History of the Idaho Statesman

The Idaho Statesman began in a log hut in the summer of 1864.

Built on the current site of Boise’s city hall, it had a dirt floor, no door and no glass in the windows. The first edition was printed on July 26. The first editorial argued for "the hugest war that can be waged" against slavery and the Confederate rebellion.

First Edition Statesman

Founder James S. Reynolds was a printer intercepted on his way west by a group of business leaders who believed it was time for a city of more than 1,000 to have its own newspaper. Reynolds published The Statesman for eight years, selling it to Judge Milton Kelly in 1872. The highlight of Kelly’s 17-year tenure was in 1888, when the Tri-Weekly Statesman became a daily.

Boise 9th St 1895

The same year, Kelly sold the newspaper to the man whose family would operate it for more than 70 years. A New Yorker who practiced law in Oregon before moving to the Idaho Territory, Calvin Cobb was an autocratic guardian of The Statesman’s destiny for four decades. He died in 1928, leaving the paper to his daughter, Margaret Cobb Ailshie.

Old Statesman building

As The Statesman’s first woman publisher, Ailshie insisted on a lively editorial policy, deploring "a dull newspaper." In 1952, she moved the paper from its third home at Sixth and Main to a two-story marble building at Sixth and Bannock. James Brown, her general manager, succeeded her on her death in 1959.

Brown sold The Idaho Statesman to Federated Publications in 1963. Federated was headquartered in Battle Creek, Michigan. Its owners were the Miller and Weil families. Five newspapers were in The Federated group: The Idaho Statesman, Boise, Idaho, The Olympian, Olympia, Washington, Lafayette Journal and Courier, Lafayette, Indiana, Lansing State Journal, Lansing, Michigan and Battle Creek Enquirer, Battle Creek, Michigan.

Over the years The Idaho Statesman has campaigned for the voting rights of women, funding and development of state parks, auto airbag safety, early childhood education and immunization, the growth of Boise State University and Workmans’ Compensation for farm workers.

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