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Martinsburg independent. [volume] : (Martinsburg, W. Va.) 1875-1900
Place of publication:
Martinsburg, W. Va.
Geographic coverage:
  • Martinsburg, Berkeley, West Virginia  |  View more titles from this: City County, State
Independent Print. Co.
Dates of publication:
  • Ceased in 1900?
  • Vol. 3, no. 1 (Apr. 3, 1875)-
  • English
  • Martinsburg (W. Va.)--Newspapers.
  • West Virginia--Martinsburg.--fast--(OCoLC)fst01224867
  • Available on microfilm from West Virginia University Library Photoduplication section.
  • Publisher varies: J. Nelson Wisher, <June, 1889>.
sn 84038206
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Martinsburg independent. [volume] April 3, 1875 , Image 1


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Martinsburg weekly independent and Martinsburg independent

The Martinsburg Independent, formerly the Martinsburg Weekly Independent, could proudly claim in 1900 that it was the oldest newspaper in Berkeley County. The first editorial partnership, the Independent Printing Co., published the Weekly Independent and its successor from 1873 to 1879. They knew that what "was needed in Berkeley County" was "an independent, courageous newspaper, one that should be the reflex of no single man's mind, that should be free from party trammels, and which would express its honest judgment without fear or favor." The eight sheets that comprised the Martinsburg Independent contained local news, national news, poems and stories, and advertisements. The editors printed material critical of both parties, including their preferred party, the Republicans. In the waning days of Reconstruction, they published a special dispatch denouncing Republicans "for the wrongs which they have, since 1865, heaped upon the Southern white people." The dispatch seemed to verify the Independent's position as a paper "Unawed by Influence, and Unbribed by Gain." The Independent did not hesitate to share its opinions, even when that meant crossing party lines.

Independence, however, was never synonymous with neutrality. Throughout its publishing history, the Martinsburg Independent engaged with politics. It became especially bold under John Nelson Wisner, a prominent attorney, and his co-editor, W. T. Logan, to whom control of the Independent passed in 1879. The advent of the Progressive Era brought with it new topics that editors could not wait to address: labor unions, prohibition, and women's suffrage. Wisner took a special interest in women's suffrage, although the articles he chose for publication were generally negative. One contributor praised the formative influence women had on great men as mothers. He feared the future would lack George Washingtons, John Wesleys, and Garfields because "woman certainly [could not] attend properly to her duties at home, and, at the same time, mix in politics." Another author agreed, concluding that women should not rule or participate in government. "Let her fill the sphere appointed her by nature," he advised, and there "she will be a true sovereign."

Independence did not preclude Wisner from encouraging policies that were associated with a particular party. At the height of the Progressive Era, Wisner championed the gold standard, a policy the Independent shared with its Republican neighbor, the Martinsburg Herald. On the subject of free silver, Wisner said he would be for it if he could "get any of it free" before asking, sarcastically, if "the free silverites [would] first arrange to dump a car load into our coffers." For all intents and purposes, Wisner was a Republican. He led the party in Martinsburg, and other newspaper editors referred to him accordingly.

The turn of the century dawned on a potentially bright future for America but not the Martinsburg Independent. Wisner was struggling to obtain payments from subscribers in 1899, lamenting "[that] the new dress for the Independent, recently promised, has been delayed for want of funds." He pleaded with his readers for more money and apparently received enough to continue printing for most of 1900—but not all of it. The Shepherdstown Register reported in December that Wisner had discontinued the Independent, as did the Spirit of Jefferson. Wisner retired his printing press and died three years later at the age of fifty-eight.

Provided by: West Virginia University