Historical Markers
Dietrick Lamade Historical Marker
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Dietrick Lamade

Philadelphia and its Countryside/Lehigh Valley


Marker Location:
W. 3rd. and Williams Sts., Williamsport

Dedication Date:
November 23, 1996

Behind the Marker

Cover of 1853 Farmers Almanac, Philadelphia, John B. Davis
Cover of 1853 Farmers Almanac, published by John B. Davis, Philadelphia, PA....
In the decades following the Civil War the industrialization that was transforming the nation and the world also changed the lives of Pennsylvania's farmers.Tied by railroads and canals to growing urban markets, rural Pennsylvania experienced the growth of small towns with stores, repair shops, and banks that served the needs of the surrounding farms.

Many farmers became connected to a larger community life through the organization of local markergranges and their subscription to a new generation of farm magazines and newspapers, and through mail order catalogues that brought the products of America's factories and shops to their homes.

In the 1870s, state farmers could subscribe to The Farmers Friend and Grange Advocate out of Mechanicsburg, the National Stockman and Farmer out of Pittsburgh, or the Farm Journal and Tribune out of Philadelphia, which included the first regular column for rural women. In the early 1880s, rural Pennsylvanians began to find another window into their own world, a weekly newspaper published in markerWilliamsport, Pennsylvania by Dietrick Lamade that brought the "good news" of rural America into their homes. In the twentieth century The Grit would go on to become the most widely distributed country and small-town weekly newspaper in the nation.

Front page of the Grit.
Front page of the Grit
Born in Goelshausen, Germany on February 6, 1859, Dietrick Lamade was eight years old when his parents brought the family to Williamsport soon after the end of the Civil War. When his grandfatherdied two years later, Dietrick, then ten, dropped out of school to help support his family. By his early twenties, Lamade was working for the Williamsport Daily Sun and Banner. In 1884, Lamade and two partners bought a newspaper plant in Williamsport and took over the Daily Sun and Banner's failing Saturday edition, called The Grit.

Struggling to make the paper sell, in 1885 Lamade decided to expand his market beyond Williamsport and to attract readers by introducing a Thanksgiving Day raffle for a rifle, piano, bedroom suite, and other prizes. To promote sales, Lamade packed his suitcases full of promotional materials and spent his weeks traveling the rails. In towns and villages throughout Pennsylvania, he hired selling agents, local correspondents, and young boys whose job it was to post circulars, each of which contained a coupon for the raffle. One of these combined with three other coupons from The Grit entitled the holder to a chance at the big drawing. Back in Williamsport by Friday night, Lamade spent the next thirty-six hours supervising publication of the next Sunday morning edition of The Grit.

The gambit worked. Drawn to the paper by the raffle, subscribers became avid readers. In less than a decade sales of the paper spread to other states and circulation rose to 53,000, most of that in small towns east of the Mississippi.

Formal Portrait of a headshot of Dietrick Lamade, sporting a mustache, wearing a suit and tie.
Dietrick Lamade
Convinced that "small-town" thinking and values were the bedrock of American liberty and freedom, Lamade filled The Grit with useful information and stories that stressed the good humor, patriotism, religion, and family values of rural Americans. In The Grit they found a reflection of their interests and their world. Over time, The Grit also offered features that appealed to its readers. After he began to insert colored prints of art works suitable for framing in 1893, circulation rose to 60,000. In 1895, Lamade introduced "Fiction Sections" with serialized installments of short stories and novels. Weekly circulation rose from 100,000 in 1900, to 300,000 in 1916, to more than 400,000 in 1932. In 1969, more than 40,000 news carriers distributed 1.5 million copies of The Grit weekly, in all fifty states.

Another key to The Grit's success was its distribution system. Lamade sold The Grit through a small army of boy salesmen - and in later years girls also - in small towns and hamlets across of the United States. Newspaper sales taught generations of young salespersons industriousness, responsibility, and resourcefulness. Junior salespersons of The Grit included baseball Commissioners Happy Chandler and Ford Frick, poet Carl Sandburg, singing cowboy Gene Autry, astronaut and U.S. Senator John Glenn, Kentucky Fried Chicken founder Harlan Sanders, and actress Loretta Lynn.

After Lamade's death in 1938, three of his sons continued to publish the paper. In 1952, they could boast that "[The] Grit is the largest and most complete independent Family Weekly in the world. For seventy years it has been an elevating, refining force, devoted to the best interests and welfare of the American people. It seeks to inform, entertain, teach highest moral and social principles, improve thought and inspire achievement." The Grit was, indeed, a family institution; subscriptions passed on from one generation to the next. Still in publication today, The Grit was sold in the 1990 and its publication moved to Topeka, Kansas.
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