Fairhaven Herald

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Fairhaven Herald
Dates of publication
Available online
11 March 1890 - 30 June 1893 (668 issues)
Fairhaven Pub. Co.
Place of publication
Fairhaven, Wash.
Began with: Vol. 1, no. 1 (March 11, 1890).
Daily (except Monday)
Usage rights
No Copyright
Bellingham (Wash.) - Newspapers.
Fairhaven (Wash.) - Newspapers.
Washington (State) - Bellingham.
Washington (State) - Fairhaven.

Situated on the ancestral lands of the Coast Salish peoples at the south of what is now Bellingham Bay in Whatcom County, Washington, Fairhaven was one of four nineteenth-century settlements that gradually merged to form the larger city of Bellingham. The original plat for "Fairhaven on Harris Bay" was filed in 1883 by sailor and entrepreneur Daniel Jefferson "Dirty Dan" Harris, who had arrived in 1853 or 1854. Harris sold the site in 1888 to the Fairhaven Land Company. This company shared the vision of developers in the late 1880s who believed that Fairhaven could expand to rival Seattle or Tacoma, with opportunities to prosper from lumber and coal extraction, as well as the development of real estate, transportation, and business to meet the needs of a modern city. Although Fairhaven experienced a massive economic and population boom during 1890, the momentum curtailed sharply as railroad construction dreams failed to materialize, and the country entered economic depression.

The first issue of the Fairhaven Herald was published on March 11, 1890 by the Fairhaven Publishing Company, operated by Edward M. Wilson, George A. Black, and Edgar Lee Cowgill, with W.F. Woods listed as General Manager. Other newspapers published around Bellingham Bay included the Fairhaven Plaindealer and The Daily Reveille. Funded by the Fairhaven Land Company, the Herald was a mouthpiece for local developers and promoters of Fairhaven, combining news reporting with excited speculation about the growth and promise of the new "Focal" or "Imperial" city.

The Herald began as a four-page tri-weekly publication, with Colonel William Lightfoot Visscher as first editor. Visscher, born in Kentucky in 1824, was a nationally recognized newspaperman who had served with Company I of the 24th Kentucky Infantry during the Civil War, before studying law and turning to journalism. He began his career as a journalist at the Louisville Journal and picked up experience in Denver, San Francisco, and Chicago. He eventually made his way to the Pacific Northwest where he worked as the editorial writer for Portland's Morning Oregonian in 1888 and later editor of Tacoma's Morning Globe in 1889. As noted by Fairhaven historian Brian L. Griffin, "Visscher was a master at Boom-speak, the hyper-excited language that extolled the virtues of emerging towns all over the west."

The Herald expanded up to eight-page issues in late July 1890, though four pages became typical for weekdays. The title began daily publication in September 1890. The twenty-four page "First Holiday Edition", published on December 29, 1890, stands testament to Visscher's skills as a promotor for Fairhaven. The cover features an illustration of the magnificent new Fairhaven Hotel and claims a leap in Fairhaven's population from 150 (September 1, 1889) to 8,000 at the time of the special edition. The issue includes images and descriptions of newly constructed buildings and prominent citizens, as well as extended articles highlighting local resources, industries, and the city's infrastructure and amenities. Visscher boasted in the First Holiday Edition that 30,000 copies would be read by 300,000 readers; however, Rowell's 1893 American Newspaper Directory reported that circulation ran closer to 500 copies.

Content of the Herald documents the rapid changes and growth occurring locally as well as at the state level. Issues from 1890 repeatedly assert that Fairhaven would become the terminus of a transcontinental rail line. Readers learn of the "sound of the Hammer and Saw Heard on Every Corner," although by 1893 the newspaper's calls for "enterprising men" are interspersed with growing numbers of advertisements for businesses offering "reductions" or "closing out" sales. In August 1891, the Fairhaven Land Company agreed to allow Otis Henry Culver and Elmer George Earle, local owners of The Weekly World, to consolidate management of both papers. This and Visscher's retirement were announced in the September 1, 1891 issue, with Culver placed in charge of "editorial and business departments." Although initial news reports about this consolidation indicated that the two newspapers would merge into one, they continued to operate in tandem until the end of 1893, when dwindling finances finally forced suspension of the daily Fairhaven Herald in favor of the weekly publication, retitled The Weekly World-Herald. A renewed interest in a daily Fairhaven newspaper led to the revival of a brief-lived Morning Herald and The Evening Herald in 1900. The enterprise continued successfully as The Bellingham Herald after four communities, Fairhaven, Whatcom, Sehome, and Bellingham, incorporated into one city in 1904.