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The Wichita City Eagle and Wichita Eagle
In 1872, the Wichita City Eagle debuted as the dominant newspaper of south-central Kansas and a pioneer newspaper of the state. Established in 1870 and named after an Indian tribe, Wichita was the seat and largest city of Sedgwick County. The first issue of what would later become widely known as the Eagle was published on April 12, 1872. It boasted a circulation of nearly 400 in a city of only 1,500 people. By 1877, the Eagle's readership reached 1,500 as Wichita’s population grew to over 4,800; five years later circulation swelled to more than 2,500 in a county of 18,000. On April 19, 1883, the Wichita City Eagle changed its name to the Wichita Eagle, which, like its predecessor, was a Republican weekly. As Wichita grew so too did the Eagle. In 1888, when the population of the county surpassed 48,800, with 31,700 living within the city limits, the Eagle's readership reached 6,000.
In order to become better acquainted with the people of Wichita, Eagle founder Marshall M. Murdock (1837-1908) had personally delivered the first issue of the newspaper to every home and business. Murdock’s younger brother, Roland P. Murdock (1843-1906), assisted him as publisher and editor. Marshall Murdock began his journalistic career at the Burlingame Osage Chronicle in 1863 before moving to Wichita. In 1864, Murdock enlisted as a lieutenant colonel of the Osage and Lyon county militia in the wake of Confederate General, and former Missouri governor, Sterling Price’s raid on Kansas. As publisher, Murdock, commonly remembered as “Marsh,” expressed to the newspaper’s readers that “the ambition of its founder is, and will be, to make [the Eagle] the leading journal of the Great Southwest.”
Just as the people of Wichita welcomed the arrival of the Eagle, railroads bringing cattle from the south helped establish Wichita as the “cow capital” of Kansas. The Eagle's popularity continued to increase with the growth of the region. The paper’s headlines frequently concerned railroad expansion, the cattle and wheat industries, and temperance unions.
The Wichita Eagle simultaneously published a daily edition called the Daily Eagle in 1884 and the Wichita Daily Eagle until 1886. Following the January 20, 1888 issue, the title changed to the Wichita Weekly Eagle in an apparent attempt to help differentiate it from its daily counterparts. Weekly editions lasted until 1919 when greater demand for daily newspapers made such publications irrelevant. The main competitor of the Eagle was the Democratic Wichita Weekly Beacon published by David G. Millison and Fred A. Sowers, along with a daily edition, the Daily Beacon, both founded in 1872. Sowers had published the first newspaper in the area called the Wichita Vidette back in 1870-72. The Eagle and the Beacon remained strong rivals for nearly 90 years until the latter merged with the Evening Eagle in 1960 to form the Evening Eagle and Beacon under Marcellus Murdock, the son of Marshall M. Murdock.
Provided by: Kansas State Historical Society; Topeka, KS