History of Las Vegas Optic
"Las Vegas, the seat of San Miguel County in New Mexico, dates back to 1850. The community was originally known as San Miguel del Bado, founded in 1794. Spanish settlers and officials saw the plains near the Rio Gallina to the north as an outlet for expansion, so in 1821 Luis Maria Cabeza de Baca petitioned for a land grant at Las Vegas Grandes, the ""big meadow."" The formal name of the resulting settlement was Nuestra Senora de Las Vegas or ""Our Lady of the Meadows."" An 1829 military report referred to the area as Begas de Las Gallinas, and sometimes residents referred to the area simply as Las Gallinas.
In later years, Las Vegas became an important stop on the Santa Fe Trail. With the arrival of the Atlantic & Santa Fe Railroad in 1879, Las Vegas quickly evolved into three towns: West Las Vegas, East Las Vegas, and a suburb. Its population peaked in 1870 with 796 residents and then declined. Cultural differences created strong rivalries between the new and predominantly Anglo east Las Vegas and the older and prominently Hispanic west Las Vegas. The two communities once had separate post offices.
Founded in 1880, the Las Vegas Daily Optic, an English-only newspaper was printed daily except Sundays. It followed the Las Vegas Weekly Optic. Russell A. Kistler was editor and owner of the paper which was published by the Las Vegas Publishing Co. In October 1879, Kistler revamped his struggling weekly into a daily paper. At first glance, this seemed to be a foolish move, but the newspaper became profitable. The success of the Las Vegas Optic caused newspapers to move out of Las Vegas and forced J.H. Koogler to sell his Las Vegas Gazette in 1883. However, soon the Optic itself needed funds, and although it was a Republican paper, Kistler decided to sell it to Democratic interests. This led the local Republican Party to retaliate by creating rival newspaper companies. The harsh competition among newspapers in Las Vegas forced many editors to submit to the will of politicians. In 1908, the Las Vegas Daily Optic was renamed the Las Vegas Optic. The latter continued in operation until 1921.
In these years, personal journalism often reached a point where the exchanges between editors were vulgar and even obscene. For example, the Las Vegas Daily Optic characterized a writer for the Santa Fe New Mexican as ""An Editorial Ass"" who ""had about as much idea of the courtesy due a gentleman as an ass has of manners.""
A letter to the editor that appeared in the Las Vegas Daily Optic on February 2, 1881, addressed ""The Indian Problem,"" a topic of perennial concern. The letter writer chided Easterners who criticized the treatment of Native Americans in the Southwest as hypocrites, noting the long history of displacement and extermination of tribal groups in New England, the Midwest, and the South. The letter concluded with the following suggestion: ""If an Indian commits a murder, hang him. If he steals, imprison him. If he won't work, take him up for a vagrant. In other words, treat him as good as a white man."""