I see that in all the excitement over the Grand Renovation, the donation of a South American blowpipe, and those ninety boxes of books from the zoo, I missed an anniversary. Forty years have gone by since the publishing of one of the Book Fair’s stalwart visitors. If you have NOT yet bought this item, you’d best hurry up. The year may come when we will have to shake our heads sadly and say “Nobody donated it this year.”
I cannot say for certain whether we have sold a hundred copies of it in our third of a century of selling collectibles, but there was that memorable year that a donation came in from a man who hurried around and bought forty copies, some flat and some rolled. Did everyone in Chicago run out on March 4, 1978 to buy the last edition of the Chicago Daily News?
Forty years ago this March the 102 year-old rival to the Tribune said “So Long, Chicago” on its front page. (It was revived briefly as a weekend newspaper by Illinois governor AND Book Fair donor Richard Ogilvie, but this didn’t last more than a few months in 1979.) After a century of journalism best described, it says here, as “assertive”, it succumbed to changing American habits. The editors admitted that the blue collar audience that had picked up the paper on the way home was gone: people got home from work in time for prime time, and didn’t need a newspaper. And newspapers sold on the sidewalk in Chicago weren’t really needed by people headed home to the suburbs. (They cite a legend that the day the Kennedy Expressway opened, street sales of the Daily News dropped by nearly 19,000.)
Some of the editorials (the issue is dedicated primarily to farewells and memories) speculate on the death of print journalism in a world where machines were there to deliver quick, brief stories without depth or nuance. And this was BEFORE cable and the Internet, cantaloupe chowder! Of course, print journalism did not die, since we still have newspapers (though the average Sunday Tribune is smaller than this Saturday paper from 1978) and people still buy them from machines. (Why, this winter I saw a lady stop and buy TWO newspapers from the corner machine…though she actually bought the second one because the machine door had slammed shut on her scarf and she had to pay to be released.)
It’s a pristine souvenir of Chicago history, a reminder of the push and shove between Chicago’s two big dailies. The Tribune had a radio station before the Daily News bought one, but the Daily News had its first television broadcast in 1930, months before the Tribune followed suit. Without the Daily News, there would have been no column by Ben Hecht called “1001 Afternoons in Chicago”, and we would have been the poorer for the lack of “The Front Page”, which he and Charles MacArthur wrote about some wild, aggressive reporters for a wild, aggressive newspaper (guess which.) A generation or so later, it became the home of Mike Royko, Herman Kogan, and other Chicago legends.
So of course, a lot of people who didn’t bother any more to buy the daily Daily News hurried out and bought this last one. We will have it (maybe more than one) at the Collector’s table, in one of those legendary boxes on the floor with old Life magazines and ALL the newspapers your grandmother saved during the contested election of 2000. Buy it now, so Chicago doesn’t run out of copies. (Your heirs can donate it back someday and start the whole cycle over again.)