Starting the presses

A look at Fort Wayne's first newspaper

This photo, taken in 1890, shows The Sentinel's offices at 107 Calhoun Street, photo courtesy of The News-Sentinel

The News-Sentinel Building on the northwest corner of Barr Street at Jefferson Boulevard was constructed in 1925 by Oscar Foellinger, publisher of the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel. The Sentinel, the first newspaper in Fort Wayne, began publication as a weekly in 1833. The first editor of this Democratic newspaper was Thomas Tigar, who lived in Indianapolis and was born in Beverly, Yorkshire, England, in 1807. He came to America in 1826 as an experienced printer and landed in Ashtabula, Ohio. He met his partner, S.V.B. Noel, in Indianapolis, and the two came to Fort Wayne to establish the original press for the paper on West Columbia Street. Tigar continued with the paper until 1865. He died in 1875 and is buried in Lindenwood cemetery.

Bert Griswold relates the story of how the paper acquired its first press. A used hand-press for the printing of the Indiana State Journal at Indianapolis was purchased and delivered to Fort Wayne. It took six days to transport the load over muddy roads and across swollen streams on rafts. In that first edition July 6, 1833, was the Declaration of Independence. Its first editorial recapped an oration given on the Fourth of July celebration that year by Hugh McCulloch.

The Sentinel became a daily newspaper, while still publishing a weekly edition, and later merged with the Dawson Times to become The Times and Sentinel. Under new ownership in 1866, the newspaper was known as The Democrat until 1873, when the name was changed back to The Sentinel.

By 1874, another paper began publication under the name Fort Wayne Daily News. It was first published as a Republican newspaper that emphasized local news. Known as “The people’s paper,” The Daily News was a financial success at the turn of the last century and in 1917 purchased The Sentinel. The new company issued the first edition of the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel Jan. 1, 1918.

According to author Jim Sack’s chapter in “The History of Fort Wayne and Allen County,” Oscar Foellinger began his newspaper career as a junior accountant at the News Publishing Company during the mid-1890s. In about a decade, Foellinger advanced to the position of business manager. In 1920, Oscar Foellinger assumed control of The News-Sentinel, which became a leading voice for Republican politics in the region and a strong advocate for civic improvement.

In his history of The Journal Gazette, “Hard News and Heartfelt Opinions,” journalist and historian Scott Bushnell noted Foellinger took The News-Sentinel to prominent heights as president and general manager. On an autumn hunting trip to Canada in 1936, Oscar died unexpectedly. His daughter, Helene Foellinger, became publisher and remained active in the community until her death in 1987.

Author Sack noted Helene Foellinger and her mother, Esther, established the Foellinger Foundation after Oscar’s death, financing such community projects as the Foellinger Outdoor Theater at Franke Park and the Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory.

Since 1958, the News-Sentinel building has been known as the Foellinger Center and later served as the headquarters of the United Way of Fort Wayne and other nonprofits.

In 1950, The News-Sentinel entered into a joint operating agreement with the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette to share printing and other business activities. Fort Wayne Newspapers broke ground in 1956 and both papers began publishing from a new facility at 600 W. Main St. in 1958. A new press and paper storage facility was completed on the block west of that facility during 2007.

First appeared in the July 2015 issue of Fort Wayne Magazine.

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