History of El Paso Times
"As railroads arrived in El Paso in 1881 and 1882, the town quickly outgrew its existing news source, the “Notice Tree” in Pioneer Plaza. A predominantly Mexican town of approximately 800 residents at the start of 1881, El Paso doubled in size between May and June of that year, with the population exceeding 10,000 by 1888. Barron F. Deal and James P. Baker profited from this remarkable growth, publishing the first issue of the El Paso Herald on April 2, 1881.
The Herald began as a four-page weekly. Although briefly published daily as the El Paso Herald, the paper retained its weekly format for several years, becoming the Sunday Herald in 1884; a daily edition was added in 1888. The Herald circulated throughout West Texas and Northern Mexico. A true border publication, the paper printed advertisements from businesses in El Paso del Norte (now Ciudad Juárez), some of which ran in Spanish. The Herald went through several owners in the 1880s, only gaining stability in 1889 when it switched political allegiances and became the official paper of the Republican Party.
In the late 19th century, El Paso was teeming with brothels, saloons, and gambling establishments. Nicknamed “Sin City,” the town was a magnet for gunslingers and outlaws from across the Southwest. In the 1880s, the Herald reported on crime and corruption, but it did not actively oppose it until J. A. “Uncle Jimmy” Smith began managing the paper in 1891. Despite receiving threats from the likes of John Wesley Harding (who met his demise in El Paso in 1895), Smith led a tireless crusade against El Paso’s disreputable elements. When Hughes D. Slater became the Herald’s writer and editor in 1898, he furthered efforts at reform. With the motto of “service to the people that no good cause shall lack a champion and that evil shall not thrive unopposed,” the paper helped shape El Paso civic affairs.
Border relations between the United States and Mexico, which were frequently tense, received ample coverage in the Herald. In 1886, a conflict between newspapermen A. K. Cutting of El Paso and Emigdio Medina of El Paso del Norte nearly resulted in war. The federal government ultimately intervened, but El Paso papers were particularly important in escalating the incident. The development of Elephant Butte Damn, which threatened farmers throughout Northern Mexico, also caused border strife.
The Herald’s coverage went beyond local conflicts. Of particular note, Confederate Army veteran and Texas Ranger George Wythe Baylor contributed 52 articles to the paper. Published between 1899 and 1906, the articles detail his experiences living on the frontier and fighting in the Civil War.
The excitement of the 1890s did not translate into commercial success for the Herald. Described by historian John J. Middagh as “dull in make-up and pedestrian in its treatment of the news,” the Daily Herald in 1898 attracted only 720 subscribers, hardly competing with the El Paso International Daily Times’s readership of 2,800. When Hughes D. Slater joined the paper as editor that same year, however, he modernized the publication, transforming it into the influential El Paso Herald of the early 1900s."