Laughing, crying and dying Chronical of events in the life of a paper 'always on duty' The Evening Sun sets as 85

September 15, 1995|By Frederick Rasmussen | Frederick Rasmussen,Sun Staff Writer

The Evening Sun laid down its editorial mission in its first issue, Volume 1, Number 1, of April 18, 1910, a purpose it sought to keep in its 85 years of publication ending today:

"The Evening edition, like the morning edition, will be orderly in form and reliable in substance. It will be a home paper. It seeks to be interesting to the family circle and to gain the confidence of the public in whose interest it will always be on duty."

Here is a sampler that chronicles some highlights and sideshows in Maryland from 1910 on, as well as a few of the more vivid moments from the newspaper that was "always on duty."

April 18, 1910: The first penny copy leads off on Page 1 with the grounding of the ship Minnehaha in dense fog off the English coast, all 64 people saved. The longest story on the page is about a Washington meeting of suffragists. Page 1 runs about 20 short stories on topics including a fatal train wreck, riots in China, a violent strike in Pittsburgh, a Hagerstown death, a miraculous recovery from an explosion and Naval Academy applications. The entire left half of Page 1 is advertisements.

The first editorial page cries out for the abolition in Maryland of the "ancient" blue laws prohibiting Sunday shopping as well as for the construction of a new Union Station. The station, now Pennsylvania Station, was built in 1911, while the blue laws question was finally resolved with their demise seven decades later.

April 11, 1911: Paul C. Patterson, later president of the A.S. Abell Co., joins The Evening Sun as news and managing editor.

May 8, 1911: First appearance of H.L. Mencken's "Free Lance" column. Mencken was to become the most famous voice on The Evening Sun and an American institution for many of the following decades, although he would fall out of favor with some readers as passe or pro-German in the 1930s.

Dec. 31, 1911: Circulation of The Evening Sun is 30,142.

April 15, 1912: "ALL TITANIC PASSENGERS ARE SAFE" declares The Evening Sun in a banner headline. It was a mistake some other newspapers also made, based on an erroneous report. The toll of more than 1,500 dead was reported the next day.

July 2, 1912: In the sweltering heat of a Baltimore summer, the Democratic National Convention is held at the Fifth Regiment Armory. Gov. Woodrow Wilson of New Jersey is finally nominated for president on the 46th ballot, but not before turning back a serious challenge from Rep. Champ Clark of Missouri. The deadlock is broken when William Jennings Bryan delivers the Nebraska delegation to Wilson.

March 7, 1913 Lying off Fort Carroll and loaded with dynamite for use in the construction of the Panama Canal, the British tramp steamer Alum Chine explodes. Thirty-three people are killed and 60 injured. The blast shakes the city and is felt as far away as Dover, Del.

Nov. 11, 1918: Huge crowds jam Sun Square to celebrate the end of World War I. Baltimore's warriors, however, would not return until the summer of 1919 because of the massive numbers involved. A second Sun Square celebration greets them that June.

March 15, 1917: J. Edwin Murphy, who would later become editor of the evening paper during the '20s and '30s, joins The Sun.

Sept. 1, 1918: The price of The Evening Sun is increased from a penny to 2 cents.

Sept. 1, 1920: The Evening Sun puts into service a Curtiss biplane, the first ever used by a newspaper for news gathering. On its first day, with Maj. William Tipton the pilot, it is used to cover a railroad wreck at Back River, and three days later, to photograph a submarine in trouble off the Delaware Capes.

Fall of 1920: Two dinners known as the famous "divorce dinners" are held at the Merchants Club creating and separating the staffs of The Evening Sun and The Sun. The split allows the younger paper to acquire its own breezier identity, free of its older sister paper. "The heart of Maryland beats in the Sun office," Frank R. Kent, managing editor of The Sun, advises staffers attending the dinner.

April 18, 1921: The Evening Sun celebrates its 11th birthday with a circulation of 101,240.

1922: Hamilton Owens becomes editor of The Evening Sun.

1922: Francis Foulke Beirne, an Evening Sun editorial writer, 1922-44, begins his editorial page column, "Rolling Road," later changed to "Christopher Billopp."

April 18, 1923: On its 13th anniversary, The Evening Sun runs a full page of responses to the question put to prominent Marylanders, "Why do I not like The Evening Sun?" Mayor William Broening responded by saying he didn't like the name. "Who ever heard of the sun shining at night?" The feature was billed as a "Birthday Bouquet of Brickbats."

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