The Daily Soliphone was a newspaper at Paragould (Greene County) that was founded in 1893 and existed with varying names and frequencies of publication until 1950.
After successfully working on newspapers in Jackson and Memphis, Tennessee, J. R. Taylor settled in Jonesboro (Craighead County) in 1883, where he became editor and part owner of the Jonesboro Democrat, followed by a stint as mayor. After taking a break from politics and selling off his interest in the Jonesboro Democrat (later to become The Sun), Taylor moved to Paragould. In late 1886, as a result of the booming local economy, Taylor founded the Paragould Press. He owned the paper until 1888, when he sold it to W. A. H. McDaniel so that he could make another run for the Arkansas Senate. Only a short time later, after pulling out of his run for Senate, Taylor went into competition with McDaniel when he established the Greene County Record in 1889. According to historian Myrl Rhine Mueller, author of A History of Greene County, Arkansas, during this time period, “there was a succession of small newspapers published in Paragould. So fast did they rise and fall, exchange publishers and editors, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to sort them out chronologically.” One of these, The News-Letter, edited by Charles E. Stewart, eventually combined with McDaniel’s paper.
In 1893, Greene County mill owner and farmer Ross Coffman went into business with editor W. P. Adams, and together they formed the Daily Soliphone. Adams invented the word soliphone by combining the Latin word for sun (sol) and the Greek word for phonics (phone) and joining them with an “i.” The uniquely titled paper was poorly managed and lacked sufficient funding. In order to raise capital, Adams mortgaged the publishing equipment with his rival, McDaniel. Later, the two came into conflict, and McDaniel foreclosed on the mortgage. Adams’s paper was left without a press.
With no ability to produce the paper, Adams sought the help of local Paragould businessman and bank official M. F. Collier. With financial backing, he was able to continue publication under the editorship of P. W. Moss until, despite his best efforts, Adams was forced to sell the paper. The paper was once again purchased by Taylor and was subsequently turned into two separate papers—the Paragould Daily Press, sent daily to city subscribers, and the Weekly Soliphone, which had a weekly rural circulation.
After Taylor’s death in 1917, Griffin Smith became the very well-respected and successful editor of both papers. Upon his retirement, Smith said of the papers’ volatile history, “I have been in the newspaper business almost twenty-five years; during that period no successive six months have passed by during which my papers have not engaged in a fight of some kind.” The papers continued to change hands and on July 1, 1959, the paper consolidated with the Paragould Daily Press and was subsequently issued as the Paragould Daily Press-Soliphone, a morning rural edition of the Paragould Daily Press. Additionally, the Soliphone issued a weekend paper beginning in 1963 called the Soliphone Weekender. The publication ended around 1968.
Beginning in 2017, the Arkansas Digital Newspaper Project (ADNP) team at the Arkansas State Archives partnered with the Library of Congress as part of the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP), funded by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), to digitize historic Arkansas newspapers, including the Soliphone and its successors.
For additional information:
Allsopp, Frederick W. History of the Arkansas Press for a Hundred Years and More. Little Rock: Parke-Harper Publishing Co., 1922.
Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Northeast Arkansas. Chicago, Nashville, and St. Louis: Goodspeed Publishing Co., 1889.
“Daily Soliphone.” Chronicling America, Library of Congress. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn89051437/ (accessed January 19, 2023).
Dougan, Michael B. Community Diaries: Arkansas Newspapering: 1819–2002: Little Rock: August House Publishing Inc., 2003.
“Paragould Soliphone.” Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Library of Congress. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn90050221/ (accessed January 19, 2023).
“Weekly Soliphone.” Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Library of Congress. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn89051436/ (accessed January 19, 2023).
Staff of the Arkansas Digital Newspaper Project
Arkansas State Archives
A version of this entry was initially published on the website of the Library of Congress and is used here with permission.
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