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Abilene Reflector and Abilene Weekly Reflector
The Abilene Reflector, founded in the latter half of 1883, was an eight-page newspaper published every Thursday. Abilene is the county seat for Dickinson County, and by the early 1880s it had shed its rough cowtown image of the late 1860s to become a thriving commercial center with a rapidly growing population. By 1884 the town boasted a new public water system, an opera house seating nearly 1,000 persons, a telephone exchange, several banks, and three newspapers, including the Reflector. In March 1888, the Reflector became the official paper of Dickinson County, seizing the title from the Abilene Gazette. The Reflector retained this status throughout its tenure. In its own words, the paper was “conducted in the interest of the Democratic party, believing the party in its wisdom in the choice of candidates, from county offices to national, is greater than personal feeling or prejudice.”
The founding editors of the Reflector were brothers Berzelius L. Strother and Sidonia K. Strother. In June 1885, S.K. Strother left to join the Kansas City Times. Henry Litts took over his half of ownership and assumed full editorial responsibilities in March 1887 when B.L. Strother retired from the newspaper for health reasons.
On February 23, 1888, the Reflector was purchased by the Reflector Publishing Company consisting of John J. Cooper as president and Richard Waring as business manager. With them, the Reflector began a new Republican Party affiliation. Henry Litts left the paper “regretful because it will reflect Republican and not Democratic doctrine.” The new proprietors cited “the universal demand of republicans in this section of the state for a Republican newspaper at Abilene” and began the “anomalous task of converting a Simon-pure democratic paper into a live, progressive republican journal.” Later that same year, the Strother brothers established a Democratic newspaper in Abilene called the Dickinson County News which claimed to have “a larger circulation than any other weekly in the county.” In fact, the two papers were evenly matched. In 1890, the Republican Reflector circulated only 25 more copies than the Democratic News; in 1893, the News circulated 87 more issues than its rival.
The Reflector had also appeared in a daily edition, the Evening Reflector, beginning May 9, 1887. Within a few months of the purchase of the paper in 1888, both editions changed title: the weekly Abilene Reflector became the Abilene Weekly Reflector beginning on May 3, and the daily Evening Reflector became the Abilene Daily Reflector beginning on May 2. The daily edition absorbed the weekly edition in 1935 and then in 1942 merged with the Abilene Daily Chronicle to become the Abilene Reflector-Chronicle, which continues today.
Provided by: Kansas State Historical Society; Topeka, KS