For 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.
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.
The 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.
The 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.
The 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.
This Star-Telegram editorial of October 4 welcomed the new competition. Fort Worth’s other daily newspaper was the Record (1903-1925).
The Dallas Morning News recognized the new newspaper upriver on October 17.
In 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.”
On December 6, 1933 the Press reported the repeal of Prohibition.
On 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.