Early letters to the editor express frustrations
“Thank you for the Kickers’ Column. It shows as that some people kick all the time and do not know what they do it for.”- Avalanche Echo, Feb. 23, 1899 Even before the founding of the United States, letters to the editor have been a staple of American newspapers. In colonial times, newspapers were initially a medium for advertising, bringing buyers and sellers together for the price of an ad and the price of the paper. However, producers of the papers occasionally had unsold space. Rather than waiting to get enough advertising to fill that space, other items of readers’ interest, such as letters to the editor, were added.Quickly, this outlet for personal expression was discovered by politicians and by persons possessing unwavering opinions. Letters to the editor became commonplace in the printed media. The controversy stirred by the letters boosted the sale of goods and newspaper profits. Urban growth and improved printing presses increased newspaper circulation in the mid-1800s. News stories became the standard, but letters to the editor did not fall by the wayside.Henry J. Holmes was the editor of Glenwood Springs’ Avalanche Echo newspaper. Founded in 1889, his paper occasionally printed letters written by readers correcting or rebutting something his paper printed. However, he had not created a specific section for letters to the editor. That changed briefly in 1899.On Feb. 2, 1899, Holmes unveiled the “Garfield Kounty Kickers’ Korner.” These published letters from readers discussed controversies in the Cattle Creek and Parachute school districts, and questioned the benefits received from the county’s funding of an annual fair. Anonymity was paramount, with the submitters known only as “Merry Knocker,” “Weeds,” “White Chief” and “Joshua.” Whether it was a physical or cerebral boxing match, Holmes loved a good fight. His “Kickers’ Kolumn” section initiated a free-for-all. On Feb. 23, “Kolombo” and “Kokomo” expressed opinions about the Cattle Creek School District controversy. “A. Mucker” chimed in on March 2 about the Garfield County Fair. On March 23, “Referee” expressed a lengthy opinion about the fair and the handling of Strawberry Day, while “Young America” wrote a long poem about the column itself titled the “Kicker’s Sonnet.” The March 30, 1899, edition of the Avalanche Echo printed its last “Kickers’ Korner.” Holmes probably used the column as a brief attempt to boost sales of his tabloid-natured paper against that of his conservative competitor, The Glenwood Post. However, while shoring up his bottom line, Holmes substituted opinion as entertainment for investigative journalism, leaving readers then and now possibly less informed about the facts surrounding the discussed controversies. Sixty years later the Avalanche Echo was printed no more, but the Glenwood Springs Sage and Glenwood Post newspapers had added letters to the editor sections. The freedom to exchange ideas continued. “Frontier Diary” is provided to the Post Independent by the Frontier Historical Society and Museum, 1001 Colorado Ave., Glenwood Springs. Winter hours are 1-4 p.m. Monday and Thursday through Saturday. For more information, call 945-4448.
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