Community newspapers are about people. Since about 1886, The Taylorsville Times, although not by that name in its early years, has been serving the people in Alexander County by sharing with them local news, events, sports and features that people find important. Local newspapers are designed to be part of the community and recording its ongoing history, and that is what The Taylorsville Times has strived to do, even it its early years.
The Alexander County Journal is believed to be the first newspaper in Alexander County. Although the exact year that it began publication is not known, it is believed to have started somewhere around 1885 or 1886. A June 28, 1888 edition of the paper is listed as Volume III, No. 26 and is the oldest paper discovered to date. C.W. Sower was the publisher of the Alexander County Journal until about 1890 when the paper changed hands and received a new name.
To the best of our knowledge, the Alexander County Journal was followed by The Taylorsville Index, published and edited by O.E. Crowson. This information has been verified by the discovery of a July 27, 1892 edition, which was Volume II, No. 38.
The Taylorsville News is believed to have started in 1895 and published for short period of time. The Weekly Visitor is believed to be Alexander County’s next local newspaper. The November 18, 1898 edition is listed as Volume II, No. I. The paper was published every Friday under the direction of W. E. White and L. O. White.
The paper had changed hands several times over a short period up until this point. Sometime about the turn of the century, J. P. Babington began publication of The Mountain Scout in Alexander County, which would last some twenty years. The newspaper’s office was not located in its current location; back then, it was located on Main Avenue Drive SW across the street from the courthouse.
Several editions of The Mountain Scout have surfaced over the years and can be found at the local library on microfilm. Some of the earlier editions found are: Wednesday, February 4, 1914 edition, listed as Volume XII, No. 613 and also Wednesday, January 12, 1916 edition, listed as Volume XV, No. 712.
Publisher J.P. Babington died in 1916, leaving Alexander County’s newspaper once again up for grabs. R.A. Adams, who hired Thomas Smith to serve as editor and business manager, purchased The Mountain Scout.
It was during the tenure of Thomas Smith as editor that a young man by the name of Romulus Linney Teague blackened his fingers in 1918 for the first time and began a career, which was to exceed 50 years, with the local newspaper.
The Mountain Scout was sold somewhere between 1921 and 1922 to John Mullens. At that time, Mullens already owned two other newspapers, The Lincolnton Times and The Times-Mercury in Hickory. So when Mullens gained possession of The Mountain Scout, he had the name changed to its current name, The Taylorsville Times. Mullens allowed The Taylorsville Times to be printed in Taylorsville for about two years before he had it transferred to The Lincolnton Times location for printing.
In 1925, the newspaper expanded its operations with the help of John E. Hart, who bought The Taylorsville Times from Mullens. Hart was a veteran newspaperman from Creedmoor, N.C., whose presence greatly improved the paper.
In 1926, The Taylorsville Times moved to its current location on East Main Avenue. The Times has worked on growing and expanding its operations here for more than 83 years.
In 1928, under Hart’s direction, the newspaper purchased its first typesetting machine. This vastly expanded the ability of the paper to produce local news copy. It also opened the door to another prominent figure in The Taylorsville Times history. The linotype brought in two new employees. Marvin Aiken served as the first linotype operator for the newspaper. However, after about a year, he left to return to his hometown in Creedmoor. Conway Sharpe was the second linotype operator, whose career would span over three decades with the newspaper as well as begin a family tradition. Sharpe was a native of Iredell County and completed his training at the Georgia-Alabama Linotype School in mid-1929.
In May 1933, Hart died, leaving his widow, Susan Hart, who contracted with Rom Teague and Conway Sharpe to continue the operations. The three worked as a team until March 5, 1935 when Teague and Sharpe purchased The Taylorsville Times from Hart. In 1937, the two purchased the building from Mrs. Elizabeth Ray.
Teague and Sharpe became the two most prominent names associated with the newspaper. In 1940, the Miehle flat-bed, hand-fed press, which expanded the paper’s printing capacity once again, was purchased. The Miehle replaced the old and outdated Babcock Press from 1915.
“Back in the old days of the old press, we used a gasoline motor to run the press,” Teague recalled some years ago. “When we finally got electricity in Taylorsville, we installed an electric motor. But we had to be sure to get the paper printed before dark. Because when local citizens turned lights on in their homes, there was not enough electricity to run the press.”
Unfortunately, Conway Sharpe passed away in 1962, leaving his half of The Times to his wife, Irene Hendren Sharpe. During the two years following Sharpe’s death, Irene and Teague worked as a team on the paper. But in 1964, another person entered the picture. Walter Lee Sharpe, the son of Conway and Irene Sharpe, purchased half of his mother’s interest in the paper. The three worked together until Teague’s retirement at the end of 1974, at which point he sold his 50% interest to Walter Lee Sharpe. Even after his retirement, however, Teague remained a valued consultant and a dear friend of the Sharpe family until his death in 1986. Irene H. Sharpe was actively involved with The Times for almost four decades. She passed away on December 1, 2004.
In 1981, Jane Fox Sharpe entered into the business working in the editorial and business areas of the paper. Prior to joining The Times, Sharpe had been an English teacher at Alexander Central High School for a number of years. She assisted operations for 40 years. Sadly, Jane passed away on October 4, 2021.
Today, Walter Lee Sharpe is publisher of The Taylorsville Times. Their son, Wesley Myles Sharpe, joined the staff in 1995.
The Taylorsville Times is a modern, midweek publication, bringing local news, entertainment news, sports, advertising and photographs to its readers. In addition, The Times also publishes The Bethlehem Star which dates from December 1972, prints several other publications including high school newspapers, a kid’s newspaper, commercial printing, newsletters, plant newspapers, and more.
New Technologies Improve Local Newspaper
By Jaime Fisher
The world is constantly changing; new technology presents itself with bigger and better things everyday. Computers have gone from the huge football sized supercomputers to tiny personal computers that can be found in the majority of homes. Communication has improved significantly, starting with the early word of mouth to telegrams and now e-mails. Even the newspaper, something many people have received all their lives, has changed and evolved over time.
In the early years of The Taylorsville Times, handset printing was the method used. Handset was a very time-consuming process because each letter had to be assembled individually. This process restricted the paper to only being able to publish a paper about four to twelve pages in size because of the time involved in putting together a single page.
In 1928, under the direction of John E. Hart, the paper purchased its first typesetting machine. The machine was called the Mergenthaler Linotype, which was announced in the October 4, 1928 edition. Ottmar Mergenthaler, who had emigrated from Germany to America as a child, invented the linotype. The linotype was not a typesetting machine; it was a typecaster. It assembled characters a line at a time using matrices- small brass units that had characters indented in the edges.
The linotype operator hits a key, and that character slides down and forms a line of type. In simple terms, the machine assembles a number of matrices in a line, automatically spacing the line to the desired length, then it holds the line up against a casting mechanism, which molds the line of printing characters onto a bar.
Mergenthaler’s invention revolutionized printing. An efficient linotype operator could type 150 matrices a minute and produce a single newspaper page in about three to four hours.
Linotype machines were the most popular in the publishing industry for several decades. It was a methodology known as hot type as it used molten lead to create letters. A noticeable feature that the majority of linotype operators have are tiny scars left on their arms where the molten lead would splatter, burning whatever it touched.
The next major change to the publishing industry was the transfer to cold type or the phototype setting machine. This process uses photographic paper and film reel to make pictures of each character. The Taylorsville Times made its switch from hot metal production to phototype setting in 1972. The Compugraphic 7200 and 2961, CompuWriter IV and the TrendSetter were the main phototype setting machines that The Taylorsville Times used. A News King offset press was installed in 1972, expanded in 1982, and updated in 1995 and 2006, and expanded from to six to ten units in 2008 for additional color capacity.
CompuWriter IV is very similar to the linotype, because a person still works line by line, the big difference being the film aspect of it. When a person keys in a letter of the alphabet, that letter hits a revolving drum, which is then photographed onto filmstrips. As a line is completed, it is advanced onto a lightproof cassette that can be developed through a processor.
“You had to type and wait until it was finished before you could proofread and make corrections,” said Laura Presnell, bookkeeper and typesetter, who has been with The Taylorsville Times since the late 70’s. “I don’t know how we ever got a paper out with the time involved. It is hard to imagine I ever key punched a paper tape without a screen to see what I was typing.”
The TrendSetter was an improvement to the CompuWriter IV in that it offered the first storage device. A person would key in a story that would appear on a tiny screen and would be saved onto a floppy disk. Then the floppy disk would be placed in the TrendSetter where everything was processed and placed onto photographic paper.
The Taylorsville Times currently uses what is called desktop publishing. The sequence of events using desktop publishing is going from computer to film to plate.
Desktop publishing is very versatile. After something is completed in QuarkXpress or InDesign, a person has the option of printing several different ways including using the laser printer, inkjet, imagesetter and computer to plate.
The Times put the ECRM imagesetter into production in early 1998. The imagesetter allowed The Times to print in full color, in house.
After the stories have been written and the pictures have been taken, everything is laid out on the computer. QuarkXpress and InDesign are software products many publishers use because it allows for an entire paper to be put together on the computer.
After everything is put into place, the next step is to transfer what is on the computer onto film or an offset plate. This works by sending everything to the RIP program, which transfers the material to an image setter or platesetter where a red laser burns the images onto the film or plate. In November, 2008, The Times staff began using an ECRM 4-MATIC Platesetter to produce printing plates, elimating the need for film in the production process.
In 1998, The Taylorsville Times started using digital cameras, which eliminated film from the photographical perspective. The Taylorsville Times will continue to explore new equipment and methodologies which can improve its products. Higher quality presswork, increased speed, and shorter plate time productions are just a few bonuses of the laser imaging technology, which could result in a higher quality paper for the reader.
The Times launched its web site in 1997 offering news highlights from the printed edition. In August 2009, the complete edition of The Taylorsville Times became available online.
Over the decades, as new technology has become available, the quality of newspapers has improved. From handset to laser imaging, and the internet, newspapers have come around almost full circle.
PO Box 279 – 24 East Main Ave. – Taylorsville, NC 28681
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