Courants, Messengers, And A Plain Dealer

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Names often reflect editorial statements, and few can have enjoyed a grander explanation than that offered by Brainard W. Maples in the inaugural issue of his Norwalk, Connecticut, paper The Hour on May 6,1871: “When we had decided to commence the publication of this paper, our first perplexity was for a name. Like young parents, we have been puzzled what to christen our offspring....

“A name must be appropriate, expressive and in harmony with the object which it is intended to imply.

“Our paper will give an epitome of the occurrences of The Hour, making thereon such comments as may seem called for and proper. With The Hour come our duties and our responsibilities, to The Hour they are confined, and within The Hour must be completed. Beginning with time and continuing to eternity, The Hour embraces all that is of interest to humanity here and affords the opportunity to prepare for the hereafter. The Hour is our theme, our opportunity and our limit, and we have selected it as a name.


“Our duty now is to make THE HOUR a pleasant, useful Hour, that may not pass unheeded or unread. . . .”

The final word on titling a newspaper must go to A. N. Gray and J. W. Gray, the two brothers who took over the Cleveland Advertiser and renamed it in 1842: “We offer no apologies for changing the name of this paper but the Scripture command—’Put not new wine into old bottles, lest they break.’. . . We think the good taste of our readers will sanction the modest selection we have made. Had we called it the Torpedo , timid ladies never would have touched it. Had we called it the Truth Teller , no one would believe a word in it! Had we called it the Thunder Dealer or Lightning Spitter , it would have blown Uncle Sam’s mail bags sky high. But our democracy and modesty suggest the only name that befits the occasion, the PLAIN DEALER .”

The name has always intrigued people, among them that indefatigable correspondent Winston Churchill, who said, “I think that by all odds, the Plain Dealer has the best newspaper name of any in the world.”