Cash reward offered for single copy of historic newspaper

Apr 9 2012 - 10:25pm

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Today we are going to launch the Wasatch Rambler Scavenger Hunt with $50 of my own personal money for the lucky individual who finds one special item.

No kidding. Cash. Green stuff.

To collect, you must deliver into my hand a genuine copy of the "Utah Danske Amerikaner," a fine publication that sputtered into existence in Huntsville in 1885, dragged along a year or so, then sputtered out again.

The reason I am offering so much money is that this is one of several lost items of Top of Utah's history that I know are out there somewhere, filed away, buried in an album or lining some ancient parakeet cage.

Sadly, most things like this get tossed. Grandpa dies and his grandchildren set his old papers out on the curb. History goes to the dump.

I am not alone in my quest.

Nick Breeze, who lives in Ogden Canyon, is a huge fan of the old Hermitage Resort. Topping his shopping list are pictures of the inside of that fine old resort, which burned before World War II.

Specifically, he wants a picture of the hotel's bar, which he says was a celebration of carved wood, art objects and decoration.

You know there's got to be such a picture out there. Someone got married at the Hermitage and had their picture taken in front of the bar. Or someone threw a bachelor party and snapped a shot of a guy with a lamp shade on his head.

Whatever, that shot is in an album in someone's basement, waiting to be opened.

Union Station in Ogden is still hunting for pictures taken in the station during World War II.

Ogden was a madhouse during the war. Dozens of trains and thousands of soldiers a day passed through. Not a single picture of those soldiers while they are at the station is in the station's collection.

Why? It was illegal to take pictures in the station. Spies and security stuff. Loose lips sink ships, you know? But someone had to sneak a Kodak in and snap their husband, brother or whatever going off to war.

Dig in your collections. It would fill a hole in the museum's history.

Why do I want the Danske Amerikaner bad enough to pay $50? I'm a bug on newspaper history and Top of Utah is rich in it.

The 1938 book "Early Utah Journalism" by J. Cecil Alter (still available at Weller's Works in Salt Lake City) calls Weber County the graveyard of Utah journalism. Dozens of newspapers started in Weber over the years, most to little success.

Some seemed doomed to fail, and the "Danske Amerikaner" is a prime example of why.

The editor was Carl C. Ericksen, who told people he was the son of the official coachman of the King of Denmark. Alter says Ericksen used to walk around Huntsville in a stovepipe hat and dark coat that his father had allegedly worn for his official duties.

Why did his newspaper fail? Huntsville was pretty small, which limited the market. Plus, the paper was printed in Danish and then, as now, there were advantages to communicating in English.

Alter never found a copy of the "Danske Amerikaner" to illustrate his book, but he did find someone who had known Editor Ericksen:

"'Where is he now?' we asked and our informant replied: 'He died in the poor house. What did you suppose would become of a man who would start a newspaper in Huntsville?' "

Fifty dollars, coin of the realm, for a copy of Ericksen's dream.

Put it that way I sound cheap, but I work for a newspaper, too.

The Wasatch Rambler is the opinion of Charles Trentelman. You can reach him at 801-625-4232, or e-mail ctrentelman@standard.net. He also blogs at www.standard.net.

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