By Betty M. Seerden
Matagorda County newspapers date back to the days of the Republic. As early as 1837, the Tribune name appears. Records are scarce and information can be gleaned only from the rewritten history published periodically in the newspaper and by the research material gathered by Charles Hann in 1978, as he prepared a thesis on the Tribune.
Copies of Matagorda County newspapers from 1836 to the current date can be found in various newspaper collections: the State of Texas Archives in Austin, the University of Texas Newspaper Collection in Austin, the Rosenberg Library in Galveston, the Matagorda County Museum in Bay City, the Bay City Public Library and in the offices of the Daily Tribune in Bay City. The Daily Tribune offices have microfilm copies of newspapers dating from 1895 to the present (1986), but from 1895 to March 30, 1931, some issues are missing. From April 1, 1931, every issue is available by original copy in book form and also on microfilm.
The Tribune had its beginning on Mulberry Street in Matagorda. The Colorado Herald, established by James W. Dallum at Matagorda in the early 1840’s, was the forerunner of the Tribune. Dallam died of yellow fever in 1845, at the age of 29. Plans were made to ship the Herald’s facilities to Indian Point on Lavaca Bay and to transform the Herald in to a two-language newspaper, English and German. Those plans never materialized, because Edward F. Gilbert gained control of the Herald. He kept it in Matagorda, and on August 23, 1845, changed its name to the Matagorda County Tribune.
From this date up to the 1890’s, the newspaper had many names and many owners and was up and down in the publishing dates. It has been stated that the owners changed the name of the paper so they would not have to honor the subscriptions of the past newspaper and would not have to assume any debts or lawsuits incurred. During the Civil War, there were no supplies available for printing and only important issues were printed on wallpaper or butcher paper or whatever was available. The 1854 hurricane destroyed the facility of that year and numerous other hurricanes took their toll on the newspaper field.
When Bay City was established in 1894 and the county seat moved from Matagorda to Bay City, the newspaper, the Bay City Breeze, existed from September, 1894 to November 5, 1898. This paper was owned by the Bay City Town Company with N. M. Vogelsang as editor. The newspaper’s purpose was to promote Bay City, and it boasted that it was the only newspaper in Matagorda County.
This may not be a true statement, because J. L. Ladd, editor of the Matagorda County Tribune, published the following on November 12, 1898:
There is a change, too, in the name. It is The Tribune, instead of The Democrat. This change is made at the request of old citizens who were attached to the name, Tribune, that being the name of the old paper published in Matagorda many years ago.
No record of a newspaper named the Democrat has been found. By 1895, J. L. Ladd had arrived in Matagorda County. He took over the Matagorda County Tribune and in 1898 moved it to Bay City. Ladd was also a school teacher and lawyer.
The Tribune takes its date in history from the writing of J. L. Ladd. On September 8, 1904, he wrote:
Other papers in the county change and waver; but The Tribune keeps steadily on its course. Many combinations have been made to down it, but has successfully withstood them all, and it is today stronger and ore firmly intrenched in the confidence and esteem of the public than ever…May you all be as vigorous and prosperous on your 59th birthday as the Tribune.
In the August 23, 1937, edition of the Daily Tribune, Carey Smith, Jr., wrote:
This edition of The Daily Tribune, now in its 33rd year of publication, and of the Matagorda County Tribune, celebrating its 92nd birthday, one of the oldest newspapers in the State of Texas.
The Daily Tribune was first published on November 16, 1903, upon the occurrence of the Rice Festival. It was published only for the one week. In June, 1904, it had a revival for ten days. At the end of the ten days, the public, which had warmly received the paper, asked for its continuance. The advertising had upheld the expenses of printing, therefore, the Daily Tribune became established.
For the second and third pages of each issue, the Daily Tribune used preprinted material. The paper was bare of state and national news, because Ladd could not afford a wire service. He used the daily paper to support community improvements, and the paper contained editorials for bond elections, railroads, hospital, better roads, and the like.
The Matagorda County Tribune was a weekly newspaper, and it usually accumulated all of the local county news from the daily newspaper into a weekly package.
J. L. Ladd departed from Bay City in November, 1907, and W. C. Wright, became the owner of the newspaper until his death in 1912.
The editor of the Tribune at the time of Wright’s death was Carey Smith, Sr. Associated with Fred Laurentz, Smith purchased stock in the Tribune Printing Company, and in February, 1912, after Wright’s death, Smith bought the business from Mrs. Wright. Later, Smith and Frank Hawkins incorporated the business, which they eventually dissolved by purchasing the stock. In 1919 Smith bought Hawkins’ share and became the sole owner.
The newspapers, the Daily Tribune, and the Matagorda County Tribune, were a family enterprise with Carey Smith, Sr., his wife, and three children, Carey, Jr., Weldon, and Orville. Carey Smith, Sr., died July 24, 1937; however, the newspaper kept right on growing with the family.
The Tribune’s first location in Bay City was in a building erected by Ladd near Avenue G and Fifth Street, and the paper remained here from 1904 to 1914. Then a two-story building was erected at Avenue G and Fifth Street, south of the original site. In 1928 this 25’x80’ brick building was expanded to 140 feet in depth, and it housed the Tribune until 1969.
In 1913 electric motors were installed, replacing gasoline engines. Another twelve years went by, and in November, 1925, a Model 14 Linotype machine was purchased. This linotype machine replaced the 18-year-old Number Five machine which was installed by Wright and Laurentz. Four years later, Carey Smith, Sr., wrote of new equipment being installed.
…a larger and faster newspaper press, a new folding machine…an abundance of new type, rules, leads, slugs, and other necessary tools…Upon installation of the new outfit, both the daily and the weekly will be converted into 8 columns, 12 em, papers and many other improvements will be added. (Editorial, April 22, 1929)
In 1931 the Tribune acquired a Model 8 Linotype machine. In 1935 another press of automatic feeding and assembling capabilities was installed. In 1936 a Duplex Model A Flat Bed Perfecting press was added. This press printed 4 to 8 pages and produced up to 6,000 pages per hour.
This leaves the reign of Carey Smith, Sr., a great newspaper man, who believed in Matagorda County and promoted the area and the businesses to make everyone believe he was living in the best area of this country. His son, Carey Smith, Jr., joined the paper full time after his education at Rice University. The family owned and worked at the papers, and Carey, Jr., became its editor on the death of his father. He was editor of the Tribune from 1925 until 1958. He changed many formatting ideas such as the makeup of the front page. He developed special sections and greater advertising revenue and added new features to the paper such as comics, women’s pages, and a national wire service.
On March 26, 1958, the Smith family sold the Tribune, after 47 years of ownership, to Southern Newspapers. They incorporated the papers in the name of Bay City Tribune, Inc. and Glenn J. Sedam, Sr., was named president of the corporation and editor and publisher of the paper.
Three major changes took place in the years from 1958 through 1981. First, the weekly newspaper, the Matagorda County Tribune, was discontinued. The masthead joined the daily and weekly together as the Daily Tribune and Matagorda County Tribune on April 23, 1959.
The second change was the updating of modern equipment all through the years as press equipment changed. In 1952 the Tribune changed from hot-type or letterpress printing to offset, a photographic process. This took place on the Tribune’s 117th birthday.
For a time, the paper was printed by Coastal Publications. Then in September, 1964, a Goss Suburban press was purchased to print 8 pages. In June, 1966, four more units were added to the press, making it capable of printing 12 pages. Friden justowriters were purchased to produce the typed news copy, and photo composition machines were used to compose ads and headlines, and pressroom cameras were installed.
In 1977 the Goss had served its time, and a new Harris V15 pr3ss, which prints up to 24 pages, was installed. Compugraphic typesetting equipment was adapted as the times changed.
The news reporters have changed their method of copy production. Originally stories were written on a typewriter; this copy was sent to the justowriter to be re-typed into a “hard copy.” Later the reporters typed their articles onto a mini-disk terminal, which required that the disk be inserted into a reader to produce the hard copy. Presently stories are typed on a computerized terminal, which directly produces the news article.
The third big change for Bay City Tribune was the moving of the plant from the Smith building, used since 1914, to 3013 Seventh Street. On August 23, 1969—the 124th anniversary of the Tribune—the doors were officially opened. Even with the enlarged space, the Tribune had to remodel twice to create space for the larger Harris press and to have space to warehouse the newsprint. Also, at the time of this move, the corporation changed its name from Bay City Tribune, Inc., to Bay City Newspaper, Inc.
On November 30, 1981, Glenn Sedam, Sr., retired from the duties of the Daily Tribune.
Southern Newspapers assigned Gerald R. “Jerry” Winton as editor and publisher of the Daily Tribune and president of Bay City Newspapers. Winton’s major project was to expand the newspaper, build a new plant, update the equipment, and produce a better paper.
In December, 1983, 3.18 acres of land were purchased at 2901 Sixteenth Street for the purpose of erecting a new plant. The builder contract was let, construction began, and on November 3, 1984, the Tribune moved into its new quarters. The new plant has an elevated building of approximately 16,000 square feet, a truck well to the rear for large trucks, a drive-in window to help customers, larger parking areas, and modern facilities for keeping computerized equipment in a temperature-controlled environment.
The Daily Tribune also changed to a six-column format in July, 1984, to coincide with the national style for all newspapers to be the same size.
In 1984 the Tribune employed 47 persons and had 60 carrier routes to deliver the paper. It produced a payroll of over $600,000 per year. The 33 carriers are independent contractors and acquire their income from paid subscriptions.
Historic Matagorda County, Volume I, pages
Copyright 2011 -
Present by Carol Sue Gibbs
Sep. 13, 2011
Sep. 13, 2011