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Puget Sound dispatch. [volume] : (Seattle, Wash. Terr.) 1871-1880
Place of publication:
Seattle, Wash. Terr.
Geographic coverage:
  • Seattle, King, Washington  |  View more titles from this: City County, State
Dates of publication:
  • Vol. 1, no. 1 (December 4, 1871)-v. VIII, [no.] 46 (October 4, 1880).
  • English
  • Seattle (Wash.)--Newspapers.
  • Washington (State)--Seattle.--fast--(OCoLC)fst01204940
  • Archived issues are available in digital format from the Library of Congress Chronicling America online collection.
  • Publishers: Larrabee & Co., 1871-1872; Brown & Son, 1872-1874; B. Brown, 1874-1875; Brown & Bell, 1875-1876; Thos. B. Merry, 1876-<Mar. 1877>, Beriah Brown, <June 1877->
sn 84022793
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Puget Sound dispatch. [volume] December 4, 1871 , Image 1


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Puget Sound Dispatch

In 1871, the thriving Puget Sound community of Seattle was situated at the mouth of the Duwamish River in Washington Territory, home to the Duwamish tribe of the Coast Salish people and 1,500 settlers. Opportunities were ripe for new businesses to prosper from abundant timber, untapped mineral deposits, and a lucrative fishing industry. Publisher T. G. Murphy had just moved his newspaper, the Territorial Dispatch and Alaska Times, down to Seattle a year earlier and changed its name to the Territorial Dispatch and Seattle Times. The paper struggled, and it was not long before he sold the printing plant and ownership to investor Col. Charles Hathaway Larrabee and publisher Beriah Brown, who launched the Puget Sound Dispatch. The first issue appeared December 4, 1871.

Brown had moved west from Wisconsin, having studied journalism in New York. He was a known critic of President Lincoln, the Union, and the abolitionist movement, with a reputation that followed him across the country. He moved to California in 1862 to publish and edit the Stockton Daily San Joaquin Republican and later the San Francisco Daily Democratic Press. After news of Lincoln's assassination reached San Francisco, an angry mob raided the Democratic Press office, burning papers, books, and press in their fury. Brown continued north, editing and publishing newspapers in Portland, Salem, and Olympia before he reached Seattle.

Larrabee was a lawyer and Civil War veteran who had been a Chicago city attorney, a mill owner, a judge, and a Wisconsin congressman before moving to Washington. His investment and Brown's successful management of the paper proved fruitful, but he left the paper after the August 22, 1872 issue. By this point, having paid for the plant and guaranteeing support for one year, he felt he had fulfilled his engagement. Once the paper was self-supporting, he transferred his interest to Beriah Brown and his son, Edward Hunter Brown. He notified readers that the owners would begin publication of a daily paper in two weeks' time. As promised, a daily was added in September 1872, the first daily in Seattle, under the title of the Evening Dispatch, with Austin Americus Bell in charge of subscriptions.

The Dispatch was the first paper in Seattle to rely heavily on telegraphic transmissions and a power press. Known for his strong opinions of local politics, Beriah Brown would set type as he composed his editorials. He was also a strong advocate for Seattle's growth and focused his attentions on the Northern Pacific Railroad. The paper featured exposés on Northern's business dealings and the machinations of the "Puget Sound Land Ring." While almost every city on the Puget Sound vied for the railroad terminus, Seattle had been confident in its superior standing, and residents were dismayed when Tacoma was selected instead. Brown continued his critiques, frequently exchanging barbs with several fellow editors and even filing libel lawsuits against Thomas Prosch of the Weekly Pacific Tribune, who moved his paper from Olympia to Tacoma after hearing that the latter would host the terminus.

Brown's son Edward departed after the January 14, 1875 issue, leaving his father as the sole proprietor until Austin Bell bought a half-interest in April. The partnership lasted a year, until Beriah Jr. was brought into the fold. When Thomas Brown Merry was announced as publisher in the October 14, 1876 issue, Beriah Brown Sr. wrote a "Valedictory" explaining that his advancing age had prompted him to seek more sedate pursuits. Though Merry planned to align the paper with the Democratic Party, Brown lauded a string of virtues, including Merry's "large and varied experience as a journalist upon this coast … always pleasing and rarely offensive to the most critical tastes." Whatever Merry's virtues, they weren't enough to keep him at the paper. He left in the following spring, and Brown was called out of retirement.

By October 13, 1877, Brown had formed a joint stock company with several other printers as "Beriah Brown & Co." A. W. De Lany, F. M. Walsh, and Benson Leonidas Northup were initial owners, but membership fluctuated until Beriah Brown Sr. and Jr. merged the Dispatch with the Daily Intelligencer on September 30, 1878. Brown remained as editor, though his activities on the University of Washington board of regents and as U.S. district court clerk, as well as his involvement in local politics, led to his election as Seattle's mayor by the People's Party in July 1878. Intelligencer owner Thaddeus Hanford bought out Brown, allegedly for a land swap, and then sold the paper to Samuel Leroy Crawford and Brown's longtime enemy Thomas Prosch. After his one-year mayoral term, Brown resurrected the Dispatch name in November 1879 for nearly a year until the last issue was printed on October 4, 1880.

Provided by: Washington State Library; Olympia, WA