From the Eagle-Star Files
The clatter of typewriters greeted visitors to the Marinette Eagle-Star newsroom more than a half a century ago. Today, news reporters are tucked away in cubicles and work in the silence of computers. 
From the Eagle-Star Files

The clatter of typewriters greeted visitors to the Marinette Eagle-Star newsroom more than a half a century ago. Today, news reporters are tucked away in cubicles and work in the silence of computers. 

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Newspapers have been around the Twin Cities a lot longer than some of their critics who have aimlessly been trying to take them down. Both weekly and daily newspapers have been printing local, state, national and world news since the 19th century. It’s the local news, however, that readers count on.

When waves of immigrants were arriving in the United States from Europe in the 19th century, many of them couldn’t speak English. It was common for them to start their own newspaper in their native language — German, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish and French. At one time, Marinette County had 10 newspapers reaching their readers on a weekly or daily basis.

One of the oldest to come off the press in Marinette County was a weekly publication known as the Marinette & Peshtigo Eagle. Luther B. Noyes was founder and published the first edition on June 24, 1871, in quarters at the Bently Building, a location that later became the Lauerman Bros. Department Store warehouse in the Dunlap Square district. The historic edition was four pages of eight columns each, set by hand and printed on a Washington hand press. He was 41 years old at the time.

Some of the other early-day publications included The North Star, The Argus, The Forposten, The Marinette Tribune, Greja, Frenad, Le Courier, Marinette Volksbote, The Union Laborer, The Times-Union, Twin City Labor News and Marinette County Argus.

Werner Schomaker, a native of Germany, launched the Marinette Volksbote in late summer of 1898. The newspaper was published each Saturday until 1914 when it ended its run. Two years later Schomaker started The Union Laborer, a publication that continued under his direction until 1935 when it was acquired by Francis Dillett, then city editor of the Marinette Eagle-Star.

There were a few other weekly publications, none of which had a long duration. Politics was hot and heavy in those early years and editors weren’t bashful in promoting their political agenda and clashing with their rivals.

The Eagle had several emplacements in Marinette after launching in the Bentley Building. The newspaper had a long 50-year stay in a three-story brick and frame structure on Dunlap Avenue at Stephenson Street that was designed and built by Frank E. Noyes, the son of the founder and publisher of the Eagle-Star, in 1906. The newspaper moved into its “new home” at its present-day location in 1956. The building was the creation of Fred G. Sappington, editor and publisher of the Eagle-Star. A savvy businessman and well-respected by his employees and throughout the community, Sappington came to Marinette in 1942. He was at the helm when I joined his staff in 1961 after six years at the rival Herald-Leader.

The newsroom was a much different place to work when I joined the Eagle-Star team compared to the computer-age of current times. The sound of typewriters from the desks of reporters circled the room. Two Associated Press teletype machines — one with Wisconsin wire out of Milwaukee and the other with Michigan wire from Detroit — clacked away a couple of feet from my desk. Both machines spit out copy on national, world and sports news with state news delivering the up-to-the-minute happenings in Wisconsin and Michigan.

Accompanying the AP teletype machines were two companion machines routing electric signals, which operated the teletype reperforator and monitor printer machines transmitting news from Milwaukee and Detroit offices of the AP. Much of the local news copy was translated into perforated tapes. 

A half a dozen Linotype machines were busy in the composing room. Linotype operators, most of them trained in printing departments at Marinette and Menominee high schools, worked on local news copy and advertising copy. The bulky machines may have looked complicated to strangers visiting the composing room, but they were well-handled by the skilled operators who ran them. Trained hands took the lead copy from the hands of the Linotype operators and placed it on a table for the makeup team to position it for page layout. 

The Linotype machine would cast type brass matrices fed from magazines actuated by a keyboard operated manually. As each line of the type was cast, the machine automatically returned the matrices. The Linotypes were also equipped with typesetter attachments through which perforated tape was fed to operate the keyboard. 

Page forms of type were made up or assembled at regular intervals throughout the day by the makeup crew. The pages were made up in steel frames called “chases,” on steel tubes called “turtles.” Editors supervised the makeup of certain pages like pages one and two, editorial pages, society page and other special pages.

The newspaper was printed on a Duplex-Goss tubular rotary press, which printed up to 24 pages at one time. If color was used, the press capacity was reduced to 20 pages. The press speed was capable of 22,000 copies in an hour. 

The 850-pound rolls of newsprint used to print the Eagle-Star when it moved into its new quarters came from Canada. The press crew used more than 350 tons of newsprint a year. 

Putting out a newspaper six days a week involved a lot of work in the 1950s and 1960s before the computer-age put an end to the use of lead for type, Linotypes and other old-fashioned methods. There are still many challenges before the printed product is in the hands of the readers. It’s intriguing, though, when we stop to think about the challenges faced by people like Luther B. Noyes when a hand press was used to produce the first edition 148 years ago.