The History of Michigan -- by Charles Moore (1915)
THE BAY CITY TIMES NEWSPAPER.
The Bay City Times was founded January 3, 1899 – the most unpropitious time of the year in which to launch a business enterprise, especially when the field is already occupied. Bay City was then served by the Morning Tribune and the Evening Press, both owned by one management, but neither at that time was on a prosperous basis. Twenty-four years have since come and gone, and the Times is now supreme in the evening field at Bay City, and is one of the ablest managed and most prosperous newspaper enterprises of the state.
It was with much trepidation the Wilbert H. Gustin and Leonard L. Cline surrendered their positions of city editor and advertising manager respectively on the Tribune, to join hands with Fred M. VanCampen, owner of a job printing office, to start a new newspaper, in a field that was paved with wrecks of journalistic efforts. However, they united their limited means in an enterprise that eventually was brought to success.
The promoters were all young men and well acquainted in the city. They had canvassed the field and had received encouragement. They recruited their force mainly from the other daily papers of the city. These employees, confident of the success of the new paper, gave up a certainty for an uncertainty.
With a force of men trained in newspaper work, the promoters began the publication of the Bay City Times. It was then a four-page paper, seven columns to the page. The type was all set by hand, it was printed on a flat-bed, two-revolution press, capable of turning out eight hundred papers per hour. The office was located in a two-story building on Fifth avenue between Washington and Saginaw streets, which Mr. Gustin had purchase for the purpose. So interested was he in the success of the enterprise that he charged no rent while the company occupied the building.
The success of The Times the first year was of a doubtful character. It depended upon a plate service, supplement by “grape-vine,” for some of its telegraph news. It also had a wire running into the office over which a special service was supposed to come from Detroit, but this was so often interrupted by wires being broken because “they were moving a house across the tracks down at Drayton Plains,” that the service was discontinued as inadequate and unsatisfactory. It is said that there has not bee a “house moved across the track at Dayton Plains” since the special service was given up.
The principal telegraphic news service of that day was supplied by the Associated Press. The Times wanted it but could not get it. The Evening Press would not dispose of it, therefore, the publishers of The Times decided to bend their energies in getting out a much better local newspaper and with timely local editorial comment such as would tell in its race against the competitor. This course had its effect. The Times grew and prospered. Archibald McMillan, one of the publishers of the Evening Press, saw the inevitable. He disposed of his interest in 1800 and became a member of the Times Company and staff. With additional strength and growing favor, The Times went ahead. It became recognized as the leading paper of the city, even though it had no accredited press association from which to secure its telegraphic news.
Early in 1891, The times, having outgrown its Fifth avenue quarters, moved to the Birney block on Water street. In this location it remained upwards of ten years when it purchased the Cottrell building. When the people of Bay City voted to buy Water street property to establish Wenonah Park, The Times building was one of those that were within the Park zone. The Times, in preparing to vacate, bought the north-west corner of Adams street and Fifth avenue, where it erected its present modern building and installed within it the latest improved printing machinery. The new building was occupied in September, 1909.
In May, 1891, Mr. VanCampen retired from the company and devoted himself exclusively to the job printing department. At about this time the publishers reorganized as a corporation known as The Bay City Times Company. In June of that year The Times purchased and asorbed the Evening Press, securing thereby the much coveted Associated Press privileges and at the same time relieving the business men of what they had regarded for some time as a burden – a third daily newspaper.
The Evening Press was established in 1879 and had up to that time absorbed or forced to surrender the field, the Advocate, the Daily Star, the Daily World, the Evening News, the Morning Call, and a few others of minor importance. Wherever prestige and business these papers acquired came to The Times when it bought the Press. From that time The Times has been the sole occupant of the evening field.
Since 1889 The Times has outgrown six presses. The last move was the enlargement of the present perfecting press so that its capacity has been doubled. The type-setting capacity of the office has been increase twenty-fold, and there are five times as many compositors in the “ad” alley as there were in 1889. Of the original force in the mechanical department, only one remains – Fred J. Wharton, foreman of the “ad” department.
The Times was started as an independent newspaper and it has maintained this position. Its aim has been to serve the people honestly, to gain their confidence by dealing fairly with them in all things and at all times, and thus acquire a prestige that cannot be shaken. Its circulation and advertising patronage have consequently enjoyed a steady growth from its inception to this day.
Of the founders of The Times, Mr. Gustin is the only one remaining with the paper. Mr. Cline disposed of his interest in 1892 to take the business management of the Grand Rapids Democrat. He later went to Detroit and engaged in the advertising business, and died in the harness. Mr. VanCampen became interested in photography and is now engaged in that line in Grand Rapids. Mr. Gustin disposed of his interest in 1903 at the time the present company acquired possession of the paper. He has been acting in the capacity of managing editor since.
The present officers of the Bay City Times Company are Ralph H. Booth, president; and B. M. Wynkoop, secretary-treasurer and general manager.