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Arizona Champion,The Coconino Sun, The Coconino Weekly Sun, Flagstaff Sun-Democrat, The Coconino Sun and Skylight Kicker
Artemis E. Fay published the first issue of the weekly Peach Springs Arizona Champion on September 15, 1883. Fay was an itinerant publisher, who previously had been editor of the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson and founder of Tombstone’s Weekly Nugget. He chose to establish a newspaper at the small settlement, believing Peach Springs would become the major commercial center along the newly constructed Atlantic and Pacific Railroad in northern Arizona.
Soon realizing his error, Fay relocated the paper on February 2, 1884, to Flagstaff, where it became the grandparent of the current Arizona Daily Sun, the town’s oldest continuous business. The following year, Fay sold the Champion. Several owners followed in quick succession until George H. Tinker purchased the Champion in April 1886, after a fire in February destroyed most of the Flagstaff business area and gutted the newspaper office. Clarkson M. Funston, editor of the Mohave County Miner, bought the paper in early 1891. In May of that year, he changed its name to the Coconino Sun to coincide with the founding of Coconino County, with Flagstaff as the county seat. Six months later, the name was changed yet again, this time to the Coconino Weekly Sun.
In December 1896, attorney Jerome Edwin Jones, owner of the rival Flagstaff Democrat, purchased the Coconino Weekly Sun and merged the two newspapers to form the Flagstaff Sun-Democrat. Because Flagstaff was known as “The Skylight City,” Jones changed the name of the newspaper on November 25, 1896, to the Skylight Kicker, promising “to kick higher, quicker, truer, harder and more than any other paper in the West.” The title lasted until January 15, 1898, when Funston repurchased the paper and changed the masthead back to the Coconino Sun. Jones, meanwhile, established a rival newspaper, the Flagstaff Gem. After Funston’s death in 1908, Fred S. Breen became publisher and editor of the Coconino Sun, which he ran until his own death in 1932.
Although several newspapers appeared in Flagstaff during this era, the Coconino Sun was always the dominant publication. Over the decades, it faithfully reported weekly news of the growing town, as well as the development of the area’s main enterprises--railroading; ranching; lumbering; tourism; government; astronomy, with the founding of Lowell Observatory in 1894; and education, with the establishment of the Northern Arizona Normal School (now Northern Arizona University) in 1899. Unlike thousands of other small-town newspapers that served a relatively limited hinterland, the Coconino Sun covered news across the vast geographical expanse of northern Arizona, an area larger than many Eastern states combined, including the nearby Navajo and Hopi Indian reservations and the Grand Canyon.