By Eric Shackle
"The Boomerang" is a flourishing daily newspaper founded in 1891 and still going strong. But it has few, if any, Australians among its 5000 readers. That's because it's published in the US town of Laramie, Wyoming.
Edgar Wilson Nye, better known as Bill Nye and later ranked as one of the major American humorists of his time, founded and edited The Laramie Boomerang.
Along with Buffalo Bill, Nye was a contemporary of Mark Twain, and for several years was the most famous comic writer in the US. He started going on speaking tours, but his comedy "turned to dust."
What inspired him to call his paper The Boomerang? He named it in memory of a mule he owned which often tried to follow him into bars, only to be shooed away and then return "like a boomerang."
To this day, The Boomerang has a cartoon sketch of Nye's mule as its emblem. Nye was even portrayed on a cigar band.
In 1881 Nye dedicated his book, The Tale of a meek-Eyed Mule and Some Other Literary Gems, to the mule:
To My Mule Boomerang,
Whose bright smile haunts me still, and whose low, mellow notes are ever sounding in my ears to whom I owe all that I am as a great man, and whose presence has inspired me ever and anon thoughout the years that are gone
Bill Nye founded the Boomerang in Laramie City in 1881. He edited the newspaper for a company and published it in the loft over a livery stable. ‘That’s why they called it a stock company,’ he said. “A sign at the foot of the stairs leading to the loft directed visitors to the newspaper by saying, ‘Twist the gray mule’s tail and take the elevator.’
“Nye named the paper the Boomerang; a name also held by his mule, because, Nye said, ‘I never know where he is going to strike.’
"Bill Nye and Clara Frances Smith were married March 7, 1887, in Laramie. Mrs. Nye remembered the entrance of another unexpected member of the family. “This funny little creature appeared on the streets of Laramie from no one knows where,” she wrote in later years. “It ambled up to Edgar and, rubbing its nose against his sleeve, brayed earnestly in his ear. From that time on, the arrival was known as Bill Nye’s mule, Boomerang.”
Initial efforts to drive the creature off were unsuccessful, thus resulting in the name. The animal was a companion whenever Bill went fishing or to work his claim west of town.
Nye wrote about their close relationship in one of his books. When local Republicans decided they needed a new political organ in Laramie, they backed the establishment of a newspaper and hired Nye to head the outfit.
Nye accepted, named the sheet after his beloved mule and moved the shop into the upstairs room of a livery stable at Third and Garfield. He was given $3,000 by his backers to set up the paper and spent $1,800 of it on a “lemon squeezer” hand press and materials, and the rest for operating costs.
The late Ernest H. Linford (a former Boomerang editor, editorial writer for the Salt Lake Tribune and University of Wyoming professor of journalism) compiled much of the history of the Boomerang for its Centennial anniversary publication in 1981. The following overview is taken from his writings:
“The Laramie Boomerang boasts several editor-owners who were prominent in journalism — notably Bill Nye, founder of the Boomerang.
“The old Laramie Republican, which shared the masthead and flag of (the Boomerang) for more than 30 years, had prominent ‘alumni’ too, but they were fewer in number because of the long continuity of publication under the same staff.
“Bill Nye’s essays and lectures, some of them written for the Boomerang, have appeared in scores of anthologies. But few of the editorials of William E. Chaplin, who established the Laramie Republican in 1890, nearly 10 years after the Boomerang was born, are found outside the bound volumes of the paper he founded. Yet Mr. Chaplin ran a far more prosperous paper with considerable influence in the community and state.
“The Boomerang began as a Republican organ — most newspapers drew their lifeblood from the major political parties in those days — and Mr. Chaplin, a native of Omaha, worked for Bill Nye for a time as back shop foreman. Chaplin and political associates established the Republican in 1890, partly because of dissatisfaction with the political consistency of the Boomerang. …
"Mr. Chaplin was a strong Republican political force in Wyoming during his lifetime in the state. He was secretary of state for a single term (1920-24) and prior to that was register of the U.S. land office at Cheyenne nearly 18 years (1888-1915) … Mr. Chaplin did not exactly keep his nose in the type font during his editorial and printing career, … (and) much credit for the Republican’s success must go to his two partners, Frank Spafford and James Mathison, both printers in the main.
“ … One of the many owners of editors of the Laramie Boomerang during the early part of its existence was James L. Kilgallen. … He attained prominence as a reported for the Hearst Headline Service after advancing through several positions with that organization. …
“The Kilgallens came to Laramie from Denver in 1913 and stayed only two years or so. (Their daughter, Dorothy Kilgallen, achieved prominence as a writer for the New York Journal-American and for her participation in the ‘What’s My Line?’ television show prior to her death in 1965.)
Another newspaper called The Boomerang was published in Brisbane, Australia, from 1890-1892. Founded and edited by William Lane, de facto editor of The Courier, it was"a live newspaper, racy, of the soil, in which pro-worker themes and lurid racism were brought to a fever-pitch."
Lane was a feature writer ("Tohunga") from 1900 for the New Zealand Herald (Auckland), as an ultra-conservative and pro-Empire columnist. He had strong racial antipathy toward East Asians, and during World War I he developed extreme anti-German sentiments.
He was the NZ Herald's editor from 1913 until his death on August 26, 1917. He lost one son, Charles, at a cricket match in Cosme in Paraguay, and another, Donald, on the first day of the Gallipoli landings (April 25,1915).
Posted by Eric Shackle at 16:34 Sunday, 1 January 2012, From Sydney, Australia.