HISTORY OF PASCO COUNTY
The New Port Richey Press
The Port Richey Press began publication on Nov. 21, 1918. The earliest issue currently in the possession of the West Pasco Historical Society, which is the earliest issue we have seen, is vol. 1, no. 6, from Dec. 26, 1918.
The earliest publishers were Charles Samuel Lamb Fox and son Charles James Fox, who operated the newspaper for four and one-half years. Fox and his family came to Canada from England in 1911, where they lived in Winnipeg. In 1918 the family immigrated to the United States and settled in New Port Richey. They lived in a small house on the corner of Main and Adams, where the Arcade Building is now. A biography of Charles Fox and his family is HERE.
Printing was originally done on a hand press. But in March of 1919 they acquired a new Campbell cylinder press that was powered by an electric motor. Since electricity was not yet available in New Port Richey, they powered the press with a gasoline generator. They also obtained a folding machine for their operation.
On Aug. 19, 1920, the newspaper reported that its circulation was close to 900, of which 700 were mailed weekly to cities in the north.
On Nov. 4, 1920, the name of the newspaper was changed to the New Port Richey Press.
In September 1922 circulation reached 1300, according to West Pasco’s Heritage.
On Sept. 28, 1922, William M. (Bill) Hetherington of Lakeland purchased the Press and began active publication on Oct. 5. Hetherington had earlier owned the Dade City Banner. He sold that newspaper on Jan. 1, 1920, and then moved to Lakeland and had charge of job printing in the Telegram office until that paper consolidated with the Star.
In December 1925 George G. Holland purchased the paper.
The next owner was John W. Parkes.
On April 9, 1926, the newspaper switched from a tabloid-sized newspaper to a full-sized, seven column newspaper. Several hundred extra copies were printed.
Early in 1932 Parkes sold the newspaper to Benjamin Lyle of Ulysses, Kansas.
On July 13, 1934, the Tarpon Springs Leader reported, “Hugh Osborne, editor for many years of the Umatilla Tribune, last week assumed control of the Press ….” Hugh S. Osborne leased the newspaper for two years before purchasing it in 1936. On Jan. 23, 1953, Hugh S. Osborne died. His widow became publisher and his son Hugh Joseph Osborne became editor-manager.
In November 1956 W. H. Thomas purchased the paper. Thomas was born in Mt. Morris, Ill., on Aug. 16, 1898. He was publisher of the Mt. Morris Index, a weekly newspaper, for 25 years before purchasing the Press. He died on Aug. 7, 1973, in Dunedin.
In the late 1960s the owner was Lindsay-Schaub Publications of Illinois, with Paul P. O’Brien as manager.
The Nov. 11, 1975, issue of the New Port Richey Press shows that George J. Bopp is the general manager and Paul J. Purcell is the editor. The newspaper was published on Mondays and Thursdays by Press Publications, Inc.
On Oct. 11, 1979, the newspaper reported that Pasco Publishing of New Port Richey had purchased full ownership of the New Port Richey Press and West Pasco Green Sheet. For the past two years the newspaper had been jointly owned by Pasco and Lindsay-Schaub Newspapers of Decatur, Ill. Derek Dunn-Rankin was publisher of the Press and majority stockholder of Pasco Publishing.
On May 8, 1980, the name of the newspaper was changed to the West Pasco Press.
Notes: The New Port Richey Public Library has bound copies of the newspaper beginning in 1956. The WPHS museum has most papers from 1919 to the mid-1960s.
There are two front pages of the New Port Richey Press carrying the date Dec. 25, 1919.
Some newspapers are apparently lost, including the second half of 1921 and all of 1932 and 1933. Thus, the newspaper covering the 1921 hurricane is lost, and a Jan. 1930 newspaper that must have had a banner headline about the expected visit of Gloria Swanson is also apparently lost.
An earlier newspaper, the New Port Richey Post, was published in 1916. The WPHS has only the first issue, which is dated January 1916. The only issue of the Post in our possession does not show the name of a publisher or editor. So there is some debate about whether this newspaper was a short-lived venture that pre-dated the Port Richey Press … or an earlier version of Charles Fox’s Port Richey Press.
There is a reference to the New Port Richey Post in a Michigan newspaper of Dec. 23, 1917.
On March 1, 1918, the Tampa Tribune printed a letter signed by “W. B. Powell, Editor, New Port Richey Post.” Willis Berlin Powell earlier founded the St. Petersburg Evening Independent.
A newspaper article on 3 Nov 1916 in the Ocala Evening Star identifies Powell as publisher of the newspaper and as secretary of the New Port Richey Board of Trade. That article reads;
“We have received the initial copy of the New Port Richey Post, Powell’s latest paper. It is a handsome four-page sheet, printed on book paper, well illustrated and filled with boost stuff that Powell knows well to write. Port Richey is a pretty little place on the coast of Pasco County. Powell is secretary of its board of trade as well as publisher of its newspaper, and that means Port Richey will be put on the map in glittering letters. We are going to see it some time.”.
Contrary to the information printed in these early articles, the editor of the New Port Richey Press in 1976, Paul J. Purcell, included an article in the 15 Jan 1976 “60th Anniversary” edition that claims the New Port Richey Post was an early attempt by Charles Fox, founding editor of the New Port Richey Press, to determine if a weekly newspaper was feasible for the new town. The article reads as follows;
“It was in January of 1916 that a man called Charles L. Fox came to the little town of Port Richey. Two hundred residents were not startled by his arrival, but they were to soon learn that this man was one of the most talented writers to ever move to Florida. Some readers perhaps will be taken back by the fact that this article does not refer to the city as it is presently named, for at that time there was legal reason in calling it New Port Richey. The settlement here was simply called one of the Port Richeys. The plural ended two years later when land speculators named it New Port Richey … much to the disdain of some older residents on both sides of the river. Fox began the first publication of the town’s newspaper in the January of his arrival. The paper came under the title of “Port Richey Press” and was published monthly. After one year of publication, the talented owner changed the name of the paper to “Port Richey Press. Another year passed and Fox changed the name again to the New Port Richey Press. (This account is contrary to a historical piece written on January 2nd, 1953 by Ralph Bellwood, the present account is correct.)”
It should be noted that Ralph Bellwood, who is mentioned in the above quoted article as having his facts wrong, was a long-time historian in Pasco County who moved to the city in 1922, was a pastor at Elfers Baptist Church, and the author of the book “Tales of West Pasco”. So his account is not to be taken lightly. In an article of his that was published in the 2 Jan 1969 issue of the the New Port Richey Press, his comments regarding the New Port Richey Post newspaper were, “From the information we have been able to glean from the past, less than two hundred copies were printed and only four issues came out during the first year. Practically no advertisement was found in the first two issues; however, the Post of December, 1916, had nearly a full page of advertisements.”.
In 1948, the New Port Richey Press said that the Post was “apparently produced by the Port Richey Company”. So, it is possible that the New Port Richey Post was not really a newspaper at all … but merely an advertising vehicle used by the Port Richey Company to encourage people to purchase property in New Port Richey.
Here are some images of early front pages of the newspaper.
Dec. 26, 1918 The earliest issue we have
May 1, 1919 Protest school board action to Governor
Feb. 9, 1922 Chasco Fiesta coming
Oct. 24, 1924 Vote for incorporation. It’s right.
Oct. 31, 1924 Incorporation carries, 201 to 4
Nov. 7, 1924 Phenomenal sales of real estate
Jan. 1, 1926 Famous millionaires buy here
Jan. 15, 1926 Irving Berlin makes first payment for a homesite
Jan. 29, 1926 Elfers wants to merge with New Port Richey
Feb. 26, 1926 Thomas Meighan in town
Apr. 30, 1926 Pasco Building open
May 28, 1926 Enchantment Inn burns
June 25, 1926 New theater to be named for Meighan
Feb. 4, 1927 Hacienda opens Saturday night
Feb. 18, 1927 Jasmin Point’s $300,000 golf club
Apr. 15, 1927 Meighan to build $40,000 home
May 13, 1927 Sarazen to lay out golf course
Aug. 5, 1927 Post Office Arcade completed
Dec. 23, 1927 Meighan and Sarazen arrive for the winter season
Oct. 12, 1928 Meighan will vote here
Oct. 25, 1929 Jasmin Point Golf Course ready
Dec. 6, 1929 Meighan to arrive Dec. 15
Dec. 20, 1929 Meighan arrives in this city
May 2, 1930 The Hacienda closes its finest season
Aug. 29, 1930 Homestead sites free
June 19, 1931 During the depression, First State Bank fails
July 11, 1952 Local bank to open Tuesday