of the Herald News
By John Whiteside
HERALD NEWS COLUMNIST
What started out as a mistake is the beginning of the story
of The Herald News. A fortunate blunder in 1839 became part of this newspaper's
At the time, Joliet was still known as Juliet. And a printing
press was shipped by mistake to Ottawa. The shipper didn't want to return
the press and offered it for sale at a bargain price.
Forseeing a great new business adventure, 13 enterprising
investors from Juliet pooled their money and bought the press, which was
hauled by a mule team back to the struggling little settlement here.
The owners hired a Michigan editor, O.H. Balch, to publish
the Juliet Courier. Its first issue came out on April 20, 1839. The newspaper
was a follower of the philosophy of Thomas jefferson and often quoted from
In 1843, the Courier was sold and the new owner changed
the name to the Joliet Signal. Four years later, a newspaper rivalry began
when the True Democrat started publishing a fourpage weekly.
With the Joliet Signal still going, the True Democrat changed
political parties and its name to the Joliet Republican in 1862. The Civil
War was going on and President Abraham Lincoln was a Republican.
From the 1840s through the 1870s, the newspapers in Joliet,
like elsewhere in the nation, were very political. Editors were often very
involved in politics.
For example, when Abraham Lincoln spoke in Joliet in 1856,
the True Democrat refused to quote him or cover the content of his speech.
The newspaper referred to him as "the black Republican."
In 1870, the Joliet Record was founded by three brothers,
John, James and Dan Henderson. In operation until 1883, it was one of the
first newspapers in this state to use woodcut cartoons.
In 1877, the Joliet News began publishing its newspaper
The Joliet Signal eventually was sold to the Joliet Republican,
which was sold to the Joliet Herald in 1904.
Col. Ira Copley entered the newspaper scene in Joliet in
1913 when he bought the Joliet Herald. Two years later, he consolidated
his newspaper with the Joliet News.
And the Joliet Herald-News was born.
In its first issue, Col. Copley made a promise to the readers:
"We play the game on the square and print no harmful
gossip and no scandal except after one or the other has become a matter
of court record, and then we print it no matter who is involved.
"One other equally important item is our general policy
of neighborliness. Friendliness with the people of Joliet and every other
community where our newspaper is circulated is a careful rule.
"We get into no petty squabbles. We fight only on principle.
Where there is a definite principle involved, we will fight."
THE LEGEND OF JOHN LUX
The story of The Herald-News is also the story of the great
newspaper men and women who served this newspaper through the years. None
of them was better known than John Francis Lux.
He had to quit school after the sixth grade and go to work
to help support his family. His father had died.
Lux became a "fly boy," which was an errand boy,
for the Joliet Republican. That's where printer's ink started flowing through
his body. He was only 11 years old.
An avid reader, he became a self-made, self-taught man.
As Col. Copley formed The Herald-News, Lux volunteered to post the baseball
scores for the newspaper for no pay. He loved baseball and did such a good
job that he was hired at the salary of $5 a week.
He soon was allowed to do some sports writing, which he
turned into a full-time job as sports writer and then, sports editor. His
sports column, "Dope De Luxe," was well read.
In 1917, he became a reporter, the telegraph editor and
then city editor. But when the United States entered into World War I the
following year, Lux joined the Army and went to France to fight as a doughboy.
After the war, he returned to The Herald-News to restart
his career as a newspaper reporter.
During the 1920s, Chicago mob hoodlums infiltrated Joliet
like they had done in other nearby cities. The police reporter at this time
was a tall, quick-witted Irishman named William Hart.
Hart and Lux became a team to fight the mob. Between them,
they had dozens of sources and they never hesitated to use the power of
the press to harass these shady gangster characters.
Lux eventually was promoted once again to the city editor
In 1932, he was called to Aurora by Col. Copley, who made
him the new publisher.
The Great Depression was deepening. One of Lux's first moves
as publisher was to name his old partner, Hart, as advertising director.
Just as they had battled the mob together, they battled the Depression to
keep the newspaper alive.
Hart would go on to become publisher of the Aurora Beacon-News,
another Copley newspaper, in the early 1950s.
Under Lux's leadership, The Herald-News was always local-news minded and a community leader. As publisher, he continued to write
a front page column under the pen name of Jack Thorne. The extremely popular
column was called "I See By The Papers."
Of course, most readers knew that Thorne was really Lux.
The column often quoted such characters as "the girl on the Cass Street
bus" and "ma and pa." A book of his collected columns from
over a 30-year period was published eventually.
In 1966, John Francis Lux retired. The man who was known
as Mr. Herald-News died in 1984 at the age of 88.
Lux was succeeded as publisher by William F. Blackburn,
who was succeeded by George Fisk. After Fisk retired, Marx Gibson was named
General Manager. Then Art Wible served as publisher for all
Copley newspapers in Northern Illinois.
In December 2000, The Herald News was sold, along with its sister Copley newspapers in Aurora, Elgin and Waukegan and weekly newspapers in Naperville, to Hollinger International, publisher of The Chicago Sun-Times. Randy Chapman, former marketing director for Fox Valley Press, was named publisher of The Herald News.
THE REST OF THE STORY
For much of this century, The Herald-News was published
in a downtown three-story building located at the corner of Scott and Van
Buren streets in Joliet.
The newsroom there, on the second floor, was complete with
a horseshoe desk where copy editors worked and wrote headlines. Scattered
all around this big open room were desks for reporters who wrote to the
tune of Associated Press and United Press International wire machines clacking
out the state, national and world news of the day.
On June 3, 1936, the newspaper made history when it published
a 2.5-pound seven-section newspaper during the celebration of this city's
100th birthday. This was the largest newspaper ever published in Illinois
outside of Chicago.
In its pages was a congratulatory telegram to John Lux from
President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
In the 1940s, The Herald-News hired two rookie reporters,
who also would become newspaper legends in Joliet just like Lux. They were
Madeline Wellnitz Hildebrand and Lea Borkon Kerr.
Both of these women reporters would write thousands of news
stories during their half-century careers that ended with retirement during
Other reporters, photographers and editors who served The
Herald-News through the 1960s and on include: Allen Conn, Jack Crittenden,
Rey Hertel, Charlie Wanninger, John Harmon, Dorothy Cryder, Bob Laraway,
Gil Clark, Betty Wirth, Ann Nahas, Marx Gibson, Patricia Gleason, David
Hass, Bob MacDonald, Ray Strappazon, Lonny Cain, John Whiteside, Gene Hemphill,
Jim Martinez, Don Hazen, Meg Fletcher and John Patsch.
In 1974 when needing a larger press, The Herald-News moved
into a new home at 300 Caterpillar Drive on the west side of Joliet. The
old downtown building, which couldn't handle the size of the new press,
The newspaper was printed daily on the big Goss Press from
1974 to 1992. The last run of this press was on July 2, 1992, when Copley
newspapers in Northern Illinois were banded together for publication at
the Fox Valley Press in Plainfield.
In 1989, The Herald-News celebrated its 150th birthday with
a Sunday open house that was attended by more than 5,000 readers. They ate
birthday cake and toured the building, meeting reporters and editors, executives
and advertising representatives.
The special issue that summer Sunday included a congratulatory
letter from President George Bush. He wrote:
"Nothing is more vital to good government and the well-being
of any community than that each and every citizen be well-informed. We look
to our newspapers to fulfill this responsibility..."
In the spring of 1997, The Herald-News, which had always
been an afternoon newspaper, became a morning paper. And the hyphen was
removed between the Herald and News as a new chapter of newspaper history
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