The Star-Tribune recently marked its 125th anniversary. While the mission of delivering the news to the people of Casper and Wyoming remains the same, times have certainly changed.
Crowds no longer gather outside the building as baseball scores arrive by telegraph. Computers and smartphones have replaced typewriters. And — although some online commenters might joke otherwise — the editors no longer retire to the saloon at lunchtime.
When the Natrona Tribune, the Star-Tribune’s earliest ancestor, debuted in the summer of 1891, the town of Casper was 2 years old, and three earlier newspapers had already failed.
On Nov. 23, 1888, the Casper Weekly Mail published the first newspaper in what would be Natrona County. At the time, the area was still part of Carbon County.
The Bessemer Journal was established the following year, but neither the Journal nor the town of Bessemer held on for long.
Casper’s second newspaper, the Wyoming Derrick, published its first issue on May 21, 1890. The Weekly Mail apparently couldn’t handle the competition from the Derrick and the Jan. 16, 1891, issue was the last for the Mail.
The Derrick’s monopoly lasted only a few months, however, and on June 17, 1891, the Natrona Tribune published its first issue, starting an unbroken line that leads to today’s Casper Star-Tribune.
The Tribune was owned by about 20 men, organized under the name of the Republican Publishing Co. The first publisher was J. Enos Waite, formerly of the Bessemer Journal. It was printed in a small, frame building on Center Street.
Volume 1, No. 1 of The Natrona Tribune contained a glowing description of the town and sketches of all merchants doing business (and advertising in the newspaper) at the time and listed the city officials.
After Waite’s retirement in 1892, there was a succession of eight publishers and almost as many editors who ran the operation during the next five years.
In 1897, A.J. Mokler bought the newspaper from its founders and changed the name to the Natrona County Tribune. He also moved the paper into ground-floor rented quarters in the just-completed Odd Fellows Building at the corner of Second and Wolcott streets.
Mokler sold the company in 1914 to J.E. Hanway and Associates. Two years later, Hanway published the first edition of the Casper Daily Tribune. The Daily Tribune rapidly expanded until it had the largest circulation of any newspaper in the state, with the most modern plant and equipment in Wyoming.
The weekly Natrona County Tribune continued to publish, and it soon became evident that the papers would need their own buildings. Lots were purchased at a central downtown location, and the Tribune Building was completed on East Second Street in 1920. The newspaper’s successors continued to publish at that location until 1963.
“Tribune Building” remains inscribed in stone at 216 E. Second St., the current home of Fashion Crossroads Outlet.
The oil boom of Casper’s early years encouraged others to start publishing their own newspapers, many of which were short-lived. Most left no current survivors; others were absorbed by various predecessors to today’s Star-Tribune.
The original Natrona County Tribune was merged with other publications and eventually discontinued.
The Tribune Company subsequently purchased the morning Casper Herald in 1925 and combined it with the Daily Tribune in 1931 to create the Tribune-Herald.
Jack Becker, a pressman for the Tribune-Herald who continued to work for the Star-Tribune until his retirement from the back shop in May 1988, remembered the paper’s early days.
Becker said that during the 1940s, a bell clanged to warn the printers that they had only a few minutes to finish their lunchtime craps game.
They also wrote headlines for the editors, who usually drank their lunch in a bar across the street.
Paychecks were issued on Fridays, but employees would cash their checks immediately and hit the saloons early on Friday night. As a result, many people wouldn’t show up for work over the weekend. Therefore, management changed payday to Monday, so employees could pace themselves during the week.
The Casper Morning Star was first published on Sept. 22, 1949, with Allan Drey as editor and publisher. The Tribune-Herald purchased the company in 1955.
The papers were sold to Wyoming Publishers Inc. in 1961, after which the daily edition was renamed the Casper Tribune. The Sunday edition was called the Casper Star-Tribune.
Howard Publications assumed ownership of Wyoming Publishers in 1972, and operated the Star-Tribune until it was purchased by Lee Enterprises in February 2002. The newspaper moved into its current location in 1981.
Much of this information was taken directly from “Wyoming Newspapers: A Centennial History,” published by the Wyoming Press Association in 1990. The Star-Tribune’s history was written by former staff member Dan Whipple.