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First Wisconsin newspaper established in Green Bay

First published Dec. 11, 1833, 15 years before the establishment of Wisconsin as a state. The Green Bay Intelligencer was a small paper, just four pages long. Brown County Library image

Contributing Writer

GREEN BAY – The first newspaper to be established in Wisconsin was based right here in the streets of Green Bay — then known as “Navarino.”

First published Dec. 11, 1833 — 15 years before the establishment of Wisconsin as a state – by business partners, John V. Suydam and Albert Gallatin Ellis, the “Green Bay Intelligencer” was a small paper, with each issue being no more than four pages with four columns long.

It was initially started with non-political intentions, as there wasn’t much of a population willing to engage in politics quite yet; instead, it was intended to provide news of developments of the country west of Lake Michigan — especially within the Michigan and Illinois territories.

The Intelligencer’s printing schedule was irregular, and this can be ascribed to the fact that settlements of the frontier were so far apart from one another — for reference, Green Bay and Chicago were approximately a two week journey on foot from one another — and vastly separated from the bustling populations of the East Coast.

As a result, it was too laborious for news to be passed along, often by word of mouth, only for such news to be long-delayed by the time of publication.

Despite the struggles to maintain consistent publishing and lacking fresh, accurate stories to release, the Intelligencer was massively important not only for Green Bay, but for the state of Wisconsin.

“It was important that a paper was published in Green Bay,” said Mary Jane Herber, local historian librarian working with the Brown County Library’s Local History, Genealogy and Special Collections department. “And this paper established the importance Green Bay had, and will continue to have, within the state.”

This importance can be attributed to Green Bay being a major water transportation point within the Great Lakes and along the Fox River.

With water, there was greater ease of dispersing information, participating in trade and providing swift transportation in a way cities such as Madison or Milwaukee were unable to do at the time.

Due to irregular printings, the inability to gather stories fast enough and low sales, the paper was short-lived and closed in 1836.

Suydam and Ellis also parted ways to pursue careers as surveyors.

The next major papers to follow the “Green Bay Intelligencer” were “Milwaukee Advertiser,” published in Milwaukee in 1836, and “The Wisconsin Enquirer,” published in Madison in 1838.

“I think that sometimes people forget how important Green Bay was in the development of Wisconsin,” said Herber. “I think that people need to look at this history and realize just how important the city was to Wisconsin.”

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