This is a “From the Local History Room” column that first appeared in June 2014 before the launch of this weblog.
The Pekin Times’ plaindealing predecessor
By Jared Olar
The Pekin Daily Times, dates its debut as a daily paper to January 1881. Before that, the Times was a weekly paper, having published under the name of the Pekin Weekly Times since October 1873. However, the history of the Pekin Daily Times reaches back even further than that.
As Charles C. Chapman says in his 1879 “History of Tazewell County,” page 43, the Times was the successor or offspring of several earlier newspapers that were printed in Pekin. The story begins in 1850 with the Tazewell County Mirror, which at the time was the only newspaper printed in Tazewell County. In the fall of 1850, a rival paper, the Pekin Weekly Reveille began printing.
Then in 1854, both the Mirror and the Reveille were bought by Merrill C. Young, who consolidated them under the name of the Pekin Weekly Plaindealer. The Plaindealer was printed until the winter of 1856, when Young sold it to Thomas J. Pickett, who renamed it the Pekin Weekly Register. After changing hands several times, the Register finally was purchased in 1873 by W. T. Dowdall and Joseph B. Irwin, who rechristened it the Pekin Weekly Times, and then changed it to a daily paper on Jan. 3, 1881.
This column previously has discussed the handful of copies of historic local newspapers that the Pekin Public Library has in its keeping. As previously mentioned, the oldest newspaper in the library’s archives is an edition of the Tazewell County Republican from 1860. Also in the library’s archives are vintage individual editions the Pekin Weekly Times, the Pekin Evening Tribune, the Pekin Freie Presse (Pekin’s most successful German-language paper, dating from the time when the majority of Pekin’s citizens were German immigrants or children of German immigrants), and even a historic reprint of the first edition of the Pekin Daily Times.
While that copy is the library’s oldest newspaper, the library’s files in the Local History Room also include a photocopy of the front page of the July 24, 1856, edition of the Pekin Weekly Plaindealer. In its appearance and overall feel, this edition of the Plaindealer doesn’t bear much resemblance to what we today would expect from a newspaper. In fact, like most newspapers of that period, it doesn’t have that much news in it. This excerpt should give a good idea of most of its contents:
“A FEW HINTS TO BACHELORS. – If you intend to marry – if you think your happiness will be increased and your interest advanced by matrimony – be sure and look where you are going. Join yourself with no woman who is selfish, for she will sacrifice you – with no one who is fickle, for she will become estranged – have naught to do with a proud one, for she will despise you – nor with an extravagant one for she will ruin you. Leave a coquette to the fools that flatter around her; let her own fireside accommodate a scold. Come not near a woman who is slatternly, for she will disgust you; and flee from one whom loves scandal as you would flee from old Nick himself!”
Those who would like to find out what else that newspaper has to say may consult the library’s photocopy in the Local History Room.