History of Early Amateur Journalism in Iowa


THE ENTHUSIASM OF THE amateur editors of Dubuque in 1875 was largely responsible for the successful organization of a Northern A.P.A., intended to include the entire Middle West. The first meeting was held in Dubuque, November 25, in that year. Joseph G. Duncan, of Dubuque, editor of the Lilliputian Monthly, was elected President, and Alexander W. Dingwall, of Milwaukee, editor of the Amateur Aspirant, Vice-President. Dingwall’s paper was made the official organ. Dingwall became the second President of the National A.P.A. a year and a half later, but the Northern A.P.A. never held a second meeting.


An Iowa Amateur journalists Association was formed at Cedar Rapids, December 27, 1878, with F. L. Misner as President and Ralph VanVechten, Editor. VanVechten was the second President, and Frank E. Day succeeded him. The Hawkeye A.P.A. was organized at Des Moines, September 3, 1883, Bert H. Gouden being chosen President and Ranklyn W. Lee, Editor. It held conventions annually for five years. A local club was formed in Dubuque in December, 1874, Joseph G. Duncan. being President and Glenn M. Farley, Secretary. It held frequent meetings, and at its second annual meeting George H. Graves was chosen President. At this meeting it was voted to publish an official organ to be known as the Recorder, and Farley was made its editor. Its first issue appeared January, 1876.


Amateur journalism started early in Iowa, E. A. Gilbert publishing the Monthly in Dubuque in 1868, and I. and M. Hunt issuing the Children's Paper there the same year. From Brighton in 1870 came the Western Star, published by S. E. Parsons, and the next year Frank W. Pratt, of Pella, issued the World, followed soon after by the Amateur, edited by R. B. Gelatt of Vernon. About this time Dubuque became the amateur center of the State. George H. Graves in 1871 seems to have had the first amateur printing outfit in Iowa. His Boys Journal, started in 1874, was for some years the leading journal of the section. Closely following him Glenn M. Farley began the publication of the Amateur Globe, and Clifford D. Ham started the Amateur Gazette about the same time. Harry E. Tredway and his brother John acquired an amateur printing press and some fonts of long primer type in 1874 and published a series of amateur booklets by various authors. W. G. Brackett published the Busy Bee in 1876 in Dubuque.


In 1874 Charles E. Chapin issued Snap from Hamberg, and removing to Atlantic, published Our Compliments. In West Union L. T. Holden issued 139 numbers of the Weekly Times. Its first copies were printed by laying the paper on the type and pressing it down with the palm of the hand, then a planer was used, and later a Novelty press was procured. It was finally changed into a monthly called the Locomotive. Pella had the World and the Vidette, edited by F. W. Pratt, and the Western Star, issued by C. deVos. At Mt. Pleasant, Louis C. Schliep published the Orb in 1874 and the Hawkeye Boy in 1877, and in Davenport, beginning in 1876, Wyndham M. Morris sent forth his well-known Monthly Doings. In 1876 another Western Star appeared, published by John W. Cook and his brother in Rockford. In Cedar Rapids, in 1878, three noted journals were started, the Rounce edited by Ralph VanVechten; the Amateur World, C. H. Jenkins, editor; and the Graphic, published by Frank E. Day. In Lansing that year a large paper called the Gem of the West was issued by Elmendorff and Company. In 1880 Hal C. Bixby, of Marion, began the publication of the famous Bixby's Bazoo, an illustrated journal. Cedar Rapids in 1884 saw the birth of the Electric Spark, edited by Bert H. Goudon, who later published the Gnome. Another noted amateur paper from Iowa was the Iowa Amateur begun in 1881 by Ed M. Gaddy, and in Coon Rapids Edward E. Stowell, President of the National A.P.A. in 1884, began his career by publishing the Junior Press. Wesley J. Hunter, of Burlington, added to Iowa's fame by his Mercury Magazine, begun in 1889. Joe M. Chapple, the well-known magazine and book publisher, began his career as an amateur editor in LaPorte City by issuing the Surprise. In Fort Madison in 1887 Austin C. Stempel published the Helios Magazine. Much later, in 1924, Carroll D. Coleman issued the Hawkeye Amateur from Muscatine, and in 1932 Clyde Whetstine published the World Contact from Cedar Rapids.


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