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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
Marshall Cohen—researcher and producer, CNN

Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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        First newspaper published in the state of Iowa
        Published from 11 May 1836 to 24 May 1837 

Coming to Dubuque in 1834, John KING, who was not a printer, realized the good possibilities for a newspaper. He returned to Chillicothe, Ohio in the fall of 1835, purchased necessary equipment, and hired William Cary Jones, an experienced printer. Jones was to be paid $350 with suitable board and lodging during one year to serve as the foreman of the printing office. (1) Traveling to Cincinnati, the two purchased an assortment of type and a Peter Smith hand press. (2) Andrew KEESECKER, a printer from Galena, Illinois was also hired.

The first issue of the The Dubuque Visitor carrying the heading "Du Buque (Lead Mines), Wisconsin Territory" appeared on May 11, 1836. A copy of the Dubuque Semi-Centennial Herald of May 9, 1836, however, pointed out this heading was not absolutely correct. Dubuque was still in Michigan Territory. Although the bill dividing off Wisconsin and Iowa (into two counties) had passed Congress on April 20, 1836, it did not take effect until July 4th. The Visitor, however, was unquestionably the first newspaper in Dubuque, first newspaper printed in what became the State of Iowa, and the first newspaper published north of St. Louis and west of the MISSISSIPPI RIVER. (1)

The spelling of Du Buque was in common usage at the time and King held to that spelling for thirty years before admitting it was incorrect. Evidence of how Julien DUBUQUE spelled his name was certainly difficult to refute. (2) The newpaper's motto was "Truth Our Guide--The Public Good Our Aim."

The Visitor was originally printed at Church (later 6th Street) and Locust STREETS. (3) The building from which it operated, a two-story log structure 20 x 25 feet, was built in 1834 by Pascal Mallet as a residence. By October, 1836 King claimed the newspaper had nearly one thousand subscribers. The paper was moved to the eastern side of Main Street just above the Globe Building.

King sold the newspaper in less than a year to W. C. Chapman. The business continued to grow and the paper was issued weekly until the following year. (4)

On June 3, 1837 the Visitor was renamed the IOWA NEWS after it was purchased by King, W.W. Coriell and John B. Russell. Avery Thomas purchased the paper on July 1, 1841 and renamed it the MINERS' EXPRESS (THE). (5) D. S. Wilson and Keesecker became the owners of the newspaper in 1842. Between 1848 and March, 1851 the paper was owned by Keesecker and Dr. Harrison Holt.
Anniversary envelope.

On April 19, 1851 the first issue of the Dubuque Herald appeared. After a period of verbal wars, the two newspapers merged on October 26, 1854 and became The Daily Express and Herald. The Express portion of the name was eventually dropped. On August 27, 1901 the Telegraph absorbed the Herald and the name was changed to the Telegraph-Herald. (6)

The platen used in the press to publish the Du Buque Visitor. Image courtesy: Siouxland Heritage Museums, Sioux Falls, SD (SHM 1926.1.840)
The press first used by King was moved by ox team to Sioux Falls, South Dakota in 1858 by real estate speculators. Used to print their advertising materials, the press survived a raid by the SIOUX on the city of Sioux Falls.

R. F. Pettigrew, later a United States Senator from South Dakota, found the press. He used the platen, the flat plate in a printing press for pressing the paper against the inked type or plate to produce an impression, for a doorstep. It was later moved to his museum in Sioux Falls. (7)



Special gratitude to Ms Shelly Sjevold, Collections Assistant, Siouxland Heritage Museums

1. " 'Du Buque Visitor Was the City's First Newspaper," Telegraph Herald, August 24, 1930, p. 11

2. "Relic of Dubuque's Early History Now in Dakota Museum," The Telegraph-Herald, November 15, 1925, p. 1

3. Ibid.

4. "First Dubuque Newspaper Published by Judge King," Telegraph-Herald, August 28, 1938, p. 9

5. " 'Du Buque..."

6. Ibid.

7. "Relic of Dubuque's ..."

Oldt, Franklin T. The History of Dubuque County, Iowa. Chicago: Western Historical Company, 1880 p. 52