Early newspapers, usually four pages long, varied in dimensions from 9½ by 12 inches to "blanket" sheets. With the exception of a few dailies, they appeared weekly, semiweekly, or triweekly. Their content was similar to that of newspapers in other states: foreign news, reprints from other papers, literary features, official notices, and little local news. Editorials were political, civic, or personal in nature. The writing was subjective, diffuse, semihumorous, and often vilifying. The publishers, the editors, and in many instances the printers of early Texas were well-educated and able men who enjoyed the respect of their communities. The press was wholly independent, its guiding principle being the welfare of the people and the country. Editors generally opposed political and sectional influences. They often fearlessly took sides in political campaigns, advocated the election of honest men and, after elections, urged the support of successful candidates. Editors usually took a firm stand against gambling, dueling, intemperance, and all sorts of vices and supported the building of schools and churches. They devoted themselves to the religious, educational, and social improvement of their communities and the state. And most of all they loyally promoted abroad the merits of their country in order to attract settlers.
Between 1813 and 1846 at least eighty-six different newspaper titles made their appearance in Texas. This figure, however, is larger than the number of newspapers actually published during the period because some papers were planned and advertised in prospectuses but never published. Some were also known by more than one title, for the names changed frequently. The earliest Texas newspaper of record was a small sheet measuring seven by thirteen inches, printed in Spanish on both front and back, called Gaceta de Texas. The Gaceta was edited by William Shaler and José Álvarez de Toledo in May 1813. This paper, the organ of the Gutiérrez-Magee expedition, was followed a month later by El Mejicano, edited by the same men and for the same purpose. Certainly not more than one or two numbers of either paper was ever issued. Until the very eve of the Texas Revolution no newspaper was able to take firm root in Texas. Gen. James Long began publishing the Nacogdoches Texas Republican on August 14, 1819. His purpose was to preserve a record of the Long expedition in print, but in October his forces were defeated and the paper stopped. The San Antonio Texas Courier, a weekly believed to have been published in San Antonio in April and May 1823, was the next paper in Texas. A prospectus of April 9 is the only record of it. The Nacogdoches Mexican Advocate was printed by Milton Slocum at Nacogdoches during the fall of 1829. In the same year Godwin Brown Cotten began the Texas Gazette, sometimes called the Cotton Plant, at San Felipe de Austin. In January 1831 he sold the Gazette to Robert M. Williamson, who had formerly edited it for Cotten. The Gazette appears to have changed its title for a time to Mexican Citizen. Sometime during the early part of 1832 Cotten moved his press from San Felipe de Austin to Brazoria and published his paper there as the Texas Gazette and Brazoria Commercial Advertiser. D. W. Anthony purchased the Gazette press and merged it with his Constitutional Advocate and Brazoria Advertiser, which began in August 1832 and continued until July 1833. This paper was followed by the Brazoria Advocate of the People's Rights, published by Oliver H. Allen and John A. Wharton. The Brazoria Texas Republican was published by Franklin C. Gray from July 1834 through 1836.
At least nine papers were established between 1819 and 1836. Of these only one weekly-the Telegraph and Texas Register, founded late in 1835-was in operation at the time of Texas independence. Four years later, however, there were more than a dozen newspapers in the Republic of Texas. The first attempt at a daily was made in 1839 with the publication of the Houston Morning Star, which appeared triweekly in 1841. The press followed the capital to Austin with the founding in 1839 of the Austin City Gazette by Samuel Whiting and George K. Teulon. To keep the people in touch with the government, Jacob Cruger, of the Telegraph, with George W. Bonnell, established the Austin Texas Sentinel in 1840. The Austin Daily Texian (also the Weekly Texian), edited by G. H. Harrison, appeared in 1841. At least ten newspapers were published in Austin during the period of the republic. Others that sprang up in key communities included the weekly Matagorda Bulletin (1837–39), the Richmond Gazette (1838–41), the National Vindicator (Washington-on-the-Brazos, 1843–44), the La Grange Intelligencer (1844–46), the San Augustine Red-Lander (1838–39, 1841–47), and the Columbia Planter(1843–46). Until 1846 there was no newspaper west of the Colorado River. The high mortality rate among publishing ventures is indicated by the fact that seven newspapers, involving eighteen publishers in all, were started and failed in Galveston within the four-year period 1838 to 1842. In 1842 the oldest newspaper still functioning, the Galveston News, began publication as a semiweekly. The Galveston Zeitung, probably the first German-language newspaper in Texas, was founded in 1847. The first religion-affiliated papers appeared in Houston about the same time.
In 1852 there were thirty-six newspapers in operation; Houston had four, Galveston three, and Brownsville, Huntsville, Marshall, and San Antonio two each. At least eighty-two newspapers were being published in 1860, but nearly all had ceased operation within a year after the outbreak of the Civil War. Recovery thereafter, however, was rapid, and by 1868, 73 papers were being printed in the state. Only 8, however, were dailies, and half of those were in Galveston. The number of dailies had increased to 34 by 1890 and to 59 by 1894. In 1910 the state had 89 dailies, 20 semiweeklies, and 768 weeklies, published in 550 towns. The number of dailies was 110 in 1920 and 111 in 1943, but the weeklies dwindled from 679 in 1920 to 604 in 1943. In 1943, 543 Texas towns had some publication, including 235 of the 254 county seats. Between 1910 and 1943 the total number of newspapers in Texas fell from 877 to 731, while the number of other periodicals increased from 73 to 233. Trends that developed before 1950 in the number of daily newspapers and circulation continued to 1965. In 1950 Texas had 115 daily newspapers, 26 semiweeklies, 562 weeklies, and 300 other periodicals. Thirteen new dailies were started, eleven discontinued publication, and three merged with other dailies. Of the thirteen new dailies, seven were suburban, a reflection of population shifts in the state. The notable success of the Southwest edition of the Wall Street Journal at Dallas, which began publication in 1948, was indicative of the industrial, commercial, and financial growth in the state and region. Daily newspapers remained almost constant at 114, one fewer in 1965 than in 1950. In the number of dailies per state, Texas ranked third behind California and Pennsylvania. Between 1950 and 1965 daily circulation increased by 26 percent, from 2,439,000 to 3,072,000, a figure slightly larger than the total number of households in the state. About 80 percent of Texas households received one or more daily newspapers in 1965.
The rise and fall of the total number of weekly newspapers provided an indication of the social and economic changes taking place in the state. After a seven-year decline that began in the middle of World War II, weeklies increased for several years until various influences, including the wage-and-hour law, the Korean War, and continued urbanization, reversed the trend in 1951. After a five-year decline total weeklies leveled off largely as a result of the economies afforded by offset printing and central printing plants. Of the 567 weeklies in the state in 1965 more than 200 were printed offset, which largely accounted for the increase of weeklies over a three-year span. Circulation in 1965 was about 1,050,000, of which about 48,000 was free. Paid circulation was about 12.5 percent larger than in 1950. In number of weeklies per state, Texas ranked third behind California and Illinois. Newspapers in the standard metropolitan statistical areas, which had 83 percent of all daily circulation, increased in size per issue by more than one-third from 1950 to 1965. While the amount of space devoted to news increased, the proportion of news to advertising stayed about the same. The news took approximately 40 percent of total space for smaller papers and 32 percent for larger papers. News content changed to meet the need for greater social responsibility, and more space was devoted to medicine, science, education, economic affairs, mental health, government, civil rights, and international news. Through temperateness and a relatively progressive outlook on racial integration, the Texas press played a significant role in the efforts that brought improvements in racial problems in the state without the violence that occurred in many other states. Chain ownership increased in the state for both daily and weekly newspapers. In 1965 eleven Texas-based chains owned 59 of the 114 daily newspapers, and 3 Texas dailies were owned by out-of-state chains. The growth of multiple ownership can be attributed largely to efforts to cope with the economic problems of newspaper publishing and to the need for suburban dailies in the large metropolitan areas. The largest chain in the state was Harte-Hanks Newspapers (later Harte-Hanks Communications), which owned thirteen daily newspapers in Abilene, Big Spring, Corpus Christi, Denison, Greenville, Marshall, Paris, San Angelo, and San Antonio. By 1994, Harte-Hanks owned only five dailies and 6 weeklies in the state.
In the ten years after 1965 the major trends noted for the previous fifteen years continued. Daily newspapers increased by 4, to 118, only 27 of which were morning papers. In number of newspapers Texas moved to second state in the nation. Fifty-five dailies used offset printing by 1974, the two largest being the Wall Street Journal (Southwest edition) and the Beaumont Enterprise. There were 565 weekly newspapers in the state in 1975, 17 of which were published by African Americans. The black papers had circulations ranging from 2,000 to 40,000. By 1994, the number of African-American publications had declined to eleven, with circulations ranging from 2,000 to 80,000. Two of the largest were the Dallas Examiner and the Houston Sun. In 1994 overall, Texas supported 83 daily newspapers, 75 semiweeklies, and 425 weeklies.
In 1994 the functioning newspapers that were founded before the end of the Civil War were the Galveston News (founded in 1842), the Bay City Daily-Tribune (originally Bay City Tribune, 1848), the Seguin Gazette-Enterprise (originally the Seguin Gazette, 1846), the Victoria Advocate (1846), the Rusk Cherokeean-Herald (originally the Rusk Cherokeean, 1847), the Gladewater Mirror (1849), the Huntsville Item (1850), the New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung (originally the Neu Braunfelser Zeitung, 1852), the Bastrop Advertiser (1853), the Gonzales Inquirer (1853), the Colorado County Citizen (1857), the Cameron Herald (1860), the Jasper News-Boy (1865), the Jefferson Jimplecute (1865), and the San Antonio Express-News (originally the San Antonio Express, 1865).
See also SPANISH-LANGUAGE NEWSPAPERS.