The History Center’s current exhibit, Breaking the News, couldn’t hold all the stories of Monroe County newspapers. Here is another Breaking the News EXTRA: George W. Purcell – publisher of the Evening World. By Rod Spaw
One of Bloomington’s 20th Century newspaper owners could boast of ties to the earliest days of journalism in the Hoosier State.
George W. Purcell was born in Vincennes in 1888. His father, Royal, owned the Vincennes Sun, which was founded in 1804 by Elihu Stout as the Indiana Gazette, the state’s first newspaper (no connection to Monroe County’s first paper, also called the Indiana Gazette).
George got his early newspaper training at his father’s paper. He received formal journalism instruction at Indiana University, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in 1909.
George earned a master’s degree from IU the following year, which is when he and his brother, Royal Jr., became partners with their father in the Vincennes Sun. He became sole owner following the deaths of both his father and brother.
He was appointed a trustee of Purdue University in 1916, and he served on the board of trustees at Vincennes University. Purcell taught mathematics briefly at IU. He also was the author of a book, A Survey of Early Newspapers in the Middle Western States, published at Vincennes in 1924.
In 1926, Purcell sold the Sun and moved to Bloomington, where he bought the Evening World from Oscar Cravens. Purcell later acquired the Spencer Evening World and the Bloomfield Evening World.
Purcell was appointed Bloomington Postmaster in 1933, a position he held until his death in 1952. Purcell sold the Bloomington Evening World in 1943 to Blaine Bradfute Sr., owner of the Telephone. The consolidated newspaper was renamed the World-Telephone.
As postmaster, Purcell was state president of the Association of Postmasters in 1937, and he was elected national president in 1938. As a newspaper publisher, Purcell was active in Democratic politics. He served as president of the Indiana Democratic Editorial Association, and in 1920, he was an alternate delegate to the Democratic National Convention.
He died of a heart attack at age 64 while visiting a brother-in-law at Centralia, Illinois.