-date design.
Telephone service will be provided through the building.
The Star will occupy the first, third, basement and tenth floors. Other floors will be available for office use.
The building has been designed by the architects, Barnett, Hayes & Barnett and Ernest Helfensteller, Jr., associate.
The building will be ten stories in height. The second floor will be equipped for a banking, trust company or insurance office. Its ceilings will be 17 feet in height and finish and decorations will be elegant. The floor will be accessible by two broad staircases from Olive street.
The third story will be devoted to the uses of the Star for editorial rooms and the circulating department. Other floors are now being planned for offices, and the floor plans will be ready for inspection within a few days to prospective tenants. Applications for offices can be made to the St. Louis Star office, Ninth and Olive streets.
The composing department and advertising rooms will be on the tenth floor. 
The plant will be equipped with every known improved mechanical device for printing a newspaper. The power will be electrical throughout. The press room, situated in the basement, will contain two quadruple and one triple deck press, capable of printing 75,000 newspapers per hour.
The basement will be 18 feet in height, built with entre sol story around the entire building, about 25 feet in width, by a combined length of 200 feet, to be used as the mailing and distributing rooms.
The business office on the first floor will be finished in a most beautiful manner and open to the public at all hours.
(Originally published in the St. Louis Star 3/15/1903).

Star to Erect Own Building
Thousands of telegrams, letters and phone calls kept the messenger boys trooping and the dial system busily engaged in returning the “in conference” signal at the offices of the St. Louis Star last week, following its announcement of the new building to be erected at High and Morgan streets, commending the action of Elzey Roberts, publisher, in co-operating with President Hoover’s prosperity plan by advancing the date of building by two years.
When the writer called on Cliff Aubuchon, he mentioned something about being built on “air rights,” with the sky the limit and that sort of thing, for which he was immediately excused. So enthusiastic was he in telling the facts - erection over the undercround Electric Terminal tracks - new equipment to be added - speeding up of plant operations and so many other surprising and startling revelations that they proved far too numerous for this writer to note and remember.
Mr. Roberts is to be and has been commended for this progressive step. To him and his worth contemporaries the Advertising Club extends its heartiest congratulations.
(Originally published in the Advertising Club Weekly April 1, 1930).

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