By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index
On May 1, 1890, Tacoma investors and entrepreneurs picked up the first edition of the Daily Mortgage and Lien Record.
The single sheet newspaper was originally published out of the California Building in downtown Tacoma.
Much has changed in those years.
But the need for a “newspaper of record” has never receded.
The oldest newspaper in Tacoma that many have never heard of
Over the years, the name of the newspaper changed from the Daily Court and Commercial Index before becoming The Tacoma Daily Index.
It also passed through the hands of a small number of owners until it was acquired by Sound Publishing in 1997.
But under any name, the mission and purpose continues – to be a reliable source of information primarily for Tacoma and Pierce County residents, attorneys, and business leaders looking to keep up on matters related to legal notices, new business announcements, property sales, calls for bids, permits, and other court information.
A few years ago I was at a media event and spoke to a team promoting tourism and investment in Tacoma.
As we introduced each other and our respective work and areas of research, my colleague blurted out, “We write about the good things of Tacoma, and you talk about the bad things!”
That is mostly true. Kind of.
But that’s not exactly how I would put it.
The Index publishes essential, authoritative documentation, and while it is certainly true that, in most cases, you probably might not want your name mentioned within our pages, The Index stands as a solid legal reference point within a swirling economy and a community beset with economic and legal challenges and possibilities.
While it is certainly true that not many people even know about The Index, more should.
With a long legacy, papers like ours ensure that decisions related to public debt, ordinances and laws, zoning, taxation and quality of life are made with transparency and with at least the possibility of community response and engagement.
Legal notices empower the public to get involved in the process and contribute to a reservoir of archived material for future generations.
Way back in 1890 there were many weekly and a few daily papers in the Tacoma area.
Each one had its particular focus and agenda – and audience.
Some floundered or even evaporated.
Some merged or were absorbed or bought out by other newspapers.
Most were in English, but many were not.
Just a few 1890 newspapers were Baptist Sentinel, Budstikke, Evening Call, Every Sunday, Folkeblad, Hotel Reporter, Independent Journal, North Pacific Coast, Northern Light, Northwest Democrat, Republican, Spirit of ‘76, Stillehaus Posten, Tacoma Evening News, Tacoma Daily Ledger, Tacoma Morning Globe, Western Viking, and West Coast Trade.
If you are interested in the history of newspapers of Washington, check out this source from the Washington State Library: https://www.sos.wa.gov/library/catalog_county.aspx.
The digital age offers many things – but unblinking permanence is not one of them.
There is something solid and non-negotiable about the printed page.
The printed page holds a place in history and our current situation that digital formats could never achieve.
Digital may be instantaneous, unfiltered and often without cost, but the printed paper page can be, and often is, preserved for years, even decades.
Digital content, a year or two, or ten or twenty, will languish in some long-forgotten obsolete format lost to all but the most dedicated researcher.
The Index, like most newspapers and magazines, is expressed in digital and print versions.
Both platforms have about the same carbon-footprint, but paper, for any reason, or even by some accident, has the potential to be preserved, and appreciated by many generations to come.
One way or another, the good – and not-so-good news of the South Puget Sound region will continue to be posted on our pages.