Newspaper employees bundling papers in 1929 in Washington County, Wisconsin
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The Beginnings of the Press in Washington County

Today, it has seldom been easier to find out what is going on in the world. Contemporary journalism shares news faster and more widespread than ever before. Various media platforms stream popular headlines while local and international news is broadcasted regularly. 

Here, in Washington County, we have numerous dedicated members of the press. They work endlessly to contribute relevant  information throughout our community. And although we are a far cry from the small-scale bulletins of the past, it is thanks to those first newspapers of Washington County that paved the way for our modern press.

This post delineates the origins of Washington County’s early newspapers that were increasingly influential on the public opinion of the county, and at one point, even the state. We’ve depicted the beginnings of five prominent English weeklies.


The first newspaper in Washington County was established by a Mr. Wentworth, a practical printer. It assumed the name Washington County Organ. Wentworth had little luck, and in 1855, only a year later, he sold the meager subscription list and printing equipment to Josiah T. Farrar and Mr. Fonda. The paper received another name change, becoming The Washington County Democrat. The first issue was published on January 1st, 1856. Coming after, the newspaper earned an esteemed reputation not only in the county but throughout the state. 

In 1861, the paper changed hands again, becoming the West Bend Post. The pattern continued, and over the years, the newspaper changed hands with an ever-evolving team of shareholders, editors, printers, and writers. One of the more notable editors, Maxon Hirsch, lead the paper successfully for almost ten years. During that time, he created a German editorial, The Washington County Banner. It ran in correlation with the post for six years when it eventually faded out due to lack of support. 

Later, in 1875, Frankenburg and Walters took over the paper, renaming it The West Bend Democrat. Then, in 1880, The Washington County Publishing Association was formed, advancing the resources for newspaper publications throughout the area. The standard eight-column folio of the paper was redesigned to become an eight-column quarto. It became The West Bend News in 1902. At the end of the chain, in 1905, the paper was sold to a Mr. Huber, who assumed the role of principal manager, shareholder, and editor. He turned towards Republican perspectives abandoning their previous democratic associations. The West Bend News continued to have a wide circulation and honorable reputation. 

1895 West Bend Democrat Newspaper Printing Press in Early Washington County, Wisconsin
The printing department of the West Bend Democrat Newspaper in 1895 in Washington County, Wisconsin


Starting in West Bend as the West Bend Republican, the paper was one of the only dedicated Republican editorials in the county for many years. This small paper was published commercially by The West Bend Publishing Association. William George, one of the editors, moved the paper office to Hartford in 1876 and changed the name to Washington County Republican. As ownership of the paper changed, it remained Republican, eventually donning the name we now know, The Hartford Press, in 1883.


Beginning in 1892, Charles E. Robinson, with assistance from Walter Wittman, a former member of the Washington County Publishing Association, set forth to develop another newspaper in Washington County. Whether or not there was room for another paper in the market was undetermined. By February 24th, the first issue was released, formatted in a five-column quarto. Soon after, in October, the paper expanded to an eight-column folio. 

1929 Washington County Publishing newspaper printing in West Bend, Wisconsin
The printing department of the Washington County Publishing newspaper in 1929 in West Bend, Wisconsin

The newspaper quarto format works by printing on a single sheet folded into four sections, hence ‘quarto.’ The process is simple and cost effective, befitting the emerging newspaper. The folio format reflects the growth of The West Bend Pilot. It used more sheets of paper, thereby offering more space. 

The West Bend Pilot was a distinct success. Even though there were numerous obstacles during the first few years, the paper pulled through. The Pilot thrived, expanding to numerous modern office and printing buildings still found in downtown West Bend. Housed inside was some of the finer printing equipment of the time, including a Mergenthaler typesetting machine. 



A.J Hemmey and Tim Foley began The Hartford Times to serve as a democratic paper. It was well supported by the democratic demographic of the area. A few years after, Foley sold his share to Hemmey, who became the sole proprietor and editor. 

1929 Hartford Times Newspaper printing in Hartford, Wisconsin
The printing department of the Hartford Times Newspaper in 1929 in Washington County, Wisconsin


The Kewaskum Statesman, published by Charles E Krahn and edited by George Nugent, was established for the northern area of Washington County. The paper was small yet successful, with independent political views. In 1909, it was bought by George H. Schmidt, who worked as the sole proprietor and editor for many years. 


These five English weeklies paved the way for the press in Washington County. They greatly contributed to the early community of Washington County. The newspaper businesses provided information, reflected the culture, gave opportunities for connections, developed reputability for the area, and celebrated the freedom of the press as a column of our democracy in America.


Quickert, Carl. “The Press.” In Washington County, Wisconsin: Past and Present, 241-245. Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society, 2008. Previously published as “The Press,” in Washington County, Wisconsin: Past and Present (1912): 241-245.

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