History of Early Amateur Journalism in Wisconsin


WISCONSIN CAUGHT the amateur journalistic fever early, and at times it raged intensely, centering largely around Milwaukee. Indeed, as far as the National A.P.A. is concerned, Milwaukee might be called the "Mother of Presidents," seven of them having come from that city. The constitution of the National Association as amended in 1878 provided for a system of proxy voting which required its members to meet in their respective States and cast their ballots. Pursuant to this, a Wisconsin A.P.A. was organized May 15, 1879, which existed for one day only. E. S. Martindale was chosen President and Henry E. Legler, Secretary. A permanent organization was effected in 1884, when on September 5, at Milwaukee, a Wisconsin Amateur Journalists Association was formed. Tully S. Buckner was made President and Will J. Roe, Editor. December 29, at Oshkosh, Will J. Roe was advanced to the presidency, and 0. E. Mueller elected Editor. In 1885 E. M. Phillips was chosen President and William S. Dunlop, Editor. At Neemah in January, 1887, Henrik Strom was made President. After reorganization, November 9, 1889, at Ripon, W. S. Dunlop was elected President, and John S. Hall, Editor. July 21, 1890, at Fond du Lac, H. H. Fish was made President and Hall re-elected Editor.


At Milwaukee, September 22, 1888, a Wisconsin Associated Press was formed with H. H. Fish as President. It met once more, in Ripon, November 9, 1889, and elected W. S. Dunlop President. September, 1902, at Milwaukee, a Wisconsin Press Literary Association was formed with William C. Ahlhauser as President. It was active until 1906 and held three successful conventions.


The amateurs of Milwaukee organized a Milwaukee Literary Press Club on December 13, 1882. Mahlon H. Shelp was its first President and Frederick F. Heath, Secretary. It met monthly, with some interruptions, until the summer of 1885, when it was disbanded. It was reorganized on December 11, 1896, and again in 1908, and still again 1913, with Edward F. Daas President.


One of the very earliest amateur journalists in Wisconsin was Carlton B. Case, who in 1872, at Burlington and the next year at Wauwatosa, published Our Enterprise. In 1875, at Milwaukee, Alexander W. Dingwall began the publication of the Amateur Aspirant. Dingwall became the second President of the National A.P.A. In Milwaukee also in 1875 Fred Gruber issued Amateur Progress. La Crosse became quite an amateur center from 1875 to 1878. Alexander Nevins in 1875 published the Advertiser, and a little later La Crosse was the home of the Comet, E. S. Martindale, editor; the Telephone, Frank P. Toms, editor; the Mercury and the Gatling Gun, F. E. Langworthy, editor. Nevins followed his Advertiser with a paper called the Wicked Flea. Henry E. Legler began at LaCrosse publication of the Censor in 1879, and moving to Winona in 1881 he issued the Idler. Legler a year later, from Milwaukee, issued La Caprice and Blades o' Grass, a literary magazine.


In 1875 at Beloit Our Boys was issued by H. E. Guernsey, and at Appleton in 1877 Mahlon H. Shelp began his amateur career by publishing the Appleton Amateur, and later the Fireside Gem. In 1881 Shelp moved to Marinette and issued the Will-o'-the-Wisp. In 1877 0. L. Horton published the Fountain City Boys at Fond du Lac.


From 1880 to 1885 Milwaukee became one of the prominent amateur centers of the country. Besides Legler's paper a dozen others added to the reputation of the city. Frederick F. Heath began in 1883 the publication of Stars and Stripes, and at once it became one of the leading journals of the day. Other Milwaukee papers of the time were the Herald, later the Messenger, William S. Dunlop, editor; Junior Press, Edward E. Stowell, editor; the Champion, Tully S. Buckner, editor; Leisure Hours, E. T. and J. G. Heyn, editors; New Century, John E. Urban, editor; Boy's Favorite, E. M. Phillips, editor; Wasp, Oscar A. Mueller, editor. In 1897, in Milwaukee, William C. Ahlhauser began the publication of his famous Cynosure, which he issued for many years, and in 1899 Walter F. Zahn issued the Advocate. Of these Milwaukee editors Legler, Stowell, Heath, Dunlop, Ahlhauser and Zahn followed in Dingwall's footsteps and became President of the National A.P.A. In 1897 Edward F. Daas issued Morsels and A. B. Hvale Blots. Later in Milwaukee, Harry J. Larkin published the Observer in 19O6, Arthur J. Ebert the Paragon in 1908, and Stuart Heath, in 1910, revived his father's Stars and Stripes. In 1884 Will J. Roe, of Oshkosh, published the Messenger; in 1886 John H. Hall, of Ripon, took it over; and in 1887, at Neemah, Herbert H. Fish issued the Wisconsin Youth. E. E. Ericson issued Quillings from Elroy in 1898, and in 1900 Frank J. Kendall, another National President, began publishing his noted magazine the Torpedo. The Coyote was issued by Louis G. Brechler in 1908 from Fennimore.



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