Fort Worth Press: “Pep! Punch!! Personality!!!” (Part 1)

1 press logojpgFor a half-century it gave Fort Worth residents a choice in local newspapers. And during that time it served as a post-graduate journalism school for men and women who would become some of Texas’s best-known writers.

1 press first 1-3-21

The Fort Worth Press published its first edition on October 3, 1921. This is the remnant of the first front page. The banner headline refers to a Ku Klux Klan parade that turned into a riot in Lorena (near Waco) on October 1, 1921. Ten men, including the McLennan County sheriff, were injured. Note that the newspaper originally was a broadsheet, not the tabloid of its later years.

1 press 9-11-21The Press promised to report the news with pep, punch, and personality. Note that the newspaper originally was located on Commerce Street, where the former Greyhound bus terminal is today. Ad is from the September 21, 1921 Star-Telegram.

1 press mugsThe newspaper’s first editor was Leon McDowell Siler. Business manager was William McIntosh. Siler, McIntosh, and Vern A. Bridge incorporated the Press with $150,000 capital. Bridge probably was the circulation manager. Photos are from the October 1, 1921 The Fourth Estate.

1 press mast 10-3-21The Press was a Scripps-Howard newspaper–the twenty-fifth largest chain nationally and the third-largest in Texas. The masthead included the new newspaper’s mission statement, beginning with “To strive to increase the opportunities of the poor while recognizing the rights of the rich . . .” The newspaper contained eight pages in the beginning and cost three cents.

1 press 10-4-21This Star-Telegram editorial of October 4 welcomed the new competition. Fort Worth’s other daily newspaper was the Record (1903-1925).

1 press dmn 10-17-21The Dallas Morning News recognized the new newspaper upriver on October 17.

1 press jonesIn 1926 the Press moved to its new building at Jones and 5th streets. That building is now occupied by the Fort Worth Police Department.

The Press embraced its roles as civic watchdog and booster, exposing oil stock swindlers, election fraud, and political corruption. The Press sponsored the annual spelling bee for Fort Worth public school students, the Soap Box Derby, the Santa Pal Christmas fund, the Golden Wedding Party for couples married fifty years, and a scholarship fund.

But as just one of the children of parent Scripps-Howard, the Press received a meager allowance, whereas the Star-Telegram was the only child and darling of publisher and Fort Worth civic booster Amon Carter. With its low budget the Press struggled to compete with the Star-Telegram in circulation and advertising.

Marshall L. Lynam, who was a Press reporter and later chief of staff for House Speaker Jim Wright, wrote in Stories I Never Told the Speaker: The Chaotic Adventures of a Capitol Hill Aide:

“The Fort Worth Press . . . was an incredible institution. Forever teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, the paper was such a penny-pincher that reporters had to turn in the stub of a copy pencil to get a new one. To make a phone call to New York took prior approval from the City Desk. And once when a reporter rode with sheriff’s deputies to a crime scene out in the suburbs and then asked how to get home, the City Desk told him to hitchhike.

“. . . The Press had the only major downtown building without refrigerated air conditioning. Instead we had washed-air coolers on the roof. During the winter these would get clogged with dirt. When the water was turned on in late spring, the blowers would hurl tiny mudballs through the city room.”

1 press repeal 12-6-33On December 6, 1933 the Press reported the repeal of Prohibition.

1 press vultee 11-23 45On November 25, 1941, the Press bannered Vultee Aircraft’s purchase of Consolidated Aircraft, which included Fort Worth’s “bomber plant.” Note that the Press was still just three cents twenty years after its first edition.

Fort Worth Press: “Pep! Punch!! Personality!!!” (Part 2)

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37 Responses to Fort Worth Press: “Pep! Punch!! Personality!!!” (Part 1)

  1. Deborah Carl says:

    I remember the paper boy folding the paper into a perfect square and throwing it to the porch. Most of the times, it found its mark!

    • hometown says:

      Had to be a small edition. The bigger editions required rolling the paper into a cylinder and putting a rubber band around it. With practice you could throw the cylinder so that it hit the ground on one end and began to rotate, progressing across the lawn on just its ends. All in the wrist.

  2. Cathy O'Neal says:

    I am doing research for a book, and I’m looking for Fort Worth Press archives. Do you know where they are stored?

    • hometown says:

      Cathy, as far as I know, only a few issues from 1927 are online. But the Fort Worth public library has the Press on microfiche.

  3. Hazel Curry says:

    Growing up in Fort Worth in the 50s and 60s, i preferred The Press over the other paper in town because, with The Press, one read the WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN and HOW rules of true journalism.In addition, Lil’ Abner and Marmaduke,didn’t appear in the other paper that seemed to me wasted a lot of unnecessary words reporting on local events. (The fact, that I was studying journalism at Tech High School in the 60s helped form my critical views of journalism writing – even to this day.)

  4. David Underwood says:

    When I lived in Fort Worth during the 1960’s there were two papers in town, the Fort Worth Press being one of them. From their archives can you show a team schedule and playing field for some of the Masonic Home football teams from the 1930’s or 1940’s?

  5. Sarah J Biles says:

    Mike, my mom & dad subscribed to both newspapers, & I can remember lying in the living room floor, reading both of them, when I was about 9. I actually preferred the Press. When I was 14 & the Beatles & other bands from England came out, the Press had better coverage. ‘Nuff said. I still miss the Press & the Star-Telegram in its better days. I remember reading your column. So funny!
    History is good, too.

    • hometown says:

      Thanks for your kind words, Sarah. LOL. When we were teenagers, coverage of the British invasion indeed would have been a reason to prefer one newspaper over another.

  6. Marie Howard, United Republicans of Tarrant County Club says:

    Just discovered the article in the F.W. Bus. Press. Shared your post on the Press to my facebook page. Thank you.

  7. NANCY BROWNLEE says:

    Oh, Mike, what a fine story! I LOVED the Press, (mostly for Pogo and L’il Abner and Peanuts) but we were Star-Telegram loyalists– my grandfather was a pressman there until shortly before he died in 1955. I wish I had a copy of the story the Star-Telegram ran about him, sometime in the fifties… “Clyde Smith, the man with the big cigar…”

    • hometown says:

      Thanks, Nancy. Millennials would not believe there was ever a time when even a moderate-sized city like Fort Worth had two daily newspapers. I checked the S-T archives for “Clyde Smith,” “pressman,” “press man,” “big cigar” but found no story. But only the morning and Sunday editions are accessible. The story might have been in only the evening edition.

  8. Priscilla says:

    My father was the last editor of the Fort Worth press. Delbert Willis

    • hometown says:

      I don’t think I ever met your father while I was at the Star-Telegram, but I knew of him by reputation.

  9. Judy McMahon says:

    This is interesting. My grandfather, Joe Echols, worked there for years. He was a Linotype operator.

  10. Roger Summers says:

    Two of my brothers and I delivered that 1949 S-T centennial edition. We cut up old inner tubes (remember those?) into strips to make “rubber bands” since the paper was so thick and heavy. We hand placed the paper on sidewalks, porches and driveways. If we had thrown the paper, it would have been damaged. As for the Press, it was a scrappy, delightful newspaper. It had some great reporters and writers and its competition made the S-T a better paper. Kay Gayle, who hawked the Press in and around the courthouse was a delight.

    • hometown says:

      Roger, I have seen the centennial edition only piecemeal in the online archives. What a massive undertaking. Inner-tube rubber bands! You probably wished you had a catapult to deliver that behemoth.
      We remember when cities had TWO newspapers. Someday people may remember when cities had ONE newspaper.

  11. Laura Nowell says:

    I just went through my great grandmothers cedar chest and found a pristine copy of the 1936 TX centennial scrapbook edition from the Fort Worth Press! It is quite the treasure! I wish I could include a photo of it!

    • hometown says:

      That is indeed a treasure. I have seen parts of the Star-Telegram 1949 Fort Worth centennial edition: hundreds of pages.

  12. Bobby Trevino says:

    I n 1964 you printed a story of a youth that worked at six flags that was kidnapped and forced to drive to Houston.
    Since six flags was open at the time it would have had to have been in the summer of 64. That youth was me. How can I get a copy or read online that story that made your headline
    Thank you Bobby Joe Trevino

    • hometown says:

      Mr. Trevino, the Press closed in 1975. I searched the Star-Telegram archives of 1964 for Trevino, Six Flags, Houston, kidnap and found nothing. The central library of Fort Worth has the Press on microfiche.

  13. Diane Biegel says:

    Where can I access FW Press archives from 1933? Thanks!

  14. John Weaver says:

    My father, Donald Emerson Weaver was Editor of the Press from 1936 to 1945, when Scripps Howard transferred him to Columbus, OH.

    • hometown says:

      Having spent twenty-three years at the Star-Telegram, I appreciate your father’s tour of duty at the Press. Grew up reading both papers, threw both as a boy, worked in the S-T pressroom one summer before moving upstairs to editorial.

  15. Sally Campbell says:

    Wow, who would’a thunk the Startlegram would be so Vulcan–Live Long and Prosper?!?!

  16. Nancy Brownlee says:

    I loved the Press- and that was heresy in my house, because my Granddad worked for the Star-Telegram for many years. He was a pressman, back when the presses were in the basement of the main newspaper offices. You could feel them rumble through the floor!
    But the Press ran “Peanuts”, a great attraction, to me. And later, as a newspaper junkie, I subscribed to both- plus the NYT Sunday paper and both Dallas papers.

    • hometown says:

      I worked in the S-T pressroom one summer during college. Good place to lose a finger. Or your hearing.

  17. Ramiro says:

    Thanks Mike. I have not thought of the Fort Worth Press in a long time. I remember it around he house, but it may have just been the Sunday paper. Even so, I wish I had thought to ask my mother when she ever found time to read it. We mostly got the news from the one TV in the den.

    • hometown says:

      Thanks, Ramiro. I think we always took all three papers–morning and evening S-T and Press. And Manor bread. And Boswell dairy. No wonder we had no money. I was surprised to learn during my research of the Press that it was not tabloid format until its later years. Then there was the little Poly Herald. And the Shopper. I read (and threw) them all.

  18. Eric says:

    I also threw The Fort Worth Press but only as a summer fill in for the high school guy who wanted to keep his route during the school year. He did all the collecting from customers and passed along any complaints/suggestions.

    Fort Worth Press paper boys in my area had to get the paper on the porch, or porch it as we called it, unlike the Star-Telegram carriers. I enjoyed houses with aluminum screen doors which I could aim for from my trusty steed (bicycle).

    • hometown says:

      I threw both. The Press route was in my own hood and much easier to collect from. God, I hated getting up in the dark to throw the Sunday S-T.

  19. Jypsycat says:

    My parents took both Fort Worth papers back in the 50’s and 60’s. The Press ran a contest way back then for high school students. My brother won ‘Teenager of the Week’ and then went on to win ‘Teenager of the Month’. He took the Trifecta when he won the Grand Prize of a trip to New York City when he was named ‘Teenager of the Year’. I still have pictures and memorabilia of the trip he and my mother made to spend a week in the ‘Big Apple’, courtesy of the Fort Worth Press.

  20. Dale hinz says:

    Great memories, this is the first paper I carried as a ten year old boy before graduating to the Star-Telegram. I started in 1958 carrying the afternoon Press after school.

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