• Last modified 796 days ago (July 23, 2020)



This portrait of the newspaper’s office at the time, now home to JR Hatters and Mercantile in downtown Marion, was the first local picture ever published in Marion.

Picture this: A time before pictures

This fuzzy drawing was the first “photograph” ever published in the Marion County Record. It appeared in November, 1877, seven years after the paper had moved to Marion. And it featured, oddly enough, the newspaper building.

Editor E.W. Hoch somewhat apologized for the subject matter in a commentary accompanying the photo, which actually was a hand-drawn engraving of an original photograph.

“We present above a perfect picture of the Record building,” Hoch wrote. “Though such pictures are common in Kansas, this is the first thing of the kind gotten up for anyone in Marion County.

“We do not do this to make any special display of the building, though there are many editors who would be glad to have it, but we do it to give eastern readers an idea of the magnificent building stone we have in abundance here, with which one can erect a substantial, imposing, and comfortable building as cheaply as a frame building can be built.”

Hoch encouraged other building owners to have their buildings similarly photographed and engraved as a way of advertising the area’s stone, which he said “is worth a mint of money to Marion.”

The Main St. building also housed attorney and physician offices upstairs as well as a German pharmacy — Deutsche Apotheke, as the barely visible sign indicates.

The building still stands in downtown Marion. It now is home to JR Hatters and Mercantile.

The Record’s first home, in 1870, was a log cabin near the present location of Marion National Bank. It moved in 1909 into a new brick building especially designed for the newspaper by a former Kansas state architect. It remains at that location, across from the courthouse on S. 3rd St. in Marion.

When the picture was published in 1877, photographs were a costly and complicated to print.

They generally had to be hand-etched into metal before they could be used as printing elements. Few craftspeople were able to perform the task. The Record’s engraving was created in Chicago and shipped to what at the time was known as Marion Centre.

Although photo engravings eventually became a chemical and later mechanical process, making a photo suitable for publication in the Record still involved shipping it out of town until the mid-1960s, when the Record acquired its own photo engraving equipment.

The device, reminiscent of a Rube Goldberg contraption, had spinning lathes, with a photoelectric eye on one and a white-hot needle on the other, engraving photos into dot patterns on plastic printing elements.

That continued until the paper converted to offset printing and “cold” type, replacing type created out of molten lead, in the mid-1970s.

Last modified July 23, 2020