William Blodgett · 1978

By R.S. Pritchard

William Blodgett was born on a houseboat, February 7, 1857, the son of a boatman who plied the waters between LaSalle, Illinois and Chicago. He was reared in LaSalle and spent his boyhood years on packet boats on the Ohio River. At age 19, he moved to Anderson, Indiana where he worked as a clerk for a short time and eloped with Minnie Schmidt of Newcastle. They were married on December 15, 1881.

He soon found his way into newspaper reporting, working on the paper in Anderson for a few years, then on a Richmond paper and finally the Indianapolis News, a job he held for 37 years.

During that 37 years, Bill Blodgett was noted as a tough tireless righter of wrongs. He is credited with doing more in the 1900’s to clean up political and civic messes throughout the state than any other one man could.

Working alone, a favorite technique of Blodgett’s was to arrive in town, ferret out the wrong-doing and return to write about it in the News, thus allowing the fearful local editor to quote him entirely, not get himself in trouble and yet expose the story. He was frequently the receiver of secret tips, secret meetings and backdoor welcomes.

Among his more notable encounters is the story of the traveling man who was irked by the continual delays in the trial of a farmer accused of knifing the man. He appeared in Blodgett’s office and outlined his plan for shooting the farmer as he left the courthouse. After attempting unsuccessfully to dissuade the man, Blodgett wrote two alternate page one stories — one if the farmer was killed and another if he was not. He then rushed to the courthouse and told his story to both the prosecutor and the farmer, neither of whom believed him. Blodgett had the printer run the murder version of his story and then raced back to the courthouse just in time to catch the farmer — shot dead by the traveling man as foretold.

Among the stories he covered were, the murder of Governor William Goebel of Kentucky, the tragic New Albany cyclone, the trial of iron workers in San Francisco and sidelights, doings and exposures of the Indiana General Assembly and partisan political gatherings. He is reputed to have entered, unarmed, the lair of a Cass County desperado where police had feared to go, talked with the man and emerged with the complete story of his operations. William H. Blodgett died on March 20, 1924, one of the most colorful, widely-known and feared newsmen in American history.


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