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Omaha Daily Bee
The Omaha Daily Bee, which historian Addison Sheldon in 1931 termed “the most successful and influential journal in Nebraska,” was established by Edward Rosewater, a native of Bohemia. The Bee began publication on June 19, 1871, as a temporary venture to promote local educational reform legislation for which Rosewater was a proponent. He later commented that he never intended the small publication to become a true newspaper, even choosing the name as a witty joke: The Bee would provide honey but with a sting. From its inception as an evening paper, the Bee expanded with morning, weekly, and other editions. They included the Omaha Daily Bee (morning edition), the Omaha Evening Bee, the Omaha Illustrated Bee, the Weekly Bee, and finally, the Omaha Bee-News, beginning in 1927. By 1875 the Bee had a circulation of 2,520. In 1882 circulation had increased to 6,100 daily and 16,000 weekly copies. The paper often featured reports by special correspondents who traveled around the state, and it carried national, regional, state, and local news. Eight columns and a simple text nameplate graced its design.
As an outspoken, but often insurgent, force in the Nebraska Republican Party, Rosewater was a colorful and controversial character, and the Bee’s impact on Nebraska politics from the 1870s to the 1910s was broad and influential. Although much of the Republicans’ traditional support came from business and railroad interests, the Bee frequently took anti-corporation and pro-labor positions. It also steadfastly opposed Democrat William Jennings Bryan, the Populist movement of the 1890s, prohibition, and women’s suffrage. As an example of his maverick tendencies, however, Rosewater threw the Bee’s support behind the Populist candidate for Nebraska governor in 1894 because the Republican candidate had allegedly committed forgery and perjury. On both local and statewide political issues, the Bee battled with partisan newspapers in Omaha and elsewhere. Saint A.D. Balcombe’s Omaha Weekly Republican, George L. Miller’s Democratic Omaha Daily Herald , and Gilbert Hitchcock’s Democratic Morning World-Herald (later the Omaha World-Herald), among others, felt the Bee’s “sting.” Personal attacks were usually left to the printed page, but they led to physical blows in 1873, when Rosewater attacked Balcombe with a cowhide whip until Balcombe wrestled him to the ground.
After Edward Rosewater’s death in 1906, his son Victor kept the Bee aligned with the Republican Party, but he never achieved the level of influence in Nebraska politics that his father had wielded. The Bee’s most infamous involvement in racial politics came in 1919, when the paper’s editorial rhetoric was credited with helping incite a race riot in Omaha that resulted in the burning of the Douglas County Courthouse and the lynching of Will Brown, a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman. The Rosewater family sold the paper to a local grain dealer in 1920. William Randolph Hearst acquired the Bee-News in 1928 and sold the paper in 1937 to its fiercest competitor, the Omaha World-Herald, which then discontinued its publication.