Sheldon Aubut's Duluth History

The Newspaper "Wars"

Domains $7.49 - Why Pay More?During the early 1860’s Dr. Foster published a newspaper in St. Paul called, "The St. Paul Minnesotian". He moved to Duluth in 1869 and renamed it, "The Duluth Minnesotian". The first issue was printed April 24, 1869, and he proceeded to annoy every politician and rich old goat in the area. Soon the new mayor, Joshua Culver, and the financier, Jay Cooke, invited Robert C. Mitchell to move his then new Superior Tribune to Duluth.

Some local Superior businessmen had no intention of letting Mitchell move, and he faced a possible court injunction stopping him. He decided to make the move when the two judges were too busy, or out of town. The time came on May 4, 1870 when one of the judges was out presiding over a case. The other judge was sleeping off a drinking binge. Mitchell said later, "I did happen to know, before I started to move the plant, that he was dead to the world in the second story of Charlie Lord’s saloon, and that he could not write his name to a writ even if he should be found."

That started a newspaper feud that lasted into the twentieth century. Foster seemed to really enjoy the war. The Tribune was three blocks west of the Minnesotian. They seemed to be done in on September 12, 1871 when they had a fire that destroyed their office and presses. The steam fire engine showed up but wasn’t able to get any water. The presses made a pretty big bang as they dropped through from the second floor, and Foster later wrote about this with relish. By then the Herald was in town and they helped get the Tribune out during their time of difficulty.

Mitchell lost all his records and couldn’t even bill for advertising, so he borrowed the records from the Minnesota Historical Society and for some years they were not successful in recovering them. They never were returned. Dr. Foster always claimed this was a fair representation of Mitchell’s character.

After being so very loyal to the people of Superior for some time it was a shock when the first issue of the Tribune came out in Duluth and Mitchell said, "we made up our mind that those who wished to hang by, and go down with a sinking ship, might do so, but that, for ourself, we preferred to carry on business in a growing, prosperous and flourishing city, rather than in a decaying or lifeless one; and so we made arrangements to come to Duluth." To make matters worse he gave the first copy struck to Jay Cooke. Our apologies to our Superiorite visitors for repeating this story.

The "newspaper war" wasn’t just Mitchell and Foster disagreeing on a few points. On January 6, 1872 Dr. Foster felt it was necessary to respond to some of Mitchell's attacks, and felt the appropriate way was to print Mitchell’s slander in his paper. He wrote: "We take the following choice morsels of ‘elevated literature’ at random, from different numbers of that sheet:

From the Tribune of Nov, 23, 1870 — " Those what have ever seen the hideous and shapeless excrescence or protrubance — with its miniature mountain peaks and caverns — which he carries between his visual organs."

Of course it was Dr. Foster's nose that he was talking about!  Pretty much a personal attack...

Dec. 7, 1870 — "The old blatherskite of the MINNESOTIAN." "The walking beer-barrel of the MINNESOTIAN — that unscrupulous old creature."

Dec. 21, 1870 — "Cowardly cunning, sycophantical and hypocritical efforts which are now being made by the editor of the MINNESOTIAN — "dirt eater" — "he is morbidly selfish and utterly unscrupulous" — "old vulture" — "old creature" — "foul pen."

Dec. 28, 1870 — "The biggest hog in Duluth" — "The grimaces and antics of a monkey" — "the senseless cachinnations of an idiot." — "The ancient blatherskite of the MINNESOTIAN is in his dotage."

July 20, 1871 — "We find him engaged in dirt-eating and in endeavoring with all the disgusting and humiliating fawning and cringing of a sycophant" — "ostensible penitence of this old creature" — "abuses and slanders of his vile pen" — "unscrupulous and vicious old disorganizer" — "an unscrupulous and malicious wretch" — "willful and deliberate liar."

Dec. 28, 1871 — "beastly and egotistical old blather-blatherskite" — "goggle-eyed" — "foul-mouthed editor."

It was a war!


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Last modified: January 15, 2011
copyright 1986-2013 , Sheldon T. Aubut, all rights reserved

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