Albany Democrat-Herald

By Floyd J. McKay

Newspapers on the western frontier were partisan and frequently flaunted their political affiliation. During the statehood era, Albany had two papers associated with the Democratic Party—the Oregon Democrat and the State Rights Democrat—and both carried its name on their nameplate.

The Oregon Democrat, the first newspaper in Linn County, first appeared on November 18, 1859, eight months after statehood. Delazon Smith and his brother-in-law, Jesse M. Shepherd, were the publishers. Smith, a lawyer and minister, served in the Oregon Territorial Legislature and was elected one of Oregon's first senators in 1859.

Shepherd sold the Democrat in 1861, and the pro-secession sentiments of its new editor, Pat Malone, caused Postmaster General Montgomery Blair to suspend the paper from the mails on February 15, 1862. Malone changed the paper's name to the Albany Inquirer, which was also quickly suppressed. The paper returned briefly under its original name in 1863, but within two years it had disappeared.

The State Rights Democrat, founded in 1865, is regarded by the modern Albany Democrat-Herald as its ancestor publication. The weekly paper dropped the State Rights title shortly after Fred Nutting bought it in 1882, and it became a daily publication in 1888. At the time, Albany had two dailies, the Democrat and the Albany Herald (founded in 1879 as a weekly, it became a daily in 1885). Among the early owners of the Democrat was George Chamberlain, later a U.S. senator and governor of Oregon.

William L. Jackson, an Albany businessman and school superintendent, bought the Albany Democrat in 1919 in partnership with Ralph Cronise, who became the paper's editor. Jackson and Cronise bought the Herald in 1925 and shut it down, adding Herald to the Democrat's nameplate to create the Democrat-Herald. Jackson’s son, Glenn, later a business and industry leader and one of the most powerful men in Oregon, inherited the paper and published it, along with eight other small Oregon papers, until his death in 1980.

The Democrat-Herald was published for several years by former Oregon Governor Elmo Smith. A publisher of eastern Oregon newspapers, Smith was president of the Oregon Senate when the death of Governor Paul Patterson on January 31, 1956, elevated him to the governorship. After Smith failed to win election in 1958, Jackson named him publisher of the Democrat-Herald. Smith was elected to the Oregon Newspaper Hall of Fame in 1979. Named to the Hall in 2004 was John Buchner, who retired in 1999 after thirty years with the Democrat-Herald, the last ten as publisher.

The Democrat-Herald is currently owned by Lee Enterprises, which purchased the paper in 1997 from the Disney Corporation (which had purchased the paper from Capital Cities/ABC). Its circulation at the end of 2018 was 11,695 daily and 12,596 Sunday.

  • The Albany Democrat Herald type beds..

    Albany Democrat Herald

  • The press for the Albany Democrat Herald..

    Albany Democrat Herald

  • The printing plant for the Albany Democrat Herald..

    Albany Democrat Herald

  • The print shop for the Albany Democrat Herald..

    Albany Democrat Herald

  • The press room at the Albany Democrat Herald..

    Albany Democrat Herald

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Further Reading

Chandler, Robert J. "Crushing Dissent: The Pacific Coast Tests Lincoln's Policy of Suppression, 1862." Civil War History 30 (September 1984): 235-54.

Turnbull, George. History of Oregon Newspapers. Portland: Binfords & Mort, 1939.