Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Happy 130th birthday to The Wilcox Progressive Era newspaper!

This week’s edition of The Wilcox Progressive Era newspaper is dated for May 31, and I didn’t want the month of May to slip by without wishing The Progressive Era a happy 130th birthday.

According to old, archived editions of The Progressive Era, the newspaper traces its official roots to May 1, 1887 when it was organized by editor and president Solomon Daniel Bloch under the name The Wilcox Progress.

In and around 1887, there were a number of other newspapers operating within Wilcox County, including The Wilcox New Era, the Wilcox Banner and the Camden News. The Wilcox New Era was established in 1889, the Wilcox Banner started in 1903 and the Camden News began publication in 1912. However, all of those newspapers eventually merged with the Wilcox Progress, which took the name, The Wilcox Progressive Era.

A little over 100 years ago, in the May 10, 1917 edition of The Progressive Era, Bloch, who was 62 years old at the time, celebrated the newspaper’s 30th birthday with an editorial in which he declared May 1, 1887 to be the newspaper’s official date of organization. He also said that it was “with pride that we recall in these years, that not a line has ever appeared in its columns that any lady or girl could not read with pleasure. With our people, we have passed through years of adversity and sunshine, and shared with them sorrow and happiness.

“The Progressive Era has ever been the champion of unsullied democracy and the people’s rights, and has ever stood for the betterment of our farmers’ interests and the general improvement of our country. We thank our friends and subscribers and the county officials, professional and mechanical men, the businessmen of Mobile and Selma, and we hope soon to add the businessmen of Camden, for their liberal patronage. We trust by attention to our affairs and with the aid of our people, to merit their future approval and continued favors.”

Solomon “Sol” Bloch was an interesting man and was without a doubt the man who helped mold The Progressive Era into Wilcox County’s dominant newspaper. According to the 2002 book, “The Heritage of Wilcox County, Alabama,” Bloch was “one of the county’s most renowned newspaper editors” and was an “active political, civic and business leader of the early 20th century.” Bloch was born in Camden on Jan. 16, 1855 and was buried in Mobile’s Springhill Avenue Temple Cemetery after his death at the age of 69 on March 17, 1924.

In late 1917, S.C. Godbold purchased The Progressive Era and his family published the newspaper well into the 1960s. Alabama newspaper legend M. Hollis Curl purchased The Progressive Era in 1969, and his family continues to operate the newspaper today.

In the end, the current newspaper staff at The Progressive Era finds themselves carrying on the outstanding tradition of community journalism that was established 130 years ago this month. This week, if you happen to see a Progressive Era employee out and about, tip your hat to them for a job well done and wish them a happy 130th birthday.

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