Morton, Thomas

Thomas Morton (1829-87) was one of the most noted printers and newspapermen of Nebraska Territory and of early Nebraska. As printer for the Nebraska Palladium at Bellevue he was responsible in November 1854 for the mechanical making of the first newspaper published in Nebraska Territory. He and another famous Morton, J. Sterling Morton, were both later associated with Nebraska City and with the Nebraska City News, but they were not relatives.

Thomas Morton was born in Wales in 1829 and as an infant had been taken to Columbus, Ohio. After learning the trade of a printer in Louisville, Kentucky, he went gold hunting in California, with only fair success. After traveling in California and Mexico (where he worked for a time as a printer on a Spanish-language newspaper), he returned to Ohio.

However, Morton stayed in Ohio for only a few months before moving West again, confident that the Missouri Valley held more promise than the areas he had previously visited. He turned up in May 1854 in St. Mary, Iowa, just across the Missouri River from Bellevue. He worked on the Gazette there and then moved to Bellevue, where he became printer for the Nebraska Palladium. On the last page of the paper’s November 15, 1854, issue was a column with this head: “This is the first column of reading matter set in the Territory of Nebraska. This day put in type on the 14th of November, 1854, by Thos. Morton.”

After the Palladium ceased publication early in April 1855 Thomas Morton was hired by J. Sterling Morton of the Nebraska News (later the Nebraska City News). When Thomas moved downriver from Bellevue to Nebraska City he took the subscription list from the Palladium with him to the News office. The two Mortons numbered their paper not from the preceding issues of the News, but from the Palladium, making the paper the successor to the first newspaper published in Nebraska Territory. Thomas Morton was associated in various capacities with the News until his death in 1887 and helped to make it one of the most influential newspapers in territorial and early statehood days.

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