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The Nonpartisan League (NPL), an organization of farmers founded in North Dakota in 1915 with Socialist roots, sent a newspaper editor, Charles “Red Flag” Taylor, to Plentywood, Montana, to establish the Producers News. On April 19, 1918, the first issue rolled off the presses, and within two years the newspaper claimed a circulation of 2,500 in a county totaling 12,000 residents. The Producers News promoted the NPL creed of regulated rail rates and state-run banks and grain elevators. Taylor has been credited with building a substantial political movement in Sheridan County during the 1920s--the county electing a Communist sheriff, a full slate of county officials, and a state senator (Taylor).
Taylor’s credo appeared under the masthead: “A Paper of the People, by the People, For the People.” The rather rotund newspaper editor never missed a chance to skewer his opponents, referring to them regularly as “small town Kaisers, crop grabbers, and paytriotic [sic] profiteers.” By 1926, the Producers News had absorbed six area weeklies including its Plentywood rival, the Pioneer Press, known by Taylor as the “Pie Near” Press, that ”nauseous rag that emits itself once a week from its stye down the street.” One of the early editions of the Producers News ran the headline: “Miles City Has Gone Stark Mad,” in reference to an incident in the southeastern cattle town where a Nonpartisan organizer, Mickey McGlynn, was forced to sign a loyalty oath and was beaten by a mob before local authorities arrested him on sedition charges. The state attorney general, Sam Ford, tried unsuccessfully to prosecute the vigilantes. Drought, low crop prices, and high rail rates, fueled the popularity of Taylor, his newspaper, and Communist politics in northeastern Montana during the 1920s. During World War I, the newspaper endorsed Charles Lindbergh in his bid to become governor of Minnesota as a Nonpartisan League candidate, focusing on his platform to nationalize the U.S. copper industry. Early on, the newspaper heralded the patriotism of the NPL, claiming that the contributions of farmers to the Liberty Loan Drive far outpaced those made by city dwellers.
Eventually, dissension within the U.S. Communist Party, editorial disinterest in local affairs, a corruption scandal affecting local government officials tied to the Communist Party, and the emergence of New Deal programs aimed at farmers, led to the decline of the Communists in Sheridan County and the eventual demise of the Producers News. Charles Taylor closed the doors of the newspaper in March of 1937, 19 years after bringing its radical political voice to rural northeastern Montana.
Provided by: Montana Historical Society; Helena, MT