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Provo Dispatch and Evening Dispatch
Founded in 1849 as Fort Utah, the city of Provo was the first Mormon “colony” outside the Salt Lake Valley, and, as such, never completely broke free from the authority of Mormon leaders in Salt Lake City, about 45 miles away. For two decades, Provo relied on the Church-run newspaper from the “metropolis,” the Deseret News. That changed in 1873, however, with the founding of Provo’s first newspaper, the Provo Daily Times. That paper, which survives today as the Daily Herald, proved surprisingly durable, perhaps because it always seemed ready to pick a fight with any competitor who launched a newspaper in Provo.
It was no different for the Evening Dispatch, which appeared in January 1891, a time of political turmoil in the territory of Utah (the Mormon Church had recently announced an end to plural marriage in a bid to achieve statehood) and an economic boom in the city of Provo. Almost immediately, the fledgling newspaper found itself under attack by the dominant Provo paper, a successor to the Daily Times, known then as the Daily Enquirer. The Enquirer accused the interloper Dispatch of being nothing more than the “organ of the new Democratic Club.” Nevertheless, the Dispatch proved to be a formidable foe, and for the next five years, it consistently competed with its well-established rival for the advertising dollars and readers of Provo.
The Dispatch began as a semiweekly, published on Wednesdays and Saturdays, available for a nickel per copy or, according to the masthead, for “Only $1.50 per year.” From the outset, the paper was committed to printing a mix of local news as well as the happenings of the “big city” to the north. One regular feature, titled “Salt Lake News,” regularly carried “bright and spicy news from the metropolis,” such as the death in 1891 of a “French courtesan …wealthy and of good family” who perished in a house fire caused by the “upsetting of a lamp,” a “sad story tinged with romance.” Along with such tantalizing tales from within the Utah territory, the Dispatch also carried various items of international interest, including reports from Berlin on the health of Kaiser Wilhelm II and from London on the state of the British economy.
Sprinkled among the news were items that promoted Democratic and disparaged Republican causes, a political posture that antagonized the dominant Enquirer. When the Dispatch began publishing daily during the Congressional election season of 1894, the Enquirer commented that it was “proving nothing more than a Democratic makeshift.” After Provo Republicans won in a landslide, the Dispatch, feeling the pinch of having backed the losers, reverted back to semi-weekly publication. Just over a year later, in December 1895, the Dispatch folded. The Enquirer attributed the collapse of the Evening Dispatch to “too much amateur politics,” characterizing its rival as “a dirty rag [whose] ….demise was all too long delayed.”
Provided by: University of Utah, Marriott Library