Local History with a Waterfront View

Learn about Bellingham’s history from the waterfront perspective.

By Christina Claassen and Colton Redtfeldt

This summer hundreds of people will be boarding the 100-foot Victoria Star boat for the Whatcom Museum’s 35th annual History Sunset Cruises. Everyone aboard will learn about the history of Bellingham from a waterfront perspective, courtesy of two local historians who weave stories and serve as hosts extraordinaire—Doug Starcher and Brian Griffin.

During the cruises, participants get great close-up views of parks, businesses, industry, and neighborhoods from Bellingham Bay. Starcher and Griffin will tie their knowledge of local history with up-to-date facts about bay side activities. Their narrative of history, trivia, and current events makes cruise guests feel they are becoming experts on their community, and gives new understanding of the area to both locals and visitors. Read more

Whatcom’s Newspaper War  

By Colton Redtfeldt

The years from the 1890s to the 1910s were a turbulent time for America’s journalism industry. William Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer were in a fierce circulation war that had pushed the United States into the Spanish-American War. But journalism’s mighty waves weren’t a faraway thing. In fact, Bellingham was the scene for its own circulation war.

From 1903 to 1911, two of Bellingham’s largest newspapers, The American Reveille and The Bellingham Herald, were in a seven-year circulation war that cost their owners, two wealthy publishing tycoons, tens of thousands of dollars.

 

Background

On June 15, 1883, Will Jenkins and Thomas Nicklin published the first edition of the Whatcom Reveille. On March 11, 1890, William Vissener, a Kentucky-born Civil War Colonel, and E. G. Earle, a local business man, printed the first edition of the Fairhaven Herald.

The two papers were in different towns at the time, the Reveille in the Sehome area, and the Fairhaven Herald in Fairhaven, but it wouldn’t be long before the two worlds collide.

Early office of the Reveille Printing at C and Dupont Streets

Both papers served the community without much competition. The economic boom in the area ensured that both papers were prosperous. The good times didn’t last, though, and all the papers in Whatcom felt it. By the beginning of 1891, Fairhaven’s economy began to crash and the newspapers in Fairhaven took most of the financial blow. This depression allowed the Fairhaven Herald, which had fared better than other papers, to buyout some small papers in the area.

As the economy improved, both the Fairhaven Herald and the Daily Reveille survived the depression and continued printing daily papers. A thriving economy brought the towns of Sehome and Whatcom closer together and talk of unification started. This meant that the paper’s markets started to merge. The stage was set for a show-off between the papers. All it took was the money and drive from two wealthy men to set it off.

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