Willmar Tribune

Willmar tribune (Willmar, Minn.) 1895-1931 Browse the title

The Willmar Tribune was a successful Populist newspaper published in west central Minnesota during the early part of the 20th century. The Great Northern Railway chose Willmar as a hub in 1869, attracting many immigrants to the town which became the seat of Kandiyohi County in 1871. Beginning February 19, 1895 as a weekly, four-page, seven-column journal, it eventually increased to eight pages and included articles on progressive farming practices, the temperance movement, state and national politics, and local news. The Willmar Tribune also kept its readers informed on current events in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark because of the area’s strong Scandinavian roots. Its support of the People’s Party in the 1890s produced scathing commentaries within the pages of rival newspapers. But the Tribune outlived many of its rivals, and eventually became the predominant newspaper of the area.

The Willmar Tribune was first published by Dr. Christian Johnson in 1895 at the solicitation of the farmers and liberal-minded citizens of Willmar. Johnson wrote in the introductory issue of February 19, 1895, "…the people need more shoes and less delinquent tax and mortgage foreclosure notices..." He endorsed the People’s Party, a short-lived third party that supported the needs of the small farmer and common laborer. During the early years of the Tribune, Republican Party supporter Charles A. Birch, editor and publisher of the Willmar Argus, never missed an opportunity to criticize the People’s Party platform or Johnson’s character. In the Argus’s January 2, 1896 issue he accused the Tribune of being "ninety per cent lies and the other ten percent ignorance."

Johnson turned his editorship over to Victor E. Lawson in August of 1895, explaining in the August 20, 1895 issue, "For some time past the duties of my profession have occupied my entire time, and Mr. Lawson has practically done all the editorial work on the Tribune." Lawson remained editor for over 50 years, modernizing the Willmar Tribune as readers’ tastes and expectations changed. He included fashion and housekeeping items for women, puzzles and jokes for children, and extensive sports coverage for men. Lawson’s support of Populism never wavered, however. In 1902, Lawson published the Minnesota Forum to gain support for the People’s Party candidates in that year’s state election; but after the Populists failed to elect a single legislator, the Minnesota Forum was discontinued. When the national People’s Party disbanded in 1908, Lawson continued to reprint literature from North Dakota’s Nonpartisan League and the Union Labor Party based in Duluth, Minnesota. These two parties joined forces in 1918, creating Minnesota’s Farmer-Labor Party, which merged with Minnesota’s Democratic Party in 1943 establishing the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party.

Lawson’s dedication to his community and the state of Minnesota was exemplified by the many important positions he would hold throughout his life, including three terms as mayor of Willmar, State Senator from 1927 to 1938, and publisher and compiler of the Illustrated History of Kandiyohi County. After the Tribune changed its name to the Willmar Weekly Tribune on October 7, 1931, Lawson continued to play an active role in the newspaper until his retirement in 1947. As with many country newspapers of the time, the daily edition, the Willmar Daily Tribune, which was started in 1928, became more popular with subscribers. The weekly Tribune’s last issue was published September 30, 1950, bearing the motto that had graced the front page for 55 years, "Equal rights to all; special privileges to none."


Wikipedia. "Willmar, Minnesota." Last modified July 2, 2012. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willmar,_MN.

Wikipedia. "People’s Party (United States)." Last modified August 22, 2012. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/People%27s_Party_(United_States).