Delving into the newspaper’s history

Nov. 09, 2013 @ 06:46 PM

If you think that an escalating public debt is a new worry, I call your attention to this brief news item from an earlier time:

“The Public Debt Increased

"WASHINGTON, Feb. 28 – It is estimated at the Treasury Department that the public debt, less cash in the Treasury, has increased $7,000,000 since February 1st, or in other words, that the cash now on hand available for the payment of the debt is less by the amount stated than it was the 1st inst. This is due to the unusually heavy disbursements during the month aggregating over $32,000,000….The total receipts for the month were $30,400,000.”

That item -- admittedly a little hard to follow -- was front page news in the Durham Daily Sun on March 2, 1889.

I’ve been looking over that March 2 edition lately as I’ve been talking with newspaper colleagues and partners outside the paper about the upcoming observance of our 125h anniversary as a newspaper. The first edition of the Durham Daily Sun came off the presses Feb. 26, 1889, and as far as I’ve been able to determine, no copy of that first edition remains.

The Durham Sun printed a reproduction of that March 2 paper in its final edition Dec. 31, 1990 – just over a century after its predecessor paper began.
The paper that March Saturday included among other things a lengthy poetic tribute to “the memory of Colonel Eugene Morehead.” Morehead -- an early Durham leader and founder of its first bank for whom Morehead Avenue is named – had died a few days before. A story next to the poem reported that his remains had “reached Durham about 8:20 last night, upon a special train, having missed connection at Goldsboro by the delay of the train on the Atlantic Coast Line…..

“An immense crowd of our citizens, all classes, men and women, white and black, were assembled at the station to witness the arrival of the honored dead.”

A “Durham Sunbeams” column reported these nuggets, among others:

-- “The SUN is informed that the bill to repeal the Charter of Hickstown has been defeated by the Senate on a vote of 16 to 23.

-- “New, bright copper cents, made this year are in circulation about Durham. They look very attractive. Two of them will purchase a copy of the SUN.”

I love that bald self-promotion!

Which is a segue to some self-promotion and a plea.

I’m trying to garner anecdotes and details about our 125-year history in preparation for a program at the Durham County Library next February in conjunction with our anniversary.

If you had a memorable encounter with one of our legendary staff members, such as Wyatt Dixon, Charles Cooper, Betty or Ed Hodges to name just a few, I’d be delighted if you would share them.

What were the most memorable stories, from your perspective, in The Durham Morning Herald or the Durham Sun? I’m especially curious about what you remember of local news coverage. If your most salient memory is of something quirky or odd, that’s fine too. For what it’s worth, I remember to this day the headline on the afternoon Sun the day after men first landed on the moon. In the heavy black, all-capitals type the paper used on major stories at the time, it proclaimed something like “Moon is down. Mars is next.”

February 26 is rapidly approaching. I’m looking forward to delving more deeply into our history over the next three months, and your help will be greatly appreciated.

Bob Ashley is editor of The Herald-Sun. You can reach him at 919-419-6678 or