The Saturday Press (Minneapolis, Minn.)

Saturday press (Minneapolis, Minn.) 1927-1936  Browse the title

A small, frequently vulgar weekly newspaper with ambitions to “cleanse Minneapolis of its commercialized vice ring,” the Saturday Press ended up the subject of a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case in 1931 that impacted freedom of the press for generations to come. Having previously worked together on Guilford’s scandal sheet the Twin City Reporter, Howard A. Guilford and Jay M. Near launched the muckraking Saturday Press in Minneapolis in 1927, using salacious and bigoted reporting to combat organized crime and public corruption in the Twin Cities. 

The Saturday Press published its first issue on September 24, 1927, and the following Monday Guilford was shot and seriously wounded as he drove to his Minneapolis office. While Guilford recuperated, Near continued the paper on his own. In the October 15, 1927 issue Near accused the Minneapolis police chief of ordering his men to remove the paper from city newsstands as “inciting to riot.” Following the November 13, 1927 issue, in which an exasperated Near unleashed a torrent of anti-Semitism, railing against the “Jew Gangsters practically ruling Minneapolis,” County Attorney Floyd B. Olson brought action against the Saturday Press in Hennepin County District Court under Minnesota’s Public Nuisance Law (or “Gag Law”) of 1925. Under the law--which was enacted in an attempt to suppress another controversial newspaper, the Duluth Rip-saw--the state had the authority to shut down any “malicious, scandalous and defamatory newspaper, magazine or other periodical.” With the Saturday Press now barred from publication, Near and Guilford challenged the law in court.

The case attracted significant national attention as it wound its way through the courts, including legal and financial aid from the American Civil Liberties Union and American Newspaper Publishers Association. Near (Guilford having withdrawn) appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1930, having lost in appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court, and the case of Near v. Minnesota was heard on January 30, 1931. On June 1, 1931, in a 5-4 decision, the court struck down the Minnesota Public Nuisance Law as unconstitutional and ruled in favor of Near. This landmark ruling affirmed both that prior restraint of the press was a violation of the First Amendment and that First Amendment protections apply to state (as well as federal) laws, via the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. 

Following the Supreme Court decision, Near resumed the Saturday Press. Signing his editorials “The Old Man,” Near’s tone was more restrained than previously. Howard Guilford eventually returned to the Saturday Press as editor, but his career came to a tragic end on September 6, 1934, when he was shot to death while driving near his Minneapolis home. Investigation by police was reportedly lacking, and no arrests were made.

Jay Near died of natural causes on April 17, 1936 in Minneapolis. Several issues of the Saturday Press were subsequently published under the editorship of Floyd E. Wion, and the exact end date of the title is unknown. The last issue in the collection of the Minnesota Historical Society is dated June 27, 1936.