It is probably no surprise that one of my favorite newspaper characters is the legendary Colorado nuisance David F. Day. Afterall, how can you dislike a guy that is able to accumulate 42 separate lawsuits in his lifetime, despite entering the publishing game late by most standards, after his 30th birthday.
But one of his most endearing and enduring qualities was his ability to pick a newspaper name. As evidence, I submit “The Solid Muldoon.”
Longtime Colorado publisher and newspaper association manager Ed Bemis traced the origins of the name.
“In the July, 1939, Colorado Editor appears a full explanation of how the paper was named. The story’s documentation and authenticity would appear to be irrefutable. But in 1939 the story did not entirely settle all speculation on the intriguing historic puzzle – nor will its reprinting now,” wrote Bemis as he referenced the 1935 piece written by D.B. (“Bing”) McGue of Durango.
“I have known the Day family since my grade school days. When a kid, I shoved about a quarter million sheets of paper into the maws of a cylinder press that produced Col. David F. Day’s Durango Democrat – into the maws of the same old Cranston cylinder that Jesse Jones used when he was at Mancos. And some years later I again was employed by Rod S. Day, who succeeded to the management of the Democrat upon the death of his father,” says McGues account.
“As associate editor under Rod, I had the opportunity to scan the files of the Solid Muldoon, and often was regaled with stories of stirring events of early Ouray, and its picturesque characters.”
The Solid Muldoon was the first newspaper published in Ouray. It was started by two partners – Col. David Frakes Day and Gerald Lecker, in the late 1870s. The latter afterwards became clerk of the federal court at Salt Lake City, Utah. McGue said his statement was corroborated at its writing by Rod S. Day.
“With appearance of the Solid Muldoon it quickly gained favor. Its circulation, at its peak, was several thousand copies weekly, and it was one of the most thoroughly read and most sought-after newspapers in the West. Among the early-day printers who worked for Colonel Day when Rod was still a youngster was one Kelley. Now there were many Kelleys in Ouray at that time. To distinguish Printer Kelley from Hardrock, War Horse, Dynamite, Power jack and numerous other Kelleys, he was called Muldoon,” according to the printer McGue.
“And there was Little Muldoon, and the late Wil Vincent Tufford of Clinton, Iowa, secretary-treasurer of the Inland Daily Press association, who was employed by Colonel Day in 1880-81. Whence came the name for the Ouray Publication?”
Here is what Mrs. Victoria S. Day, widow of Colonel Day, has to say:
“The Colonel, as a young man, was a great admirer of the late William Muldoon, the grand old man of sports who died a few years ago, whom he regarded as the world’s greatest athlete and an honest man.
“When it came to selecting a name for Ouray’s first newspaper, Gerald Lecker, the colonel’s partner, said, ‘Dave, give the baby a name.’
“Running his hand over a saber-scarred cheek – a scar that had won for him as boy of 16, the Congressional Medal of Honor for gallantry in action during the Civil War – the colonel gazed contemplatively at the towering mountains surrounding the town of Ouray. Suddenly, he turned and squirted a stream of tobacco juice toward the sawdust –filled box in the corner of the room.
“Said he: ‘We want a name that means something – solid, and as honest as – well, as honest as Bill Muldoon. Sure, that’s it, Solid Muldoon.”
Mrs. Victoria S. Day who according to McGue, “all newsmen called her ‘Mother’ Day,” at the time of that writing, she was 88 years old, lived with her youngest son George Vest Day, at Bondad near Durango “and was decidedly spry.”
Rod Day sold the Morning Democrat, founded in 1891 by his father, to George Lane and John B. O’Rourke, both lawyers. After a year or two, they sold out to J. H. McDevitt, publisher of the Durango Evening Herald, who consolidated the two publications into the Herald Democrat. It later became the Durango Herald of today.