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The Van Buren press. [volume] : (Van Buren, Ark.) 1859-1914
Place of publication:
Van Buren, Ark.
Geographic coverage:
  • Van Buren, Crawford, Arkansas  |  View more titles from this: City County, State
J.S. Dunham
Dates of publication:
  • Ceased in July 1914.
  • Vol. 1, no. 1 (July 6, 1859)-
  • English
  • Arkansas--Crawford County.--fast--(OCoLC)fst01209402
  • Arkansas--Van Buren.--fast--(OCoLC)fst01211931
  • Crawford County (Ark.)--Newspapers.
  • Van Buren (Ark.)--Newspapers.
  • Suspended between Jan. 23, 1862 and Feb. 3, 1866.
sn 84022991
Succeeding Titles:
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The Van Buren press. [volume] July 6, 1859 , Image 1


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The Van Buren press

Van Buren, the Crawford County seat, is in northwest Arkansas near Fort Smith and the Oklahoma border. It sits on the northern bank of the Arkansas River, just south of the Ozark Mountains. Van Buren was one of the earliest ports and trading centers in Arkansas due to its position on the river. Later, the introduction of railroads continued to support the mercantile city. Van Buren was a strategic location in Arkansas during the Civil War, with nine military exercises in the city. Union forces captured it in December 1862.

Joseph Starr Dunham founded the Van Buren Press in 1859. He owned and edited the paper until his death in 1912. Dunham was from Connecticut. At the age of 13, he apprenticed to his uncle, William Duncan Starr, to learn the printing trade. In 1859, he left Connecticut and moved to Van Buren, where he started the Press by midyear. His son, Joseph Starr Dunham, Jr. worked at the Press briefly in its later years before his death in 1888. Carl H. Schuppe also helped produce the paper.

The Press was a Democratic paper published every Wednesday. Toward the end of its first year, the paper moved to Fridays in response to the closure of the Arkansas Intelligencer (1842-1859), which had published on Fridays in Van Buren. After the Intelligencer closed, the Press was the only paper running out of Van Buren until the mid-1870s. By 1900, the Press had a circulation of 550.

In its early years, the Press was largely concerned with the politics and events leading up to the Civil War. At its founding, abolition was the foremost topic and it reported on "Abolition incendiaries." Referring to the abolitionist leader who led a deadly raid on Harper's Ferry in 1859, the paper railed against a "systematic Abolition party secret propaganda for arousing insurrection among the slaves in the various Southern States, a movement of which John Brown was considered an intelligent member." The Press worked to keep Arkansans up to date on local and national movements so that Arkansans could best decide whether to secede from the Union. In 1860, the Press reported that "it is certain that Abraham Lincoln, 'the rail-splitter,' is elected President … Examine well this subject of a Southern Confederacy, fellow-citizens,—carefully and practically, without prejudice, and we are willing to abide by your decision."

During the Civil War, it was difficult to obtain paper shipments, and the Press began printing on whatever paper product it could find, including wrapping paper and wallpaper. The 1862 edition covering the Battle of Shiloh was one of the issues printed on the reverse side of wallpaper. Later that year, the Press finally paused publication due to the lack of available paper and wallpaper. When Union forces captured Van Buren in December 1862, they destroyed the newspaper's office, among other things in the city. By 1866, after the war ended and regular trade resumed, the Press was running again.

However, one more disaster would strike the Press. In December 1892, the Press's newspaper office burned. The Press only missed publishing two issues and was quickly back in print. Dunham filed a copy of each issue at his house, so that the full run of the paper survived despite two destructions of the newspaper office.

The Press was the only paper in Northwest Arkansas to support Elisha Baxter during the Brooks-Baxter War for governorship of Arkansas. The Press's support of Baxter caused the creation of another paper, the Van Buren Argus (1875-1906), to speak for the people who had supported Joseph Brooks and his faction of Republicanism. George Thayer and his brother-in-law John Cass started the Argus in 1875 with Granville Wilcox as editor. The political rivalry between the papers led to some spirited editorial debates between the Press and Argus.

In 1912, after Dunham's death, Robert S. Knott took over the paper. When he retired, his son Clifford Knott ran the Press, and then R. D. Holbrook. Finally, Frank Anderson purchased it in 1914. Anderson also owned the Van Buren Weekly Argus (1906-1914), and he combined the two papers on July 18, 1914, into the Van Buren Press-Argus (1914-1928).

Provided by: Arkansas State Archives