Foreign language papers appeared early in Buffalo.
The German "Demokrat" began about 1850, but by 1890 its publisher, William
B. Held, could see his readers melting away as a new generation turned to a new language.
He decided to invade the evening field with the ""Enquirer"."
Competition was hot, so hot that late in 1892 he sold the paper to E. G. S. Miller
and William J. Conners, who moved the office to 250 Main Street.
William James Conners was born in Buffalo
January 3, 1857, the son of Peter and Mary (Scanlan) Conners. He left school at 13
to seek employment on the ships and wharves near his home. This was the period of
post Civil War development of Great Lakes commerce, and the docks were piled high
with freight. He soon attracted the attention of ship captains, whose responsibility
for fast unloading and reloading of freight meant the difference between profit and
loss to ship owners. (See also two photos from The
Hurley's Hotel and Conners's
Conners organized the casual dock gangs into well ordered groups and contracted with
the captains for the work, becoming so successful that his contracting business spread
to all large Great Lakes ports, and he became a power in the shipping world. As his
fortune grew, he turned to other investments, but his desire to own a newspaper grew.
The "Enquirer" continued to struggle. In 1896, W. J. Conners assumed full
control, changing it to morning publication. About this time he hired William S.
Bennett as bookkeeper, starting an association that was to last forty years. On May
9, 1897, Mr. Conners bought the Courier from Charles W. McCune and changed the "Enquirer"
back to the evening field.
In 1916, W. J. Conners organized the Great Lakes Transit Corporation, which eventually
owned 85% of the package freight ships on Great Lakes. The line also owned three
large passenger ships serving Lake Ports from Buffalo and Chicago to Duluth.
William J. Conners, Jr.
William J. Conners, Jr. joined the newspaper upon
his discharge from the Navy Flying Corps in December, 1918. After graduating from
Yale University in 1917, he had enlisted military service immediately. Mr. Conners,
Sr. was involved in roadbuilding and real estate in Florida at this time, and his
son took over direction of the Courier and "Enquirer".
Radio news had just begun to take the edge off the printed word at this time when
the Courier and the "Express" found themselves sharing equally 100,000
readers. The Sunday Courier was running ahead of the "Times" and the "Express",
but the evening papers, the News and the "Times", were circulating over
100,000 each. So it was that economics brought together the arch Democratic Courier
and the arch Republican "Express"when the two papers merged into the Courier-"Express"
on June 14, 1926.
W. J. Conners, Sr. acquired all the stock in the new corporation. W. J. Conners,
Sr. was Chairman of the "Courier-Express"; W. J. Conners, Jr., publisher
The paper prospered and a new building was planned at 787 Main Street, corner
Shortly after it was begun W. J. Conners, Sr. died on October 5, 1929, destined
never-to know or enjoy the "Log Cabin" retreat built into the building's
top floor secretly planned by his son as a surprise.
W. J. Conners, Jr., continued to direct the newspaper during the Depression. The
building at Main and Goodell was completed, and the paper moved into its new home
in December 1930.
William J. Conners, III
The sudden death of William J. Conners, Jr., in 1951,
at age 56 shocked the newspaper world. His son, William J. Conners, III, succeeded
his father as President and Publisher.
(See a short biography of his wife, Rita.)