When pioneers moved west, one of the first things every new frontier town wanted was a newspaper.
A paper made you official, a real place, legit. A paper was the Wild West internet, the center of information that let the newly arrived population know what their neighbors were doing and told about the things happening in the places they had left behind. And, as important as any other purpose, the local paper was the way a fresh settlement could boost itself.
No copy remains of the first issue of Jackson’s first newspaper, the Jan. 28, 1909, Jackson’s Hole Courier. But a typed transcript in the files of the Jackson Hole Historical Society summarizes what was in it. Along with news of visits and illnesses, there’s a long account of the history of the area and everything local boosters had to say about it. There was an image to overcome.
The name Jackson’s Hole, the Courier wrote, suggests “an inaccessible, formidable mountain fastness which serves only as a refuge for outlaws and badmen in general.”
But it was home to 1,500 people, 200 in Jackson, the paper reported, with a schoolhouse, a dance hall, two general stores, a drugstore and hotel and restaurant, a saloon and a blacksmith, phone service to Victor and a daily stage to St. Anthony, Idaho.
“Water for irrigation purposes is inexhaustible ... the mountains and hills lining the valley are covered by dense forests ... the atmosphere at times is ozonic and exhilarating, and its extreme tranparency on a clear day is one of the delights of the region,” the Courier gushed.
There was wild game, cattle, copper, gold, silver and coal, and in general “Jackson’s Hole has a present and prospective greatness that ought to make every person who has or will cast his fortune here glad of his lot.”
The Sept. 7, 1911, issue of the Courier, under a headline that said “Jackson entertains scribes,” told how State Immigration Commissioner Roy Schenck had brought a delegation of newspapermen to Jackson to show them a good time and — it was hoped — spread the news that Jackson was open for business.
It was important to let the world know we weren’t what they thought of when they heard the exotic name “Wyoming.”
“The mistaken idea prevails in many parts of the east that this section of the west is a mountainous and desert country with very few resources,” an idea that made it “hard to get eastern capital interested” in investments that locals desperately sought.
The Courier was pleased to “have the country viewed first-hand by a bunch of boys from the big eastern papers,” which in the local view was “certainly a move in the right direction in the publicity game and is bound to bring big returns for every dollar invested by the state.”
The newspapermen from Boston, New York, Atlanta, Chicago and Washington, D.C., received a treatment that’s still common today: The locals took them to the rodeo.
At the bottom of the page the Courier made its sales pitch, a subscription for $2 a year and a way to make your fortune by doing something very like what people are still doing today: Sell the place.
“The Jackson’s Hole country,” the Courier said, “is a paradise towards which each year many tourists turn their steps, and whether they are in search of big game, the best fishing, the grandest scenery or just a breath of pure mountain air, they never go away disappointed, and the Courier tells you what is being done to develop this great wonderland ... You want the Courier and the Courier wants you ... Send your order today ... Then have your friends take it.”
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