The Register-Star’s lineage can be traced to April 7, 1785, with the advent of The Gazette. The founders of the Gazette, Ashbel Stoddard and Charles Webster, came to Hudson after starting their newspaper careers at The Connecticut Courant, which eventually became The Hartford Courant. Over the years, the Gazette stopped publication, restarted and merged several times with other publications, including the Valatie Times in 1853 and Democratic Freeman in 1848, until The Daily Evening Register was founded in 1866 and published with the weekly Gazette.
On Dec. 28, 1847, Alexander N. Webb started Hudson’s first daily, The Hudson Daily Star. Webb published both the Daily Star and The Columbia Washingtonian, a publication he started in 1847. He changed the Washingtonian’s name to the Weekly Star in 1851. In 1848, the Daily Star had changed to an evening publication. In 1862, the Register’s owner, M. Parker Williams purchased the old jail property on the corner of Fourth and Warren Streets, where the Register-Star was formerly located.
In 1873, the Daily Star founder’s son, Herbert N. Webb, and Louis Goeltz purchased both the Daily Star and the Weekly Star and on May 2, 1874 switched the daily to a morning paper. In 1876, Herbert Webb was bought out by William Bryon. Bryon formed a partnership with Goeltz at the Star. The Daily and Weekly Star became the Hudson Daily Republican, a morning newspaper, and the Columbia Republican became a weekly. The Gazette was closed in 1931 during the Depression. In 1953, the Register bought The Star, creating today’s Register-Star.
The Watertown Daily Times story dates back to 1861 and the New York Daily Reformer, a four-page publication of about 1,500 circulations, whose editorial columns spoke vigorously for the abolition of slavery, a free public school system, temperance, and local political reform.
The Reformer office of the Civil War era was a small, three-story brick building on Arcade Street, partially surrounded by pasture. On its Stone Street side, circus tents would set up during summer visits to the North Country and on its north side, a two-story structure housed the “Invalid Corps” for soldiers recovering from illness or war wounds and still not strong enough to return to battle. In good weather, the corps held daily drills in front of their barracks and The Reformer’s office.
In 1870, The Reformer took its present name, the Watertown Daily Times.
The modern era of The Watertown Daily Times began early in this century when Harold B. Johnson of Gouverneur, in St. Lawrence County, joined the staff as a reporter in 1904. Having newspaper experience in Oregon and Montana, Mr. Johnson had been The Times Gouverneur correspondent before joining the city staff. At age 22, he was only three years away from the city editorship. In 1918, he was promoted to managing editor and later, became editor and president of the Brockway Company, then the parent firm of The Times.
Under his direction, the paper broadened its coverage of northern New York, tightened the network of correspondents, and extended coverage to Albany and Washington. The Watertown Daily Times remains today the smallest newspaper in the nation to have its own Washington bureau.
In 1932, Mr. Johnson acquired complete control of the Brockway Company and became the paper’s publisher. Upon his death in 1949, his son, John B. Johnson, succeeded him as editor and publisher.
The Brockway Company was restructed in 1970 to become the Johnson Newspaper Corporation. It has grown to include papers throughout New York state including dailies in Watertown, Batavia, Malone, Ogdensburg, Massena, Potsdam, Catskill and Hudson. Weeklies are published in Carthage, Lowville, Chatham, Windham, Stamford, Livingston County, Ulster County, and St. Lawrence County. Pennysavers are published for Jefferson County, the Batavia area, and the Hudson valley region. In addition, the Watertown Daily Times prints the Fort Drum Blizzard and the Batavia Daily News has for several years printed USA Today for western and central New York.
Revolutionary advances in newspaper production have occurred since The Times’ inception more than one hundred forty years ago. Then, farmers furnished wood to fuel the steam boilers of the press in return for subscriptions. Type was hand set and the Taylor cylinder press labored to produce a mere 1,000 copies per hour.
The computer age has brought changes unimaginable to the newspaper reader of 1861. Today’s offset press produces sharp, full-color photography and can produce 50,000 copies per hour. A major renovation of the building in 1995 readied the facilities for the change from cut and paste page assembly to computer-driven pagination. Each page of The Times is now created and assembled electronically using a state-of-the-art technically advanced computer network. In the late 1990s, circulation, advertising, and financial operations were streamlined throughout all divisions with new computer software linking all properties.
During the fall of 2001, the website at WatertownDailyTimes.com went online to service our readers throughout the world. The, site, which includes local news, sports, weather, births, weddings, obituaries, classified ads, editorials and featured articles, is updated daily to keep Times subscribers in touch with what’s going on back home. Times online archives are also available online. Watertown Daily Times stories from March 1988 to the present can be accessed with a click of the mouse at WatertownDailyTimes.com.
In the spring of 2002, construction was completed on a new printing facility in Massena, the Johnson Newspaper Center. This new state-of-the-art facility replaces printing operations in Ogdensburg and Malone and will now serve as a central printing and distribution point for the St. Lawrence County Newspapers Corporation and the Malone Telegram. On September 30, 2002, the Watertown Daily Times transitioned from publishing an afternoon to morning newspaper.
Today, the Johnson Newspaper Corporation remains a family-owned and operated business. Following John B. Johnson’s death on May 2, 2001, his son John B. Johnson Jr. assumed the roles of editor/co-publisher of The Times and chairman of the board/chief executive officer of the Johnson Newspaper Corp. John B. Johnson’s son, Harold B. Johnson II, assumed the roles of general manager/co-publisher of The Times and president/chief operating officer of the Johnson Newspaper Corporation. John B. Johnson Jr.’s son, John B. Johnson, joined the family business in August 2007 as Advertising and Marketing Director. With daily advances in technology, the Johnson family remains committed to excellence in reporting the daily news and delivering a total package of information to our readers.