Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor


The Dallas Morning News traces its roots to the thriving port city of Galveston, where in 1842 Samuel Bangs, a publisher from Boston, founded the Galveston News. After the Civil War, a Confederate colonel from North Carolina named A. H. Belo joined the Galveston News as bookkeeper. Belo quickly became a full partner, and the newspaper became the foundation of the A. H. Belo Corporation, now one of the largest diversified media companies in the United States.

In 1885 Belo told his mailroom manager, George Bannerman Dealey, to find a place in North Texas to start a sister publication. Dealey chose the small town of Dallas and named the newspaper the Dallas Morning News. When the Dallas Morning News was launched in 1885, its most serious challenge came from the far-off St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which had a greater circulation in Texas than any Texas newspaper. To meet this threat, the Dallas Morning News used a special train to deliver copies to McKinney, Sherman, Denison, and other towns in North and East Texas. It also used trains to deliver copies to Fort Worth to the west.

By 1906, the year the predecessor of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram began publication, the Dallas Morning News had reached a circulation of 38,000, and Dallas was soon to be the major city in North Texas. An often-bitter rivalry developed between Dallas and Fort Worth. Dallas was becoming a sophisticated metropolitan center, while Fort Worth remained a cow town and proudly identified itself as "Where the West Begins." While it had some circulation in the Fort Worth area, the Dallas Morning News concentrated most of its circulation efforts in the city of Dallas and cities in the northern and eastern regions of Texas. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, looking westward, became the newspaper for all of West Texas and into New Mexico.

An almost impenetrable wall grew up along the boundary line that separates Dallas County and Tarrant County, where Fort Worth is located. For most of the twentieth century, the Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram respected that boundary, and other than single-copy newsstand sales, each stayed on its own side of the county line. However, by the 1960s the thirty-mile-wide rural area between Dallas and Fort Worth began to explode in industry and population. Arlington grew almost overnight from 7,500 to more than 300,000. Several other cities in the former noman's- land had exceeded 100,000 by the end of the twentieth century. This led to a major circulation war between the Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Both coveted the rapidly expanding population as possible subscribers and readers. In the 1990s both newspapers established Arlington editions that grew into the Arlington Morning News and the Arlington Star-Telegram. The circulation battle also includes the area to the north of Arlington known as the Mid-Cities. Most of this disputed territory is in Tarrant County.

Although the Dallas Morning News has become one of the largest newspapers in the country and now competes for the Plains border country to the west, it has never approached the influence of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in the West Texas and eastern New Mexico portions of the Great Plains.

Gerald L. Grotta Texas Christian University

A. H. Belo Corporation: Commemorating 150 Years, 1842– 1992. Dallas: A. H. Belo, 1992.

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