Column – Celebrating 150 years of Suffolk news

Published 4:42 pm Tuesday, January 3, 2023

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Editor’s note: This is the first of a weekly column series focusing on the history of the Suffolk News-Herald and the news of Suffolk that was told on its pages.

The year is 1873. Ulysses S. Grant is president in his second term. Henry Rose exhibits barbed wire at an Illinois county fair for the first time. The first U.S. postal card is issued. Central Park is officially completed in New York City, and also in New York City, P.T. Barnum’s Circus, the Greatest Show on Earth, debuts.

Here in Suffolk on Jan. 1, 1873, a divide between churches indirectly led to a Methodist man, Dr. Thomas E. Cropper, beginning publication of the Suffolk Herald. A Methodist newspaper, the Herald was housed in Washington Square. It was published every Wednesday morning and carried the banner “Fearless and Free.”

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In 1917, the newspaper was moved to the corner of East Washington and Commerce streets, near current-day Amici’s.

Fast-forward to 1923. President Warren G. Harding is about to hand over the presidency to Calvin Coolidge. The first Yankee Stadium opens its doors. The Hollywood Sign is inaugurated in California (originally reading Hollywoodland) and Roy and Walt Disney founded The Walt Disney Co.

On March 23, 1923, the Suffolk News began publishing for the first time as the first modern-day daily paper in Suffolk. The paper was published every afternoon except Sunday.

In 1924, when the Suffolk News was at risk of shutting its doors, the stock of The Suffolk News Co. was bought by Amedeo Obici. Most known in Suffolk for being the founder of Planters Peanuts, Obici reportedly admitted to knowing nothing about operating a newspaper, but could not stand by and watch the daily paper fold. The paper was later sold to R.A. Harry.

A few years later in July 1927, the Suffolk News bought out the Suffolk Herald and combined it to become the Suffolk News-Herald. The paper has run continuously under that name since.

Late December 1934, the country was in the middle of the Great Depression, and food was in short supply nationwide. Here in Suffolk, things were no better. Upon hearing about the inability of churches and other local charities to meet the demand of hungry children in the city at Christmastime, the newspaper ran a front-page editorial in Dec. 18 edition. It was an urgent call for the citizens of Suffolk to help. By the next day, a committee was formed, and money had started to flow into what was originally called the Empty Stocking Fund. The name Cheer Fund was coined that second day. By Christmas Eve 1934, $501 had been raised, and the Cheer Fund was created. These days, this fund created by the News-Herald is its own nonprofit and each year collects roughly $40,000 to buy toys for children in need.

The News-Herald’s original location was 151 S. Main St. On Nov. 4, 1930, a fire destroyed the entire building. Unfortunately, no complete set of files or records survived.

Part 2- News goes digital