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Chronicles of history: Museum creates exhibit on county’s newspapers

WORTHINGTON -- Few businesses can say they have served the residents of Nobles County for a century, and even fewer can boast nearly 150 years of existence.

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WORTHINGTON - Few businesses can say they have served the residents of Nobles County for a century, and even fewer can boast nearly 150 years of existence.

The local newspaper industry, however, has provided the public with everything from local news and national headlines to human interest features, crashes and crimes. In a newly completed mini-exhibit at the Nobles County Historical Society Museum, the public may view a collection of some of the county’s oldest and longest-running newspapers.

The county’s first newspaper was the Western Advance, which began publishing Aug. 31, 1872 in Worthington. The paper went through a series of name changes during those early years, but one will recognize its name change to the Worthington Daily Globe on Oct. 3, 1939.

At one time or another, nearly every community in Nobles County had a newspaper of its own. From the Adrian Guardian to the Wilmont Initiator, the State Line Sentinel (Bigelow) to the Rushmore Enterprise - as well as the Brewster Beacon, Dundee Advocate, Ellsworth Herald, Kinbrae Chinook, Lismore Leader and the Round Lake Graphic - the editions delivered local residents the news of the week.

Much has changed in the newspaper industry in the past 147 years, from how the news is gathered to how it gets from the copy desk to the printed page. Gone are the days of linotype machines and typewriters, pica poles, wax machines and rollers. The darkroom disappeared in the digital age, and laptops and tablets have taken the place of those large hard drives.

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Indeed, the times have changed - and they will continue to do so. Newspapers, by their sheer nature, are historical records of communities, its people and progression.

Roger Zarn, museum staff member, created a display of 12 newspapers once - or still - in existence in Nobles County, but the list of editions the historical society still seeks is nearly three dozen. He’s calling on the public to help build the collection.

“We realize that most (newspapers given) to the state historical society have been put on microfilm and they are upstairs in the library,” Zarn said. “However, for historical purposes, we would like to have at least one hard copy (of each) for our collection.”

Among the papers the historical society possesses is the first copy of the Wilmont Initiator, dated March 2, 1900. It was donated to the society by C.W. Becker in 1963. Becker owned and published the Wilmont paper, and owned a lumber and coal business in Wilmont.

“We have the very first one off the press and it’s believed to be the only copy of the Initiator in existence today,” Zarn shared.

The archived copy of the Adrian Guardian, circa 1896, meanwhile, came from the military trunk of William Travis, a Civil War veteran who resided in Adrian. Two copies of the newspaper were tucked inside Travis’ scrapbook chronicling his service in the Grand Army of the Republic, though one edition was in poor condition.

Zarn said the society received four different boxes of donated newspapers over a period of time, and it was while sorting through the editions - dating back to the 1930s and 1940s - that he had the idea to compile copies for an exhibit.

“I found a stack of these Round Lake Graphics - the edges had been charred like they’d been rescued from a fire,” Zarn said. “I also found Adrian and Brewster newspapers. I thought I could put together an exhibit and show the history of some of the newspapers of the county.

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“It was quite by accident that this was happening around the time the Globe announced it was going from a six-day-a-week to a two-day-a-week paper,” he added. “I thought it would be a subject people would be interested in it.”

The exhibit will remain in place for approximately four to six months, and Zarn said anyone willing to donate editions of local newspapers on the society’s list of sought-after items is encouraged to do so.

“Any donations will be photographed and added to our database, and they’ll either go on display if we get them soon enough with the exhibit we have now or we will put them in storage until, hopefully, we move into larger quarters where we can display them on a more permanent basis,” Zarn said. “We’d love to display our collection, but unfortunately we just don’t have the room.”

Any edition of the following newspapers is being sought by the society: Adrian Advertiser (1879), Adrian Citizen (1891-1893), Nobles County Review (1926-present), State Line Sentinel (1892), Minnesota Signal (Bigelow, 1896-1907), Brewster Beacon (1899), Dundee Advocate (1898-1905), Ellsworth News (1885-1952), Ellsworth Herald (1901-1903, 1946), Ellsworth Voice (1979-1986), Kinbrae Herald (1894-1903), Kinbrae Chinook (1901), Lismore Leader (1901-1907), Lismore Free Press (1921-1943), Round Lake Wave (1897), Rushmore Gazette (1894-1895), Rushmore Times (1895), Rushmore Magnet (1897-1898), Wilmont Tribune (1906), and these Worthington newspapers: Western Advance (1872-1874), Worthington Advance (1874-1908), Claim Shanty Vindicator (1874), Literary Triumph (1874-1875), Worthington Journal (1876-1882), Worthington Record (1883-1885), Minnesota Home (1884-1886), Nobles County Independent (1892-1893), Minnesota Allahanda (Swedish newspaper, 1893-1894), Worthington Daily Advance (1899-1904), Worthington Herald (1894-1908), Worthington Advance-Herald (1908-1910), Worthington Republican (1911-1913), Worthington Progressive (1913-1915) and Worthington Daily Times, a continuation of the Nobles County Times.

Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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