The Wall Street Journal, Midwest edition, was first printed in Highland on Sunday, April 3, 1967. The paper is printed in Highland today. That is just a tiny bit of the story, as told to me by Ralph Korte, then the owner of Ralph Korte Construction Co., which is now called “The Korte Company.”
Ralph has retired but his love for Highland and The Korte Company both continue to grow.
Korte and his company were expanding in the construction business in Highland and the surrounding metro-east area. He was constantly looking for new businesses and industries to come to Highland and the area. His first “big plum” for Highland was the Wall Street Journal in 1966. Korte didn’t know what firm he was dealing with until the land had been purchased and plans for a new building were in the making. Then, he found out it was Dow Jones and Co. Inc., the publisher of the Wall Street Journal and the National Observer. His first “big plum” for Highland, would put him on the national map.
Why did Dow Jones come to Highland? They had been to Alton, then Edwardsville, and then came to Highland.
John McCarthy and George Flynn, who were with a national printing company, is all that then City Manager Enos Purcell and Ralph Korte knew.
Flynn was originally from Carmi, Illinois, and a classmate of the late Fran Ragsdale, music and choral teacher at Highland High School for many years. Flynn said that Ragsdale was always singing the praises of Highland whenever they got together. So, he thought that Highland was the place, as it was about 30 miles away from the Lambert Airport in St. Louis.
Korte sold Dow Jones the six acres on 615 Hemlock, west end of Highland, for its new offset printing plant. Ralph Korte Construction Co. also built the new plant, which also had a railroad siding for delivery of their newsprint. After their new plant was completed and machinery installed, they printed the Wall Street Journal five nights a week and shipped it to the St. Louis area and southern Illinois.
“The Wall Street Journal’s new Highland plant, finished in 1967, is located on a 10-acre plot on Hemlock Street, has a railroad siding to unload the newsprint, at the west edge of Highland. The 15,000-square-foot, one-story building was designed by (the late) Charles Haldi of Highland, of Spencer and Haldi, Highland and East St. Louis, and was constructed by Ralph Korte Construction Co. The Highland plant provided improved service for Journal subscribers in the St. Louis and Southern Illinois area, then continuing on to serve Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Indiana, Kansas and Illinois up to Springfield.
“By 1968, a two-story addition was added by Ralph’s company, increasing the size to 37,000 square foot for the new, faster and larger offset press which was installed on the west side of the building. By 1976, the firm had 61 employees in Highland.”
Bill Ransdell was the news production editor and Wayne Perry was production manager when the first Wall Street Journal came off the press on Sunday, April 3, 1967. Subscribers in the Midwest that Monday received their copies of this first addition printed in Highland, and copies were also placed on sale at (Neal) Tschannen’s Pharmacy of Highland.
Ransdell, his wife, two daughters and young son remained in Highland after he retired. They lived on E. Dolphin Drive, and the children went to St. Paul Schools.
(My thanks to late John Wetzel for steering me to Ralph Korte and his unusual story, to Betty Tschannen at Louis Latzer Memorial Public Library for the copies of the Highland News Leader, from the library’s industrial files, and my copy of his story on Page 47 of the 1836-1976 Highland, Illinois Industries booklet, printed for the U.S. Sesquicentennial by the Highland Manufactures Association.)