The Daily Nonpareil is one of the oldest businesses in Council Bluffs, outdating even the Union Pacific Railroad by nearly 10 years.
Two newspapers beat The Nonpareil to be first, The Frontier Guardian (est. 1849) and The Chronotype (est. 1854), but they didn't outlive the Nonpareil.
The Nonpareil began with one young man riding a Western Stage Co. coach along the Southwest Iowa Trail in 1857. Twenty-four-year-old William Wirt Maynard of Michigan was about to turn the pivotal city of Council Bluffs on its ear with nothing but guts and $1,000 hidden in a money belt under his clothes.
Maynard, a journeyman printer, had been commissioned by the newly formed Republican Party to start a paper in what was then the Democratic-Whig stronghold of Council Bluffs, according to the centennial edition of The Daily Nonpareil (1957).
According to Ryan Roenfeld, a local expert on Council Bluffs history and museum guide at the Western Historic Trails Center, most newspapers in the Old West were not concerned with the perception of fairness, since each was established with its own clear-cut agenda.
For a long time, newspapers were political organs, Roenfeld said, adding that each paper still served the public interest. Every political group used a paper to bash its opponents. The Democratic paper would have written editorials and done stories to make the Republicans and The Nonpareil look bad and vice versa. City, state, federal government all ran on the spoils system, so every time there was a new leader, everything changed hands.
Within two weeks of setting foot back in town, Maynard published the first issue of The Nonpareil on May 2, 1857. It was four pages long, eight columns wide and 23 inches deep. It was published every Saturday at 1 Palmer Block (the northwest corner of Broadway and Scott Street today) and said in no uncertain terms that The Nonpareil partakes of the Republican caste, that party being the nearest representation of our political proclivities.
Yet, we do not wish to be understood as committing ourselves entirely to the politics of that organization. We reserve the right to adopt whatever coincides with our views and to condemn what we cannot reconcile without belief in a fearless and independent way. What it didn't say was that Nonpareil is a French word for unequaled and is also a printer's term for two picas -- and employees of The Nonpareil have been explaining that ever since.