Editor's note: This story is a companion piece to the Illinois bicentennial story on newspapers’ history in Illinois. Go to shawurl.com/37z5 to read that story.
DIXON – Illinois hadn't even celebrated its 40th birthday when the Dixon Telegraph and Daily Gazette were born.
The Telegraph’s first issue rolled off a hand-operated press May 1, 1851, along with the Lee County Herald. The paper’s first editor, Charles Fisk, lasted a mere 5 months, but it didn’t take long for another name behind the news to take the helm, one that continues to be part of the local media landscape to this day.
Other management changes occurred at the paper until January 1852, when B.F. Shaw became publisher. If that name sounds familiar, it should; Shaw is the patriarch of Shaw Media, which owns the Telegraph, Daily Gazette, and other publications in Illinois and Iowa.
The Shaw family continues to be deeply involved with the company today.
B.F. Shaw also is known for another historical accomplishment. In 1856, he and 11 other newspaper editors met with future President Abraham Lincoln in Decatur, founding the Republican Party of Illinois in response to the concern over slavery.
The Telegraph switched to daily publication in 1883, and moved in 1894 to a site at First and Ottawa streets in Dixon. In 1902, Eustace E. Shaw, one of B.F.'s sons, died at the age of 42. Eustace's widow, Mabel S. Shaw, became publisher, and after B.F. died in 1909, she became the Telegraph's owner.
Mabel's guidance led to the purchase of other newspapers and radio stations, as well as the Dixon Publishing Co. and Nachusa House Hotel. With her guidance, Mabel's three sons, George, Ben and Robert, also ran the company until her death in 1955.
The Telegraph office was moved in 1959 to 113 S. Peoria Ave., Dixon, where it remains today.
The Daily Gazette
The Gazette’s roots run nearly as deep as the Telegraph’s, dating back to Dec. 9, 1854, when the first issue of the Sterling Times hit the dirt roads and dusty streets, with founder and publisher Charles Boynton at the helm.
The paper became known as the Gazette in 1857, under the ownership of H.G. Grattan. It changed hands several times over the next few decades, becoming the Sterling Gazette in 1858 and outlasting or purchasing rival newspapers that rose to challenge it.
D.W. Grandon, a Pennsylvania-born, self-made newspaper man who learned the trade at papers in his birth state of West Virginia, as well as Michigan, bought the Gazette in 1915. In June 1916, he bought the Daily Standard in Sterling, merging it with the Gazette and ending the era of a two-newspaper city.
He spearheaded the construction of a new office, built in 1935 at East Fourth Street and Second Avenue. Today, the building is home to True Smiles dental clinic. D.W. is also the Grandon behind the neighboring civic center band shell that bears his name. It was dedicated in 1938.
D.W. owned the Gazette until his death in 1943, passing it to his son, Preston. Dave Grandon, D.W.'s grandson, owned the paper from 1968 until 1986, when the Grandons sold it to Toronto-based Thomson Newspapers.
The Shaws bought the Daily Gazette from Thomson on Sept. 1, 1995, creating Sauk Valley Media, now Shaw Media.
The Shaws continued operations at the Grandon building until June 2000, when the papers moved to the former Wolohan Lumber Co. building, at the intersection of Lynn Boulevard and Lincolnway in Sterling.