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Published: Tuesday, 7/19/2005

Three decades ago, time ran out for 126-year-old paper

On the morning of Friday, July 18, 1975, thousands of Toledoans sorted through the news over their coffee and toast.

American and Soviet spacemen ended decades of competition by linking up their capsules in an example of shuttle diplomacy. Major oil companies denied they conspired to raise gasoline prices. Economists reported that the year-long recession had ended. Washington was trying to put an end to the Watergate scandal.

And The Toledo Times announced its last edition. News of the closing of the 126-year-old newspaper 30 years ago was sandwiched between the banner headline reporting the "Apollo-Soyuz: Space Bear Hug" and a picture of a group of sad and happy clowns (including Walter Matthau) appearing at a charity benefit.

The Times and its predecessors had survived the Civil War and two world wars (plus Korea and Vietnam), and it had reported on the dawn of the automotive age, the invention of the airplane and television, the Great Depression, the atomic bomb, and the administrations of 27 U.S. presidents.

But it couldn't survive newspaper economics. It wasn't alone. Since 1975, many other cities have become one-newspaper towns, including Columbus, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Baltimore, St. Louis, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Nashville, Louisville, and Buffalo. Among the casualties was the Miami News, winner of five Pulitzer prizes.

The first of several ancestors of The Toledo Times dated to 1849: the Commercial Republican, which proclaimed itself a "Free Democratic" newspaper. Its leanings were toward the "free soil" movement - which opposed the addition of new slave states to the Union and promoted free homesteads for settlers.

It changed hands several times in the 1850s, and in 1862 it became the Toledo Commercial. After several other changes in ownership, it was known as The Toledo Times by 1899.

In the early part of the 20th century, the newspaper underwent two corporate reorganizations, and in 1920 it moved into its own building, at Orange and Huron streets - still used by The Blade, which absorbed the Times in 1930. (In 1938, The Blade also took over some assets of the Toledo News-Bee, which folded that year.)

Over the years, the Times had its share of great headlines, including "MAN ON MOON" and "NIXON RESIGNS." But it also had more than its share of costs. The electronic technology that papers use today didn't arrive in time to help the little newspaper.

Toward the end, its daily circulation was about 30,000, compared with nearly 50,000 in 1954. For many years, the Times also printed Toledo's only Sunday newspaper, until The Blade took over the Sunday publication in July, 1948.

At its peak, the Sunday Times distributed nearly 103,000 copies weekly - compared with 180,000 printed today by The Blade, but not bad for the 1940s.

Despite its financial struggle, the Times was an interesting paper to work for. Its staff - including the late Mildred Benson (author of most of the Nancy Drew books) and the late Dorothy Rainie, longtime society editor for the Times and later The Blade - always tried to beat The Blade to the news.

And the Times was a great training ground for many a person who later worked for The Blade (including me).

Of course, in recent decades, many other longtime Toledo institutions have succumbed, too, including Buckeye Brewing Co., after 134 years in business, and Toledo Trust Co., after 121 years.

The anniversary of the closing of The Toledo Times is a reminder that longevity doesn't guarantee success. And a reminder that old friends should not be forgotten, even years after they're gone.



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