A gift of the past

Community News donates archives to State Historical Society of Missouri

By Brett Auten

Consider it a gift that is a window into the past.

This month, the Community News donated a treasure trove of history – nearly 40 years’ worth of past issues – to the State Historical Society of Missouri.

The bound books have every issue of the paper from 1931 to 1967. The large books contain the actual broadsheet newspapers and each year has its own designated book with each issue being anywhere from 16 to 24 pages. 

“We are thrilled to have these to help fill in the archives on St. Louis,” Mary Ellen Lohmann, Senior Strategic Communications Associate with The State Historical Society of Missouri, said. “For generations to come they will be able to gather information from these books.” 

Those interested in Missouri history, biography and genealogy will find an avalanche of news in the State Historical Society of Missouri’s Research Centers’ collections. The reference collection of books, pamphlets and official state publications total more than 165,000 items. The State Historical Society of Missouri also holds more than 9,000 manuscript collections, more than 8,000 maps, and over 56,000 rolls of newspapers on microfilm.

“The donation that the Community News made will help fill in the details of daily life of the area,” Lohmann said. “There is a wealth of information about the St. Louis community. If it weren’t for the journalists who were capturing the climate of the day, all would be gone.”

The Community News began in 1918 as a bi-monthly newspaper that focused on news in the North St. Louis County area.  After 1967, the decision was made to keep the past issues archived digitally. According to current owner and publisher, Bob Huneke Jr., who is a third-generation owner, the accumulating files were just too much to keep up, and space was beginning to be an issue at a previous Community News office in Jennings. When the Community News transferred in 2000 to O’Fallon, the books were placed into a storage facility. 

“It was a challenge to find a solution,” Huneke said. “But the State Historical Society was excited to receive the donation. Now, historians can look back at these papers and get a real grasp of the times.”

Huneke said he used to take the books to various business fairs over the years and the old issues were always a hit.

“People get a kick out of the old stories and the prices in the advertisements, like a diamond engagement ring for $59,” Huneke said. “There is a lot of interest in the front cover stories, and there is a fair amount of advertisement from local merchants.”

In the late 1990s, the Community News began sprouting up in newsstands at all of the major local grocery chains in Bridgeton, Hazelwood and on Main Street in St. Charles. This was when O’Fallon was starting to bubble with its population growth. City leaders approached Huneke about including the area in the paper’s coverage and soon a satellite office was established. The two-times a month O’Fallon paper soon grew into a weekly and in 2008 Huneke split the coverage into regions with a St. Louis County and St. Charles County editions and invested into the newsstand-only method of distribution.

Henke can now rest easy that the archives of the paper are in secure hands and will be placed in front of new sets of eyes.

“I feel better that the State Historical Society of Missouri will be watching over them and now someone else can see them besides us,” Huneke said. 

CUTLINE: Photos by Mathew DeKinder

Cover-Archives1 Peter McCarthy (left) and Dean Hargett (right) of the State Historical Society of Missouri stand with Community News publisher Bob Huneke Jr. McCarthy and Hargett removed the Community News archives from storage to the State Historical Society of Missouri’s headquarters in Columbia, Missouri.

Cover-Archives2 Archived editions of the Community News sit in storage before being removed to the State Historical Society of Missouri.