Following a fire at The Atlas in 1924, the vernerable Republican newspaper was forced to combine forces with Monmouth’s Democratic newspaper, The Review. Shown in this 1924 photo are Atlas stenographer Minnie Wennerberg (left), Atlas circulation manager Zella Hamberg and Review editor Hugh Moffet.

Monmouth’s newspaper heritage began in 1846

Jeff Rankin
6 min readMay 20, 2024

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MONMOUTH, Ill. — Until just a few years ago, Monmouth maintained a daily newspaper that originated in 1846 during the Mexican War. The Whig (later Republican) paper known as The Atlas was joined in 1855 with a Democratic jorunal named The Review. Both papers were weeklies, as technology at the time made anything more frequent all but impossible.

In the years leading to and following the Civil War, both papers maintained staunch and diametrically opposed political positions — an early version of FOX vs. MSNBC. Things changed, however, in 1886, when Hugh Robb Moffet and his partner J.D. Diffenbaugh purchased The Review. Not only did they change it to a daily paper, but they also made it independent in politics. Meanwhile, The Atlas became a daily in 1884 but became a weekly again in 1886, when it was consolidated with the daily Evening Gazette and became its weekly edition. In 1892, it consolidated with a paper called The Advance and became the daily Republican-Atlas-Advance. Subsequently, it once again became known as The Atlas.

Both papers thrived independently throughout the first two decades of the 20th century — The Daily Atlas located on the east side of the 200 block of South Main, and The Daily Review on the north side of the 100 block of West First Ave.

In 1922, Hugh Moffet decided to move The Review to new quarters at 95 Public Square — the current site of Kellogg Printing Co. The three-story building had seen many uses over the years, including a Pabst Brewing company-owned tavern, which boasted the longest bar in the Midwest. Most recently, it had been a car dealership, selling Velie automobiles.

Moffet purchased a modern Goss press from the Chicago Herald, which required special engineering to keep the bricks of the old building from shaking apart. The press rested on a concrete slab that extended through the basement and three feet below basement floor. Eventually, six Linotype machines would be added, along with many other specialized mechanical devices required to produce early newspapers.

In 1923, Wallace Barnes, a 1904 Monmouth College graduate (who had infamously masterminded the theft of the college cannon), purchased The Atlas from its longtime owner, B. E. Pinkerton. The successful publisher of a daily paper in Loveland, Colo., Barnes decided to return to his old college town and run one of its newspapers. A year later, those plans hit a bit of a snag.

On June 26, 1924, a fire struck the plant of The Atlas, forcing it to temporarily move its printing operations to Moffet’s new plant on the Square.

Then, just two days later, an early-morning thunderstorm rocked the Maple City. Nearly five inches of rain caused flooding of basements, while winds of tornadic ferocity removed roofs and knocked out telephone and electrical service. Passenger trains were halted and 2,600 feet of track on the M. & St. L. railroad was washed out. Monmouth was put under a boil order for 30 days.

Amazingly, under these impossible conditions, a newspaper was issued that day. It was a one-sheet paper with two sides, bearing the names of both The Daily Review and The Daily Atlas. The Linotypes were out of service, so compositors had to revert to the tedious process of setting every letter by hand. The big press was also out of commission, so the paper was printed on a flatbed press from the job department.

For the next few weeks, both newspapers were printed at Moffet’s building, using their own staffs. The Review had an Associated Press membership and the Atlas was UPI. Finally, on July 22, it was announced that the two papers would be merged, under the name Review Atlas. Moffet would be the editor/publisher and Barnes would be the business manager.

At the time, the combined circulation of the two papers exceeded 6,000, with 2,400 homes subscribing. Of the merger, the Rock Island Argus wrote that it “proves once more that a multiplicity of newspapers in an ordinary-sized community is simply an unwarranted drain.”

Upon his death in 1957, Hugh Moffet, who continued to write an “Old Timer” column, would be one of the longest-serving journalists in the country, with nearly 75 years of continuous association with the Review Atlas and its predecessor publication. His son, Victor, would succeed him as editor, while his grandson, David, took over advertising sales.

Bus Kellogg Jr., who grew up around the old Review Atlas building and now owns it, has vivid memories of the daily newspaper operation, which changed very little over the half century prior to the company’s purchase by Winsor Newspapers, Inc., in 1976. He remembers the stifling heat of the composing room, the smell of ink, and especially the fumes of molten lead (which also contained antimony and tin). “The Linotype operators breathed that stuff for years,” he said. “Practically everyone smoked then, too.” He said a typical lunch for press workers would be consumed in the nearby bar, consisting of a beer, a shot of whiskey and a hard-boiled egg.

In 1974, two years before the Review Atlas was sold, head pressman Oren Shaffer posed for Peoria Journal Star photographer Jack Bradley next to the vintage Goss press.

Kellogg, who had the job of grabbing 50 papers at a time off the press and putting them into bundles, also remembers the unique system for delivering rolls of newsprint to the plant, which came by train from Canada. A flatbed truck from Warfield-McCullough lumberyard would pick up the rolls from the depot and deliver them to a hatch that opened up on the sidewalk north of the building. Each roll, which weighed over 800 pounds, would be carefully lowered by rope to the basement, where it would be stored until needed. A freight elevator next to the press would be used to raise it to position.

Putting out a small-town daily was a huge production in those days, Kellogg said. Typesetting would begin at 6 a.m. and throughout the morning galley proofs would be sent to the proofreader, following which each page was laboriously assembled. The paper could not go to bed until markets closed, usually between 2:10 and 2:15 p.m. It also could not be printed until Vic Moffet and city editor Leo “Buddy” Ryan had personally reviewed each page.

Because parts were no longer available for the vintage press, Custom Miller Supply, a metal-crafting business on South Third St., was kept busy milling replacement gears and cogs for decades. “It wasn’t unusual for them to spend all night working on a part,” Kellogg said.

When the Moffets sold the paper, letterpress operations were abandoned and just about all that moved with the paper to its new plant at 400 South Main were a few of its longtime employees, who had to quickly learn the trade of offset printing and the pasting up of cold type. Kellogg’s father, who had operated Kellogg Printing on the second floor of the Review Atlas since 1955, purchased the former building. Despite attempts to find a buyer for the old press, it was eventually sold for scrap.

Today, digital printing has erased nearly all vestiges of the former newspaper plant at 95 Public Square — no more smell of ink and cigars, no more deafening press, no more clatter of the Linotype machines. The only clue to its earlier days is the mosaic tile floor that once graced the floor of the longest bar in the Midwest.

Jeff Rankin is a retired historian for Monmouth College. For more than 40 years, he has been researching, writing and speaking about Monmouth, Ill., history.

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Jeff Rankin

Retired editor and historian for Monmouth College. Avid researcher of western Illinois history for 40 years. FB and Twitter. jrankin@monmouthcollege.edu