This day in Louisville news: The past century

A couple of my friends from The Courier-Journal have been posting the front page of the past couple of days’ editions on social media. The C-J is devoting its front page entirely to the Forecastle music festival for a three-day stretch. Seeing those covers — and the design and photography are beautiful — gave me the idea for this blog post. July 15 is an ordinary day, and I thought I’d take a look at the front pages on this date every decade, going back 100 years. This is not critique of anything at the newspaper. It will, of course, show how our lives have changed, locally and nationally, and it can’t help but show how the paper itself and its role have changed. But the main thing is that it’s interesting and fun to do. And the middle of summer seems like a good time to do it.

As always when I delve into historical images like this, I need to recommend The Courier-Journal’s archives feature to you. At $7.95 a month, if you’re interested in history of the city, its as good a resource as you can find. Learn more here.

So here, goes. If you’re more interested in the pages, you may click on each for a larger, more readable, view.

July 15, 1917, one hundred years ago today. The big news was Georg Michaelis succeeding Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg as Chancellor of Germany. Hollweg was chancellor of Germany at the outset of World War I, and did some things in power that prompted the war. It may be said, however, that once he saw the war coming, he also did quite a bit to try to stop it. His successor wasn’t in place long. Michaelis lasted less than four months as chancellor. The front page of this edition is notable for other reasons — namely that the U.S. House authorized $640 million to build 22,000 war planes, at that time the largest single expenditure in U.S. government history. The paper also reported a decision by U.S. president Woodrow Wilson to ban German insurance companies from doing business inside the U.S. out of security concerns. The contents listing for this Sunday edition also included a story about “Whisky facing hard sledding,” (the 18th Amendment banning the sale, manufacture or transportation of “intoxicating liquors” would be passed five months later), as well as a “Junior Courier-Journal” for children and an eight-page Fiction section.

By 1927, the nation’s fascination with air travel is on full display. This edition leads with the takeoff of Ernest Smith and Emory Bronte’s flight from San Francisco to Hawaii in their “City of Oakland” monoplane. It was only six weeks after his first-ever trans-Atlantic flight made Charles Lindburgh an international hero, and one headline in this edition discusses plans to welcome him to Louisville on August 8, with J. Graham Brown offering the famous aviator a suite of apartments in his downtown Brown Hotel. The edition also references a rather new problem: The meetings and 60,000-word report on how to handle motorized traffic in Louisville, and planning proposals for moving forward.

Kentucky found itself thrust into national history on this day in 1937. Senate Majority Leader Joseph Johnson, the man who pushed New Deal legislation through the upper chamber, had died, and Kentucky’s Alben Barkley moved into that key position. In other news — with the Great Depression still in full swing, the city’s libraries were out of money. They hadn’t bought any books since Jan. 1, and faced a shutdown in the summer months before some payments were postponed to allow them to stay open.  And in the lower right corner, a sign of how much the local paper meant to people back then. If you called The C-J (its number: Wabash 2211), you could get the paper mailed to you on vacation, wherever you were.

In 1947, with Europe in the grips of famine and depression in the wake of World War II, the largest, most ambitions foreign assistance program in the history of the world was being presented to the American people. Here, groundwork for the plan that would take the name of U.S. Gen. George Marshall was being laid. Another post-war problem at the bottom of the page — U.S. sailors on liberty from a “good will” tour of England clashed with British police in London. Peace isn’t easy, either.

Civil Rights issues were moving to the fore even in 1957, when this front page examines a bill before the U.S. Congress, and lower in the page covers a Ku Klux Klan rally outside of Knoxville. Elsewhere, the U.S. economic boom is touted, speculating that the average American work week would soon drop to 37 1/2 hours, with the additional prediction, “The American worker in another century may only have to labor 7 hours to produce as much as his colleague now does during a 40-hour week.”

Racial violence, Vietnam news and trouble in the Middle East dominated this world-news heavy front page from 1967. In Louisville, burglary was spiking.

A blackout and resulting looting and violence in New York City captured news for a time in the summer of 1977. Locally, the University of Louisville continued its emergence as a state institution when its medical school gained accreditation, and a new concern emerges as a front-page topic: Climate change. In a story in the bottom right corner, the Pentagon commissions a study of climate impact, to project potential changes through 2000.

The Iran-contra affair and Lt. Col. Oliver North’s testimony before congress were the lead stories on this date in 1987. But there was some notable news locally — a new light truck line coming to the Ford assembly plant and stagnant population growth in the state also made news. Also noticeable for the first time — a narrower newspaper.

Biggest thing that jumps out from a look at this date on the 1997 front page, the move toward local news, or national issues whose main “hook” was a tie to local interests. A crime story is the centerpiece. And for the first time, in the left-hand menu of stories, a reference to “C-J online.”

A more colorful layout — dominated by The Police at Churchill Downs, graces this day’s front page in 2007. You also get a centerpiece story on concerns over the military’s treatment of the brain injuries of soldiers and veterans, as well as a couple of state education and political stories. The newspaper, once again, is a bit narrower. And for the first time (but not the first time in the newspaper’s history) there’s an ad across the bottom.

And finally, we come to the present. Today’s cover is a photo cover devoted to the Forecastle festival. The C-J didn’t do away with its traditional front. That actually comes on Page 3 of the paper. But the Forecastle front is a nod to younger readers, who the traditional media are courting right now, and it makes for a visually stunning presentation.



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