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According to legend, John D. Babbage owned a small job press and mercantile when he started the Breckenridge News on July 22, 1876 as a means of spreading the word about his businesses. The earliest issues of the Breckenridge News have disappeared, but a near complete collection of the paper exists after July 17, 1878. Each Wednesday, its eight seven-column pages proved a mix of local community and political news, a sampling of broad general interest stories, and opinion pieces by local columnists. Early editions run under the name Breckenridge News and refer to the county as Breckenridge despite the official spelling Breckinridge (after former Kentucky legislator and U.S. attorney general, Senator John Breckinridge.)

The Breckenridge News was not afraid to take unpopular editorial stances. In the January 4, 1899 edition, Babbage boasted that his paper was one of the first to advocate a more imperialistic policy for the United States: “The brilliant victory of Dewey at Manila has advanced this country a hundred years. A policy of isolation such as pursued by our county in the past is selfish and has a tendency to produce an insular narrowness that will, if followed up, in time dwarf the national character...” On the home front, the Breckenridge News generally sided with the Democrats and took an interest in intra-party conflicts. When some members of the party refused to recognize the incumbent William Goebel as candidate for governor, the paper noted approvingly that a baker’s dozen of “genuine and conscientious Democrats” had met to appoint delegates to a second convention that would nominate an alternative candidate.

The Breckenridge News regularly covered local and regional activities. “News of the Vicinage” reported on developments in Meade and Breckinridge counties. “Latest Farm News and Views” and “Agricultural News and Views” focused on the agrarian side of the economy. “Curious things in Breckenridge” highlighted the odd and bizarre news of the region, while “All Around the World” touched on national and global events. The paper periodically printed short stories by famous authors of the era such as The Burning of Sarah Sands by Rudyard Kipling and The Fantasy of David Swan by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Perhaps most out of the ordinary for the period was the paper’s lone female columnist, Mrs. Hattie Grinnell, who presented with great regularity her personal opinions on wide-ranging matters in the community.

John D. Babbage continued publication of the Breckenridge News until his death in 1934. His daughter, Mildred Babbage, took over as editor and publisher until her death in 1949 when the paper went to W.G. Polk, grandson of John Babbage. The Babbage reign ended one year later when the paper was sold to George and Edith Wilson who owned the other Breckinridge County paper the Irvington Herald. The two papers merged in 1956 becoming the Breckinridge County Herald-News which remains in publication today.

Provided by: University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY