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Putnam County herald. : (Cookeville, Tenn.) 1903-1922
Place of publication:
Cookeville, Tenn.
Geographic coverage:
  • Cookeville, Putnam, Tennessee  |  View more titles from this: City County, State
Elmer L. Wirt
Dates of publication:
  • Vol. 1, no. 1 (Feb. 11, 1903)-v. 20, no. 40 (Oct. 5, 1922).
  • English
  • Cookeville (Tenn.)--Newspapers.
  • Putnam County (Tenn.)--Newspapers.
  • Tennessee--Cookeville.--fast--(OCoLC)fst01208239
  • Tennessee--Putnam County.--fast--(OCoLC)fst01222603
  • Archived issues are available in digital format from the Library of Congress Chronicling America online collection.
  • Publishers: Elmer L. Wirt, 1903-<1906>; Wirt & Son, <1907>-1915; Herald Pub. Co., 1915-1922.
  • Suspended: <May-Nov. 1906>
sn 89058133
Succeeding Titles:
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Putnam County herald. January 5, 1911 , Image 1


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Putnam County Herald

Elmer Lincoln Wirt, member of the Populist Party and espouser of socialist ideals in the Upper Cumberland region of Tennessee, established the Putnam County Herald in 1903. Wirt had moved his family from Olmstead County, Minnesota, to Cookeville, Tennessee, in 1894. His career began hand-setting type at several newspapers in Minnesota, and in 1891 he became the publisher of the Farmer’s Alliance in Elbow Lake, Minnesota. Two years after moving to Tennessee, Wirt started with the Cookeville Press, and in 1903, after purchasing a prosperous job printing office from his brother Walter Wirt, he established the Putnam County Herald.

In the first issue of the Herald, Wirt noted that the newspaper would be "democratic, with a little "d'." As the Populist Party in Tennessee was insignificant, Wirt usually used his paper to support Democratic candidates, and also to advance his socialist ideals. In a 1906 editorial, he told his readers that "[...] socialist sentiment is rapidly increasing in all the civilized countries," and the Herald continued to support socialist principles for the remainder its existence. That existence was imperiled two years later when the Herald's plant was destroyed by fire, but the facility was soon rebuilt, and the newspaper again thrived.

By 1911, the Herald, which was published every Thursday by E.L. Wirt & Son Publishers, could be purchased at a discounted annual subscription rate of 25 cents, making it significantly cheaper than many newspapers of the time. Throughout the 1910s, the Herald's front page featured local news such as minutes from the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (Mt. View Lodge No. 179), and advertisements for local businesses often covered a large proportion of the page. Inside the newspaper were numerous letters to the editor reacting to previous days' news, as well as reports from readers in small towns around the county. The Wirts' weekly also included typical fare of a local newspaper of that era including birth notices, obituaries, and even a sports page, which was fitting for the senior Wirt, an avid baseball fan.

Although a proponent of socialist thought, E.L. Wirt ran for office on the Democratic ticket. After serving as an alderman in Cookeville, Wirt was elected to the Tennessee General Assembly in 1914-15. During his term, Wirt authored the bill to create the Tennessee Polytechnic Institute, which later became Tennessee Tech University. In later years, his political career waned when he failed to obtain the Democratic nomination for governor in 1920.

In the mid-1920s, the Herald was published as the Semi-weekly Putnam County Herald. It remained in operation until 1927, when Wirt sold the paper to the Cookeville Print Company. The Herald merged with the Upper Cumberland News to form the Putnam County Herald and Upper Cumberland News before reverting to its original name, the Putnam County Herald. In 1969, the Herald joined the Cookeville Citizen to form the Cookeville Herald-Citizen, which remains in existence in the 21st century as the Herald-Citizen.

Provided by: University of Tennessee