The Daily Astorian
DeWitt Clinton Ireland launched the Astoria Daily Astorian [LCCN: sn96061149] on May 1, 1876. It was a four-page broadsheet with skinny columns titled “general news,” “banking and insurance” and “miscellaneous” that ran every day except Sunday. In 1883 the title of the paper was changed to the Daily Morning Astorian [LCCN: sn96061150], which was shortened in 1899 to the Morning Astorian [LCCN: sn85042400]. Whereas many early Oregon newspapers were founded by relative novices, D.C. Ireland was already an accomplished reporter and typesetter before coming west, having worked on such big-city papers as the Detroit Free Press [LCCN: sn87065726] and the New York Tribune [LCCN: sn83030214].
Astoria, a port at the mouth of the Columbia River, had been the site of the first European settlement in Oregon. At the time of the paper’s founding, the town was on the brink of economic boom. Lumber was being shipped to San Francisco. Salmon, an abundant local staple, was canned and exported globally. Though local coverage focused on front-page shipping news, the Astorian’s motto set the tone for what would become one of the Northwest’s most respected small papers: “Impartiality, ability, fairness, reliability. A paper for the commercial man, for the farmer, for the mechanic, for the merchant, for every person.”
That’s not to say there weren’t divisions in Astoria. The town was at times rife with tension between the dominant Anglo-American population, the nearby Native American tribes, and immigrant laborers from Finland, Sweden and China. Though the Daily Astorian rarely touched on race issues, it did employ demeaning racial language on occasion. The term “darkie” was used for African Americans, and an advertisement for a steam cleaning shop boasted the establishment’s employment of “all-white staffs.” Of an alleged horse thief, a reporter wrote, “Hal was a man of considerable intelligence. His wife was a squaw.”
Major advertising was split between fishing gear — rubber Mackintoshes and salmon netting — and the 40 saloons in town. Despite getting most of its revenue from drinking holes, the paper nonetheless opined that they should be shut down to preserve the town’s morality. Smaller ads were likewise mostly oriented towards male readers, including an item about a treatment “for the weakness of men.” Even the poems featured on the inside pages usually related to man’s work at sea. One typical verse encouraged productivity: “Don’t sit down and wait for trade.”
Throughout its early history, the Astorian garnered a well-earned reputation as a leader in technical innovation. A steam engine was installed to power its press in 1877, and in 1892 the paper became the first journal west of the Missouri River to replace hand composition with automated linotype. Pressmen from all over the West Coast came to Astoria to be trained on the linotype machine.
D.C. Ireland sold the paper to John F. Halloran in 1880 for $10,000 in gold. The paper then changed hands several times before 1903, when experienced newspaper publisher John S. Dellinger bought it. He printed it until his death in 1930.
-- Written by Isolde Raftery