Conrad First The Joseph Conrad Periodical Archive

The Des Moines Sunday Register (Des Moines, IA, USA)

4 January 1925

One of the most influential regional newspapers in the United States, The Des Moines Register began life as The Iowa Citizen in 1855. Renamed The Iowa State Register in 1860, it merged with the Des Moines Leader in 1902 to become The Des Moines Register and Leader and, from 1916, The Des Moines Register. In 1903, it was acquired by Gardner Cowles, Sr., an ambitious Des Moines banker. With the purchase of the evening Des Moines Tribune in 1908, which merged with The Des Moines News and The Des Moines Capital in the mid-1920s, his Des Moines Register and Tribune Company effectively gained a monopoly of Iowa's morning, evening, and Sunday papers. In 1922, Cowles launched the Register and Tribune Syndicate, which sold news items, serial fiction and nonfiction, cartoons, and photographs across the United States and overseas. The following year the Register and Tribune Company made a brief foray into radio broadcasting.

A progressive Republican journal, The Des Moines Register and Leader refused to carry liquor advertisements, vetted products advertised in its pages for false claims and potential hazards, and lent its support to causes such as Cora Bussey Hillis's Iowa Station, a pioneering educational research institute. An editorial of 1924 promised that the paper 'will strive always for fairness in its news and editorial columns and to show sympathy for the average man'. As well as lobbying for road and rail improvements, buying a dedicated airplane, and creating a rural network of delivery boys and sales representatives, Cowles strove to increase sales by means of photographs, comics, an expanded sports section, prize competitions, and special features on farming. Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Jay Norwood 'Ding' Darling joined the staff in 1906. In 1925, Cowles engaged George Gallup, statistician and founder of the Gallup polling organization, who established that stories illustrated by pictures secured the highest readership. In January 1925, The Des Moines Sunday Register serialized Conrad's The Rover, with colour illustrations, alongside Jack London's White Fang (1906) in its Magazine Section, and in September 1930 the paper began a black-and-white illustrated serial of Edgar Rice Burroughs's Jungle Tales of Tarzan (1919). Circulation rose from 25,000 in 1906 to 100,000 in 1926 (with 82,000 on Sunday), the largest of any daily in Iowa.

The Cowles Family Publishing Legacy. Cowles Library, Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa.
Cravens, Hamilton. Before Head Start: The Iowa Station and America's Children. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2002.
'Ding Darling': Selected Cartoons. Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation.
Friedricks, William B. Covering Iowa: The History of the Des Moines Register and Tribune Company, 1849-1985. Iowa State Press, 2000.
Jungle Tales of Tarzan in the Des Moines Register.ERBzine: The Edgar Rice Burroughs Magazine #314. Mott, Frank Luther. American Journalism: A History of Newspapers in the United States Through 260 Years: 1690 to 1950. Revised edition. New York: Macmillan, 1956.