Harmon’s Histories: Racist overtones in Missoula’s first newspaper editorial

By Jim Harmon

Martin Kidston has been very transparent in launching this new, daily, local digital newspaper he christened Missoula Current. He has admitted being “woefully ignorant,” especially regarding promotion and advertising.

Martin, Martin. Silly old man!

Jim Harmon

May I offer some advice? Abandon humility; embrace hyperbole!

For instance, consider, say, employing a few mules, “gaily caprisoned with miniature national flags” to pull a wagon through the streets – a wagon “embellished with banners and other devices” bearing the name of your enterprise, and carrying the prized appliance of your trade, the ….laptop.

Contract a few brass bands and a cheering crowd of supporters to greet your laptop-

carrying-wagon with a “surging and tumultuous uproar of welcome.”

Sure, the people along Higgins Avenue may initially believe they’ve awakened from a deep sleep – and it has suddenly become the Fourth of July – but soon they’ll realize “the true state of affairs by repeated and vociferous hurrahs!”

The citizenry will spontaneously declare a holiday for the rest of the day, and “throw themselves into ‘hollow squares,’ for the laudable purpose of discussing the great event (while enjoying) certain bibulatory compounds, testifying that the day will long be remembered as a ‘red-letter one’ in Missoula’s calendar!”

Just a thought.

Consider it.

There is a precedent.

That’s how the Magee brothers announced the arrival of Missoula’s first newspaper, the Missoula and Cedar Creek Pioneer on September 15, 1870.

Just like you, Martin, they were very transparent in their goal to present the best local news coverage, and their need for the readers’ financial support.

But, there ends any similarity between then and now.Harmons Histories

Granted, it was 1870, but even considering that, what follows will take your breath away.

In Missoula’s first-ever newspaper editorial, the Pioneer proudly proclaimed: “For the advancement of all of the varied interests of our beautiful mountain land, and in advocacy of securing all the social and political privileges to its white citizens, we shall labor unceasingly.

We shall deal in no gentle mood with those in our midst who would impede the onward march of empire by fostering and giving employment to heathen Asiatic slaves in preference to the free-born, large-souled and intelligent white men who have ever composed the glorious vanguard of American civilization.”

Bald-faced racism, right there in Missoula’s first newspaper.

Wow. Just, wow.

Jim Harmon is a retired journalist whose 50-year career included nearly three decades at KECI-TV, Missoula in roles ranging from news anchor to weather forecaster. In retirement, Jim is a landscape gardener and history buff who’s spent years reading historical micro-film newspapers. You can read his weekly history column at the Missoula Current.