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Myron Boyle, editor of the Indian Republican, from Notable Men of Indian Territory, 1905.

Magazine | Okiecentric

Flim-Flammery and the Devil: An Early History of the Tulsa World

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Posted 01.04.12

Dr. S.G. Kennedy was furious. He had put his trust and money in a young man, who seemed to be making a name for himself in Tulsa, a former Wichita newspaper reporter who had once served as a private secretary to Congressman Bird McGuire of Oklahoma. Myron Boyle was the editor of the Indian Republican, one of Tulsa’s earliest weekly newspapers, which had been founded in 1891. [1] But by late 1906, Boyle found himself in a tough spot—a man named J.R. Brady (no relation to Tulsa founder W. Tate Brady) had moved down from Lawrence, Kansas the year prior and purchased the Republican, becoming its new owner. Boyle, it seemed, was out of a job.

In December of 1906, Boyle convinced Dr. Kennedy to loan him $500 (nearly $12,000 in today’s money) [2] so that he could pay off debts to local businessmen; Boyle then promptly disappeared from Tulsa. Nine months later, however, he resurfaced. The Daily Oklahoman informed readers that Kennedy had tracked down Myron Boyle to Eureka Springs, where he had recently married the daughter of a prominent Tulsa druggist. Kennedy telegraphed the authorities in Arkansas to petition for an arrest, but Boyle had already skipped town.

Boyle was wanted on a charge of flim-flammery, an early term used for con artists. It was a rather ignoble moment for the man whose newspaper would someday evolve into the Tulsa World.

Unlike Boyle, J.R. Brady seemed to have a knack for the newspaper business. In 1905, while he was publishing the weekly Indian Republican, Brady also began publishing the Tulsa Daily World, and, for a brief period, perhaps to take advantage of the upcoming announcement of statehood, the Oklahoma World. [3]It became a successful enough venture to lure the interests of George Bayne, a mine owner from Missouri. Bayne and his brother-in-law Charles Dent managed the World for five years before a young man showed up who would forever change the paper’s course. [4]

Eugene Lorton was a printer’s devil from Missouri. He had managed newspapers in the Washington state area, where he was also heavily involved in Republican politics. He successfully managed political campaigns for a governor and a senator. Lorton was lambasted and celebrated in Washington papers, at times being accused of shady transactions, criminal behavior, and being a dictator; at other times being called a sagacious and clever politician and a talented newspaperman worthy of the state’s gratitude. Although he enjoyed tremendous success in Walla Walla, Lorton felt there was more opportunity for him in Tulsa. “Business is picking up all over the country,” Lorton explained to the Seattle Republican in 1911 soon after he sold his newspaper stake for a healthy sum. “For some persons, you bet your sweet life business is picking up.”

In 1911, Lorton moved to Tulsa and bought a third interest in the Tulsa Daily World, and then a half-interest in 1913. By 1917, Lorton had teamed up with Harry Sinclair, an oil tycoon who also ran Tulsa’s banking industry. With Sinclair’s money, Lorton established himself as the paper’s sole publisher. Big oil and the GOP became major influences that shaped the growth of the paper that would become Northeast Oklahoma’s legacy paper, the Tulsa World.

Today, the Tulsa World remains a family paper. Since Eugene Lorton’s ascension in 1917, the Lorton family has maintained publishing and editorial control of the paper. Its current publisher is Eugene Lorton’s grandson, Robert Lorton, and its editor is Robert “Bobby” Lorton III. According to the Audit Bureau of Circulations September 2011 report, it had an average circulation of 97,580 daily subscribers (it had 101,000 the year before), making it roughly 75% the readership size of The Daily Oklahoman.

“We believe in quality journalism and continue to feel that we are the best at producing news and information in our region,” Lorton III said in an April 2011 article in Tulsa World. “My family and I have always been committed to Oklahoma, to Tulsa and to each of the communities in our circulation area.”


Footnotes

1. The Indian Chief,Tulsa’s first newspaper, was established in 1884 by a soldier named J.L. Winnegar. The Indian Chief ’s reputation for yellow journalism was supported by a 2004 interview with Tulsa historian/collector Beryl Ford.

2. Kennedy had already loaned Boyle $500 previously and Boyle had been unable to pay it back, so this second loan constituted a total debt of $1,000 to Dr. Kennedy.

3. According to historian L. Edward Carter, author of The Story of Oklahoma Newspapers (Oklahoma Heritage Association, 1984), J.R. Brady funded the Indian Republican with the assumption that Republican leaders would shield him from financial troubles. The Tulsa Daily World reportedly suffered financial challenges in its early years as well.

4. It’s worth noting that Tulsa World reporter Randy Krehbiel’s account differs from that of this article. In his book Tulsa’s Daily World: The Story of a Newspaper and Its Town (World Pub. Co. 2007), Krehbiel writes “Some sources indicate the World and the Republican were affiliated, but the contemporary record suggests they were in fact competitors.”

Special thanks to Cecil Cloud for sharing his Beryl Ford interview notes.