Arthur Packard established the Bad Lands Cow Boy newspaper at Medora on this date in 1884. Medora’s first newspaper, the Cow Boy recorded the town’s earliest history. A journalist with a fascination for cowboys, Packard headed west soon after his graduation from the University of Michigan. He became managing editor of the Bismarck Tribune, although the stint proved short due to his notorious temper; Packard resigned after throwing sundries at local critics. He moved across the river and worked on the Mandan Pioneer, but soon continued west to Medora. After converting a blacksmith shop into a make-shift printing office, Packard released the Cow Boy’s first issue. The owner, writer, editor, and manager of the paper, Packard once wrote, “The Cow Boy is not published for fun, but for $2 a year.”
Today, Packard and his paper are best known for recording much of Theodore Roosevelt’s life in the badlands, as well as forecasting correctly young Roosevelt’s future presidency. Roosevelt became close friends with the young editor, and spent many hours telling stories and arguing politics in the Cow Boy’s office. The future president claimed that he preferred the newspaper office to the town’s many saloons, saying he avoided the “…booze joints, because he liked chatting with the men who liked the smell of printer’s ink to feel civilized.” He believed that the “…saloons were the cowboy’s nemesis,” while Packard was, according to him, “…a good fellow, a college graduate, and a first-class baseball player.” The Marquis de Mores also spent many hours in Packard’s office. When locals accused the editor of bias favoring the Marquis, Packard replied that the Marquis was the paper’s best advertising customer, but he never let his friendship with the powerful de Mores affect his editorial instincts. In the Cow Boy’s third issue, he wrote, “We are not the tool of nor are we beholden in any way to any man or set of men…” Of course, the fact that Packard dined most nights in the Marquis’s chateau did not help matters.
Unfortunately, Medora’s boom lasted only as long as the paper itself; a devastating fire in January of 1887 destroyed Packard’s office. Along with most of the city’s residents, Packard left Medora after that brutal winter, making the Cow Boy’s December 23rd issue its last.
Dakota Datebook written by Jayme L. Job
Collins, Ross F. 1999 “Cowboys and Cow Town Newspapers in Dakota Territory,” in Media History
Monographs, Vol. 3(1).
Hagedorn, Hermann. 1921 Roosevelt in the Badlands, Vol. I:73-77, Preface. Houghton Mifflin
Company, Riverside Press: Cambridge, MA.