The Landmark, the oldest newspaper in Platte County, older than the Kansas City Star and one of the oldest in the state of Missouri, has begun its 153rd year of publication.
The Landmark has been published each week--without interruption--since the first issue rolled off the press in the closing days of the Civil War on Sept. 28, 1865.
To get a feel for the depth of the history, consider The Landmark’s first issue came out less than six months after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.
In addition, this month marks the 35th year of current Landmark publisher Ivan Foley’s time with the newspaper. Foley began work at The Landmark in the summer of 1982, with his byline first appearing in the June 4, 1982 issue.
Fifteen years ago, Foley purchased the newspaper and The Landmark building at 252 Main Street from Ethel Mae Foley in a transaction completed in June of 2002.
The first Landmark was published at Weston with the motto "Remove not the ancient landmarks." Harry Howard was publisher and C.L. Wheeler was editor.
In its early days, The Landmark espoused the cause of the Confederacy and consistently promoted the Democratic party in politics.
On June 6, 1871 The Landmark moved to Platte City, where it has since been published. The Reveille (another Weston paper) was consolidated with The Landmark with Maj. Thomas W. Park (father of the late Missouri Gov. Guy B. Park) and J.L. McCluer as editors.
The Landmark was moved from Weston to Platte City into what was known as The Fleshman House at the foot of Main Street. One interesting story handed down is that when the printing equipment was being moved from Weston to Platte City, Kansas Redleggers—a group on the opposite side of the newspaper on Civil War issues—intercepted and dumped the presses into the river.
In January 1873, The Landmark office was moved from the Fleshman House into the Wells and Woodson building in Platte City, on the lot where Wells Bank now stands in downtown Platte City.
In 1874, subscription price of The Landmark was $2 per year. Today’s price is $24 per year before sales tax.
In March of 1878, Thomas W. Park was the sole editor. The next year he sold it to W. C. Julian. On June 2, 1879, The Landmark was sold by the sheriff, under a chattel mortgage, with power of sale, on one undivided half interest and Norton B. Anderson purchased it for $450.
T. W. Park became the sole editor on July 11, 1879. Then on Oct. 10, 1879 an Episcopalian minister, Rev. T. R. Valliant, became the business manager. In a short time Valliant became proprietor and editor.
On Feb. 4, 1881, The Landmark and the Advocate, another Democratic paper in Platte City, consolidated and kept the name The Landmark. Park retired in 1882 after 15 years as editor. Then Valliant and H.C. Cockrill edited the paper with James McClure as a silent partner.
About this time, the office of The Landmark moved again, into the upstairs of a brick building on the site where the Central Platte Fire District headquarters now stands near Second and Main in downtown Platte City.
After the consolidation, The Landmark began to assume considerable state prominence. It was full of local news, correspondence, literature, and poetry. In 1888 Valliant, determined to devote his life to the ministry, sold The Landmark to John B. Mundy, who operated the business for two years before selling it to W.T. Jenkins.
After Jenkins took over, The Landmark building burned. He then moved into a building especially built and designed for The Landmark by Gus Smith in 1890.
About 1898, the newspaper press broke down completely, forcing Jennings to buy a new one. The landlord and Jenkins disagreed over the installation of the press and engine. An increase in rent was demanded, so The Landmark moved in March of 1899 into the building at 252 Main Street, where it is still located today.
This building had been built in 1869 by Dr. G.W. Smith as a drug store and a post office. In later years a grocery store and hardware store occupied the building.
In 1899, The Landmark installed a huge hand-fed Babcock press that would be used until 1979. A Babcock press can still be found in The Landmark office--long an attraction for history buffs, scouts and school groups--today. A gasoline engine originally furnished the power to run the press until an electric motor was installed in 1928.
Jenkins died in 1916 and Max Jones, who was the shop foreman, managed The Landmark for the estate.
On Jan. 1, 1918, Jones purchased The Landmark and became the editor and publisher. Jones had begun serving an apprenticeship in printing at The Landmark at the age of 16 in 1892. Jones served as editor and publisher until his death in 1956.
Until 1923, all the type had been set by hand. In May 1923, a Linotype machine was purchased. The Linotype allowed the operator to set in the same length of time more type than could ordinarily be produced by five or six men working by hand. A Linotype machine is still located in the front window of the The Landmark office today, visible to passersby on the sidewalk.
In 1933, Mary Hymer was employed by Jones as the Linotype operator. She continued to work for The Landmark for several decades.
In 1929, Roland Giffee began working in The Landmark office as a regular employee on an after-school and Saturday basis and became a full time employee when he finished school in 1932. Giffee was a proficient printer who continued to work for The Landmark until the early 1980's.
After Max Jones' death in 1956, his widow, Lucile L. Jones, took over as editor and publisher. She served in that role—with Giffee handling printing chores and Hymer running the Linotype—until Mrs. Jones sold The Landmark in 1979 to Dwayne Foley of Wathena, Kan. Foley had been the owner of weekly newspapers and a central printing plant in northeast Kansas.
Mrs. Jones had become acquainted with Foley through the years, periodically asking him to come help run/repair the Babcock press and other Landmark equipment on those occasions it had broken down or her staff was shorthanded.
In the first issue under his ownership in November of 1979, Dwayne Foley switched The Landmark from the old hot lead style of printing to the Compugraphic/offset method of printing, the modern thing at the time.
Much of the old letterpress equipment can still be found in The Landmark office today. The Linotype machine and several typecase chests full of many drawers of handset type are still on hand, along with the Babcock press and a couple of small job presses.
Dwayne Foley, 50, died of a heart attack in July of 1980, just months after buying The Landmark. The paper continued to be owned and published by his widow, Ethel Mae Foley.
Veteran newspaperman Clay McGinnis, with previous experience at the Independence Examiner and other Kansas City area publications, was hired as editor. He served in that position from 1980 until his death in August of 1993.
Dwayne Foley's youngest son, Ivan Foley, who had worked at the paper as reporter and manager since 1982, took over as editor after McGinnis' death in August of 1993. Meanwhile, The Landmark took the technological step into the computer world, buying two desktop publishing IBM-compatible units in November 1993.
The newspaper’s editorial positions on political matters soon switched from pro-Democratic to a more fiscally conservative message. Throughout the next decade, The Landmark steadily built a statewide reputation for editorializing in strong fashion and entertaining its readers at the same time. Its news coverage and editorials in the late 1990’s took on an aggressive and investigative approach to local news and columns, which prompted rapid growth in circulation while also making it the target of unsuccessful attempted boycotts by certain groups.
The Landmark has become a regular winner in the annual Missouri Better Newspaper contest and eventually became the highest paid circulation newspaper in Platte County.
Among current Landmark employees are office manager/assistant to the publisher Cindy Rinehart, now in her 25th year at the newspaper; and editor Valerie Verkamp, in her sixth year with The Landmark. Regular contributors include cartoonist Matthew Silber; columnists Chris Kamler, Hearne Christopher and Brian Kubicki, all of whom have also been with the paper for several years; contributing reporter Alan McArthur, connected to the paper a decade; and Debbie Coleman-Topi, in her second year as a contributing reporter.