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VICTORIA ADVOCATE

VICTORIA ADVOCATE. The Victoria Advocate, originally the Texan Advocate and later the Texian Advocate, began publication within six months after the annexation of Texas by the United States. On May 8, 1846, the first weekly issue of the Texan Advocate, the first Texas newspaper west of the Colorado River, was presented to the public. The date was the same as that of the first battle of the Mexican War, the battle of Palo Alto. The editors, after a courier arrived from the Rio Grande with news of the battle, got out an extra for local circulation. The first publishers, John D. Logan and Thomas Sterne, were men of considerable newspaper experience. Both came to Texas from Van Buren, Arkansas, where they had founded the Frontier Whig in 1844 and had supported Whig candidates Henry Clay (1844) and Zachary Taylor (1848) for president of the United States. The Texan Advocate began as another Whig paper. Noted historian, statesman, and soldier John Henry Brown joined the Advocate staff in 1846, first as a printer and later as editor. He remained with the paper only a few months. He later recalled how his uncle, James Kerr, on behalf of many older subscribers, pressured Sterne and Logan into changing the spelling of Texan to Texian. Sterne and Logan sold their interest in the Advocate in 1853. Many illustrious and dedicated men held the publisher-editor chair after them. George W. Palmer purchased Sterne's interest, and John J. Jamieson purchased Logan's half. The partnership of Palmer and Jamieson was dissolved in 1858, and Palmer remained sole owner. By August 6, 1859, Palmer had sold the paper to Sam Addison White, and sometime between 1859 and 1861 White changed the name of the paper from Texian Advocate to Victoria Advocate. Under White the paper started supporting the Democratic party, and he guided it through the Civil War. In 1866 he sold it to James S. Ferguson, a cousin of James Edward Ferguson, later governor. Ferguson did not retain possession long, for in 1867 he sold the newspaper back to White. White continued as publisher and owner until he died on a visit to Indianola in 1869.

In 1869 Victor Marion Rose became the owner of the Advocate. There are no known surviving issues of the paper during his proprietorship (1869–70). Frank R. Pridham, the next editor, managed the Advocate with Rose and soon became the sole proprietor. Under his editorship the paper followed the Democratic party line characteristic of Texas during Reconstruction. Pridham sold his interest in the Advocate to Edward Daniel Linn, H. A. Glenn, and J. A. McNeill in 1874. Although little is known about the lives of Glenn and McNeill, Linn was a public figure, the third son of John J. Linn, the last alcalde and first mayor of Victoria. Sometime during 1874 or 1875 Edward Linn added the Texas seal to the newspaper's standard. In early 1888 he sold the Advocate to John L. Bartow, who had fought on the Confederate side during the Civil War and been in a Union prison. During Bartow's proprietorship of the Advocate, between 1888 and 1891, many new citywide conveniences were installed. Among these were the telephone, domestic and public electric lights, and the mule-drawn street railway. Each new installation created a furor, sometimes with Bartow and the Advocate in the middle. Bartow personally liked James Stephen Hogg, the Democratic nominee for governor of Texas in 1890, but did not support him or his idea of instituting a Railroad Commission. When it became evident that Hogg would be the strongest contender for the Democratic nomination Bartow changed his mind about the candidate but continued to oppose the Railroad Commission amendment. In 1891 Bartow sold the newspaper to Louis Nicholas Hofer, who had come to Victoria as both student and teacher at St. Joseph's, a seminary and school for boys. Hofer continued the publication of the Advocate for four years. He devoted much space to Victoria's gala events, such as the dedication of the new courthouse and the comings and goings of the city's citizens. He was pressured to make the paper a daily, but he thought that there was too much competition and that a daily would be too expensive.

Hofer sold the Advocate to James McDonald and W. A. Lloyd in July 1895. Lloyd, an attorney who had just settled in Victoria, remained with the newspaper only a little over four months. McDonald promised his subscribers that the paper would remain soundly Democratic. As editor, he advocated diversification of agricultural crops and, important in the history of the Advocate, founded the Daily Advocate in a diminutive form in 1897. Under McDonald's proprietorship the yearly price of the weekly Advocate was one dollar, and the daily was fifty cents. He instituted the use of larger type, a great improvement over Hofer's paper. McDonald also introduced political cartoons. Enthusiastically, the Advocate predicted in April 1898 that the Spanish-American War would not last sixty days-a miscalculation of sixty days, for the war was over in August 1898. By 1900 dates were placed at the beginning of each article. The newspaper was apparently flourishing; McDonald boasted that orders were coming in by telephone. Since the Victoria Abstract and Title Company, a business in which McDonald was a partner, was also prospering, he sold the newspaper back to L. N. Hofer in 1901. At first Hofer leased the Advocate plant to George Henry French and Lannes I. Jecker for a year. Their assumption of the management of the daily and weekly Advocate occurred on July 1, 1901. They stated in the issue for that day that the paper would remain Democratic. Jecker withdrew within a few months, but French stayed on and established a record by retaining the Advocate for forty-one years. French had come to the Advocate as an apprentice at the age of fourteen. He learned the printer's trade quickly, became a foreman, and remained in that capacity for most of the time until he acquired the Advocate. He published the paper alone for about a year and then was joined by Leopold Morris, who was editor almost as long as French was proprietor.

French and Morris maneuvered the Advocate through many national, state, and local events. In 1934 the newspaper was eighty-eight years old, and to celebrate its longevity a historical edition of 132 pages was published. The second historical edition was published thirty-four years later, on May 12, 1968, by editor-publisher Morris Roberts. Roberts had become connected with the Advocate along with a group of leading Victoria citizens-Joseph V. Vandenberge, David E. Blackburn, J. M. Pickering, Thomas O'Connor, W. B. Callan, Claude K. McCan, Roger Williams, and J. V. Vandenberge, Jr.-who, with help from the estate of James F. Welder, Jr., purchased the Advocate on October 1, 1942. In April 1961 Roberts purchased all the stock of the Victoria Publishing Company. Roberts had worked on the Brownsville Herald, served as a state representative and state senator, and owned radio station KVIC in Victoria. Like his predecessors on the Advocate he was a Democrat; he was appointed to several governmental positions-to the board of regents of Texas College of Arts and Industries (now Texas A&I University) in 1941, to the Liquor Control Board in 1941, and to the Texas Board of Corrections in 1960. In January 1980 John Roberts, son of Morris Roberts, became president and publisher of the Advocate, and thereafter the newspaper became politically independent, more for the candidate or issue than for a particular party.

When the Advocate was purchased in 1942 it had a circulation of 2,200, averaged from six to eight pages, and was published six days a week. The weekly Advocate was still being published in 1943. The plant was a one-story building on South William Street, and the paper had twenty employees on its staff. In 1968 the circulation had increased to over 20,000, each edition had from twenty to forty pages, and the paper was published seven days a week with the exception of Christmas Day. The plant was on East Constitution and had added a second story. Its employee force had increased to more than 100. The Advocate of 1994 had a daily circulation of 41,000 and a Sunday one of 44,000. The plant remained on East Constitution, and staff numbered 158 full-time and thirty part-time employees. The paper was still published seven days a week with the exception of Christmas Day.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Roy Grimes, ed., 300 Years in Victoria County (Victoria, Texas: Victoria Advocate, 1968; rpt., Austin: Nortex, 1985). Marilyn M. Sibley, Lone Stars and State Gazettes: Texas Newspapers before the Civil War (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1983).

Geraldine F. Talley

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Geraldine F. Talley, "VICTORIA ADVOCATE," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/eev02), accessed August 31, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.