Argus, Daily Argus, Evening Argus, Rock Island Argus and Daily Union, Rock Island Argus and Rock Island Daily Argus
Located on the Mississippi River, Rock Island, Illinois, is one of the Quad Cities, along with Moline, East Moline, and the Iowa cities of Davenport and Bettendorf and is the seat of Rock Island County (Yes, there are five cities included within the Quad Cities Metropolitan Area). Rock Island gets its name from the largest island in the Mississippi River, which was formerly called Rock Island and is now called Arsenal Island.
The Rock Island Argus is one of Illinois’ oldest newspapers and has been in continuous publication since 1851, when a weekly paper titled Rock Island Republican was founded by F. S. Nichols. In 1854, Colonel J. B. Danforth purchased the paper and began publishing a daily edition, along with the weekly. In 1859, Danforth, who was a Democrat, changed its name to the Rock Island Argus, to distinguish it as separate from the Republican Party.
In 1882, John W. Potter bought the Rock Island Argus, and when he died in 1898, his wife, Minnie, took over its operation. The Rock Island Argus only had 500 subscribers when John Potter took it over, but, by all accounts, the newspaper thrived under Minnie Potter’s leadership. The Potter family owned and managed the entire family of Rock Island Argus newspapers, including Rock Island Daily Argus (1886-93), the Rock Island Argus (1893-1920), and its successors until the paper was purchased by the Small Newspaper Group in 1985.
On October 16, 1908, the “worst fire in [the] city’s history” broke out. It was brought on by an explosion of coal dust in the yards of the Rock Island Lumber Company. The Argus published a special “Midnight Fire Edition” and reported that “millions of feet of lumber” were “devoured” before the fire could be put out. Three people were injured; 500 men were “thrown out of employment”; and an estimated $550,000 in total damages was reported.
The Rock Island Argus is still in publication today, with its headquarters now in Moline, Illinois. The Small Newspaper Group—which also owns the Dispatch—combined the two newspapers, with the content varying only in their respective mastheads.