Thomas Prosch publishes Tacoma's first newspaper, the Pacific Tribune, beginning on August 9, 1873.

  • By Priscilla Long
  • Posted 1/11/2003
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 5046
On August 9, 1873, Thomas Prosch (1850-1915) begins publishing Tacoma's first newspaper, the Pacific Tribune. Prosch has moved the newspaper from Olympia to Tacoma immediately following the Northern Pacific Railroad's choice of Tacoma as its western terminus. Prosch, along with everyone else, expects Tacoma to become a railroad boomtown if not the leading city of the West. The daily appears every evening. Its motto is: "Here Shall the Press the People's Rights Proclaim, Unawed by Influence and Unbribed by Gain." The paper is highly successful until the national financial panic of 1873 occurs little more than a month later. In June 1875, Prosch, declaring regret and high regard for the people of Tacoma, will move the paper to Seattle.

A Newspaper Family

Prosch was the son of Charles W. Prosch, a pioneer newspaper publisher who had been issuing papers in Steilacoom and Olympia since 1858. Thomas and his brother Fred were printers and writers and with their father had published the Weekly Pacific Tribune in Olympia since 1869. The year before moving the paper to Tacoma, Thomas had succeeded his father as publisher.

On July 14, 1873, the Northern Pacific Railroad announced its decision to make Tacoma the western Terminus, dashing hopes in Seattle and elsewhere. In early August 1873, Thomas loaded his hand press and cases of type onto a small vessel and moved the newspaper to Tacoma. The first issue had an article on "The Terminus" that discussed Tacoma's prospects as the future leading city of the West. It also had a piece on the high cost of living.

Good Times and Bad

The population of Tacoma (1870) was about 500 (population of Pierce County 1,409), and though the town looked like the raw lumber town it was, it was booming. The newspaper was popular and successful. Everybody subscribed and many residents took several subscriptions so they could send copies back East. The Weekly, which reprinted many of the pieces in the Daily, appeared for the first time on August 16, 1873.

On September 18, 1873, the bank of Jay Cook, Philadelphia banker and financial officer of the Northern Pacific Railroad, locked the doors on its depositors. Financial panic spread throughout the country. Tacoma was hit hard, and newspaper sales dropped. Thomas Prosch printed the last Tacoma issue on June 11, 1875, and moved the paper to Seattle. He published the Seattle Pacific Tribune for more than a year, and eventually became publisher of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Thomas Prosch was killed in an automobile accident on March 30, 1915.


Sources: Paul W. Harvey, Tacoma Headlines: An Account of Tacoma News and Newspapers From 1873 to 1962 (Tacoma: The Tacoma News Tribune, 1962),11-12; Murray Morgan, Puget's Sound: A Narrative of Early Tacoma and the Southern Sound (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1979), 164-165.
Note: The date of Thomas Prosch's death was corrected in this file on March 6, 2006.

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