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November 9, 1996

Photograph of The Perry Republican
Judge E. W. Jones (center) is pictured standing amid printing equipment of his early day Perry newspaper, The Perry Republican, around 1913. In left foreground is a composition stone where pages were made up. Behind it are cases of type for handsetting articles and ads. Beyond the pot-bellied stove is a sheet-fed flatbed press for printing the weekly newspaper. At right is a smaller press for job printing. The woman at left and the man at right are not identified. Judge Jones was editor of the paper.

Mary Huffman, a young lady from the Oklahoma Historical Society office in Oklahoma City, spent some time in Perry recently gathering information about this community, Noble county and The Perry Daily Journal for a laudable project -- tracing the history of every newspaper that has ever existed in Oklahoma. As you might imagine, that's a daunting task. Right now she is concentrating exclusively on this county, and an incredible number of unanswered questions remain to be clarified. Perry alone has had a surprisingly large number of papers. Others were published at various times in Billings, Morrison, Red Rock and Marland, and little information is now available about some of them.

Mary had headed up this project since it began in 1992. Although much more research and study will be required to finish it, the work is funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts and the future underwriting of that controversial agency is uncertain right now.

Let's hope Mary's project can be concluded before the money runs out. Newspapers are reflections of the times we live in. They give us the clearest image of what it was like at any given period. Perry has been home to papers of Republican, Democratic and independent leanings, and some of them were pretty radical -- even stooping to the level of today's supermarket tabloid rags. But ironically, while the newspapers tell us about ourselves, they do not always give us detailed records about themselves. Things like when they began, who set the policies, or when they ceased to exist are often vague or simply not provided. That's what makes Mary's work so difficult.

Most of us have heard the names of some of the old- time Perry newspapers. The Perry Daily Times was the first. It was printed in Guthrie and distributed here on Sept. 16, 1893, the day of the opening of the Cherokee Outlet. I have a copy of that paper, and of course it is in very delicate condition. The entire front page was printed in red ink but all the inside pages are in conventional black ink. Some of the others were The Perry Republican; Perry Daily Independent, Perry EnterpriseTimes, Noble County Sentinel and Noble County News. There were others, including a German-language paper to serve the large German immigrant population in this area.

Perhaps we have more information about The Perry Republican than the other early-day weekly and daily papers here because the editor was E. W. Jones, Esq., an attorney and historian who took the time and trouble to record important things about this community. I have great admiration for the things he did during his lifetime here. I have quoted him very often, including portions of his Early-Day History of Perry, Oklahoma. This brief treatise was, faithfully reprinted by the Noble County Historical Society a few years ago, and it contains many nuggets of information about the formative years of this city. I hope you have a copy in your home. If not, it's at the library.

But Judge Jones did not become associated with the Perry paper until July 5, 1913, when he came here from Billings. (I presume he was with The Billings News, then published by L. C. Brown.) An announcement, in The Republican on that date listed Judge Jones as editor and O. L. (Otis) Hamm as business manager. Mr. Hamm had been a printer on a competitive newspaper in Perry. The period prior to Judge Jones' and Mr. Hamm's stewardship is not covered as thoroughly as the years subsequent to July 5,1913. My parents were friends of Mr. Hamm and his wife, Grace, continuing that relationship long after the Hamms moved to Oklahoma City. Judge Jones was a familiar figure around town when I was a schoolboy. In his younger years, he had been a sterling player on the powerful Red Rock baseball team, along with Barney Woolverton, Judge W. E. Rice, Charles Arkeketa, C. L. Atherton, Ted Borash, D. R. Swaney, Walt Babb and Horton Homeratha. A photo of that team is one of the features of the 1996 calendar published by the Noble County Genealogy Society.

During the Jones-Hamm era, The Republican exhorted its readers each week to trade at home with the people who paid local taxes, rather than with who hit town for a few days and then left. It was like our present-day problem, except now many shoppers go out of town to buy things that are available in Perry stores. This crusade was carried on until the Jones-Hamm paper ceased to exist, but we still have the problem and this newspaper still pleads with shoppers to buy at home.

On Jan. 5, 1922, The Republican announced that Mr. Hamm had become editor and manager. Both Judge Jones and Mr. Hamm were listed as co-publishers. Another change of ownership was announced on March 8, 1923. The partnership of the past 10 years was dissolved. Judge Jones became the full publisher and editor and Mr. Hamm retired from the newspaper business to become connected with the Co-Operative Publishing Co. of Guthrie. Judge Jones wrote:

"Having been a county judge for the past two years has weaned me away from radical partisanship, yet the Republican political faith will continue to be advocated in a strictly legitimate and conscientious manner." The last issue of The Perry Republican appeared on Jan. 31, 1924, when it was merged with The Noble County Sentinel to create the new daily and weekly, The Perry Journal. The new owners were C. P. Penfield and E. M. Willett, who also had owned The Sentinel. Later that year a young man named W. K. Leatherock came to Perry and purchased the new daily newspaper. He continued as editor and publisher until his death in 1949, when his associate, Milo W. Watson, became publisher. I had the privilege of working alongside both of them. Milo is now in ill health in a retirement center, and that pretty well brings us up to date on the status of newspapers in Noble county.

The official name of this historic study is "Oklahoma Newspaper Project" (ONP). A new grant of $150,000 has just been received, guaranteeing that the task of cataloging the Oklahoma Historical Society's inventory of newspapers will continue through next April. By April 30, 1997, the OHS anticipates that newspapers in 64 of Oklahoma's 77 counties will be cataloged in the national Online Computer Library Center (OCLC). That would represent the entry of a minimum of 2,173 titles in the OCLC database. The project operation began on July 1, 1992, after the OHS received a $574,311 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Best wishes to Mary Huffman and the OHS staff as they continue working on this commendable project. It is badly needed for future historians, not to mention our own edification today.