Missouri town marks Stars and Stripes’ birthday

BLOOMFIELD, Mo. (AP) — A newspaper that has helped inform the nation’s military since its creation in a southeast Missouri newspaper office during the Civil War is celebrating 150 years.

The Stars and Stripes got its start in tiny Bloomfield, Mo., in 1861, and Bloomfield is the site of the Stars and Stripes Museum and Library. The newspaper turned 150 on Wednesday.

The president-emeritus of the museum, James Mayo, told the Poplar Bluff Daily American Republic (http://bit.ly/neW1pb ) that the Stars and Stripes newspaper is unique in its coverage of every war since the Civil War. And he says it will go on for years to come.

It still has a circulation of more than 50,000.

An original copy of the four-page broadsheet, its edges tattered and print slightly faded, sits at the small museum in Bloomfield. It is just one of three of the originals still in existence. One of the other two is held by the Library of Congress; the other by the University of Michigan.

“It’s our heritage, of which we are very proud,” said James R. Mayo, president-emeritus of the museum. “It belonged to us. There’s nothing like the Stars and Stripes. It has covered every war, from the War Between the States to the present. It will go on for years and years, as long as our boys are stationed in foreign countries.”

At the museum, stacks of current editions of the paper occupy shelves to one side. Bound books containing hundreds of papers dating to World War I are on the other.

In 1861, Bloomfield was occupied in the early winter by 2,200 members of the Missouri State Guard. Though not Confederate troops, they were organized by state officials to repel “northern invaders.”

Newly promoted Brig. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant was headquartered in nearby Cairo, Ill., and fearing an attack from the rear, ordered three regiments to converge on Bloomfield. The town would change hands more than 20 times in the next five years.

An Illinois regiment in Bloomfield found an abandoned office of the Bloomfield Herald. They spent the evening of Nov. 8, 1861, publishing a newspaper.

Like its modern day counterpart, the news was gathered by recruits, not officers. It offered advice like a preference on the best wagon for navigating swamp land, an advertisement for a stable to board horses, and news from the regiments.

There was even humor. The first paper wrote of the state guard’s retreat, noting, “Jeff Thompson’s rebels showed a Good pair of heels in their retreat from Bloomfield, if they did not show good Stout hearts.”

Four more editions would be printed before the end of the Civil War. After that, the Stars and Stripes would not go to press again until World War I, when newspaper man Guy Viskniskki convinced Gen. John Pershing of the benefits of a publication run by enlisted men for the armed forces. Viskniskki had an uncle in the Illinois regiment at Bloomfield and shared a hometown, Carmi, Ill., with three of the first 10 founders of the Stars and Stripes.

The Stars and Stripes Museum took decades to develop, Mayo said. The all-volunteer operation features more than 50,000 copies of the newspaper, photographs and other historical items.

“What we do here is preserve history,” Mayo said.

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Information from: Daily American Republic, http://www.darnews.com

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