Established in April 1838 by Chauncey Bassett and Joel Robb, the Mount Vernon Democratic Banner changed ownership and editorship nine times until it was finally purchased by Lecky Harper in December 1853. Under Harper’s 64-year editorship, the Democratic Banner flourished, with increased subscriptions and a distinctive point of view. Harper was a Peace Democrat with a national reputation for being strongly critical of big government, child labor, Whigs, and the Civil War. He was also a strong defender of foreigners, having emigrated from Ireland when he was five. Harper often used editorials to criticize the Ohio State Times and the Mount Vernon Republican.
After Harper’s death in 1895, his sons, Frank and William, took over the weekly paper. The strong political viewpoint and sensational headlines continued, with a focus on national political news. Readers were kept informed about laws, taxes, and politicians. Many articles also related incidents of crime, death, and injury. Yet local news was not forgotten, and several sections of the Democratic Banner, including one titled “County Correspondence,” were devoted to local affairs and gossip.
Frank Harper also provided detailed coverage of several local court cases, including Ohio v. Lewis Bolton, a first-degree murder case that was moved from Licking County to Knox County in April 1911. For several weeks running, readers were exposed to the inner workings of this case, from jury selection to the aftermath of the decision. Other court cases from the time were treated in a similar fashion and demonstrate how the paper focused not only on sensational national news, but dramatic local news as well.
Under subsequent editorship, starting in 1917 when Frank Harper began to lease the paper to Stephen J. Dorgan, the Democratic Banner became more conservative, although it was still considered progressive. National and international news items, especially those relating to World War I, filled the front page of each edition, but overall, the Democratic Banner focused more on local developments. Dorgan included cartoons and sports news in the paper as well. In 1935, the newspaper was sold to the Republican News to form the Republican News Daily Banner, which later changed its name to the Mount Vernon News.
Researched and written by Jenni Salamon