Of all the inventions; of all discoveries in science and art; of all the great results in the wonderful progress of mechanical energy and skill; the printer is the only product of civilisation necessary to the existence of free man. - Charles Dickens
Whanganui has a long and proud printing history.
The Wanganui Chronicle has the distinction of being New Zealand's longest continuously published newspaper.
Wanganui Newspapers' commercial printing arm, the Print Place, was established in 1856 and probably was New Zealand's oldest commercial printer.
The role of newspapers has always been to provide an accessible platform for sharing information and opinion with the wider public, and often as a political mouthpiece for the publishers and local bodies.
Prior to the Chronicle, Whanganui had no regular publication that fulfilled the community's needs.
Established by Henry Stokes, the first issue of the Wanganui Chronicle and Rangitikei Messenger was circulated on 18 September 1856.
Publication frequency was erratic until 1866 when the distribution of the Chronicle settled to three issues per week.
In 1871, in response to the arrival of a competing newspaper (the Evening Herald), the Chronicle became a daily publication.
During the 1860s and 1870s, the development of a number of independent newspapers challenged the dominance of the Wanganui Chronicle.
The Chronicle's major competitor proved to be the Evening Herald (later titled the Wanganui Herald), established by John Ballance.
Ballance was prominent in local and national politics and went into partnership with A D Willis, who had previously worked briefly for the Wanganui Chronicle.
Together they bought a printing press and the first issue of the Evening Herald was circulated on 3 June 1867.
Ballance knew the influence a newspaper could have in a small town and insisted that the role of the Herald would freely discuss pertinent political issues and provide up-to-date information for the people of Whanganui.
Ballance did not shy away from expressing his liberal political views through his articles in the Herald, and this often caused controversy.
The competition between the Chronicle and the Herald was spirited and each paper developed a passionate and loyal group of readers.
The Chronicle tended to represent the more conservative opinion while the Herald appealed to a more liberal group of readers.
While editorial wars occasionally occurred, understanding developed between the two newspapers.
In 1888, for example, when the Chronicle building was damaged by fire, the Chronicle used the Herald printing machines.
Despite some tough times during its developing years, the Herald managed to continue as a viable publication, diversifying when it needed to.
From 1869 to 1906, it published the Weekly Herald, later called the Yeoman.
From 1926, it also published a children's newspaper as an insert, which was the first of its kind in New Zealand.
Eventually, Whanganui could not sustain two daily newspapers so in 1971 the ownership of the Herald and the Chronicle merged.
In 1986 the Herald was replaced by a free community newspaper with the same name, leaving the Chronicle as the only daily newspaper in Whanganui. The free weekly became the Whanganui Midweek.
More than 160 years after it opened, the Chronicle continues to be an important regional newspaper.
Although no longer locally owned, the Chronicle continues to provide residents with access to local, national and international issues.
On September 10, 2018, the Wanganui Chronicle changed its name to the Whanganui Chronicle, the appropriate Māori spelling of this name.
*Michelle Horwood is a former curator of Whanganui Regional Museum. She continues her support of this museum.