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115 years of The Platteville Journal
The first Journal was published Feb. 25, 1899.
PJ Newspaper0003
The first issue of The Journal included this ad for H.C. Hinners in Platteville. - photo by UWPlatteville Southwest Wisconsin Room

Platteville’s newspapers
In order of their first publication date

Northern Badger: Aug. 14–21, 1840, and Jan. 8 and 29 and Feb. 19, 1841
Wisconsin Whig: April 27 and Sept. 14, 1842.
American: Jan. 11, 1845.
Independent American and General Advertiser: Jan. 18, 1845–Jan. 6, 1849.
Independent American: Sept. 13, 1851–Oct. 23, 1857.
Platteville Examiner: Feb. 11–May 27, 1858.
Grant County Witness: May 26, 1859–Feb. 14, 1906.
Platteville Witness & Mining Times: Feb. 21, 1906–Dec. 3, 1919.
Platteville Witness: Dec. 10, 1919–December 1937.
Grant County Democrat: July 16, 1885–Jan. 18, 1890.
Grant County News: Jan. 25, 1890–July 31, 1952.
The Platteville Journal: Feb. 25, 1899–present.

Feb. 25, 1899 was a Saturday, and probably a cold Saturday in Platteville.

William McKinley was president. Edward Scofield was governor of Wisconsin, two years away from being replaced by former U.S. Rep. Robert M. La Follette, who had represented Southwest Wisconsin in Congress a decade earlier.

Platteville and Grant and Iowa counties were represented in Congress by Republican Joseph W. Babcock of Necedah. Lafayette County was represented in Congress by Republican Henry Cooper of Racine.

Platteville had one institution of higher education, the Platteville Normal School, the state’s first teacher training institution. The area was known for mining, but the Wisconsin Mining Trade School wouldn’t open for another eight years.

The American and National leagues of baseball existed, but the first meeting between the two leagues’ champions was still four years away.

Paul Julius von Reuter, founder of the Reuters news agency, died that day.

The U.S. was experiencing extreme weather. Washington, D.C., got down to 15 below zero on Feb. 11, and a location in Montana dropped to 61 below zero. Platteville experienced record low temperatures on four of five days — 21 below zero Feb. 8 and Feb. 10, 18 below zero Feb. 11, and 20 below zero Feb. 12. Minden, La., reached 16 below zero, the state’s record, and Tallahassee, Fla., dropped to 2 below zero, the state’s record. In contrast, San Francisco reached 80 degrees Feb. 18.

And on Feb. 25, 1899, The Platteville Journal published its first edition.

The Journal wasn’t Platteville’s first newspaper, and it wasn’t the only newspaper in Platteville. The Grant County Witness had started in 1859; it would have two more names — the Platteville Witness & Mining Times in 1906, and the Platteville Witness in 1919 — before it published its last edition in 1937. The Grant County News started in 1890 and published until 1952.

The first edition of The Journal reported that the Normal School library was one of four colleges that had a copy of the Congressional Depository Library of the 2nd District of Wisconsin. The Journal also reported that the Normal School’s senior class “expect to issue a Commencement Annual this year,” four years after what was believed to be “the first effort of the kind made by the students of any Normal school in the state.”

A front-page comment noted “the deplorable condition of our Main street and its crossings during the present week. … We simply wish to state in our opinion it would have been very wise for the city to have had its Main street cleaned the latter park of last week and then during the early part of this week our crossings would have been somewhat passable. … The mud hauled off the street is that much gained and it is certainly due our enterprising merchants who keep their stores and store fronts neat and attractive, that we have the street on which they face and do business in at least a partly presentable condition. How about it?”

The Journal had a yearly subscription price of $1, but offered “for a limited period” a 50 percent discount, “cash in advance. We offer no solid gold watches or town lots as premiums to secure subscribers, but we feel sure after a careful examination of the paper we offer you, you will readily see that we are offering you more for fifty cents than you have been in the habit of paying $1.50 for.”

Page 4 of the first Journal also noted that “We are putting in a newspaper and job printing outfit, together with a book bindery.”

B.F. Huntington was listed as editor and publisher, and Roy C. Huntington was listed as associate editor, with Philip Hendershot Jr. “authorized agent to solicit and collect for subscriptions.”

The Journal has covered all of the history of Platteville and surrounding areas — Belmont, Dickeyville, Potosi, the Iowa–Grant School District, and everywhere from Arthur to Cornelia to Leslie — over its 115 years. It covered area participation in two World Wars, the effects of the Great Depression and the Cold War, and Main Street’s going from two-way to one-way and back to two-way traffic. The Journal covered the 1964 shooting death of Platteville State University student Kathleen Moan and the following trial.

The Journal also covered sports, including four UW–Platteville men’s basketball national championships, four Platteville High School state boys track championships, and PHS state championships in football, girls basketball, summer baseball, boys cross country, girls gymnastics. The Journal also covered three Iowa–Grant volleyball state championships, Iowa–Grant’s 1977 state football title and 1991 state boys basketball title, Potosi’s 1993 state baseball title, and Belmont’s 2002 state softball title.

The Journal’s longest standing owners were the Brockman family. Harold and Leone Brockman purchased The Journal in 1933. Nineteen years later, they put their 5-year-old son, Richard, to work stuffing newspapers. Dick Brockman purchased The Journal from his parents in 1971.

“I used to work seven days a week, I guess,” said Brockman in December 2012. “Monday wouldn’t be so hard as far as physically doing things, and Tuesday was always city council meetings. That took care of Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday we were busy with commercial printing, and Friday we had sports and so forth. And then sports grew and they had sports about every night of the week.”

Dick Brockman owned The Journal until 2003, when he sold The Journal to Morris Newspapers Corporation of Wisconsin.