News for an Empire

A loan from Kohlsaat enabled Johnson to invest in the Spokane Falls newspaper. A side light on the transaction is given by Johnson’s son, Dr. Redford K. Johnson, chairman of the board of the Alexander Hamilton Institute, New York. On March 10, 1948, he wrote :

Since I was only two months old at the time my father immigrated to "Spokane Falls" it will be apparent that I have no personal recollection of the events about which I am speaking.

Father must have been most grateful to Mr. H. H. Kohlsaat for I have borne the middle name of Kohlsaat ever since. The story, as told to me by my father, is simply that Kohlsaat loaned him $3,000 with which to start his venture in Spokane. Three thousand dollars was apparently a good deal of money in those days. I wish the same were true today. I do not believe that father ever knew just where Mr. Kohlsaat obtained the money which he gave him. It is my understanding that he gradually repaid the loan after leaving Spokane.

Johnson was five feet eleven inches, tall, clean shaven in a day when some kind of facial adornment was well-nigh universal among the men of Spokane Falls, keen-eyed, lovable, a shrewd judge of human nature, and as neat in his apparel as in his writing. A photograph printed in 1890 shows him wearing a checked suit, high collar, conspicuously large bow tie, and with a handkerchief tucked neatly into his front coat pocket.

After lining up these partners and financial backers the energetic Brown bought a press, bought type from Benton & Waldo, type-founders in Milwaukee, engaged printers and compositors. Back in Spokane Falls he rented quarters for the new newspaper on Howard Street, between Front and Main. He hired George Stinson, a carpenter, to build partitions and do other carpenter work. Stinson received Brown’s check, dated January 29, 1890, for one hundred dollars covering his work. Written on the check was “On account of work for Spokesman Pub. Co.” The new paper’s name, coined by Joseph French Johnson, already was in use. At the going wage for carpenters, the amount of the check would indicate work had started in December, 1889. Another check for one hundred dollars, dated February 5, 1890, was written by Brown in favor of L. B. Whitten for The Spokesman’s February rent. The press was installed in the basement.

With these preliminaries attended to, Joseph French Johnson came West in February, 1890, with his beautiful, blonde wife Caroline and his two-months-old son. Editor Johnson wrote about his venture to his former employer, Samuel Bowles, publisher of the Springfield Republican, who replied February 21, 1890:


 I am glad to hear that you arc still living and are looking forward to so pleasant and prosperous a future in your new location. I remember stopping at Spokane Falls for a few hours, a number of years ago, and although it was then a very young town, it made a favorable impression upon a stranger. . . .

 You shall certainly have The Republican in exchange for your paper and I shall be obliged if you will send me, personally, two or three copies of the early issues of your publication, as I shall be interested in seeing it. ...

 Wishing you abundant and early success in your enterprise.

 Truly yours,