Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor


The Argus Leader, published in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is the survivor of a number of newspapers that have existed in that community since its first founding in 1857. It is the product of a merger of two early papers: the Sioux Falls Argus, a weekly paper begun in 1881, and the Sioux Falls Leader, which was founded in 1883. The consolidation occurred in 1887, and the name was hyphenated until December 3, 1979. The Argus-Leader was originally a Democratic paper, but it switched to the Republican Party during the 1896 McKinley election. (The paper long ago dropped any political party connection.) Begun as a morning paper, it changed to evening publication in 1885 and continued on that schedule for the next ninety-four years.

The Argus-Leader nearly joined the town's other failed newspapers in 1889 when it ceased publication for more than a week due to financial problems. At that time, when Sioux Falls had a population of about 10,000, the paper had a total circulation of only 1,000 daily and 900 weekly. New owners moved the paper to 109 N. Main, where it thrived: by 1892 total circulation had risen to 7,500, and the paper had become a statewide publication. This success became clearly visible in 1917 with the addition of a second floor and a new pressroom to the building and the erection of an electric bulletin board and a large electric World Series board on its facade. On January 1, 1928, the Argus-Leader's main competitor, the Sioux Falls Daily Press, a morning paper, ceased operations, and its publisher, Fred C. Christopherson, became assistant editor of the Argus-Leader. Christopherson continued at the Argus-Leader for the next thirty-three years, retiring in 1961 as executive editor.

The Argus-Leader experienced major changes after World War II. In 1951 a massive fire destroyed the business office and newsroom. After operating in various temporary quarters, the paper moved to its present site at Tenth and Minnesota in 1954. A year later local owners sold the paper to John A. Kennedy of San Diego, California, who in turn sold it to the Speidel newspaper chain of Reno, Nevada, in 1963. In May 1977 the Gannet Company, Inc., a newspaper chain of fifty-four papers, merged with the thirteen-paper Speidel Company. Through this merger, Allen Neuharth, a native of Eureka, South Dakota, and head of the Gannet Company, became owner of the Argus-Leader. It was at this time that the paper switched to being a morning paper and dropped Sioux Falls from its nameplate.

The Argus Leader, with a daily circulation of about 52,000 in August 2000, remains the only locally published daily newspaper in Sioux Falls. While its primary focus is Minnehaha and adjacent counties, the Argus Leader is also the regional newspaper of "east river" South Dakota, southwestern Minnesota, and northwestern Iowa.

See also CITIES AND TOWNS: Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Gary D. Olson

Augustana College

Bailey, Dana. History of Minnehaha County. Sioux Falls SD: Brown and Saenger, 1899. Hollingsworth, Dave. "Argus Leader Chronology." Argus Leader, May 1, 1988.

Olson, Gary D., and Erik L. Olson. Pictorial History of Sioux Falls. Norfolk VA: Donning Press, 1985.

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