In 1854, major streets were lit by coal gas for the first time, Smith & Wesson patented metal bullet cartridges, Abraham Lincoln made his first political speech at the Illinois State Fair, the Republican Party was founded and The Cleveland Banner was established in Cleveland, Tennessee.
The longest-running newspaper in Cleveland and Bradley County celebrated 160 years of operation in June. Associate Editor Rick Norton recently spoke at the Cleveland Media Association regarding the history of the Banner and what it means to a community to have its own newspaper dedicated to bringing them the news that matters.
Those who know the Banner’s past can truly appreciate why the legacy of the Banner is one of the landmark achievements recorded in the history of The City With Spirit.
According to a book titled “The History of Bradley County,” the Cleveland Daily Banner was “a Democratic weekly founded by Robert McNelly.” It ran smoothly until the fall of 1863, when McNelly, a Southern supporter during the Civil War, was arrested by Federal troops.
In his book “Cleveland The Beautiful,” historian William R. Snell wrote, “Federal troops arrived in force in September 1863 and occupied the town. A few days later McNelley was arrested and publication of his newspaper suspended. On September 17, 1863, Myra Inman reported the event. Myra, the daughter of James W. Inman, kept a diary during the period which gives insight into happenings of the town during the troubled times. One of the casualties of the conflict was the Cleveland Banner.”
After the Civil War ended, however, the Banner was revived by McNelly and his son J.R. on Sept. 16, 1865. The paper began new volume numbering and the subscription price was $3 a year in advance, or 10 cents for a single copy, according to Snell.
By October 1876, the Banner boasted more than 1,100 subscribers, an impressive number for that time. The location of its publication remained on North Ocoee Street from 1854 to 1936. In December 1936 the Banner then moved to Second Street in downtown Cleveland. It was January 1970 when the Banner moved to 25th Street, where it is now.
Year after year, decade after decade, from the 19th century to the 21st century, The Cleveland Daily Banner has offered its readers reliable, thought-provoking and insightful journalism that focuses on relevant news to the community, along with features that raise awareness about local programs, local personalities, and candid perspectives from leading citizens.
It has celebrated the academic and athletic achievements of outstanding students and teachers, and brought recognition where it was due or long overdue to representatives of a growing community who put faith over fear, sacrifice over success and love over lip service. As a result, the local community has stayed informed of its own accomplishments, failings and social responsibilities.
Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland stated, “There is nothing I look forward to every evening any more than reading the Banner. There are many news outlets that give us a choice for news, however when it comes to keeping in touch with our community, The Banner is the only complete source for hard news and news important to our own neighborhoods as well. Anytime I speak to young people, I stress the importance of getting into the habit of being informed and that's from reading our local newspaper, The Cleveland Daily Banner. The Banner is the face of Cleveland at its best.”
Banner Publisher Stephen Crass said in an earlier interview, “The residents of Cleveland and Bradley County, whether they were born here or relocated here in search of jobs or quality of life, and the business community, have all played a significant hand in shaping the history of the Cleveland Daily Banner. Without their support, and their loyalty, the Banner could not have enjoyed the longevity that has allowed us to serve this community, and to be an integral part of it.”
Although the Banner has improved its look, style and operation over many decades, it remains the same newspaper dedicated to keeping its readers informed of local, state and national news. While technology is changing the world, good journalism will always be in demand to preserve fair reporting that is accurate, true and trustworthy.
Advertising Director Jack Bennett added, “It’s a privilege to be working for the Banner after 23 years in the advertising department. I’ve seen many changes over the years but the quality and integrity of our paper is remarkable. It was wonderful being a part of Open House to celebrate 160 years of serving Cleveland, Bradley County and surrounding areas. I was proud to be a part of that. We value our advertisers who can always rely on top-notch stories to accompany their ads. We also value our loyal readers who depend on us to give them, not only the latest local, state, national and sports news, but the latest notices and classifieds that impact them. And we will continue to do so.”
In addition to its printed news, the Banner has also kept pace with the times by adding digital content for a new generation of readers who enjoy getting their news off the Internet. By joining the digital media landscape with its exciting opportunities, the Banner is poised to increase its family of readers for the future.
Regarding what lies ahead, General Manager Jim Bryant, who has been with the Banner for 34 years said, “These are exciting times to be in the newspaper industry. We live in an Information Age and it’s never been more important to get accurate information from reliable sources like the Banner. Responsible journalism in the local community will always be in demand, because people want to know what’s going on in their community. They need to know. And we intend to be there to give it to them — whether they want it in print or in digital content. We can do both and we will continue to do so.”
Whether it was covering President Grover Cleveland’s visit to Cleveland in 1887, the devastating tornado outbreak of April 2011, or new management for America’s oldest tailored clothing maker, Hardwick Clothes — The Cleveland Daily Banner is tailor-made for bringing its community the most thorough news coverage. The Banner is proud to celebrate its 160th anniversary with its many loyal readers.