Grit

A Story of GRIT: How an 1800s Newspaper Became an Iconic Rural Lifestyles Magazine

Like its rural readership, GRIT magazine has a colorful history covering rural American know-how for generations of determined folks engaging with the rural lifestyles magazine.

I have been blogging for GRIT magazine’s online edition since August 13, 2013. However, my roots with this publication and what it has meant in my life go way beyond this span of nearly nine years.

GRIT is a bi-monthly magazine distributed throughout the United States and Canada. By its own website’s definition, GRIT is rural American know-how that celebrates “country lifestyles of all kinds, while emphasizing the importance of community and stewardship. GRIT publishes feature-length articles on a broad range of topics that appeal to those already living in the country and those who aspire to get there. Our readers are well-educated, successful and choose to live on the land for many reasons. Most do not depend on their soil for significant income — some choose not to work their land (in the conventional sense) at all. But all share an appreciation for life out where the pavement ends.

“GRIT offers practical advice, product reviews, livestock guides, gardening, cooking and other do-it-yourself information, humor and the inspirational stories of folks who moved to the country and love it. Each issue covers topics related to country living, land management, wildlife, gardening, livestock or pets, skills and techniques, seasonal food, community, machinery or tools, and lifestyle events.”

With that said, it is definitely a magazine that is “up my alley”, which is why I enjoy writing for them. However, my fascination with the publication goes way back to when I was a kid visiting my grandparents’ farm. I would anxiously await the weekly edition of the then GRIT newspaper to arrive. I loved getting lost in the fiction in the GRIT story section.

History of GRIT: From 1800s Newspaper to Modern-Day Rural Lifestyles Magazine

The fiction that GRIT published in its beginning was always as colorful as the history of the newspaper itself. GRIT was founded in 1882 by the Reverend Henry Wolf, Jr., who published a weekly paper titled the Daily Sun and Banner in Williamsport, Penn. It was only four pages long and a one-color publication. The Saturday edition of the paper was called GRIT. The infant paper only lasted two years, closing its doors in 1884.

However, it was saved by a 25-year old German immigrant named Dietrick Lamade who had started working for Wolf. In 1885, along with two other investors, he purchased the GRIT name and the printing equipment for $1,000. That first year, he published the first issue of GRIT as an independent newspaper for “plain people” and began a circulation of 4,000. It was the first of its kind to feature color and fictional supplements.

Lamade had the unique philosophy that readers were more important than advertisers — imagine that! He also believed that, if he provided the latest and best machines to its workers, it would be the most efficient newspaper in the country. He also focused on positive news, which not only made it popular, but also a leader in its day.

He expanded the content to include not only news but also human interest stories, puzzles, serials in fiction supplements and comic strips, which themselves sometimes filled 10 pages.

Many readers received GRIT by mail but other folks, like my grandparents, got their copies from door-to-door salesmen and vendors on street corners. Many of these “news boys” were recruited from ads in the back of comic books and they made a whopping 7 cents for each subscription delivered. By 1932, GRIT had a circulation of 425,000 in 48 states and 83 percent of its circulation went to towns of less than 10,000 population.

Commercial printing was added to GRIT Publishing Company in the early 1900s. The company continued to thrive and in 1906, a second building was added to house the job department and other mechanical needs. Lamade’s family continued to manage GRIT for nearly 100 years, having created “America’s Greatest Family Newspaper.”

In the early 1990s, the newspaper GRIT and GRIT Publishing were both purchased by Stauffer Communications. However, they were later doomed to be split. After calling Williamsport, Pa., their home for 111 years, Grit Commercial Printing was purchased by a local partnership and is still family-owned and operated in Montoursville, Pa., while the GRIT newspaper was purchased by Ogden Publications and moved to Topeka, Kan.

The September 2006 issue of GRIT was the demise of the newspaper and GRIT became the modern all-glossy, bound magazine that we know today as well as the contemporary online presentation.

A Life Informed by GRIT Magazine

GRIT and I were destined to become friends. Its roots in the small town in Pennsylvania was not far from my deceased husband’s hometown, which we visited frequently. I still have friends and family back there that are dear to my heart.

As they say, life happens and I had gotten away from reading the weekly newspaper after my grandparents passed. Then, in July of 2013, while surfing the web, I ran across a website calling for bloggers for various magazines. GRIT naturally caught my eye and I filled out the bio form.

Jean Teller was the blogging coordinator at the time and thought I would be a good fit. She asked for a sample blog, so I sent her one about scarecrows because the fall season was approaching, which became my first published blog post. At that time, they asked that we post once a week. Little did I know that this venture would become my saving grace.

My husband fell ill in late 2013. My world literally turned upside down as he went through cancer treatments. The one thing that didn’t change was my weekly blog. I was so thankful for this diversion. For a couple hours each week after he went to bed, I researched and wrote my blog, I was transported outside the grim world of cancer and became engrossed in whatever subject I was writing about. This was enough to restore my soul and push on for another week.

There have been many changes along the way but I still get to write about those things dear to my heart: gardening, preserving, farming and basically all things country. Kale Roberts is the current blog coordinator who patiently supports our input, helps us navigate technical issues and encourages not only me, but all the other GRIT bloggers, to share what we love with the readers.

Mystery Name

The one thing that is still a mystery is where the GRIT name came from. No one seems to know. The definition of grit is twofold: “passion, based on a sense of purpose, and perseverance, which means sticking with one’s mission even when the going is tough. Many often focus on the perseverance part of grit, as though being gritty means never changing course.”

It seems to be a fitting name for this publication, especially in the early years. After the first year, Lamade had seven partners and a mountain of debt even though circulation continued to grow. It definitely took grit for GRIT to not only survive but to also thrive to this very day.

For all of us whom GRIT has touched in one way or another, both readers and contributors, we have learned new things to live a simpler, more fulfilling life. GRIT has in its own way, instilled grit in us — and that’s a good thing.

Postscript

Irony seems to run in my life. I started working on this blog nearly a month ago. I wanted to dig into the history of this publication that has been such an integral part of my life and also to pay tribute to it. When I started this writing, I never dreamed it would be my last blog for GRIT. Sadly, they have decided to discontinue the GRIT blogging program.

Needless to say, this saddens me, the end of an era. However, as they say, where one door closes, another opens. I will be forever grateful to GRIT for giving me this opportunity for the past nine years to share my experiences and to connect with their readers. I have grown in so many ways, largely in part to their support. As we go our separate ways, I sincerely hope they will continue to grow and continue to support country lifestyles for many more generations.

Photo by Lois Hoffman

Lois Hoffman is a freelance writer and photographer covering rural living with more than 20 years of experience, contributing to Successful Farming, Country, and Farm & Ranch Living. She lives on a 37-acre hobby farm in Michigan.

All GRIT community bloggers have agreed to follow our blogging guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.

  • Updated on Jun 13, 2022
  • Originally Published on Apr 12, 2022
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