The Wochenpost – A Look Back at the Development and the “Never Die” Past of the Nordamerikanische Wochenpost
by: Marie-Therese Leopold
Many small stories make for quite an impressive history. It is nearly a 150 year long history, on which the Nordamerikanische Wochenpost can look back.
It had an innocuous beginning. August Marxhausen, born in Kassel, on April 2nd, 1822, followed his brother Conrad to the New World. They started their “mischief” at the “New Yorker Handelszeitung” a trade newspaper. When, one day, he spotted an ad, in which a “handy, German newspaper man” was wanted, to start a German speaking newspaper, in Detroit, the trained typesetter packed his belongings and – together with Dr. Peter Klein – he conjured the “Michigan Demokrat” from nothing. But soon the brothers Marxhausen squabbled with their boss, and things turned crazy, when the subject of slavery had to be dealt with.
The entrepreneurial brothers pondered, whether they should not strike out on their own. It was on November 3, 1854, that they were able to call themselves proudly the founders of the “Michigan Journal.” Thus the first German speaking newspaper saw the light of day, in Detroit. However, August described to be a forceful man, was still not satisfied. He realized, that the many newly arriving German immigrants had an almost insatiable hunger for news, and – in 1866 – he started publishing an additional weekly newspaper “Die Familienblaetter.”
Keen as Marxhausen was, he used his good connections to his republican friends, to outdo the competition. He brought the famous editor Carl Schurz, an important and influential man, to the paper. But Schurz remained in Detroit only, until the new paper had established itself. In 1866, domestic bliss was in short supply at East Jefferson Avenue. Older reports covering this year state laconically, that the brothers split. It may not have been that peaceful, for whilst August continued to publish one daily and one weekly “Michigan Journal,” Conrad went his own way and published the Sunday paper “Sonntagsblatt zum Michigan Journal,”which was renamed “Detroiter Sonntagszeitun,” in 1869.
In the meantime, August did not sit back doing nothing. Being a clever business man he knew exactly, that a well done daily newspaper would still find its readers. Thus, modernized and with a fresh look, he continued the former “Michigan Journal” as the “Detroiter Abend – Post,” starting in 1868. The family feud grew bigger and evolved in an all out war for continued existence. The daily paper required a lot of money. Every day, the editors wrote new stories, the words had to be typeset in lead, every day, the printing presses had to be started, the inventory of paper shrunk day by day. And every day, the purse became a bit weaker. August survived the financial plight by working hard and displaying an unbending will. The 75th Anniversary Edition stated: The revenue from the “Familienblaetter” hardly covered the deficit of the “Abend-Post.”
But just, as the most serious needs had been overcome, and there was some light of success on the horizon, a new troublemaker appeared, out of nowhere. The Reverend Robert Reitzel, who had used his deadly pen to humorously write in his newspaper “Der arme Teufel” against the reserved and – oh – so serious and conservative August Marxhausen, drew many readers away from the “Detroiter Aben-Post.” But, once again, “sturdy August” proved to have a lot of staying power and he emerged victorious from the “Big Newspaper War.”
Once on the road to success, the Abend-Post started to slowly outgrow its boundaries. In 1866, the newspaper group moved from Jefferson Avenue to the corner building at Larned and Bates Street. About 1880, August took stock and decided to build his own building on Broadway and Grand River. Starched collar and white cuffs gave the “Old Man” or “Papa” Marxhausen, as he was called by his numerous friends, a distinguished appearance. When he died, in 1910, at his daughter Louise’s house, he left a sound newspaper empire. It was in the same year, that the “Detroiter Abend-Post” took over its long term competitor. The “Michigan Demokrat” – which, in the meantime, had merged with the “Michigan Volksblatt” – was bought by the publishers Marxhausen.
It was a considerable inheritance, into which the young August Marxhausen came, in 1910. As manager he did poorly rather than well. Known as a hothead he only once had a lucky hand: A former German ship’s captain, by the name of Hoffmann, was responsible for content related fortunes of the Detroiter Abend-Post.” August Marxhausen Jr. stayed at the helm of the business for only eleven years. He died in 1921. The company remained in the family, and August Marxhausen’s daughter, Louise Burghard became President. The young lady, who was born in the United States, is described to have been very kind and of a noble mind. It was during her reign, that the Detroiter Abend-Post celebrated its 75th Anniversary.
But the corks did not pop in Detroit. Prohibition forced the celebrants to the Canadian side of the Detroit River. In 1921, together with a new boss, the newspapers moved to a new home, at the corner of Brush Street and Gratiot. If not the journalistic opponents, then other events did make life difficult for the committed lady and gave her hell. Two raging fires in Brush Street destroyed part of the editorial office. In 1928, the upper most floor burned out, but nobody suffered personal harm. In 1938, the flames raged through the production facilities, destroying nearly all of the equipment. At the same time, the Great Depression affected everybody’s mind, as well as the economic fortune of the company. Business was bad. But when Louise Burghard died, in 1934, she left her son Robert Burghard a sound enterprise, thanks to the excellent managerial job done by William Roeglin. However, Robert died, soon thereafter, and as no family member showed any interest in the “Abend-Post,” it was decided to sell the paper.
After more than 80 years in the hands of the Marxhausen/ Burghard family, the German speaking newspaper was put on the open market. A certain Ernest K. Sahlmann grabbed it and, within a short period of time, ruined the Abend-Post completely. Red figures were the order of the day. Debts became a heavy burden, as did the pressing creditors. It appeared, as if in October of 1938 the last hour had come for the Abend-Post. The oldest German speaking daily newspaper in Detroit, was almost breathing its last breath, being under the hammer of the Federal Court. The receiver got busy, the “Detroiter Abend-Post” was to be publicly auctioned off, on November 18, 1938.
At the last moment, a handful of courageous German-Americans got together, pooled their savings and saved the newspaper from the clutches of the treasury. Messrs. Oscar F. Keydel, Kurt Krause, Wily Schaefer, John Mayer, Paul Schmidt and the Post Printing Co. bought the “Detroiter Abend-Post.”
Sources do not tell us anything, regarding the critical war years and how the paper coped. It needs intensive research to establish, what was going on in the German community in Detroit and how the “Detroiter Abend-Post” kept it’s head above water, whilst the Second World War raged in Europe. One fact remains undisputed: the newspaper had found good, new adoptive parents in the Keydel family. Oscar Keydel, as President, guided the paper through rough terrain. Assisting him was Kurt Krause, a trained printer, who, as Managing Director watched over the finances and planned the future. Over the years, Keydel emerged as the sole shareholder acquiring the entire circulation.
Berthold Vogt set a memorial stone for himself as the observant editor for many long years. Well liked by the German clubs, he wrote until his 50th Work Anniversary, in the beginning, every day, starting on the 5th of October, 1942, three times a week, then twice and, finally, only once per week, regarding the weal and woe of the German – Americans in Michigan. Although gravely ill, Berthold Vogt fought the illness, until his Anniversary. The new management brought flowers and congratulations to his hospital bed. During the same night, the most faithful of all editors of the “Detroiter Abend-Post,” who had given the paper its “face” for half a century, passed away.
During the forties, things became tight for the Post Printing Company. Supermarkets flooded the printer’s with orders for so called advertising rags. The equipment had to be used to its full capacity. The Abend-Post, actually, did not fall into bad ways, but it was sold off. Post Printing boss Erwin Shoe did, nonetheless, hold his protective hand over the exotic paper, by providing advice and help, as well as hard cash, but when he died, in 1960, and the managing ranks of the “Abend-Post” became somewhat tired, a young and hard-working man was needed.
It was at that time, that Knuth Beth entered the picture. Born in Koblenz, he came to Detroit via Canada, where he had gone, to improve his knowledge of the English language. As a trained typesetter he was surprised at the antiquated equipment at Brush Street. The machine room contained four Linotype machines; one still carried the number 6, on its side. Still eight decades later, machine No. 6, which had been delivered by the company of its inventor Mergenthaler, around the year 1890, still had to produce the news of the day, in German and in black and white, twice a week.
Beth proved that not only did he not have two “left” hands, but that he had a talent for newspaper publishing and soon, Kurt Krause, Kurt Keydel and his brother Oscar, offered him, to take the paper over. However, Knuth Beth had not come to Detroit with pockets full of money and gold coins did not rain from the sky in Detroit, at night, either. Therefore he quickly reached an agreement with Krause, to buy his third of the shares and to pay back his debts over five years. At the same time, he promised to also take over the Keydel share. In 1968 and 1972 the shares were exchanged and Knuth Beth was now his own boss and that of the “Detroiter Abend-Post.”
A new breath of life was blowing through Brush Street. First, the worn out lead typefaces were replaced and modern fonts acquired. Then the old book printing technology was replaced by a new Offset-Process. It became possible to work faster and more up to date. Pictures adorned the Abend-Post, now sparkling in new splendor, like Make-up. On Thursday, May 9, 1968, however, the glamour became undone. The fire, on that day, did not cause much damage, however, the water “drowned” the paper. The Abend-Post could not be printed.
Increasing production costs forced Knuth Beth to cut the “Detroiter Abend-Post” back to one weekly edition, beginning October 13, 1973.
It was for that reason, that on April 5, 1980, the Abend-Post got a second name, that of “Nordamerikanische Wochenpost.” During the seventies and eighties many reporters and editors worked at the newspaper, amongst them, Ms. Hoffmann, Ms. Rambaum, Monika Ziegler, Birgit Kroon, Gisela Fife, Mechthild Claussen, Ruth Koerbel, Hans Appel and, not to be forgotten, Adelgund Fuchs, the publisher’s sister.
But the pool of good journalists, for whom the German language meant their daily bread, shrunk. Always the innovator, Knuth Beth had the idea to bring young people from Germany to America. In addition, he hired two Service Specialists, who had retired from the Free Press. Their proposals to install newspaper vending machines, to offer free copies at airlines and in university libraries, and to sell the newspaper in bookstores were realized.
Knuth Beth’s motto was: Only those, who broaden their horizon, have a future.
And the horizon broadened: In 1991 Knuth Beth bought two German Language papers and saved them from going under – the Chicago Abendpost/Sonntagspost and the Milwaukee Deutsche Zeitung. The subscribers of these papers were integrated into the readers of the Wochen-Post.
When the Berlin Wall fell in November of 1989 the, then, Wochen-Post published a special issue in October of 1990, to commemorate this historical event in German history. In October of 1994 the paper had again a reason to celebrate with a special edition – it was 140 years old. It had survived. It did not go under. The paper did it’s job: as a mouthpiece for the German-Americans, as a faithful and comforting old soul, as a source of information and much more.
In October 2004 we celebrated our 150th Anniversary with a large special edition, about the German Immigration to the United States. This edition became a collector’s item.
To a continued good future!
Publisher and owner Knuth Beth, and his Wochen-Post Team, continued every week, to bring German and European news to the readers of thre Wochen-Post. Since 1996 the office embraced modern technology of the digital age, and shortly, the Wochen-Post acquired it first web page under http://www.wochenpostusa.com/.
Far too early, owner and publisher Knuth Beth passed away, in August 2011. His Wochen-Team – together with Kathrin Beth – continued publishing the paper till the almost last issue of April 28th 2018.
But at the 11th Hour the paper was saved: It was sold. The new publisher, Wilfred Mozer, is hoping that, together with the subscribers, new readers and advertisers can be gained. The price for a subscription, at this time, saw its first increase since the last raise happened in 2014.
So, Cheers to a great future!
Your Wochenpost Team