Der Nordstern

Der Nordstern (St. Cloud, Minn.) 1874-1931 Browse the title

As German immigrants flooded into Minnesota, Peter Brick and Peter E. Kaiser published the first two issues of their German-language newspaper, the St. Cloud Der Nordstern (The North Star), in 1874. These issues were freely distributed among St. Cloud’s large German immigrant population, and interest in the paper grew. Der Nordstern quickly boasted a circulation of 800 in a city with a population of about 2,000. St. Cloud’s location near the center of the state allowed Der Nordstern to expand its audience, eventually claiming the largest circulation of any newspaper north of Minneapolis. The first extant issue is dated February 17, 1876, and features a modest four-page, six-column layout dedicated primarily to local and state news, with an emphasis on German culture. Its concentration on local developments was unusual for German-language newspapers of the time, which often focused on news from Germany. Der Nordstern was published every Thursday and soon expanded to eight pages with six to ten columns. Peter Brick, in pursuit of a career as a probate judge, transferred his interests to his brother Leo. Publishing duties changed numerous times during the next decade. Peter Kaiser, William L. Rosenberger, Joseph L. Meyer, and John Rentz all filled the role of publisher at various times. On November 10, 1887, Gerhard May, who is most closely associated with the voice and development of Der Nordstern, was first credited as editor, although historians and May himself traced his involvement back to 1884. May served as editor until the paper was discontinued in 1931. His upbeat, conversational tone and profound knowledge of German culture earned May the universal respect of his readers and helped to increase the weekly circulation of the paper to approximately 8,000 subscribers. Reflecting the new demand, Der Nordstern began publishing 12-page issues on September 22, 1898.

Throughout his tenure, May continually worked to meet the needs of his readers and to increase Der Nordstern’s subscription list. By the early 1900s, local news content expanded to include several additional communities across Stearns County, including Freeport, Melrose, and Greenwald; correspondence from across the greater Midwest was published; and general agricultural items became commonplace. Leading up to World War I, Der Nordstern's coverage of national and international developments increased. Beginning on October 19, 1922, an additional four-page, English-language section was added to bridge the language gap between generations and to increase interest in German culture among American-born readers.

In September of 1929, Der Nordstern was sold to the Times Publishing Company, which also owned the consolidated Saint Cloud Daily Times and the Daily Journal-Press, and Fred Schilplin was named publisher. Gerhard May continued as editor, but the paper no longer bore many of his trademarks. By this time, Der Nordstern had expanded to a 24-page, four-column format that was devoted primarily to local news. On August 27, 1931, the final issue was published and May retired. A notice on the front page heralds Der Nordstern’s 57-year history and manifests its sense of accomplishment as one of the longest surviving German-language newspapers in Minnesota.