The Mankato Free Press

Mankato free press (Mankato, Minn.) 1879-1924  Browse the title

Free press (Mankato, Minn.) 1973-current  Browse the title
Issues from this title can only be accessed from the Gale Family Library at the Minnesota History Center.

The Mankato Free Press began on October 31, 1879 in Mankato, Minnesota. Published weekly, the Free Press originally comprised four pages and nine columns. The first editor/publisher of the Free Press was General James H. Baker, a former Secretary of State for both Ohio and Minnesota and a veteran of the Minnesota Tenth Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Baker was a long-time Republican and from the beginning used the pages of the Free Press to champion the cause of the Republican party.

The Free Press was formed when Baker purchased the Mankato Weekly Union and the Mankato Record, consolidating them into one new newspaper. In his introductory remarks in the first issue, Baker made clear his intention for the paper to act as a “local gazette” for the city of Mankato and Blue Earth County. While he would use the paper to promote “the continued ascendancy of the Republican party,” he acknowledged that politics was too often put in front of news of value to the community, writing:

"There are husbandry, education, hygiene, things social and things esthetical, a whole world of science, and a long catalogue of wholesome and beautiful things which intertwine with our daily and better lives. These should be distinctively to the front."

In early 1880, J. Lute Christie, formerly the owner and editor of the Winnebago City Press, bought into the Free Press. While under the editorial control of Baker and Christie, the Free Press became embroiled in a libel lawsuit. On April 2, 1880, the Free Press printed a report questioning the accuracy with which city treasurer Isaac Marks kept the city’s books. At the time, Marks was running for re-election and believed Baker and Christie knowingly published false information with the intent to discredit him as a candidate. In July 1881, a court decided in favor of Baker and Christie. The Free Press, according to the court, published their charge against Marks in "good faith," believing it to be the truth, and that the press had a right to discuss the fitness of political candidates.  

Baker and Christie remained the co-owners of the paper until September 1880, when they sold their interests to W.W. Woodard and Almon E. Foss. Within a year, Woodard and Foss sold the paper to Lewis Pierce Hunt. Ownership was reorganized under the Free Press Printing Company in April 1887, and a sister daily newspaper, Mankato Daily Free Press was launched at this time. The weekly Mankato Free Press discontinued publication sometime after the end of 1923; the exact end date is unknown. The daily title was renamed the Mankato Free Press in 1931, and then the Free Press in 1973. The Free Press Company was sold in 1977, ending local ownership of the newspaper. Despite having changed ownership and editorial control many times in its history, as of 2022 the Free Press continues to act as a daily "local gazette" for the Mankato area.