The Vincennes Sun-Commercial is almost as old as Vincennes itself.
The newspaper which is published today is a direct descendent of the newspapers originated by Elihu Stout during the first decade of the 19th century, making it the oldest newspaper in the state.
Stout established his print shop in Vincennes and in 1804 began publishing the Indiana Gazette.
His shop and equipment were destroyed by fire in 1806. A year later, on July 4, 1807, he revived his weekly newspaper under the name Western Sun.
Eventually, the Western Sun became the Western Sun and General Advertiser on Dec. 6, 1817.
Although unsupported by diaries or other written documentation, local legend has it that a 21-year-old Abraham Lincoln visited Stout’s office while he and his family were moving their household from Indiana to Illinois, and he helped Stout print the March 6, 1830, edition of the newspaper. In 1954, the Lincoln-Free Press Memorial Association erected a reproduction of Stout’s print shop adjacent to the Indiana Territorial Capitol. Today, complete with an authentic Adam Ramage wooden printing press such as Stout used, the print shop is part of the Indiana Territory State Historic Site.
Stout sold his business to John R. Jones in November of 1845. Jones subsequently changed the name to Jones’ Vincennes Sentinel, the Vincennes Patriot, and, in 1853, the Courant and Patriot.
In 1856, George E. Green purchased the newspaper and revived the name Western Sun. He died in 1870, and the business was sold to R.C. Kise and A.J. Thomas. In 1873, Alfred Patton obtained Kise’s interest in the business. In 1876, Thomas and Patton sold the newspaper to R.E. Purcell.
Purcell began publishing the weekly newspaper in October of that year, and in 1879 established a second newspaper, a daily called the Vincennes Sun.
Purcell announced the publishing partnership of R.E. Purcell & Sons on July 4, 1910, with his sons George W. Purcell and Royal Purcell. Due to failing health, R.E. Purcell became inactive in the business about 1915, and his sons took over the newspapers.
Royal Purcell died in 1918 and George Purcell continued publication. He discontinued the Western Sun in 1925 and, in July 1926, sold the Vincennes Sun to John T. Harris of Washington and John David Hogue Jr. of Vincennes.
In the meantime, S.F. Horrall and sons founded in March 1877 a competing weekly newspaper, the Vincennes Commercial, The Commercial was sold, on Feb. 15, 1881, to “The Commercial Company,” with Thomas H. Adams as manager and editor. The Commercial began publishing daily morning editions in April 1882.
Adams subsequently attained journalistic fame for his strong editorial stand against the Ku Klux Klan which became a political power in Indiana in the 1920s.
On Sept. 28, 1930, newspaper magnate Eugene C. Pulliam purchased both the Vincennes Sun and the Vincennes Commercial. He published a combined edition on Sundays, but continued to publish the Sun as an evening paper and the Commercial as a morning paper until Feb. 1, 1931, when they were merged as the Vincennes Sun-Commercial.
Pulliam went on to purchase The Indianapolis Star, The Indianapolis News, two newspapers in Muncie and three in Phoenix, Ariz. Although he owned several newspapers when he purchased the Sun and the Commercial, he subsequently sold or closed them, so that of all the Pulliam newspapers the Sun-Commercial has been owned the longest by Central Newspapers Inc., the corporation Pulliam founded.
In 2000, the Gannett Company purchased Central Newspapers. and two years later, Gannett sold the Sun-Commercial to Paxton Media Group of Paducah, Ky., the firm that owns the newspaper today.
For years, the Sun-Commercial was published on Busseron Street in a building which was between what is now First Federal Bank and the Heilig-Meyers furniture store. There, the newspaper was printed using lead type.
In the early 1960s, the newspaper moved into its current quarters at Seventh and Main streets and began printing the newspaper using offset printing technology.
In the late 1980s, the Sun-Commercial acquired Macintosh computers and became a pioneer in the nation in terms of producing a newspaper on a computer screen, a process known as “full pagination.”
It took Elihu Stout some 36 hours to set type for his four-page weekly newspaper, then his apprentices took some 20 hours to print 400 copies.
Today, the Sun-Commercial, which is printed in Owensboro, KY at The Messenger-Inquirer, a sister paper, typesets a full page at a time electronically. It then takes less than an hour to print 10,000 copies of the typical 16-page daily newspaper.
Editor’s note: The above information comes from various sources, including Dr. Hubbard M. Smith’s “Historical Sketches of Old Vincennes,” published in 1902; Henry M. Cauthron’s “History of Vincennes,” published in 1901; and Hodge’s “Vincennes in Picture
702 Main Street Vincennes IN 47591