By Cathy English, Revelstoke Museum & Archives
One of the signs of a flourishing new community was the establishment of a newspaper. Revelstoke’s first was the Kootenay Star, which began publishing on June 22, 1890. The paper was owned and published by Hugh McCutcheon, who also ran the Kamloops Sentinel. Its first editorial introduced the paper as “…essentially the people’s paper – started and maintained in the people’s interests.”
The editor, James W. Vail, proclaimed that “every man – be he Grit or Tory, Loyalist or Liberal – will receive his just due from the STAR. Like other men, the publisher has political sympathies, but these will not be allowed to interfere with the discharge of any duty towards a neighbour.”
A one-year subscription to the weekly Kootenay Star could be purchased for $3.
The Kootenay Star continued to publish until March 31, 1894, when it was quickly replaced by the Kootenay Mail, whose first issue appeared on April 14, 1894. The first editor was R.W. Northey, who had replaced James Vail as editor of the Kootenay Star.
The office on Front Street held a large printing press that required two operators — one to feed the paper sheets and take the impressions and the other to ink the forms. The press was capable of printing 250 two-page sheets per hour.
The first editorial stated: “The MAIL has no pull with any individual, corporation, or political party, but will pursue a strictly independent course on the diving wall, which will enable it to take a whack at any offending head which pops up on either side.”
A column entitled “Things said and done about town,” was published in the Kootenay Mail each week under the pen name Diogenes, who was most likely Northey. In March, 1895, Diogenes made comments about a case before the courts and offended some of the directors of the Revelstoke Printing and Publishing Co. which owned and published the Kootenay Mail. The directors tried to oust Northey, but he barricaded himself in the office, and locked out the directors.
He issued a paper on March 9, 1895 giving his side of the dispute. When he was forced to leave the building for food and drink, the directors entered the building and issued a paper under the same date giving their own version of the dispute.
Northey was fired, but filed a suit claiming compensation for dismissal without six months notice, and was awarded a settlement of $260. The museum has print copies of both of the March 9, 1895 issues, one labelled ‘Exhibit A,’ and the other ‘Exhibit B,’ as these were used in the court case.
Burt Campbell came to Revelstoke in 1895 to work on the Kootenay Mail as a printer. He was 17 years old at the time. The paper was short of funds due to the Northey settlement, and Campbell and the other printer, Smith, occasionally went on strike, and refused to print the paper when they were not paid.
On one occasion, William Cowan, one of the directors of the company, encouraged Campbell to go on strike because he needed him to play in a local soccer game. Cowan even agreed to pay Campbell a week’s wages.
In April 1896, B.R. Atkins became an owner in the Kootenay Mail and took over as editor. Campbell became a partner in the Mail company in 1897, at the age of 19. Competition started in January 18, 1897 with the first issue of the Revelstoke Herald, published by Arthur Johnson and R. Parm Pettipiece.
The Mail and the Herald were on opposite sides in provincial politics. When J.D. Sibbald was appointed as gold commissioner, the Herald supported him, and sided against J.M. Kellie, M.P.P., who did not approve of Sibbald’s appointment. The Mail supported Kellie and was also upset by Sibbald’s appointment.
In the Dec. 18, 1897, issue of the Mail, it was stated: “J.M. Kellie M.P.P., got back Saturday last from his trip through the constituency. His stand against the government was everywhere endorsed, and the Herald and its peanut gang are the only persons who requested him to resign his seat. What a call-down for the peanut gang!”
B.R. Atkins went to Victoria to work as private secretary to Premier Semlin, and Burt Campbell purchased his half-share as of March 31, 1899. The legal documents had to be post-dated to April 29, 1899, the day following Campbell’s 21st birthday as he could not legally own the business until he turned 21.
The Kootenay Mail and the Revelstoke Herald merged in January of 1906 and continued to publish until April 1917 under the name Mail-Herald.
The Revelstoke Review began publication on April 11, 1914. Arvid Lundell was a newsboy for the paper in 1914, and became editor in 1926. He was associated with the paper until his death in 1984 although he took a back-seat as editor while he pursued a political career as mayor of Revelstoke and Member of the Legislative Assembly. Members of the Lundell family continued to own and operate the paper until it was bought by the Revelstoke Times.
The Times began its run in 1985 as a monthly called Front Row Centre. The paper was re-named and became a weekly at the start of 1989. The Times and the Review were in competition until November 1992, when the papers merged and became the Times Review.
Other local papers of note were the Revelstoke Herald, published by Clay Stacey in the 1970s, and the Unique, published by Doug Powell in the 1990s.
With files from Alex Cooper, Revelstoke Review