The History Center’s current exhibit, Breaking the News, couldn’t hold all the stories of Monroe County newspapers. So here is a Breaking the News EXTRA: William Gabe and the Republican Progress. Blog post by Rod Spaw.
Few examples survive of one of the most successful Bloomington newspapers of the 19 th century, the Republican / Republican Progress.
The newspaper began its life as the Republican in 1856. A series of partners operated the newspaper through the Civil War, during which it attained the largest circulation of any Bloomington newspaper of its day.
In 1867, William Gabe purchased the newspaper and changed its name to the Republican Progress. He continued to operate the paper successfully until selling it in 1899 due to ill health. At the time, he was the elder statesman of Bloomington’s thriving newspaper community, which included the Craven brothers’ World-Courier, the Feltus family’s Weekly Star and Walter Bradfute’s Telephone.
The Telephone remarked upon the convivial nature of the city’s printing establishments in a story celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Progress on May 11, 1897:
Gabe was born in Bedford, Pa., and raised in Ohio. He came to Indiana to run the Bedford Independent for two years before buying the Republican. Gabe’s venture ran afoul of a 19th century newspaper’s greatest enemy – fire. The printing plant on the north side of Bloomington’s courthouse square burned twice, the first time shortly after Gabe acquired the newspaper and again in 1892. However, subscribers did not miss an issue thanks to Bloomington’s other publishers, who printed the Republican Progress until Gabe could acquire a new press and type.
“The newspaper men of Bloomington have long since realized that the city is large enough for all of them, and they all are not only business, but personal friends, joining with each other in gratification in the success of their competitors,” stated the Telephone, which wished Gabe “many more years” as a member of the craft.”
“He still enjoys working at the (type) case, and states that the old Progress seems like a child to him,” the Telephone reported. “He hopes to spend the rest of his life at the same old post of duty.”
Gabe almost got his wish. After a series of health problems, he decided in 1899 to sell the newspaper and move to California, where he hoped the climate would be beneficial. It was not. Gabe died within two months of selling the business. He is buried in Rose Hill Cemetery.
Sources: History of Monroe County, Charles Blanchard, editor, 1884; “The Press,” a history of Monroe County newspapers to 1876, the Courier, March 1876; “Death of W.A. Gabe,” the Telephone, Aug. 15, 1899; and “Professional Courtesies,” the Republican Progress (reprint from the Telephone), May 11, 1897.