Historic newspaper spotlight: Northwest Enterprise

Historic newspaper spotlight: Northwest Enterprise

In 1879, Anacortes, Washington was founded and named by railroad surveyor Amos Bowman, who hoped it would become the major terminus for North America’s northwest railroads.

Bowman brought in Alfred D. Bowen and Frank M. Walsh from Seattle to establish the Northwest Enterprise [Library of Congress Control Number SN88085204], using its platform to promote the fledgling community and to solidify his city’s metropolitan status. First appearing on March 25, 1882, the politically Independent paper was published as a weekly and came out every Saturday. As a “booster” paper, it focused on advertising the qualities of the surrounding area to prospective landowners who wanted to capitalize off the Pacific Northwest’s emerging industries. The Northwest Enterprise not only circulated around the Puget Sound, but was also strategically distributed in major cities and industrial centers throughout the United States.

Masthead for the Northwest Enterprise newspaper

Despite circulation reaching up to 400 readers/subscribers within its first year, which was nearly double the population of Anacortes, the Northwest Enterprise struggled. In January 1883, its founders transferred ownership back to its chief patron, Amos Bowman. The paper was still Anacortes’s primary source of national advertisement, and Bowman needed it to survive. While Bowman financially supported the paper, he put George Riggins, a printer and editor based in Everett, in charge of operations.

One of the paper’s primary selling features was a Northern Pacific Railway map of Puget Sound produced in 1872. It illustrated the region’s significant geographical features in both the United States and Canada, other cities with which Anacortes was competing, and a proposed terminus on Fidalgo Island. Bowman acquired the map after finding it stashed in the old Tacoma terminal building among records from the railroad company. When Bowman asked for the collection, it was given to him willingly, as the information was deemed unimportant. He hoped the map would show readers that Anacortes was a premier location for trading and shipping. Advertisements within the paper and elsewhere all promoted the 42 x 36 inch map as an incentive for a subscription. It was offered to every reader who paid the annual $2 fee to the Northwest Enterprise, but could also be bought independently for $1.25, or $10 per dozen.

Although the Northwest Enterprise was successful in putting Anacortes into national awareness and lacked competition in the area, it never managed to be economically sustainable. After nearly five years of publication, its last issue was printed at the end of February 1887.

You can browse the Enterprise here.

Funded in part by the Institute for Museum and Library Services through the Library Services and Technology Act. 

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