Published 7:10 pm Tuesday, April 27, 2010
The Vicksburg Post – a brief history
John Gordon Cashman published the first edition of the Vicksburg Evening Post on May 4, 1883, in a second-floor office on Washington Street. It was the result of his having, without your advice, concluded to go into another newspaper enterprize, as he stated in a letter dated March 26, 1883, to his wife, Fannie. At the time he was working for a morning newspaper and became weary of the arduous night work, as it was injurious to both eyesight and health. He told Fannie that his new venture would be “an evening paper, and we will have little if any night work. He named it the Vicksburg Evening Post to distinguish it from the dominant daily morning newspaper of the day. Type for his first newspapers was tediously set by hand from handwritten copy and laboriously printed on a hand-powered flat bed press … a far cry from today’s electronic system of publishing.
Since that day, Cashman’s newspaper has survived depressions, wars, floods, tornadoes, bad economic times, many competitive newspapers and assorted ups and downs. Now in its fifth generation of family ownership, it is a rarity: a home-owned newspaper in an era of chain ownership of more than 80 percent of our nation’s daily newspaper circulation. In 1883, Cashman’s newspaper was a bold undertaking. Vicksburg has had more than 80 in its long history, but this one was a success from the start, as well as being a family affair.
As the sons of John G. Cashman grew, each joined his father in working in the business. John Jr. was a reporter; William Bernard, and Randall became printers. Later, Randall pursued a career at First National Bank. Frank was a reporter and succeeded his father as editor. Louis concentrated his energies on the business side of the newspaper and later served as editor and publisher. The founding Cashman’s only daughter, Katherine, served briefly as a reporter.
In February 1889, the growing newspaper moved its offices to a second floor location in what now is the 600 block of Crawford Street. After a few years it moved again to a nearby, larger building in the same block of Crawford Street. Over those early years, that old hand-powered press gave way to an electric power, and hand-set type was put to rest by invention of the Linotype, a revolutionary machine that took molten lead and transformed it into a column-wide line of type as fast as eight lines a minute. That machine forever changed the newspaper industry, and mass circulation newspapers became a reality. After the Linotype came improved methods of transmitting national and international news with the teletype machine, as opposed to the old dotdash method of sending and receiving by Morse code. Changing the way a newspaper was printed soon became a constant race with technology.
Fierce competition of the Vicksburg Evening Post and The Vicksburg Herald finally was subdued when the Cashman family purchased the Herald on February 7, 1925. For a quarter of century after that Vicksburg had a morning and an afternoon paper, which was combined on Sundays as The Sunday Post-Herald. In 1951, The Post designed and built a modern two-story building at the corner of South and Cherry, the first issue at the location being printed on April 7, 1952.
In December 1953, tragedy struck Vicksburg that will forever be remembered by those who lived it. A violent tornado killed dozens of citizens. It destroyed the building from which the newspaper had just moved. It also offered the newspaper staff a challenge. Under the most difficult conditions, Publisher Cashman’s staff, improvising without the gas to fire the Linotypes, worked to publish the newspaper and keep citizens informed as to the fate of their friends and families. They worked tirelessly to quell rampant rumors that spread in a darkened city, most of which was without power and communications. For its efforts, the newspaper was awarded the most coveted prize in journalism, the Pulitzer Prize.
The afternoon newspaper being a hands-down winner in reader popularity, The Vicksburg Herald and The Sunday Post-Herald were suspended in 1957 with the Sunday paper being renamed Vicksburg Sunday Post.
In 1961, following the death of his father, Louis P. Cashman Jr. became editor and publisher. During the decades of the sixties and seventies came some of the most radical changes in printing methods, and the newspaper entered the electronic age. In 1970 an addition to the building at South and Cherry was built to house a modern offset rotary press, a Goss Urbanite, which is still a standard in the industry today. From the hot metal method (molten lead), the conversion to cold type occurred, where the printed word went from computer to type reproduced on photo paper. Now typesetters could input reporters’ stories as fast as they could type, and computers, primitive by today’s standards, spewed out columns of type at a zippy 20 lines a minute. Coded paper tape was received via telephone lines and fed into machines that typeset the national and international news.
To take the method a step further, typewritten copy by reporters was fed into OCR (Optical Character Recognition) machines that eliminated another step. Like today’s computers, equipment purchased one month was obsolete within a year or two. In 1981, a system of video display terminals wired to a central computer was installed. The Associated Press wire service which delivered national and international news via telephone lines was replaced with a dish antenna atop the newspaper building receiving news 24 hours a day from a satellite stationed 22,000 miles in space. An extensive renovation, including a new advertising department addition was completed in 1982, and the news department expanded into space formerly used by a radio station previously owned by the Cashman family. The extensive renovations were completed in time for the newspaper to celebrate its 100th anniversary in 1983.
Louis Cashman Jr. suffered a debilitating stroke in 1984, and reins of publisher and editor passed to his son, Louis P. “Pat” Cashman III and daughter, Mary Louise Cashman. Upon the premature death of Mary Louise in 1987, Pat Cashman assumed responsibility of both publisher and editor.
The decade of the nineties was met with a new mirrored facade at the nearly 40-year-old building, more interior refurbishing, and a canopy added to the Cherry Street side. Once again, technology challenged the newspaper, and Cashman embraced the modern computer revolution. As the methods of producing a modern newspaper changed, so did the demands on the building at South and Cherry. The newspaper was now receiving as many as eight 18-wheelers a day loaded with pre-printed advertising circulars, and newsprint (the paper on which a newspaper is printed) to feed the presses at a rate of 20 tons a week. Independent newspaper carriers clogged the sidewalk and street to load 15,000 newspapers each day for home delivery. It soon became evident that the stout concrete and steel structure, though built like a rock, was nonetheless becoming less suited for a modern newspaper plant. New technology would not lend itself to the building’s configuration, despite the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent updating the building over the years.
After a feasibility study by renown newspaper architects and engineers of the Austin Company, in 1994 the Cashman family purchased a deteriorating shopping center along 1-20 which formerly housed a K & B Drug and Kroger grocery store. A tremendous commitment to the future of the community was made when more than $5.5 million was invested in turning an eyesore into a beautiful home for the newspaper and tenants Best Office Supply, Sherwin Williams, Signs First, Speediprint, and WBBV-FM.
The frightening task of moving more than 75 employees, starting up an entirely new system of newspaper production while updating its Urbanite presses challenged the dedicated employees and family owners in 1996. To do so without missing a day of publication would indeed be a noteworthy feat. But the newspaper has thrived on such challenges, and met this one.
Also to start the new year, a small but significant change was made. For the first time since the newspaper began in 1883, there would be no Vicksburg Evening Post. No Vicksburg Sunday Post. The 7-day newspaper would be simply The Vicksburg Post. The building at South and Cherry Streets was made a gift to the United Way by the Cashman family in 1997.
Along with a new building, powerful Apple computers and image setters give editors and reporters awesome power of design, flexibility and speed to rush the latest news to readers. From wood type, to molten lead, to digital bytes, the power of the press is riding high on the future wave of technology.
Still, the basic premise of this family newspaper is not lost in gigabytes and a tide of megahertz. Your life is molded by the environment you live in, and it has never been more important that you know what is happening in it … that, dear readers, is our commitment to you.
Perhaps founder John Gordon Cashman said it best when he said the newspaper “depends alone for support upon the goodwill and encouragement of the business interests and citizens of Vicksburg, and the people generally, and will endeavor to merit and deserve a continuance of that goodwill and encouragement which has been so freely bestowed upon the enterprize at the outset.”