William B. Harris · 1976

William B. Harris was born on March 6, 1856 and grew to be an owner of a chain of 135 country newspapers.

When Harris was 16 years old he became the editor and publisher of the Ellettsville Republican. The paper’s name was later changed to the Ellettsville Farm.

He studied at Asbury College, now DePauw University.

Late in 1882 he was issuing the weekly folio Monroe County Citizen in Ellettsville. In June of 1886 he started the Harrodsburg Review. It too was printed at Ellettsville and then mailed to Harrodsburg. It became evident to Harris that printing papers with his own press in Ellettsville and then mailing them to subscribers would be much more profitable than trying to set up presses in each town.
Traveling from town to town, sometimes visiting several in one day, Harris exchanged railroad tickets for advertising space in his newspapers. His chain began growing and expanded from Indiana into Kentucky, Illinois, and Ohio. The most he owned at one time was 135. Harris would not sell a town paper if the business was not profitable. By not selling, he was still able to return in a year or two and start again.

He filled his newspapers with ads and editorial matter rather than local news and features. Harris used a patent readyprint for his inside pages from either the Western, Chicago, or Indianapolis Newspapers Unions. In 1892, he supplied his chains with his own patent readyprint under the trade name of Hoosier Newspaper Union.

In 1905 Harris entered the magazine field by publishing the monthly Our Boys and Girls. He had an unusual circulation plan for the magazine. In order to gain as many subscriptions as possible he decided to give a Shetland pony each month to the boy or girl who sold the most subscriptions. The ponies were raised on his farm and after eight were given away, the magazine attained a circulation of 35,000. He then sold it to Colonel Hunter of Chicago, publisher of the Star Monthly.
In 1907 he sold his chain because he was growing tired of traveling and wanted to be at home with his children who needed his guidance and friendship.

Harris served as a Republican representative from Monroe County in the state legislature in 1924-25. He was also the president of the Ellettsville town board and was a member of the Ellettsville Methodist Church.

Harris died on November 9, 1939 after 67 years as an active publisher in the newspaper and magazine field.


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