Welcome to the Bangor Daily News Interactive History Timeline. Please click on a date to view historic BDN facts from that era.

A Moment in Time...BDN's 120 Year History

One hundred twenty years is not so remarkable for the old-growth forests of Maine that supplied the timber that built bustling, brawling Bangor and gave reason for a newspaper to thrive here. But 120 years for so human an endeavor as a business is a very long time, all the more for a business whose stock in trade is to remain current always.

The Bangor Daily News has reported on, fretted over, cajoled and admired Maine through wars and depression, growth and decline, reform and renewal. The earliest automobiles and first airplanes were noted in its pages, likely industries and new hat styles were encouraged, just as carousing and strong drink were cautioned against. To the best of its abilities, it has treated presidential elections and school-board squabbles with equal seriousness, and heard from readers when it didn't.

Please take a look at the time line and story about our 120 years -- not so old as the oldest trees; not so young to miss that it is you who let us keep counting the years.


The Bangor Daily News made its debut at 86-92 Exchange St. in Bangor on June 18, 1889. Six years before the paper was purchased by J. Norman Towle, great-grandfather to current publisher Richard Warren, it was established by several New York newspaper men, organized as the Union Publishing Co. The company's principal stockholder was Thomas J. Stewart, a Bangor shipping magnate.

The first page of the first edition, which cost 2 cents, carried stories about the Brewer City Council, a Seventh Day Adventist meeting in Carmel, improvements at the Bangor race track, and the names of arrivals at the Penobscot Exchange Hotel.

In 1895, Towle, an up-and-coming grain merchant, gained the respect of BDN readers by stripping away some of its saucier, more outrageous features and turning it into a family paper. J. Norman Towle is considered the "father" of Bangor Daily News and his legacy lives on with his family members that run the paper today.


On March 5, 1900, The Whig and Courier explained that it was being merged with the BDN because of costly printing, too many employees, and plummeting revenues in a "field not sufficient to support two papers."

A far more traumatic event blazed through Bangor on April 30, 1911. Around 4 p.m. that day, smoke and fire erupted from the three-story wooden hay shed on Broad Street owned by J. Frank Green. Who started the fire is still a mystery; however, the official fire damage total was later set at $3,168,080.90.

Fire again made headlines in 1914, only this time it was the newspaper office itself that was burning. On the morning of Jan. 28, a fire destroyed the four-story BDN building at 150 Exchange St. While the fire engulfed the BDN building, Publisher Norman Towle received a phone call from Joseph P. Bass, publisher of the rival Bangor Daily Commercial, offering full use of his presses. For the next two months, the BDN was printed at the Commercial's Main Street Plant until the BDN's relocation to 170 Exchange St., where it remained for for the next 41 years.


The 1920s were years of growth for Bangor and for the Bangor Daily News. By 1924, the city population had reached 28,576 -- within shouting distance of where it is now 65 years later -- and the newspaper's circulation rose above 23,000. The Depression changed much of that, but Towle had a ready answer to tough times in his son-in-law Fred Jordan, a Bangor native, former office boy for Merrill Trust Co., and, in 1930, a stock broker in Boston. Jordan set about saving the newspaper, reorganizing the office and opening bureaus, circulation began to grow and the Bangor Daily News extended its reach well beyond Bangor.

The big story of those days? That would have been the day in October 1937 when Public Enemy No. 1, Al Brady, came to town to pick up a submachine gun he had ordered through Dakin's Sporting Goods. The FBI was waiting, and in the ensuing fire fight, Brady was cut down.


The war years brought not only staff shortages at the newspaper; it provided a new correspondent. Jordan had hired John M. O'Connell as his managing editor in 1936, and the hard-charging newspaperman brought new discipline in the newsroom and new respect for the BDN. In 1944, Jordan had a new assignment for O'Connell, and for the remainder of the war, O'Connell wrote a daily column called "Victory Bound with Our Maine Boys," filing dispatches from across Europe. The column boosted both morale and circulation, and O'Connell returned safely after V-E Day. In all, 46 members of the BDN staff served in the armed forces during World War II.

The big news of the decade for the newspaper in Bangor came in mid-decade. Starting in 1954, the BDN began printing at its new building at 491 Main St. By the next year, it would move its entire staff from 170 Exchange St. -- dramatically winching its 17 Linotype machines out large holes cut in the second story -- to the building it currently occupies.


Only once in 120 years has nature caused the BDN to fail to deliver its newspaper. That happened after the New Year's Eve blizzard of 1962, when snowdrifts on Buck Street prevented delivery trucks from leaving the plant. Throughout that day and into evening, 37 inches of snow fell on top of a 10-inch base, and drifts that accumulated to 20 feet in some places. With a staff that had walked to work that day, the newspaper could be printed, but there was no way to deliver it..

While the urgency and tragedies of the 1960s swelled -- John F. Kennedy slain, the war in Vietnam debated ever more heatedly, Martin Luther King Jr. slain, Robert Kennedy slain -- the BDN kept local readers informed of national events and grew under the leadership of Publisher Richard K. Warren, son-in-law to Fred Jordan, who stepped in in 1947 upon Jordan's death, just as Jordan had stepped in when J. Norman Towle died.


The BDN has embraced technological change since before 1938, when photographer Dan Mahar used bulky wire photo equipment to transmit photos by telephone. By the early 1970s, cold type was replacing the hot lead of the Linotypes, and, in the 1990s, Richard J. Warren, who became publisher in 1984, launched Bangor Daily News Interactive as part of the seachange in journalism that all newspapers are grappling with today.

Unlike previous technology changes that made the existing product easier or less expensive to print, the Internet changed the way newspapers brought you the news and the way you connected with newspapers. Since its launch, now bangordailynews.com has grown to more than 5 million page views a month and is viewed regularly by residents statewide.


Twenty years ago, on the anniversary of the BDN's 100th year, Richard J. Warren was asked what computers might do to the newspaper industry: "With technology, the paper will probably be able to be tailored for neighborhoods and individuals a great deal more selectively," he said. "But I don't discount the possibility that an awful lot more information and shopping and things ... will be done on a computer" in the future.

In many ways, today's newspapers, the Bangor Daily News included, have come full circle to a time when local news mattered most, local stories got the biggest play and local correspondents -- some of them volunteer -- submitted accounts of what happened in their neighborhoods. Today, they can do that directly on the paper's local Web site, Maineville.com.