The Backstory: Early Ann Arbor's multiple newspapers

Back before the days of the internet, cable news, and even radio, there was really only one place to get the lowdown on what was happening in your community: newspapers. And back in the 1800s and early 1900s, Ann Arborites had plenty of papers to choose from.

During the early era of newspapers, there was little pretense of being unbiased or neutral—a paper was Democratic, Republican, Whig, et cetera, and everyone knew which paper leaned towards which party. Trying to keep track of who owned what paper and what the paper was called at any given time, however, proved to be a little more difficult.

In 1829, Thomas Simpson began publishing the Western Emigrant. It was considered a “neutral” newspaper in that it leaned towards no political party. In 1830, the paper carried on as the Emigrant and was edited by Samuel Dexter. This paper definitely had a political slant—it was profoundly anti-Masonic. Judge Dexter continued this paper as the Michigan Emigrant in late 1830 and carried on until November of 1834, when the paper ceased operations.

George Corselius published the Michigan Whig; the title alone lets the reader know which party it favored. He published this paper for only about four months before rechristening it The Michigan Whig and Washtenaw Democrat.

In early 1835, E.P. Gardiner began publishing the Michigan Argus. Four years later, this paper continued on as the Democratic Herald – again, the very title suggesting which political party it favored. Gardiner also published a paper called the Morning Chronicle, but only produced one issue of it.

The Michigan Times published from 1837 until 1840 and was Democratic. Around that same time, the partnership Seaman and Cole published the Ann Arbor Journal from 1838 until 1847, at which time it was continued as the Washtenaw Whig.

The Michigan Anti-Slavery Society began publishing the Signal of Liberty in 1841. It dissolved seven years later, but was carried on by the Michigan Liberty Press in Battle Creek.

The Democratic Herald began life in August of 1839, and ran until 1842 when it was continued by the Michigan Argus. E.R. Powell and Orrin Arnold began publishing the paper in early 1843. Two years later, it continued as the True Democrat. In 1846, the aforementioned E.P. Gardiner and L.W. Cole (of Seaman and Cole) began publishing the Michigan Argus. The oldest known daguerreotype in Ann Arbor features Mr. Cole and his Argus staff in 1850.

The paper became the Weekly Michigan Argus in 1854. On January 5, 1855, Elihu Pond took over the paper, sometimes including the word “Weekly”, sometimes not. In 1879, the paper carried on as the Ann Arbor Argus when John N. Bailey took ownership of the paper. The paper still identified as Democratic.

In 1861, the Peninsular Courier and Ypsilanti Herald began publication. It was carried on as the Peninsular Courier less than a year later. In 1866, it continued as the Peninsula Courier and Family Visitant. This paper published for 10 years, before becoming the Ann Arbor Courier. In 1899, the paper purchased its main rival, the Ann Arbor Register (begun in 1872 by A.W. Chase) and relaunched as the Courier-Register. The Beal family owned and edited the Courier for its entire existence with son Junius taking over for his father, Rice. The Courier-Register continued until 1906. This paper, as well as the Beal family, was staunchly Republican.

The Ann Arbor Argus-Democrat formed in 1898 and was a merger of the Argus, the Ann Arbor Democrat, and the Ypsilanti Weekly Times. This joint paper ran for eight years before being renamed the Ann Arbor Weekly Argus, which generally reprinted stories from the daily Argus.

Another newspaper ran as the Ann Arbor Times, and began publishing in 1903. Five years later, it merged with the Ann Arbor News-Argus (which began its life as the Ann Arbor News in 1905) and became known as the Ann Arbor News Times and Argus. A few months later, it changed names to the Ann Arbor Times News, which became the Ann Arbor Daily News in January of 1928. At the end of 1936, the name was shortened to the name with which most current Ann Arborites are familiar: the Ann Arbor News. The paper was published under that name until 2009, eventually ending up in the lovely building at Division and Huron now occupied by the University of Michigan Credit Union.
Today, we can get our news from MLive, a CNN app, or our Twitter feeds. It may still be confusing to figure out who owns what publication at any given time, although most outlets at least claim to be unbiased. But one thing has not changed—Ann Arborites still want their news, whether it’s from an Argus or an app. 
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