James Madison Goodhue
Shaping a new state's image
Editor of Minnesota's first newspaper, the Minnesota Pioneer, James Goodhue was born in New Hampshire and arrived in St. Paul in 1849, just after Congress established Minnesota Territory. Like many men of his era, Goodhue made his way west over a number of years. Along the way he worked as a farmer, lawyer, and novelist, before landing a job as a newspaper editor in Wisconsin. But he kept a close eye on political developments in Minnesota, and when territorial status was announced, Goodhue and his young family boarded a steamboat and headed west once more.
Goodhue printed his first issue of the Minnesota Pioneer on April 28, 1849. For the next three years, he used the paper as his public mouthpiece, airing his views on everything from politics to the weather with skill and wit. Newspaper writing in the mid-1800s was very different than it is today--editors used their newspapers to express their personal views, and readers expected candor and bias. "The columns of his paper were like a terrific storm in mid-summer amid the Alps," wrote Rev. Edward D. Neill, a contemporary of Goodhue. "One sentence would be like the dazzling arrowy lightning . . . the next like a crash of awful thunder; and the next like the stunning roar of a torrent of many waters."
Above all else, though, Goodhue's newspaper reflected his strong and unwavering commitment to attracting settlers to Minnesota. He was "the precursor to the modern-day Chamber of Commerce," according to one writer. His words formed images of his adopted home in an era when few photographs and no moving pictures were in circulation. "I dwell upon Minnesota and St. Paul," he wrote, "for they are ever in my thoughts and a part of my very existence. There is not a party tie or political association, that I would not instantly sever, to promote their welfare."
"Let an editor slash away--anything but salve, salve, salve, when the dissecting knife is needed. The journal that does nothing but paddle along with public opinion, without breasting the current of popular errors, is of no value--none whatever."
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