03 April 2012
Tombstone Tuesday - Foellinger Family of Ft Wayne, Indiana
The News-Sentinel traces its origins to 1833, when The Sentinel was established as a weekly paper. The Sentinel was owned for a year and half in 1878-79 by Fort Wayne native William Rockhill Nelson who went on to found and made his fortune with The Kansas City Star. In 1918, The Sentinel merged with another local paper, The Fort Wayne Daily News, to form The News-Sentinel.
In 1932, Helene Foellinger joined her father's newspaper, The Fort Wayne News-Sentinel, as a reporter, feature writer and – after convincing her father of the need – the newspaper's first women's editor. She was a new college graduate, but she studied mathematics, not journalism. In 1935, her father named her to the board of directors, expecting her to advance into his shoes when he retired – but in October 1936, he died unexpectedly. She became the youngest publisher of a major daily newspaper in the United States, as well as one of the few females in that position. She was up to the challenge, though, increasing circulation about 20% – from 56,700 to 67,800 – in just five years.
Ernest "Ernie" Williams, a reporter early in Helene Foellinger's reign, became editor, and a number of talented reporters from The News-Sentinel went on to positions on newspapers in larger cities and in broadcast journalism.
In the 1930s, following graduation from the University of Illinois, Helene Foellinger worked for her father’s newspaper, The Fort Wayne News-Sentinel. She became owner after her father’s sudden death in 1936. Foellinger was the youngest publisher of a major newspaper in the nation, and one of the few women in that position. She was up to the challenge, increasing the newspaper’s circulation about 20% in five years. Helene Foellinger established a joint-operating agreement with the rival morning newspaper, The Journal Gazette, and in 1958 she purchased the WGL Radio Station. Foellinger continued to serve as president of News Publishing Co. until her death in 1987.
In 1950, Foellinger formed a joint operating agreement with the rival morning newspaper, The Journal Gazette. Each newspaper is separately managed and has separate editorial staffs, but Fort Wayne Newspapers provides advertising sales, circulation, and printing services used by both newspapers, and in 1958, built a new printing plant with offices for both newspapers. On the strength of The News-Sentinel, they ended up with a 55% share of Fort Wayne Newspapers, and Foellinger served as president.
In addition to her dominant presence in the media world, Foellinger made many generous contributions to the field of journalism and to the University of Illinois, her alma mater. She created the Foellinger Foundation in 1958, to provide financial support and guidance for aspiring journalism students. She also established an internship program for journalism students. At Illinois, Foellinger is perhaps best known for her generous contribution to the Foellinger Auditorium, a campus landmark that serves as a large lecture and concert hall. Helene Ruth Foellinger was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in 1910, and earned an A.B. from Illinois in 1932.
**Article & Photographs by Jim Cox (Co-contributor to Genealogy Frame Of Mind)
**Headstones located in Lindenwood Cemetery, Fort Wayne, Allen Co., Indiana