History of the Hannibal Courier-Post
By J. Hurley Hagood and Roberta Hagood
In November 1984, the writers of this article made an audio tape of an
interview with Gene Hoenes, a veteran Courier-Post reporter. Gene was
well-known, respected and admired for his career in the media: radio, T.V.,
and the Hannibal Courier-Post. In speaking of his opinion of the importance
of the newspaper as a news media, he made this statement, "People listen to
facts announced on the radio and see news on television, but they don't
really believe it until they read it in the newspaper."
The printed word has been an important influence in Hannibal since its
earliest days, 160 years ago. Between 1838 and 1900 many newspapers were
started in Hannibal - and most were discontinued after very brief lives.
In earlier days, newspapers could be and were started by anyone with a
"cause" or strong opinion about any political or social problem and if they
could buy a small, simple and economical printing machine which they could
operate themselves. In many cases the newspapers they produced were the size
of handbills. Few survived financially.
Through good and bad times, a combination of many newspapers by merging,
buying out others, sheer determination to survive and great efforts created
a genealogical line of newspapers culminating in the Hannibal Courier-Post
which is the oldest daily newspaper in Missouri.
The "family tree" of the Hannibal Courier-Post dates back to the first
newspaper established in Marion County, the Missouri Courier. This
publication was first printed in Palmyra during the year 1832. It was
started by Robert Stewart and Jonathan Angevine. It was a modest little
newspaper, 18 by 24 inches in size, containing four pages. It was a weekly
paper, costing $2.50 a year to subscribe.
The first forebear of the Hannibal Courier-Post printed in Hannibal was
the Commercial Advertiser. It was established in the fall of 1837 in
Hannibal by Jonathan Angevine and J. S. Buchanan Sr. Mr. Angevine had
previously been co-owner of the Missouri Courtier in Palmyra. He was a
native of Poughkeepsie, New York.
His wife was a stepdaughter of J.S. Buchanan (she was later Mrs. D. L.
Duffy). She and her sister, Catherine Harvey, set type, folded papers and
assisted generally in getting out the Commercial Advertiser. Jonathan
Angevine died Sept. 17, 1838. However, he had sold the Commercial Advertiser
to Rev. Samuel D. Rice. It had been an "independent" paper, but Mr. Rice,
minister of the Methodist Church, said its policy would now be "Democratic."
Less than a year later, Rice bowed out of the editorial duties and
turned the paper over to Dr. Humphrey Peake. Peake's father had been a
neighbor and hunting companion of George Washington and is mentioned in
Only one copy of Peake's Commercial Advertiser has been preserved. It is
dated Feb. 27, 1839 and contains the advertisement which lured Mark Twain's
father to invest in Hannibal. Peake's experience with the Commercial
Advertiser lasted only a few months.
The Commercial Advertiser was printed in a building on Craig's Alley on
the levee near the riverfront and North Street.
The Pacific Monitor succeeded the Commercial Advertiser, appearing for
the first time May 9,1840. Its original editor was Matthew Fife, with J. S.
Buchanan as publisher. In 1841 it became the Hannibal Journal, another one
of the ancestors of the Hannibal Courier-Post.
In 1846, Henry D. LaCossitt issued the first newspaper of the Hannibal
Gazette which ran until May 2, 1848; at which time Joseph P. Ament moved the
Missouri Courier from Palmyra to Hannibal, and his paper consolidated with
the Hannibal Gazette, retaining the name Missouri Courier.
Many Mark Twain enthusiasts like to hark back to the part that this
famous Hannibalian played in the history of the local news media. Mark
Twain's introduction to newspaper work was in 1849 when he worked as a
"printer's devil" in the office of the old Missouri Courier, according to
his own word. In 1908 he wrote this letter to Hannibal Courier-Post Managing
Editor, W.H. Powell
Next spring it will be 59 years since I became an apprentice in the
Courier office under Joseph P. Ament, along with William T. League, Wales
McCormick and a Palmyra lad named Rutter. Two of the group still survive,
viz. the Courier and the undersigned.
Surreptiously and uninvited I helped to edit the paper when no one was
watching; therefore I was a journalist. I have never been wholly
disconnected from Journalism since; therefore, by my guess, I am dean of the
trade in America.
I hope the Courier will long survive me and remain always prosperous.
The Hannibal Journal, in 1850, was sold to Raymond and Buchanan, and in
the same year was purchased by Orion Clemens who changed its name to
Hannibal Journal and Western Union.
It was published weekly until March 16, 1853, when it became a daily.
Clemens sold it in the fall of 1853 to William League who had started the
Hannibal Messenger in September 1851. The newspaper was a tri-weekly
publication until 1858 when it became a daily. The office was destroyed by
fire in early 1860.
In 1860 Mr. League sold to Frazee, Ebert and Co.
In 1863, the Messenger merged with the Palmyra Courier, and the name was
changed to North Missouri Courier. The publishers were Winchell, Ebert and
Marsh. Later this paper became the Hannibal Courier.
Other short-lived newspapers of the mid-1800s
Other important newspapers of the mid-1800s, but not part of the lineage
of the Hannibal Courier Post were published for a short time in the city:
True American, in 1855-56, endured over a year; National Democrat started
Jan. 8, 1857 with Albert Clark, publisher and lasted a year. It was
succeeded by the Hannibal Democrat in 1860. It was accused of disloyalty to
the Union and was suppressed by Federal troops.
Additional short-lived newspapers were: The Evening Press started by Dr.
H. H. Meredith in 1861 and lasted only one month; in 1860-63, A. Sproul and
William Frazee started The Chronicle which later became The Monitor; a paper
called West and South was started by Thomas W. Hawkins in 1868, lasting two
years; The Hannibal Clipper, started by Dowler R. Newberry in 1870, became a
daily paper from 1878 to 1883. Various persons came into ownership of this
paper during the years.
The first daily paper in Hannibal, the Hannibal Messenger in 1858 was a
small four-page affair, published by William T. League.
The name, Hannibal Courier-Post dates back to 1891 when the Daily Post,
founded by Thomas B. Morris in 1886, was combined with the Courier and the
present name came into being. Thus, T. B. Morris is known as the first
publisher of the so-named, Hannibal Courier-Post.
The Morning Journal became absorbed by the Courier-Post on Feb. 26 1918.
Located for years at 113 South Main St., the Courier- Post suffered a
disastrous fire in 1893. The blaze originated in the Williams-Voorhis Dry
Goods store on the northeast corner of Main and Church streets, spread
rapidly and destroyed the first block of South Main. The fire was so
extensive that in spite of vigorous and heroic efforts of Hannibal firemen,
they could not succeed in deterring its spread.
A telegraph message to the Quincy Fire Department for help caused
unbelievably fast action on their part. Railroad tracks were cleared for the
emergency. Loading their firefighting equipment on a railroad flat car, the
Quincy firemen arrived in Hannibal in 17 minutes and gave assistance.
In spite of loss of all their printing equipment, no issue of the
Hannibal Courier-Post was missed due to the thoughtfulness of the publishers
of the Morning Journal who invited the Courier-Post to use their facilities
until they restored their own.
T. B. Morris receives much credit for the early growth and quality of
the newspaper. Born in 1843 in West Virginia, he had a valiant record of
service in the Civil War, a war in which his father lost his life. After
serving in the military from 1862-1865, he began his journalism career in
Iowa. He also founded the first newspaper in Kahoka, Mo., then came to
Hannibal in 1881. In his Courier-Post years, he was a strong supporter of
T.B. Morris sold the paper, in January 1907, to the Courier-Post
Publishing Company and Lee Enterprises. This precipitated a need for larger
quarters. A building at Third and Broadway was purchased, and the move made
in May 1907.
A special edition of the paper on Feb. 29, 1908 pictured the new
publisher, W. H. Hill, and managing editor J. W. Powell. It also had a
large detailed sketch of the newly purchased $10,000 Goss printing press
with a description of its capabilities to print, fold, and count 19,000 to
20,000 eight-page newspapers per hour, and to produce 10, 12, or 16 pages at
proportionate speeds. Telegraph news service of the Associated Press was
added. News from nearby communities became a new feature.The advertising
service which had once consisted of a series of small ads on page one,
became an important service with attractive illustrated copy.
The copy of news, advertising, and illustrations for each edition was
transferred to a papier-mache matrix which was then used to help form soft
metal plates which were fastened on the cylinders of the printing machine.
This new method revolutionized the process of printing the newspaper and
folding it ready for the carrier boys or newsstands.
In 1925, an enormous remodeling project was completed at the Third and
Broadway building. A special issue called the "New Home Edition" reviewed
the history of the newspaper, and a history of Hannibal.
A damaging fire occurred after the remodeling was completed, but
restoration was made expeditiously and the paper was again published in
spite of the difficulties that had resulted from smoke and heat damages.
Standard Printing Company printed the paper for the Courier-Post until the
damage was repaired.
At least once in a World Series game in the 1920s, and before popular
radio and television, the writer recalls that the Courier-Post, by way of
its Associated Press wireless system, kept baseball fans aware of what was
happening through up-to-the-minute visual movement of players, where the
ball was hit, and a chart of ball, strike, walk, foul, out, etc. that the
umpire called. All of this on a large sign with a reproduction of a baseball
diamond. As action happened at the ball game, it was mimicked on the large
sign. The large reproduction of a diamond was on the third floor of the,
then called, Hannibal Trust Building, directly across Third street from the
The street was filled with baseball fans eagerly watching each play or
In 1952, the Courier-Post moved into its present building at Third and
Center streets. Much alteration was necessary to convert the building from
an automobile garage and repair shop to a modern newspaper facility.
Accepting its long and varied history as a background for excellence in
workmanship the Courier-Post has continued to be a viable part of the life
of Hannibal and its progress.
The publishing of a newspaper has undergone many changes. The written
word itself, early-on, was stilted and formal in style, gradually changing
to a more readable, more accurate text. Printing was done at first by
setting up type by hand, letter by letter. Then came the Linotype which
speeded up the setting of type by machinery. Another major development was
the offset printing presses which came to Hannibal in 1967. Currently
through the use of computers, scanners and other electronic machines, plus
presses that print in color, and re-produce clear photographs, the
Courier-Post continues to maintain a position of leadership among local
newspapers in Missouri.
Each publisher since the paper became the Hannibal Courier-Post has seen
and supported major events in the economic growth and cultural happenings of
the city and area.
Publishers of the Hannibal Courier-Post through its years:
Thomas B. Morris 1891-1907
(Paper acquired by Lee Enterprises)
W. H. Hill 1907-1920
J. B. Jeffries 1920-1933
E. L. Sparks Sr. 1933-1962
E. L. Sparks, Jr. 1962-1969
(Paper acquired by Stauffer Corp.)
David Beliles 1969-1978
James McClellan 1978-1981
Lawrence Weil 1982-1986
John Goossen 1987-1993
Robb Krecklow 1994-1997
(Paper acquired by Morris Communication Corporation)
John R. (Jack) Whitaker 1997-2011
(Paper acquired by Gatehouse Media, Inc.)
David Stringer 2011-current
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