This Day in Milwaukee County History: The first edition of the Milwaukee Sentinel was published on June 27th, 1837. The Sentinel was founded in response to denigrating remarks made about the east side of town by Byron Kilbourn’s west side partisan newspaper, the Milwaukee Advertiser, during the city’s bridge wars. The founder of the east side of Milwaukee, Solomon Juneau, provided the starting funds for editor John O’Rourke, to start the paper.
In the publication’s early years, it served as first a voice for Whig Party before being declared an antislavery newspaper by editor Rufus King. The quality of the broadsheet increase dramatically under King’s tenure. It led the successful charge against the 1846 draft of the Wisconsin State constitution while launching an exclusively German paper, Der Volksfreund, to bring the City’s large population of German expatriates to the Sentinel’s cause.
During the antebellum period, the Sentinel championed the rights of African-American freedmen and slaves. Rufus King join Sherman Booth, a prominent Wisconsin abolitionist, in condemning the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 and the Kansas-Nebraska-Act. The paper provided extensive coverage of Joshua Glover’s flight from a Milwaukee prison, where the former salve fled to after his escape from the South. The paper was also supportive of the Republican Party during its infancy, throwing its weight behind presidential candidates William H. Seward and later, Abraham Lincoln.
This initial support led the Sentinel to become one of the nation’s most prominent Republican organs. The paper’s support for the party was so stalwart, in fact, that one on occasion it refused to print a story about a Democratic candidate winning a district that was typically a Republican stronghold. This bit of unethical journalism would convince the managing editor Lucius Nieman to resign from his position and found his own newspaper, the Milwaukee Journal. The Milwaukee Sentinel and the Milwaukee Journal remained bitter rivals for the next eleven decades.
Sentinel operation was shut down in 1962 after an especially long and costly strike. The Journal Company, owner of the Sentinel‘s rival, bought the newspaper out before it folded. On April 2, 1995, the Milwaukee Sentinel and the Milwaukee Journal were consolidated into a seven-day morning broadsheet under the name Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.