World War I in Lawrence: Newspapers forced to cut back on free copies

Editor’s note: Local writer Sarah St. John compiles reports of what it was like to be in Lawrence 100 years ago during World War I.

The shortage of paper that had been plaguing newspapers nationwide for the past two years had caused increases in operating costs, but in the summer of 1918, another restriction was imposed. As reported in the Lawrence Journal-World on July 18, “The shortage in the supply of newspaper and of the materials of which it is made is responsible for an order sent to every publisher in the United States, under date of July 5th by the War Industries Board, of Washington D. C. The effect of this order is to cut off all free copies, whether given in the form of complimentaries to friends, free copies to advertisers, papers mailed to other newspapers in exchanges, all sample copies, and in fact to put the papers on a basis of paid subscribers only.” In the course of ordinary prewar budget-trimming, the Journal-World had reduced the number of free copies four years earlier, “when it discontinued letting subscribers secure a copy from the counter now and then free of charge, and at the same time it cut more than one hundred exchange and free copies from its mailing list, but even at that the government now says we must strike from our list all exchanges and all papers to advertisers excepting that we may let an advertiser have a copy of the paper containing his advertisement for checking purposes. Orders of this kind must be obeyed.”

Meanwhile, the newspaper began to offer a rate of 25 cents a month to parents of soldiers who wanted to share Lawrence news with their sons overseas: “Of course that boy of yours, who is now serving his country in cantonment at home, or on the fields of France, is one of the dearest things in the world to you and you think of him at all hours of the day and night … Have you thought of sending him the Journal-World so that day by day he may read of the happenings at home? The paper has to go thousands of miles, but it will reach him just as certainly as your letters and when it comes how happy it will make him.”


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