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NEWSPAPERS, ETHNIC

When large numbers of non-English-speaking immigrants arrived in America, they established printing presses to produce newspapers and periodicals in their language. One of those first tabloids was Die Philadelphische Zeitung, printed by Benjamin Franklin in Pennsylvania in 1732. Over the years the ethnic press has served to help foreigners assimilate into the American culture by informing them in their language of the laws and social mores of the new society. Their press also helped them with a sense of continuity with news from their native country. In more recent times the ethnic press provides news of concern to a certain segment of large metropolises as well as provides a venue for advertising by local ethnic businesses and professional services.

The ethnic press of foreign-born immigrants appeared in the western half of present Oklahoma after it was opened to non-Indian settlers beginning in 1889. To ease the newness of the land, they published newspapers in their language and formed ethnic clubs to perpetuate their customs. By 1910 Oklahoma's ethnic makeup was 36.5 percent German, 6.6 percent Italian, 6.6 percent Hispanic, 5.8 percent Czech, 3.2 percent Polish, and 2.9 percent French.

As at the national level, the German-language press predominated in Oklahoma. Research indicates that at least twenty German-language newspapers existed in present Oklahoma from the 1890s to the 1910s. Communities with large concentrations of Germans, such as El Reno, Enid, Perry, Cordell, and Weatherford supported German-language newspapers. Generally, these were four to eight pages in length and cost two dollars per year. By October 1900 Johann F. Harms was editor and publisher of the Zions-Bote, which served the Mennonite congregation in Medford, Oklahoma Territory (O.T.). Nettie Junghanns worked as a typesetter for Harms. Other newspapers in the northern part of O.T. included the Oklahoma Beobacher (1899) in Enid, Die Enid Post (1902), Oklahoma Neuigkeiten (1902) in Perry, and the Enid Staats-Zeitung (1906). In central O.T. Die Oklahoma Post (1892) in Guthrie, Das Kingfisher Journal (1893) in Kingfisher, Oklahoma Volksblatt (1902) in Guthrie, and the Oklahoma Volksblatt (1899?) in Oklahoma City served the German community. German-speaking settlers in western O.T. supported the Deutscher Anzeiger (1904) in Okeene, the Oklahoma Vorwärts (1900-03) in Weatherford, and the Oklahoma Vorwärts (1903-18) in Cordell. Apparently, El Reno has the distinction of producing the most German-language newspapers. Among the weekly publications were Der Courier (1893), Der Oklahoma Courier (1894), the Oklahoma Staats-Zeitung (1894), and the Oklahoma Volksblatt (1898?). A daily newspaper, the Tägliches Oklahoma Volksblatt, was also printed in El Reno around 1911. During World War I German-language papers were censored, and only two continued to be published after the war.

In the early 1900s the Czechs in O.T. were served by the local press as well as the press outside the territory. The Bohemian Printing and Publishing Company of Oklahoma City printed the Cesky Oklahoman, a politically independent weekly that claimed twelve hundred subscribers in 1906. Beginning in October 1908, Sokol Havlicek of Yukon published a monthly newsletter entitled Havlicek. From Chicago the August Geringer publishing family produced the semiweekly Oklahomski Noviny (Oklahoma News) for distribution in Prague, O.T. Local resident Peter Rabstejnek reported news to the Chicago publisher. In Omaha, Nebraska, John Rosický founded the National Printing Company, which produced the Ceskoslovansky Obzor (the local edition of the Osvěta Americká). Before World War I the Czech newspapers had become defunct.

Although the Italians, Hispanics, Poles, and French had significant numbers in Oklahoma in the early 1900s, they apparently had no non-English press. In general, scholars have given several reasons for the lack of an ethnic press across the United States. Population size and literacy level within a community were contributing factors. Some groups were too dispersed to support an organ, as was the case of the French and Poles in Oklahoma. Another determinant was the willingness of an individual to invest the capital and work necessary for such an enterprise.

Following the censorship of the German-language press during World War I, no foreign language newspapers were published in Oklahoma until the late twentieth century, when Asian and Hispanic populations increased. Oklahoma experienced an influx of Asians during the 1970s and 1980s. According to the 2000 census Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Oklahoma's two largest metropolises, had 3.4 percent and 1.7 percent Asians, respectively. Hispanics represented 10 percent of Oklahoma City's population and 7.1 percent of Tulsa's. At the turn of the twenty-first century Asians in Oklahoma City read the Dan Quyen Newspaper, the Oklahoma Chinese News, and the Oklahoma Chinese Times. Large concentrations of Hispanics in Tulsa and Oklahoma City supported newspapers such as the El Nacional de Oklahoma (later El Nacional), El Latino American, Nuestra Communidad, La Semana Del Sur, Imagen Latinoamericana, and Hispano de Tulsa.

SEE ALSO: ASIANS, CZECHS, GERMANS, HISPANICS, IMMIGRATION, PRINTING AND PUBLISHING, SETTLEMENT PATTERNS.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Karel D. Bicha, The Czechs in Oklahoma (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1980). Edda Bilger, "The 'Oklahoma Vorwärts': The Voice of German-Americans in Oklahoma During World War I," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 54 (Summer 1976). Carolyn Foreman, Oklahoma Imprints, 1835-1907: A History of Printing in Oklahoma Before Statehood (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1936). Sally M. Miller, ed., The Ethnic Press in the United States: A Historical Analysis and Handbook (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1987). "Newspapers, Ethnic," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Richard C. Rohrs, The Germans in Oklahoma (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1980). Lubomyr R. Wynar and Anna T. Wynar, Encyclopedic Directory of Ethnic Newspapers and Periodicals in the United States (Littleton, Colo.: Libraries Unlimited, 1976).

Linda D. Wilson

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