By Danny Crivello
THE HISTORY OF JOURNALISM IN AMERICAN FORK
The history of formal newspaper journalism in American Fork saw crude beginnings in 1867-1868. That period saw mention of the town’s first weekly newspaper. During the years between 1868 and 1903, seven weekly or bi-weekly newspapers unsuccessfully tried to establish themselves in American Fork. It was not until the founding of the Citizen (by William D. Loveless) that the town was to have a “town paper” continuously published for more than four years.
THE FIRST PAPER
American Fork’s first known title was the American Fork Weekly Gazette. A first mention of that journal appeared in the March 11, 1868, edition of the Salt Lake Telegraph:
From American Fork, We are pleased to receive number 12 of the American Fork Weekly Gazette, edited by Brother R. G. Eccles. It is published in neat (pen-and-ink) manuscript. Its pages are filled with instructive and interesting matter, comprehending the scientific, useful, and amusing, such as: ‘An Essay on Astronomy’; Original poetry by J. Crystal; Local Items: Wit and Humor; and Various Selected Matter.
The Gazette appeared amid the first trickles of what was to become a 20-year journalistic flood raging down upon the rural communities of Utah. Almost all Utah towns of the 1870s and 1880s had more newspapers than they could support and their journalistic history is an impossible tangle of editorial alignments and ownerships.
These editorial floodwaters were most rampant in the towns of Utah County. The County has had many newspapers, and has buried most of them. But the Payson Chronicle, the Spanish Fork Press, the Springville Herald, and the Pleasant Grove Review have survived for decades.
It has been written that the relative isolation of the Utah country towns during the ‘70s and ‘80s forced the employment of rigorous methods of publication for some journals. Where no type was available, newspapers were often issued as pen-and-ink manuscript, as the Manti Herald, The Sandpitcher of Mount Pleasant, and the American Fork Weekly Gazette. When paper was lacking, the editors set up crude mills to convert rags (often the early Citizen paper was so dark it could scarcely be read) or printed on wrapping paper. It is interesting to note that all three above-mentioned journals appeared in 1867, at a time when news and its dissemination was important in the lives of the residents of remote communities such as American Fork.
Of course, out-of-state news was rather tardy, owing to the slow mode of travel over the plains. But American Fork was more fortunate than some of the Utah towns, since the U.S. stagecoach with its mail and passengers stopped twice a week on its regular route from Salt Lake City to the State Capitol at Fillmore. The small Deseret News, published weekly, furnished some interesting information, occasionally containing local news.
LITERACY INCREASES IN AMERICAN FORK
The most satisfying communication was the so-called grapevine, the mouth-to-ear over the neighbor’s fence. In the years between 1868 and 1900, the town grew to a population of approximately 3,300 people and “grapevine” communication became less effective. Besides, American Fork’s tax-maintained school system was increasing the number of people who could read. This factor, added to the increasing economic prosperity of American Fork merchants paved the way for the entrance of printed newspaper journalism into the history of American Fork.
The laborious production methods necessarily employed to publish the American Fork Weekly Gazette, plus frequent shortages of paper and ink in the settlement, are likely to have shortened the heyday of Mr. Eccles’s newspaper. Indeed, it was not until 1888 that a second formal newspaper was founded in American Fork.
C.E. Powell had emigrated from Albion, Pennsylvania, to establish the American Fork Independent. After two years of printing his newspaper on a small Army printing press, Powell sold the enterprise to the partnership of J. F. Bledsoe and James McCoard. The new management set up its printing office in the Jackson Building (later moving it to the Grant Hotel) and commenced to issue a biweekly Independent in March of 1890. J. Cecil Alter describes the June 13, 1890 issue of the Independent as containing “4 pages, 6 columns, plus a 2-page supplement, all home-print.”
MINING BOOSTS ADVERTISING
The discovery of the Miller Mine heralded a mining boom in the American Fork Canyon. Mining had so significant an influence on American Fork’s economy that the American Fork Independent of June 13, 1890, contained more inches of advertising than of home news, much if not most of both relating to the mines in American Fork Canyon.
During the next two years, the Independent changed ownership several times. A series of quotes from the Independent’s contemporary newspapers traces the American Fork paper’s activities between 1890 and 1892: “The paper is small in dimensions but large in expectations,” said the Provo Daily Enquirer, March 24, 1890. “Dr. Ed Isaacson, editor of the American Fork Independent, has bright hopes for the future of his paper which was shortly issued twice a week.”
The Enquirer reported further: “Mr. Heskel of Grand Junction has purchased the American Fork Independent” (Provo Enquirer, July 5, 1890). “He will take charge about July 15th.“
Still another change is indicated: “The American Fork Independent, under its new management, is a great improvement, and will hereafter give a great deal of attention to mining matters,” says the Park Record, May 2, 1891 (doubtless quoting an Independent statement). “Mr. Pribyl, the new editor and proprietor of the Am.Fork Independent, is a thorough and experienced newspaper man and is getting out a good paper” (Provo Enquirer, May 13, 1891).
The Price Telegraph states November 20, 1891, that “The American Fork Independent reached us in a new dress last week, as a7-column folio.” A.F. Gaisford’s notes show that John F. Pribyl purchased the plant in 1892 moved it to Corinne. But the Heber Herald of March 14, 1892, closes the record: “The American Fork Independent has discontinued – another case of journalism unappreciated.”
American Fork’s first printed town paper, the American Fork Independent, ceased operations in early 1892. Also in that year, the next attempt to establish a weekly newspaper in the town was accomplished by Newman A. Mix. His paper, the Utah Republican, was briefly published during 1892. That same year, the four-page-Republican-affiliated weekly, like its predecessors, was discontinued for lack of patronage.
NEWSPAPERS IN ‘RESTLESS GRAVES’
The American Fork Item appeared in 1893, published by Milton L. Scott and J. L. Dunkley. Journalism historian J. Cecil Alter described the Item as being composed of “8 pages, 4 columns” and being published “every Saturday.” The Item publishing office was located in the Dunley Building on Merchant Street, according to historian Emma Huff.
With no known files in existence, the life cycle of the American Fork Item is traced via the pages of the Item’s contemporary Utah journals: “The American Fork Item is the latest thing in newspaperdom,” says the Bingham Bulletin, September 23, 1893. “It is an independent weekly, published by M. L. Scott. It starts out without one ‘ad’ from the business men of the town, to whom the paper comes as a surprise, no patronage having been solicited. We trust American Fork’s new paper will meet with more liberal patronage than the several which today lie in restless graves.”
Scott, however, moved his printing plant to Mercure, Utah, in 1896. The last mention of the American Fork Item was printed in the Wasatch Wave on April 24, 1896: “The American Fork Item has again changed hands and the new man at the helm has changed the name of the paper to the American Fork World.”
The publishing of this new American Fork World proved an unsuccessful venture for W. E. Smith, the “new man at the helm,” for his newspaper ceased publication in 1897. The failure of the American Fork World evidently served to temporarily discourage establishment of newspaper journalism in American Fork. For, it was not until 1901 that John R. Wallis, a newspaper editor from St. George, Utah, published the first issue of his new paper, The Advance. That issue, dated April 25, 1901, continued 8 pages, 5 columns, 4 (pages) home-print.
Wallis’ s well-edited journal had been published for three months when the editor published the following statement: “With this issue (July 12, 1901) The Advance will retire. We regret to make this announcement, but after publishing for 12 weeks at considerable loss, without making any headway with a subcription list, we have reluctantly come to the conclusion that it would avail nothing to print any longer.” Wallis left American Fork for greener editorial pastures in Idaho. He edited two newspapers, there before returning to St. George in 1908 to resurrect his Washington County News.
The editor of the Salina Sun treated the town of Amencan Fork to a severe “roasting” in his July 11, 1901, issue:
American Fork, one of the largest towns in Utah County, has just demonstrated that it is the bummiest place in the State. Three months ago John R. Wallis, a good newspaper man and a loyal Saint, a moral and upright fellow, started the Advance at American Fork … It seems that John made an awful mistake. Last week The Advance closed down because of no patronage. Someone should take a bucket of black paint and a brush and blot out the name of American Fork from the map of Utah.
In 1903, the partnership of Jakeman and Gray founded their Republican-affiliated Tri-City Times. Again the new townpaper was short-lived. In the year of its birth, the infant Tri-City Times joined the restless graves of its predecessors.
THE ARRIVAL OF A NEW PUBLISHER
AMERICAN FORK CITIZEN founder and first publisher William Duncan Loveless, Jr., right, and his wife, Pearl Rebecca.
After serving with the Utah Volunteers of the U.S. Army during the Spanish-American War, William Duncan Loveless, Jr. returned to Payson to find employment. Having worked at a variety of jobs, which included coal mining, sheep shearing and assisting an itinerant photographer, Loveless returned to his boyfood fascination – the printing trade. He received training in printing and country newspapering while working for Eugene Pulver’s weekly Payson Glode-Header.
During his period of apprenticeship, William Loveless never lost his avid enthusiasm for printing. During that time, he severely injured his left land in a platen job press in the Glode-Header shop. Loveless’ year of convalescence served to boost his journalistic spirit; in April of 1903, he desired to become an independent country publisher and printer. Adding a matching $250 to the amount borrowed from Eugene Pulver, William Duncan Loveless went to “notorious” American Fork, determined to carve a journalistic niche for himself in that granite-rock community.
Upon his arrival in American Fork, William Loveless rented two adjoining wooden-frame buildings at 37-39 Merchant Street, the former to be his print shop and the latter to be his living quarters. He later purchased the structures.
The false-fronted buildings each 30 x 70 were typical of buildings housing turn-of-the century newspaper offices of Utah country towns. Eugene Pulver helped his former employee to acquire used printing equipment. According to J.E. Loveless (brother to the publisher), such equipment was secured “anywhere they could get it.”
With his total capital resources, Loveless was able to buy a rather battered used Army press, a quantity of different varieties of metal type, some furnishings for the shop and assorted printing supplies. Also, he opened an account with the Western Newspaper Union, whose “ready-print” filler material would comprise the two inside pages of Loveless’ proposed 4-page weekly paper.
W. D. LOVELESS, JR. and wife, Pearl Rebecca. Their son, W. D. Loveless III.
W. D. Loveless, III (son of the publisher) offers an interesting sidelight concerning the use of ready-print pages by early country publishers: “This was a service available to country publishers that greatly expedited their work. An organization known as the Western Newspaper Union, with branches in forty-five cities, maintained a battery of newspaper presses. Their services consisted of fast-printing syndicated features and stories of compelling and timely interest, printed on one side of the paper, complete with the local paper’s name and dateline. Their material came on Stereotype mats, which were cast into printing plates at each of the W.N.U. outlets. This was the same procedure as is still used for the comics in the daily papers of today.
“These pre-printed sheets were shipped out to the small publishers, who then printed their important news (and sometimes advertising) on page one and the other news and advertising on page four. The local branch of the W.N.U. in Salt Lake City had upwards of fifty small weekly newspapers they served in the Utah, Idaho and Nevada area.”
According to Leland Hunsaker, “The filler material did not change much over the years. The majority of the ready-print ads were for patent medicines. National and some international news releases were included, but the greatest amount of space in the ready-print was taken up by serialized novels.”
W. D. Loveless was cognizant of one important rule-of-thumb concerning country publishings: “For a weekly newspaper to succeed in a country community, both the paper and its publisher must be accepted as good neighbors in that community.”
THE CITIZEN IS BORN
During the weeks between his arrival in American Fork and the publication of the first issue of his new weekly, William D. Loveless met his community, acquainting the residents of American Fork with himself and his forthcoming newspaper. According to one American Fork resident who knew him in 1903, Loveless impressed citizens as being “tall, quiet and always a complete gentleman.” And Loveless must have maintained that first impression.
Dena Grant, who knew Loveless some years later, remembers him as “a kindly and very genteel man.” Having secured the good will of a prospective readership and the advertisements of American Fork and Utah County merchants, W. D. Loveless issued Volume 1, Number 1, of THE CITIZEN on Saturday, May 2, 1903.
Loveless entered the weekly newspaper publishing field in American Fork, well aware of the foibles of his contemporary country editors and their resulting journals. He most certainly did not intend to let his fledgling Citizen become jokingly known as a “weakly” newspaper. Many town papers of that period were referred to as “the town weakly” when the local editor fell into the convenient trap of printing mostly the newsy tidbits which could be had from the town back-fence grapevine. Needless to say, such a journalistic recycling of the town gossip did not prove popular in a paper’s wooing of either local merchants or subscribers.
The prospective advertisers and readers wanted more from the town paper than cold “grapevine preserves.” For W. D. Loveless, gathering the news entailed more than merely printing gossip. News gathering entailed many hours spent mingling with the townspeople in attending town meetings and reporting weddings, funerals, birthdays and similar events.
As usually happened, a printer in Loveless’ circumstances quickly acquired considerable polish as a writer and editor, becoming a local power to be reckoned with. To get in on the ground floor of hot news, such local publishers often adopted the expedient of making their own news by sponsoring and promoting civic and local programs, political and schoolboard activities, and similar events which would given them a built-in source of news interest. Realizing that he could not adequately gather news of the entire coverage area by himself, Loveless printed encouragements for his readers to submit items to the paper: “TO THE PEOPLE—All items of local news are solicited. Write upon one side of the paper only. In order to protect the publishers from impositions from irresponsible persons, the full name of the author should be signed to all communications. The identity of correspondents will be withheld whenever desired.” (printed July 18, 1903).
The close proximity of American Fork, Lehi and Pleasant Grove fostered a mutual interest of the citizenry of each town in the doings of the others. Correspondent “S.W.” submitted a brief report of “Pleasant Grove Locals” for publication in the Citizen of July 18, 1903. Loveless set a precedent for his successors in paying a number of local stringers small sums of money for their news.
Often, however, the local Bell Telephone party lines provided such reporters a wealth of information for publication on the two homeprint pages of the Citizen. Sale of newspaper advertising space was the Citizen’s major source of revenue. During Loveless’ ownership of the paper, the Citizen’s front and back pages were often composed of between between 40-60 percent local and regional advertising.
At that time the Citizen reached the hands of its readers on Saturday, the customary shopping day. A number of advertisements “today only” special sales at American Fork stores added the flavor of a primitive shopping guide to the newspaper, a flavor mutually beneficial to customer, town merchant and town newspaper publisher.
Another good source of revenue for the Citizen was its accompanying job-printing business. Realizing the value of advertising, Loveless reminded his readers that The Citizen office accepted job printing orders. Such reminders were worded thus: “Give us a trial of job printing and see if we know how to do it” and “Bring your job work to The Citizen office.”
Having written news and advertising copy in longhand, Loveless and his employees hand-set type pages at the type case rack in the shop. Each type page required many hours to compose. For that reason, it is little wonder that Loveless never increased the number of home-print pages in his Citizen beyond two. During his ownership of the Citizen, William Loveless occasionally hired both townspeople and roving “tramp” printers to staff the Citizen printing shop on a part-time basis. Pearl Rebecca Cunningham Loveless, the publisher’s wife, was probably the paper’s only other full-time employee.
A FAMILY BUSINESS
Bill Loveless has said that after his birth in 1907, his mother would let him sleep in a box beside the Citizen’s newly acquired Diamond (Pony) Cylinder power press. This would allow her to watch her child while assisting her husband in the printing shop. The clatter of the press would lull young Bill into a sound sleep; the silencing of the machine would immediately awaken him.
Adding to the tedium of hand setting each type page was the ever present danger of “piping” (dropping) that page. Such a calamity was at times experienced by the most seasoned of printers.
However, having successfully impositioned a type page upon the press, the printer could begin the actual process of printing the newspaper page. Like its predecessors, Citizen was first printed on a small Army Press. The design of the press and the printing process it required was described by Bill Loveless: “There was a heavy padded roller which was rolled across the type form by hand, being supported on each side by type-high tracks. This was the impression cylinder that pressed the sheet of paper against the inked type form. Inking was done by means of a hand brayer-roller having two handles to grasp and pull it across the type form. The ink thus applied, a sheet of newsprint was carefully laid onto the inked type surface, and the impression roller was pulled across it to make the impression.”
The American Newspaper Directory for 1908 reported the Citizen to have 600 subscribers. By that time, Loveless had invested $600 in the aforementioned Diamond Cylinder power press. Because the volume of his job printing orders had also increased, Loveless purchased a Gordon job press to use for job printing. Both presses were powered by one motor, mounted on an overhead shelf at the rear of the shop. Both the Gordon and Pony presses were run by long belts running to a shaft attached to the ceiling of the shop. The motor that turned the shaft was also connected to it with a long belt. The presses were equipped with a “drive pulley” and an “idler pulley,” the belt being shifted to the “drive pulley’ to start the press.
First AMERICAN FORK CITIZEN publisher William D. Loveless, Jr., right, and his son, William D. Loveless III in 1928.
Aside from the addition of the power printing presses, the appearance of the Merchant Street office of the Citizen changed little between 1903 and 1913. William D. Loveless, III, son of the original publisher, provided a description of his father’s newspaper office:
The racks of type cases were at the rear and along the back right wall of the print shop. There were three double racks, each containing 24 cases, plus the new straight-matter cases on top. Many of the cases had several fonts of type of different sizes so that space might be conserved. There were 150 fonts of type of different sizes and kinds. Setting type was somewhat a grimey jobb and necessitated frequent washing of hands when doing other things. It was the custom to have a wash basin of water which was used with Grandpa’s Pine Tar Soap, which was black but smelled nice. Often, the same basin of water was used many times. There was a joke about print shop towels which got so dirty they could stand alone, or, could at least be leaned against the wall. The shop was also equipped with a hand-leaver paper cutter, tables, desk and paper, and storage shelves. All extra issues of the Citizen were stored in the shop’s upstairs attic, each group of issues being wrapped and rolled into bundles.
Having accomplished the monotonous task of printing each week’s Citizen, Loveless and his employees hand folded all copies of the paper, addressing those copies which were to be mailed to subscribers. But, few copies were mailed during Loveless’ period as publisher. Most subscribers would come to the newspaper office to receive their copy on Saturday. Often, subscribers paid the price of a subscription ($1.50 per year, 75 cents for six months or 50 cents for three months) in farm produce. Merchants also exchanged mercantile services for newspaper advertising advertis-ing space.
J. E. Loveless stated that his brother fought a constant battle to increase the number of Citizen subscribers. Often, publisher Loveless would print the names of new subscribers in an “honor box” on the front page of each succeeding week’s issue. Bill Loveless commented that subscription contest premiums ranged from pencils (inscribed “The Citizen”) to typewriters.
Although served by limited transportation and communications facilities, American Fork was still somewhat isolated from Provo, Ogden and Salt Lake City. For that reason, American Fork residents took avid homogeneous interest in all current “goings-on” in American Fork. This self-interest caused Publisher Loveless to utilize his weekly newspaper to satisfy the all-engulfing curiousity of local readers. Like other rural publishers of his day, Loveless justified the existence of his weekly newspaper by using it as a tool for building up the community, printing the news and organizing the gossip in the town. Loveless wisely avoided coverage of most state and world news, concentrating the Citizen’s home-print columns on American Fork and surrounding area.
A comparison of Citizen issues for July 18, 1903, and March 22, 1908, reveals little style or makeup change in the publication during that period. The American Newspaper Directory listing for the 1913 Citizen revealed that although the paper had become an eight-page publication, it still contained only two home-print pages. Comings and goings in the town were a major source of news in Loveless’ Citizen. A back page column headed “Local News” (later, “Of Local Interest”) reported area arrivals and departures, marriages, births and deaths. Coincidentally, the report of a death in the July 18, 1903, Citizen, made mention of L. W. Gaisford, the paper’s second publisher: “L. W. Gaisford of Fillmore, who has been here this week to attend the funeral of Mr. Logie left last night for Salt Lake; he expects to return home accompanied by Mrs. Gaisford Monday evening.”
William Loveless published major news stories on the front page of the Citizen. Funerals, school activities, mining news, and community entertainments were sources for news stories in both 1903 and 1908. The intense mutual interest of local residents was evidenced by the in-depth reporting of local funerals. Such treatment starkly contrasted with that of the city dailies, which banished obituaries to some insignificant back page.
With the organization of the American Fork Commercial Club In 1906, the community “booster” function of the Citizen became more in evidence. Its progressive “Watch American Fork Grow” attitude was prevalent in the 1908 issues of the paper. In that year, the weekly encouraged “Boost for American Fork City and the North End of Utah County, The Future Home of Salt Lake Business Men.” The newspaper also asked its readers to “Tell the Truth About American Fork Canyon Mining District It Needs No Other Boosting.”
The Commercial Club declared itself “dedicated to promoting the growth and prosperity of old and the establishment of new industries” in the American Fork area. This “boosterism” re-sulted in many real estate transactions and much building during the period. As the town continued to grow, it made such civic improvements as the installation of a city water system in 1908, and approved the purchase of a steel fire cart in 1909. By March of 1910, a 100-year franchise for an electric interurban railroad connecting American Fork with Salt Lake City and Provo, was granted by the city. Construction progress of the railroad, later acquired by the Orem brothers, was a source of Citizen news stories until the interurban line’s completion some four years later.
A NEW PUBLISHER
In 1912, L. W. Gaisford, a Fillmore printer and weekly newspaper publisher, moved his family and his printing plant to American Fork. He approached W. D. Loveless with offers to purchase the Citizen, finally acquiring the paper in 1913. The terms of the sale stipulated that Loveless would sell his newspaper and his Diamond Cylinder printing press to Gaisford, retaining his job printing business and equipment.
In the March 22, 1913, edition of Gaisford’s American Fork Citizen, W.D. Loveless advertised “JOB PRINTING at the same old stand 37-39 Merchant Street, Am. Fork.” As a young newspaper reporter, Dena S. Grant recalled, “I remember Mr. Loveless was such a kindly person … a gentleman.” She remembered further, “His wife seemed to be a rather frail person, and she would be there working in his shop… it was always interesting to visit with him.”
In 1927, W. D. Loveless sold his job printing shop and moved to Salt Lake City. There, he opened the State Street Printing Company at 530 S. State Street. The first publisher of the Citizen operated his Salt Lake printing business until his death in 1934.