Clackamas County Record
Oregon City, Clackamas County, Oregon
Starting a newspaper in the early 20th century was always a risky endeavor subject to fierce competition. As the Oregon City Courier [LCCN: sn00063698] wrote on January 9, 1903, “The history of newspapers is that only one in ten that are published live to become a success and a money maker.” Despite the experience and effort of its proprietors, the Clackamas County Record [LCCN: sn00063710], published in Oregon City, would not “live long and prosper.” The paper would suspend at a substantial loss for its owners after a short six months.
The Clackamas County Record was “launched into this troubling world” by Edward E. Brodie, David Davis, and A. E. Davis of the Record Publishing Company on January 5, 1903. The six-page, Republican sheet was published twice a week and cost readers $1.75 a year. According to its proprietors, the Record was created “with the sole aim and purpose of aiding in the great work of promoting the best interests of this magnificent county, and [to supply] the people of the county with a paper that will fearlessly give the news.” They went on to express “hope that the product of the venture will be some material assistance in the development of the best county in Oregon.” However, Brodie’s and Davis’ intentions were not entirely altruistic. In the same editorial which appeared in the debut issue, they stated that the Record “comes wholly and entirely as a business venture, its mission being…to gain a livelihood for its proprietors.” This, unfortunately, would not be the case.
The Clackamas County Record was a “clean, well gotten up and up-to-date country newspaper” that mostly focused on dealings within the county and state. Several regular columns appeared: “Boys and Girls – Little Stories and Incidents that Will Interest and Entertain Young Readers” provided cute, anecdotal stories and simple science experiments for children; “Woman’s Realm,” “Women’s Doings” or some iteration thereof provided rather glib articles on fashion, beauty and societal news; and an agricultural column also appeared regularly.
At the start of publication, the Record printed around 1,000 copies. However, this large circulation was very short-lived. According to an Oregon City Courier article from August 7, 1903, shortly after launching the paper “the pony Campbell press on which the [Record] was printed was sent back to the type foundry and the paper was printed on the Courier press, and the thousand copies were cut down to less than two hundred” which was the circulation thereafter. The Clackamas County Record never recovered and soon began losing money.
The publication had always experienced a precarious existence, and on July 6, 1903 a large advertisement dominated the front page of the Record. “$1.50” bolded and underlined, loudly declared the new price for a year’s subscription and in a multitude of fonts begged the question: “Our subscription price has been reduced to the price of the weeklies… Why do you take a weekly paper when you can get a semi-weekly for the same price?” The ad would run until July 23, at which point the subscription price was once again lowered, albeit in a much quieter manner. A very small announcement located on the bottom right of the front page now humbly declared that the Clackamas County Record was only $1.00 per year. Although it was an earnest attempt to drum up patronage, the paper was suspended the following week, and its last issue printed on July 30, 1903.
The bitterness of a failed publication appears to seep into the Record’s final issue. An entire column on the front page was devoted to death notices and several articles on “the people’s lack of loyalty to home institutions” and Oregon’s “general absence of enthusiasm” appeared throughout the paper.
After the failure of the Clackamas County Record, only two papers remained in Oregon City: the Oregon City Enterprise [LCCN: sn00063700] and the Oregon City Courier. On August 7, 1903, only a week after the Record suspended, the Enterprise self-righteously wrote, “Once again it has been demonstrated to the satisfaction of the erstwhile proprietor, editor and manager at least, to say nothing of those who had financial interests therein, that a third paper cannot exist in Oregon City. There is barely a field here for the two regularly establiseed [sic] papers and every attempt to foist a third publication on the public has proven a costly experiment.” The Courier, too, took a jab at the Record, stating, “Oregon City and Clackamas county will now have to do with two papers until some other fellow comes along with money to throw away.” In September, subscribers to the Clackamas County Record received the Enterprise in place of the suspended publication.
Even though Edward Brodie and David Davis were young when they started the Clackamas County Record, they were already quite experienced in the field of journalism; Brodie had set type at the Eugene Register [LCCN: sn96088117] and both worked as editors at the Oregon City Enterprise before starting on their own. Despite the failure of the paper, Edward Brodie and David Davis would go on to have successful careers in the field: Brodie ended up working for the Morning Enterprise [LCCN: sn00063701] and Oregon City Courier, and David Davis joined George C. Cornwall on June 15, 1903 to work on the Timberman, the Oregon lumber magazine out of Portland.
Prepared with reference to:
Ayer, N.W., Ed., N.W. Ayer & Son’s American Newspaper Annual. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: N. W. Ayer & Son, 1903-1904.
Rowell, Geo. P. American Newspaper Directory. 16th ed., New York: Geo. P. Rowell and Co, 1903-1905.
Turnbull, George S. History of Oregon Newspapers. Portland, Oregon: Binfords & Mort, 1939.
United States Census Material, 1880-1940.
--Written by Emily Vance