Southern Manitoba Review
Serving the Community for 100 Years
Bob Stead tells how the Review began
When the Review celebrated its 50th birthday in 1949, the publishers Harry and Isabel Wallace asked Robert J.C. Stead to write about how the paper came to be born. This is his account of the origin of the Review.
It came about in this way. In 1898 Harry Spedding, an experienced newspaperman, former publisher of the Manitou Mercury, was publishing the Crystal City Courier, which he had recently established. Evidently feeling that Crystal City should share its blessings with its neighbors, in the fall of'98 - the year of the Yukon Gold Rush - Mr Spedding came to Cartwright and signed up a number of the local merchants for advertising space in the Courier. It was his success in doing this that gave birth to the idea that Cartwright might have a paper of its own.

At that time I was 18 years old. I knew nothing whatever about newspaper publishing, and not too much about anything else, so it was natural that I should feel the call to start a newspaper in Cartwright. I was encouraged in this hazardous idea by discussions with local merchants like Mr. R. F. Moore and Mr. J.G. Struthers, and Mr Spedding himself offered to make up for my lack of experience by printing the paper on the Courier press at Crystal City.

For this he would charge me ten dollars a week - an absurdly compared with present costs - and I was to have complete control of the paper. I would gather the news, write the editorials, solicit advertisements, wrap and address the papers, and take in the money. All Mr. Spedding wanted was ten dollars a week; I was to have everything else.

So, on January 4, 1899, the first issue of the Rock Lake Review burst into the world. I called in the Rock Lake Review (later changed to Southern Manitoba Review) because at the time I couldn't think of any better name. At that time there was no Municipality of Roblin or it

might have been called the Roblin Review; the dividing line between Louise and Mountain ran just west of Cartwright, right through the middle of the territory I hoped to occupy in a journalistic way, so I couldn't very well tie up with either municipality. Also I didn't want to call in the Cartwright Review because jealousies between local towns were quite acute, and I was hoping to draw some business from Holmfield and Mather. There had at one time been a municipality of Derby which would have served my purpose, but it had faded out of existence. But the community had in the early days been known in a general way as the Rock Lake district, and so the Rock Lake Review it became.

Having now a newspaper, my next job was to get subscribers. I sent free sample copies to almost every family getting mail at Mather, Cartwright or Holmfield, with a circular offering to send the Review for three months trial subscription for 25 cents. For the subscribers convenience a coin envelope was enclosed in which he could send his contribution. And so the quarters began to pour in - about one at a time. A regrettable number of citizens did not catch my vision of the possibilities of the Review, and instead of sending their quarters, as suggested, they sent the whole paper, by putting it in the post office and marking it "Refused." But they were not all like that. Some even showed faith by sending a whole dollar for a year's subscription. THe first person to give such a demonstration was Mr. John Robson, whose home town was Deloraine, but who at that time was buying wheat in Cartwright at Young Bros' elevator.

Getting advertisers was as hard as getting subscribers. If it is true as the statistician tell us that a dollar is now worth only 58 cents, in those days it was worth $2.50, and was harder to pry loose than a $5 dollar bill is in these more prosperous times.

Notwithstanding this rather imposing like the Review was not paying. Most of the advertisements were small and rate was absurdly low. Actually, as I neared the end of the three months trial period the situation was this: I owed Mr. Spedding $130 for printing 13 issues; my total receipts were about $80; the return for my labor was minus $50.

It was apparent things could not go on like this. It had been freely predicted, even among my friends, that my venture would end in disaster; perhaps that is why I decided to stick it out. I had been spending one day a week at Crystal City while the paper was being printed, and as it was not a Union shop I was permitted to handle type and other equipment. I had thus acquired at least some of the rudiments of business of printing a newspaper. So I scraped together some $200 and went to Winnipeg on a pass graciously furnished to me by the C.P.R. That great corporation also gave me similar courtesies to travel back and forth between Cartwright and Crystal City, and also steered some paid advertisement in my direction; without the support and encouragement given by the C.P.R. the Review probably would have died, age three months.

In Winnipeg I bought the smallest and most obsolete array of printing equipment that ever went into an office in Western Canada. This I set up in a wing of the old Stead house on North Railway Street, Cartwright, and started to produce my own paper. (The wing has since been torn down, so that much is lost to posterity). The press was called an Army press, perhaps because it had been through the wars. You printed one page at a time by turning a handle; after each page went through you applied ink with a roller. This was a business that required some skill; if you used too much ink the paper was a black blotch; if too little, it was too faint to read; once in a while you got it about right. Also, the sheets would "slur" on the type. All in all it was a pretty grotesque publication.

But better times were coming. I moved my printing shop into the office in the lumber yard on Curwen Street. At that time I owned the lumber business, which is what kept the paper alive). The following year I bought the cylinder press which still prints the Review, and although I think it was about one hundred years old when I acquired it, it still does a good job, as those who read these lines may judge. Later, on the same lot, I built an office for the Review (since destroyed by fire) and put in a gasoline engine to run the newspaper press and also a job-print press which I had installed.

About 1907 I built the present Review office on North Railway. On Jan. 1, 1910, I sold the paper to Mr. D. J. Wallace, who, in association with his brother Will, published it until both brothers passed beyond. John had worked for me for several years, and was able to carry on where I left off without any notable interruption. The paper is now published by Harry Wallace and his mother, Mrs. W.D. wallace, so that it remains in the family. A long step forward was taken a year or so ago when a linotype was added to the equipment, which makes it possible to set a great deal more type and this give a better news coverage to the community.

Today, after its first fifty years the Review is one of the substantial and useful weekly papers of Manitoba. I can think of no greater misfortune to the town and surrounding towns and districts than that through some disaster it should cease publication. Of that there is little prospect. A newspaper not only serves a community; it is part of the community, and they rise or fall together. The upward movement since 1899, notwithstanding setbacks through drought and depressions, has been very substantial, and there is no reason to doubt that the next fifty years with show equal if not greater development, Not many of us will be here when the Review celebrates its 100th anniversary but I should like to look in and see of it is still being printed on the Hoe railway press which I bought in Winnipeg in 1901 at a bargain price because it had been discarded as unworkable by another Manitoba publisher!