Commercial-News traces roots to 1866
DANVILLE — “A hog stampede occurred on Main street, last Sunday. A drove of about 300 were driven toward the railroad, when they took fright at an engine and ran back up Main street at their best speed. Some of them are perhaps still on the rampage.”
These words appeared on the pages of the Danville Commercial on Dec. 24, 1868.
The Commercial-News and the city it covers have changed a lot since the days when bands of hogs roamed the streets. The transition has been a mutual one, with the paper’s fortunes rising and falling along with those of the industries and residents of Danville.
R. H. Bryant established the Weekly Inquirer in 1832, just six years after the founding of Danville.
The paper, which was a Democratic organ, quickly experienced the liberties of free market capitalism by going out of business in 1839.
In the following decades, the Weekly Inquirer was succeeded by a series of 15 other newspapers, nearly all of which fell on a spectrum ranging from immediate failure to short-lived success.
The first paper to prove financially viable over an extended period of time was the Danville Commercial, the presses of which first rumbled to life on April 5, 1866. News items featured on the front page included the nomination of Gen. Ulysses Grant for president, advice about how to start early potatoes, and an impassioned editorial about the recently resolved Civil War.
“(I)t would be impolite and unsafe in the extreme to admit the representative of the insurrectionary States to their much coveted places in the Congress of the United States,” argued the central graph of the front page.
In 1903, the Commercial merged with the Danville News, which began operation in 1873, and the resulting paper became known as the Commercial-News.
Twenty-four years later, the paper swallowed another publication, The Danville Morning Press, itself the project of several mergers.
The final buyout allowed the Commercial-News to expand its daily circulation to 30,000 by 1930, a significant improvement from 900 it enjoyed in 1897.
The fortunes of Danville and the Commercial-News started to wane in the last quarter of the century. Blue collar jobs across the country disappeared as America underwent a dramatic shift from an industrial-based to a service-based economy.
As the economic situation in Danville stabilized, the Commercial-News underwent another major transition.
Gannett sold the newspaper to the Alabama-based CNHI in 1998, but the Commercial-News’ remained focused on local news coverage despite the change in ownership.
The approach allowed the paper to enjoy the same resurgence as the rest of the community.
Actual circulation remains close to 12,000, but the number of people who come into contact with the Commercial-News continues to expand through an active online readership.