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The Great Falls Leader
In 1883 Paris Gibson, a St. Paul businessman and acquaintance of James J. Hill, a Minnesota railroad developer, founded the city of Great Falls, Montana, on the banks of the Missouri River. By 1887, Hill's Great Northern Railroad had arrived in Great Falls. In 1890, a dam rose from the river at Black Eagle Falls, the first of five hydroelectric plants, spawning a copper smelting and refining industry.
On June 16, 1888, Herbert P. Rolfe, a Fort Benton attorney, published the first issue of the Great Falls Leader, a Republican weekly. The masthead motto accurately described the newspaper's point of view: "Devoted to the Agricultural, Manufacturing, and Mining Interests of Northern Montana." An editorial in the inaugural issue promoted the "opening of the Blackfeet Indian reservation to farmers and ranchers" and urged the exploitation of the region's bountiful resources including fertile soil, coal, silver and gold, and water power.
In an early issue, the Leader printed a list entitled "What Great Falls Has," which noted that the town "has cheap fuel; a board of trade; a healthy climate; a system of parks; and a desire to protect wool tariffs." The four-page, six-column daily, promoted both the Republican national platform and the principles of Montana's Republican Party.
Three decades later, the Leader hired Joseph Kinsey Howard as a reporter fresh out of Great Falls High. In 1926, the 20-year-old Howard became the Leader's news editor, and 10 years later he established the Great Falls Newspaper Guild (union) at both the Leader and its rival, the Great Falls Daily Tribune. In 1943, Howard gained national attention with the publication of a book of essays entitled Montana: High, Wide, and Handsome. Shortly thereafter, his essays appeared in national magazines like Saturday Evening Post, Harpers, The Nation, and Esquire. Howard died of a heart attack at his cabin on the Rocky Mountain Front, west of Choteau, Montana. He was 45.
Provided by: Montana Historical Society; Helena, MT