Sunday, October 17, 2021
Oct. 17, 2021

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From the Newsroom: Charting a familiar course on subscribers

By , Columbian Editor
Published:
4 Photos
Portraits of presidents are part of the cover of this wall chart from the Tacoma Times, circa 1912.
Portraits of presidents are part of the cover of this wall chart from the Tacoma Times, circa 1912. (The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Since The Columbian is a family-owned small business, I don’t have some corporate vice president for news telling me what to do all of the time. So I try to keep up on the trends in our industry.

One of the latest is to create different products that provide extra value for subscribers — the people who pay to support local journalism. If you are one of these people, thank you very, very much. I hope I am not being melodramatic, but without The Columbian, Clark County would be just another Portland suburb that only gets a mention when there is a shooting.

Various news organizations are trying to reach and reward their subscribers in various ways. In-person events were becoming popular before the pandemic put a stop to them. We want to do more of these when it’s safer. We’ve held an annual economic forecast event for years, and in February 2020 we packed the community room at the Vancouver Community Library for a forum after we published a series about a local family caught up in U.S. immigration policy.

Another idea is to give subscribers access to exclusive content. We’ve begun doing this, designating a story every day that can’t be read on our website unless you have a subscription.

Our next project is a Subscriber Exclusives newsletter that will contain previews and links to these premium content stories. The newsletter will be published on Tuesday mornings. Sign up now at our newsletters page, www.columbian.com/newsletters.

All these “subscriber premiums” sounded so innovative until my mother-in-law cleaned out one of her old cedar chests and discovered two large, full-color multipage wall charts from competing newspapers, the Tacoma Daily News and the Tacoma Times. They seem to be subscriber premiums.

Both charts are approximately 27 inches wide and 36 inches tall, about the size of what you might seen on a classroom wall. Each contains three sheets, printed front and back, of contemporary facts, including a photograph of the current president, William Howard Taft.

Unfortunately, neither is dated, so I did some detective work. Taft was president from 1909-1913, so that narrows it considerably. Based on some of the other content, I believe both were published in 1912. In other words, my wife’s great-grandparents, who lived at Steilacoom, probably subscribed to both newspapers.

Here is some more about the charts:

• The Tacoma Times “presents its compliments and begs to be of service” with its “American National Chart,” suggested retail price $5. I hadn’t ever heard of the Times, but it says it is “Independent – Fearless – Newsy,” and I like that.

The colorful front sheet has portraits of all the presidents plus Mrs. Taft, a photo of the U.S. Capitol, and patriotic images. On the back are large photos of the House and Senate chambers, the White House, and the Great White Fleet of U.S. Navy ships which circled the globe from 1907-09. There’s also a list of presidents and their cabinet members; the newest entry is 1911.

The second sheet, also in color, shows Washington and Oregon political maps and rail lines (no highways in those days.) In “Clarke” County, where the “e” wasn’t dropped until 1925, several towns that have since disappeared are on the map, including Etna, Hall and Crawford.

The third and final sheet of the Times’ chart shows color maps of the USA and the world, including steamship routes and “relative areas of the principal colonizing powers.” On the back is the U.S. census for 1900 and 1910. Vancouver almost tripled, reaching 9,300 people by 1910. That was nearly half the size of Walla Walla!

• The Tacoma Daily News’ “New Ideal Family Wall Chart” carries no price, but says it was printed by the Geographical Publishing Co. of Chicago. So I am guessing many U.S. newspapers bought these from specialty printers and offered them as subscriber premiums.

The Daily News doesn’t claim to be fearless, but it does proclaim “If you want the News, you must read THE NEWS and you get it Hot From The Wires.”

It contains many of the same features at the Times’ chart, plus a large map of the Panama Canal and a report on the “status of the work” and an accounting of money spent to date (the canal opened in 1914.) There are maps of U.S. possessions including “Porto Rico” [sic] and the Philippines, and portraits of world leaders including President Taft, England’s King George V, and the king’s cousin, Czar Nicholas II of Russia, who should be looking worried but isn’t.

In the internet era, I don’t think we will be offering any wall charts as subscriber premiums. But it was fun to look back and realize that new ideas often aren’t all that new.

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