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The farmers' union. : (Memphis, Mo.) 1891-1895
Place of publication:
Memphis, Mo.
Geographic coverage:
  • Memphis, Scotland, Missouri  |  View more titles from this: City County, State
Farmers' Union Pub. Co.
Dates of publication:
  • Vol. 1, no. 1 (Feb. 5, 1891)-v. 5, no. 1 (Jan. 24, 1895).
  • English
  • Memphis (Mo.)--Newspapers.
  • Missouri--Memphis.--fast--(OCoLC)fst01309696
  • Archived issues are available in digital format from the Library of Congress Chronicling America online collection.
sn 89067453
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The farmers' union. February 5, 1891 , Image 1


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The Farmers' Union

The Farmers' Union was a weekly newspaper published on Thursdays in Memphis, Scotland County, Missouri. The Union was a Populist journal that supported the Farmers' and Laborers' Union in northeast Missouri. The Farmers' Union Publication Company was created to publish the paper while Carey D. Baxter was its editor. The first edition of the Farmers' Union appeared on February 5, 1891. Baxter and company expressed their excitement about the new paper in their salutatory greeting, as they hoped to see the Union become the official organ of the Populist Party in northeast Missouri. At the same time, the publishers stated that "the Farmers' Union will be to a large extent a local paper, and we hope all will take advantage of its columns in this direction and make it second to none." Items of political and local interest were not always mutually exclusive, and on May 21, 1891, Baxter published a notice encouraging the local farmers to trade only with merchants who supported the paper, as many local businesses had boycotted the Farmers' Union for advocating Populist principles.

The tension between farmers and merchants was at the heart of why the Farmers' and Laborers' Union was created. After the Civil War, many farmers went bankrupt and were forced to rely on a credit and mortgage system. Tradesmen took advantage of this process and overcharged farmers on supplies while undercharging farmers on the goods they sold. In The Mission, History and Times of the Farmers' Union (1909), Charles Simon Barrett discusses why the Farmers' Alliance was formed:

[Farmers] wanted a change. They wanted to pay off the mortgages, but did not have the means to do so. They wanted better schools and better teachers, but did not know how to secure them. They knew that they were paying their proportion of the taxes, but did not know how to get their share. The muttering of the people became more apparent and the sentiment that they were not rightly treated grew day by day. They understood what they needed and what they wanted, but did not know how to get it. As individuals they were powerless....The sentiment among the farmers, due to some extent to prejudices, drew them in great numbers into the Alliance, and when politics became a factor they joined even more rapidly than when the slogan was, "In things essential, unity and in all things, charity."

The ambitions that Baxter and company expressed in the first issue of the Farmers' Union appeared to become reality when the State Alliance decided in September 1891 to make any paper that supported the Populist cause an official organ of the party. The Union was able to report increasing circulation, and on December 20, 1894, John H. Watkins was hired to supervise its business department because of the paper's increased popularity. However, there was trouble on the horizon. On January 24, 1895, the Farmers’ Union published its last issue, as there was not enough money for the paper to continue. Baxter blamed the Farmers' Union Publication Company and the stockholders for the paper's demise. In his final editorial, Baxter wrote:

When arrangements were being perfected for the establishment of the Union, we were promised that a strong company would be formed to publish the paper and whether the venture would be a success or not, the writer would not lose a cent but get a fair salary, etc. These promises were never kept and we have been forced to keep the paper going at a loss of several hundred dollars to us. Not only this, but when we could not further pay bills and the stockholders were asked to help the matter out, some abused us, thereby showing that littleness and ungratefulness.

The Farmers' Union was sold to Joe Ingalls who published the paper under a new name, the Herald.

Provided by: State Historical Society of Missouri; Columbia, MO