A Bit of History

By Any Name, We’ve Covered Swarthmore Since 1893

Unlike most communities its size, Swarthmore has had a continuously operating newspaper covering both borough and college news for nearly 125 years. These historic newspapers, which soon will be available online, contain a detailed social history of daily borough life from the late 19th century through the present day.

The earliest paper in our possession is from July 7, 1894; its masthead notes July 25, 1893 as the day The Swarthmore was first entered at the Post Office. The editor and proprietor of The Swarthmore was the Rev. John A. Cass, who at the time was the secretary and treasurer for the College Tract Residence Company located in Swarthmore. He was also the pastor of the United Evangelical Church, the only church in the borough in 1893, and a member of the first Borough Council.

Mr. Eugene Lincoln Pratt, took over as editor and publisher of The Swarthmore when Rev. John A. Cass relinquished the paper to him in 1897. Mr. Pratt, a world renown breeder of queen bees, published the paper until his untimely death from pneumonia in March of 1909. For months after his death, his wife, Grace Barnes Pratt, along with their daughter, Rachel, kept the paper going until October of 1909, when a group of citizens bought the paper as a public enterprise and incorporated The Swarthmore Publishing Company. They were: J.B. Garwood (business manager), William T. Ellis, J.R. Hayes, Albert N. Garrett, R.P. Logan, Roy B. Pace and Ella Roberts Young (editorial staff).

After a time, The Swarthmore became too much of a burden for these men and they negotiated the sale of the paper to Mrs. Edwin A. Yarnall.

Mrs. Yarnall, who purchased the paper in 1909, changed its name from The Swarthmore to The Swarthmore News, and incorporated it under the Swarthmore Publishing Company. Mrs. Yarnall edited the paper for many years and sold it around 1914 to Mrs. Julia Hazard.
Mrs. Hazard took her editorial responsibilities seriously, and actively promoted the paper in Swarthmore and Delaware County as a good advertising medium. Around 1923, she sold her controlling interest in the paper to G. Vincent Butler, who then created several small community papers in Delaware County and incorporated them all, including The Swarthmore News, under the name of Community Newspapers, Inc.

After five years, Community Newspapers, Inc. went out of business, thus ending The Swarthmore News, whose final issue was published the last week in December of 1928. Swarthmore resident Robert Sharples and his wife, Ann, recognized how important a local newspaper was to the community and immediately launched a new publication in January 1929 named The Swarthmorean. With little gap between the demise of The Swarthmore News and the birth of The Swarthmorean, a local community paper has existed in the borough since the late 19th century. Moreover, from 1929 to the present, it has had only five owners, all Swarthmore residents: Robert (1929-1933) and Ann Sharples (1929-1935);  Charles and Mary T. Ervin Parker (1935-1937); Peter Told (1937- 1976); Lewis and Kay Rinko (1976-1989); and Beth Gross and Don Delson (1989-present).

The Swarthmorean and its predecessors contain an evolving record of daily life in a small town. Its success in a large part has been due to the owners and editors who understood that the paper was an essential part of the town’s identity. Beth Gross, who with Don Delson purchased The Swarthmorean from Lewis Rinko in 1989, perhaps summed it up the best when she said: “… although we own the paper, we feel the paper really belongs to the community.”