The Rockford Squire/The Rockford Weekly Register celebrates 140th

by BETH ALTENA

Anyone visiting the Squire office may have noticed a yellowed newspaper framed and hanging on our wall. It’s old, but you would have to look closely to see the significance. Dated February 8, 1871, the print on the brittle paper reads that it is Issue 1, Volume 1.

photo by JANE HERSHBERGER

This week The Rockford Squire newspaper, then in business as The Rockford Weekly Register, passes a milestone of its 140th year in operation, the oldest business in the City of Rockford. Happy birthday to Rockford’s original hometown newspaper!

The newspaper is an important member of the community, and we are excited to see another year of publishing for the residents of Rockford. Our coverage area is the Rockford school district—100 square miles of people with stories to tell and news to share.

When kids visit our office, we show them old cameras and photos and hold up copies of the paper going back more than 100 years. We tell them about how the industry has changed—we publish in color, with photos. Cameras are digital and computers deliver our “pages” to the printer. We still have the original lead letters that were used to put stories in, one letter and space at a time for each article, but those days are long gone. When the paper was young, Rockford didn’t have electricity, cars or telephones. The paper was here to report all that new stuff coming to town.

Today, in our 140th year, technology is beyond those first editors’ imaginations, but essentially the business of newspapering is exactly the same. Advertisers pay for the newspaper and residents receive it free. We have news we write ourselves about people we sit down and talk with. Readers call and tell us when we make a mistake—which we do appreciate.

Part of reaching and passing a milestone anniversary is the opportunity to reflect. When attending Rockford Area Historical Society meetings, much material comes from the editions of the old Register. People also often come in to get back issues or photocopy the bound books we have of all of our editions going back a number of years. We have 30 years worth, but the historical society has issues going back to that first issue in 1871. You can find them on microfilm at Krause Memorial Library as well.

It is humbling to think the papers we put out here—with the generous help of so many residents who contribute stories and photos—will be in the hands of historians and genealogists 100 more years down the line. Just imagine, the John Decker Chevrolet ads we published will exist long after the company becomes Ed Koehn Chevrolet (this week, see related story, page X). Hopefully our ads helped John Decker reach many of his customers over the years.

The birth announcements, business news and stories about what is happening become the time capsule of the future—published here in our own family-owned—by Roger Allen and myself—company based here in town. It is exciting that the paper owns the building out of which we operate—our own tiny chunk of Rockford real estate.

Publishing is an exciting business, with new things happening every day. It is gratifying to be the newspaper of record for the City of Rockford, which means we publish the legal notices for the City, which become part of the town’s published history.

It is fun to work in a fast-paced environment with talented and professional individuals who are producing a product that has withstood the test of time. If you are reading this article, you are the people who have kept this newspaper vital and growing for so long. Happy birthday to us, but the reason we are the oldest business in the City of Rockford is because of our readers. Thank you.

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