MUSEUM MUSINGS: Early Prince Albert Newspapers

The Canadian North-West Historical Society once produced what they called ‘Chapters in the North-West History Prior to 1890 : : Related by Old Timers’. This past Christmas, I received Vol. I, No. IV, Pt. I from 1928. That edition was called ‘The Story of the Press’. It included articles on such newspapers as The Nor-Wester (Red River Settlement, 1859), The Saskatchewan Herald (Battleford, 1878), and The Prince Albert Times, as well as newspapers like The Calgary Herald (1883) and The Regina Leader (1883).

At the time these newspapers were being published, there was no such thing as radio or television, let alone the internet, so this printed material was the source of information upon which most people relied for news of what was happening in the world around them. And the information which they received depended primarily upon the owner of whichever newspaper was available to the reader.
Mrs. D.J. Rose was the author of one of two articles about the Prince Albert Times contained in the aforementioned pamphlet. Mrs. Rose was the wife of the book-keeper of the News Publishing Company. She wrote that the history of the press in Prince Albert dated back to 1882 when Thomas Spink and J.D. Maveety began publishing the Prince Albert Times.

The Times was a strong advocate of conservative principles, and its pages (between four and six) were published weekly. It was styled as ‘the only first-class newspaper in the Saskatchewan District’.

Maveety was an experienced newspaper man from Toronto. He had been working as a poorly paid reporter in Toronto when he decided to come west in 1882, arriving in Winnipeg in the month of February and beginning employment for the Manitoba Free Press. Shortly afterwards he was convinced by Prince Albert resident Charles Mair to come to this community, along with Thomas Spink, a practical printer.
Their newspaper was a two sheet weekly, printed entirely in Prince Albert on a hand press. Mrs. Rose indicated that the printing office was in a log house located on River Street East. Whether this was also the newspaper office was left unclear. The Times printed occasional editorials written by local men who, according to Mrs. Rose, were anxious to see the newspaper survive, but the majority of the printed pages were filled with advertising and local news, much of which was contributed by Harry E. Ross, a North West Mounted Police officer who later held the position of sheriff before becoming the assistant inspector for the federal Weights and Measures department.

Spink did not last long in Prince Albert, moving on to Vancouver in 1883. This left Maveety as the sole proprietor of the newspaper. The printing office was soon moved from River Street to Maveety’s home on 3rd Street West (now 13th Street West). The 1888 McPhillips’ Saskatchewan Directory advertised The Prince Albert Times and Saskatchewan Review which was published by J.D. Maveety at his office on Third Street. A year’s subscription could be obtained by payment of $2.50 in advance, while single copies were ten cents each. Transient advertisements were ten cents a line for the first insertion, and five cents per line for each subsequent insertion. No contracts were to be entered into under three months, and no advertisement could be inserted for less than $1.00.

The Times was not the only local newspaper in the 1880s. The Bill Smiley Archives has a copy of another paper called The Hustler. In this edition, dated March 4, 1889, the newspaper was advertised as being published on Mondays at a cost of ten cents a paper. Another paper, known as The Fool, was published on alternate Mondays by R. Buckley. Single copies sold for ten cents, while a quarterly subscription could be purchased for fifty cents. Neither of these newspapers appeared to last for long.

One which did provide some competition to The Times was a newspaper called The Critic.
Mrs. Rose recalled that the Prince Albert Critic began publishing in 1886, although W.H. Newlands indicated that the paper was initially published in 1887. The proprietor/editor of the newspaper was Alec Stewart, who wrote the paper with a stylograph pen, laying the original copy on a jelly-like substance. This enabled him to make several copies at one time (something similar to the use of carbon paper). The Critic was published with a Liberal bent, the party’s followers believing that Prince Albert should have a newspaper supporting the political views of the town’s Liberal representative in Ottawa, the Honourable David Laird.

Contributors to The Critic included John Stewart, a local merchant, and A.L. Sifton, a lawyer practising at that time in Prince Albert. Henry William Newlands, later the province’s fourth lieutenant-governor, was also a contributor. The Critic eventually became a news sheet called The Advocate, with Andrew Stewart serving as its editor.

In an edition of The Critic from March 28, 1889, readers were encouraged to send letters to N.W. Newlands, managing editor. Subscriptions to the newspaper would be obtained for $1.00 per year, or fifty cents for six months. Single copies sold for five cents. Local businesses could buy advertising for fifteen cents per line.

In an edition of the newspaper, after it became The Advocate, the advertising rates included prices for professional cards (not exceeding one inch) which could be bought for $10 a year. Casual or transient advertisements were ten cents for the first a line for the first insertion, and five cents a line for each additional insertion. A yearly subscription could be had for $1.00, payment in advance.
There appears to have been some confusion between Mrs. Rose and Newlands with respect to the history of the two major Prince Albert newspapers. Mrs. Rose claimed that The Times was taken over by Dr. Jardine, a former Presbyterian minister, who ran the newspaper from rooms over the J.O. Davis store on River Street (now the home of Elim Café). Newlands indicated that Dr. Jardine had taken over The Advocate. As The Advocate was the Liberal paper, it is most likely that it was that newspaper which Jardine took over. It is highly unlikely that J.O. Davis, a strong Liberal, would have allowed a Conservative paper to be produced in rooms belonging to him.
Further information, provided by Maveety’s daughter Gertrude, suggests that Maveety subsumed the rival newspaper, The Saskatchewan, and changed the paper’s name to The Saskatchewan Times.