LIMA — In 1836, five years after it was founded, Lima had a courthouse, a school, a doctor and its first newspaper. More a political campaign sheet than a newspaper, the Herald lasted as long as the presidential chances of its preferred candidate, the Whig Party’s William Henry Harrison, who lost the 1836 election to Martin Van Buren.
For the next century, newspapers would open, close, change names, merge and, all the while, indulge in partisan bickering. There was the Owl, the Argus, the Reporter, the Western Gazette and the Sun, which became the Moon. There was the Republican for Republicans, the Democrat for Democrats and the Courier for those who spoke German. Later there was the Times-Democrat, the Republican-Gazette, the Morning Star and the News.
By the end of the 1920s there was only The Lima News — and it likely would have stayed that way if not for a family dispute which led, in 1956, to the sale of the News to an unpopular publisher, which, in turn, led to the rapid rise of the Lima Citizen. For six-and-one-half years the News and Citizen would wage an old-fashioned newspaper war.
Leroy Spahr Galvin, who had begun his newspaper career at 14 in Jamestown, Ohio, and had come to Lima to work as a reporter at the Republican-Gazette in 1897, acquired partial interest in the News in 1908. By the time failing health forced him to retire in 1942, he held majority interest in the News. In 1946, his nephew, Wayne Galvin, was named general manager of the News.
When Leroy Spahr Galvin died on March 1, 1952, after more than a half century as reporter, editor and publisher in Lima, his only child Catherine R. Galvin inherited his controlling interest.
“She gradually became more and more dissatisfied with the way her cousin, Wayne, was managing the paper, perhaps because he was not consulting her as frequently as she thought he should. With no forewarning to him, she sold the News on March 1, 1956, to Freedom Newspapers Inc., a California-based group of newspapers headed at that time by R.C. Hoiles of Santa Ana, California,” Robert C. Barton wrote in “The 1976 History of Allen County, Ohio.” Barton was the editor of the News at the time of the sale.
Taking note of the sale, Time magazine in 1956 described the then-78-year-old Hoiles as “a crabby Bible-spouting zealot … famed for his ultra-reactionary political philosophy and his one-man campaign against a series of things he wrapped up under one label: socialism. By Hoiles definition, socialistic institutions include: public schools, churches, public libraries, taxes, majority rule, highways, unions and the National Association of Manufacturers.”
Hoiles was also a successful publisher. Born in Alliance in 1878, Hoiles and his Freedom group had, by the time of the News acquisition, gained control of 10 newspapers beginning with the 1927 purchase of the Bucyrus Telegraph-Forum and including papers in Colorado, New Mexico, Texas and California.
“The change in ownership of the News brought a variety of changes in a comparatively short time,” John David Mitchell wrote in his 1959 master’s thesis, “When Freedom Came to Lima: A Case Study.” “Some were external, such as changes in editorial policy and physical appearance. Some were internal, such as changes in operational practices within the News plant. Some were both internal and external in impact, such as personnel changes. But the sum of the changes was to rapidly integrate the News into the Freedom group.” Mitchell had been a reporter, desk man and Guild member at the News.
In a 1975 paper titled “When a City Tried to Break a Newspaper Monopoly,” University of Toledo student Leslie R. Roby wrote, “The first intimation of what would come in the months ahead occurred when E.R. McDowell became publisher. The Denver Post, in an editorial, had referred to McDowell as ‘Hoiles’ hatchet man.’ He was followed in short order by other Hoiles-trained men. From Texas came the city editor; from Santa Ana, California, the managing editor and the advertising director. Reporters, classified and display advertising salesmen also arrived on the scene and most of them were from other Hoiles papers.”
They wasted little time alienating Lima residents, denouncing a proposed $880,000 bond issue to replace Lima’s 50-year-old library, which was on the November 1956 ballot. However, for a token payment, The Blade of Toledo printed a special edition carrying an editorial and full-page ad supporting the library and rushed 18,000 free copies to Lima, where city school children distributed them. “At that November election,” the Detroit Free Press wrote in 1964, “92 percent of Lima’s registered voters turned out and gave the issue the biggest majority (76 percent) in the history of the city.”
From the outset, Mitchell noted, the unions representing News employees, “and especially the Guild,” had a reaction of uneasiness and distrust” of the ownership change given “information about the Hoileses’ anti-union convictions and actions elsewhere.” Not surprisingly, when the Guild contract came up for negotiation in early 1956, things went badly and by May 1, 1957, the Guild was on strike against the News.
“Some 40 members of the Guild representing personnel in the editorial department, advertising and business offices began picketing the plant at 6 a.m.,” the Associated Press wrote on May 1, 1957. “A company spokesman said members of the mechanical unions have not reported for work and have refused to cross picket lines. General Manager E.R. McDowell said the News “will publish today and continue to publish as normal.”
The strike would prove contentious, with each side leveling accusations at the other. “Why did the collectivists attack Freedom Newspapers,” McDowell said in a speech to the Sertoma Club reported in the June 24, 1959, edition of the News. “They had heard this organization would not bend to the will of group action, in violation of individual rights. They had heard that Freedom Newspapers was not afraid … they have come to know that what they heard was true.”
Meanwhile, a movement by striking News employees and local businessmen to start a new newspaper had taken root and was growing rapidly. Eventually, about 1,100 Lima residents would buy shares in the new enterprise. The two biggest shareholders were Sam Kamin and James A. Howenstine, owners of Lima’s Neon Product, Inc., who agreed to kick in $100,000 when approached by former Lima News advertising salesman Wayne Current about the project.
“Everyone we talked to said they wanted a new paper,” Kamin said. “Everyone indicated they were willing to back such a paper. There seemed no doubt that it would get united and unqualified support from Lima and area residents.”
On July 1, 1957, under the headline “Greetings, Fellow Citizens!” the Lima Citizen announced that Lima was, for the first time in 30 years, a two-newspaper town. “In your hands is the first issue of a newspaper which probably has made journalistic history by the speed with which it has been created,” the lead story proclaimed. “It probably is one of the first newspapers in history which was compelled to expand its operations before publication was started. The Lima Citizen Publishing Co. was incorporated May 10.”
Next week: Newspaper war
Reach Greg Hoersten at firstname.lastname@example.org.