Originally Published: November 13, 2018 5:37 p.m.
In the days of the Old West, the printing press was the great civilizer, a sign that a town was a town, according to Sharlot Hall Museum print shop operator Troy Groves.
Groves, who is possibly the only full-time casterman left in the United States, has a home letterpress studio, makes the plates for old-fashioned letter presses, is familiar with various kinds of print mechanisms and casts metal type at Skyline Type Foundry. He was on hand at Sharlot Hall Museum Saturday, Nov. 10, chronicling Arizona’s journalistic heritage.
The first to bring a printing press over to the New Mexico Territory, Groves said, was William Wrightson, who also founded the Santa Rita Mining Co. One of the reasons the press was brought out was because they were having problems with the Native Americans and it is hard to do mining when someone is shooting at you, he said. The idea behind bringing a printing press to the territory was to get the news out of what was happening, Groves said.
“To send forth the newspaper,” he said. “To send forth the ideas from here of what’s happening in this new area.”
The paper Wrightson published was “The Weekly Arizonian,” but the first newspaper in Arizona was from Richard C. McCormick, the first secretary and second governor of the Arizona Territory and Territorial Delegate.
McCormick’s newspaper, the “Arizona Miner,” was published before Prescott was even a town and when Fort Whipple was still Camp Whipple, Groves said.
“The first newspaper in Arizona was from Chino Valley,” he said. “The other one, that was the New Mexico Territory.”
The “Arizona Miner” was eventually bought by John Marion who once got into an argument with someone at the “Yuma Sentinel” via newspaper, Groves said. Their fights weren’t just read in Arizona, but wherever their newspapers reached, and people read news from Arizona from all over the place to find out what was happening in the territory, he said.
After selling the “Arizona Miner,” Marion started the “Prescott Morning Courier,” which today is “The Daily Courier.”
Groves also mentioned Albert Franklin Banta, a newspaperman who worked on the “Arizona Miner” and started a newspaper called the “Arizona Populist.” Banta changed its name to the “Pick and Drill” after a suggestion by Buckey O’Neill, he said.
The Great Prescott Fire on July 14, 1900, burned down the “Arizona Miner,” the “Prescott Morning Courier” and the “Pick and Drill,” Groves said.
Banta would eventually move into the Arizona Pioneer Home in 1916 where he stayed until he died in 1924.
“He’s known as Arizona’s oldest newspaperman when he passes,” Groves said.
“While he’s at the Pioneer Home, he’s writing his memoirs which Sharlot Hall Museum publishes in 1952.”
Printing is not a dead art, he said. These men, and anyone involved in the printing process today, are a part of a tradition that stretches back through the centuries, Groves said.