Article originally published in The Gisborne Herald on 05 Jan 2024

In 1874 the township of Gisborne sat on roads of muddy tracks and was home to about 400 European settlers.

On January 5 of that year, inhabitants of the primitive colonial outpost could read the inaugural edition of the then-named Poverty Bay Herald.

Like today’s Gisborne Herald, the paper reflected the times and technology of its era.

Printer H J Bushnell cranked out the Herald on a small “Lily” hand press at the rate of 200 copies an hour.

So what was on the front page of that first edition?

Advertisements, advertisements and more advertisements — as was long the norm for the newspaper industry.

News was not to feature on the front page of the Herald until 1966.

That first paper included ads from the likes of Boylan Brothers (storekeeper and general importers), Ormond House (fancy goods) and A Parnell (ironmongery and hardware).

The Poverty Bay Herald was based in a small wooden building “at the far end of the town at the time” and “set well back from the meandering unmade thoroughfare,” according to Margaret Rees-Jones in the book Printer’s Progress: A New Zealand newspaper story 1840-2014.

The paper started as a bi-weekly morning journal and was owned by the Hawke’s Bay Herald.

A group of 24 local citizens established the Poverty Bay Printing and Publishing Company and purchased the business in September 1877, with the aim of boosting the district and attracting more settlers.

In May 1878 the paper became a tri-weekly evening journal, moving to daily publication Monday-Saturday in October that year.

In May 1879 the company moved to its present site in Gladstone Road. (The current premises was built in 1905).

Frederick Dufaur and Captain Thomas Chrisp bought the business in December, 1879.

A momentous development in the history of the newspaper occurred in July 1883 when William McIntosh Muir bought Dufaur’s shares. The following year he sold the stake to his brother Allan Ramsay Muir, who in 1887 become the sole proprietor.

The Herald has remained in the ownership of the Muir family ever since, with numerous family members serving in management and staff. Since 1987 it has been owned in partnership with the New Zealand Herald.

The Muir family brought stability to the paper, which has had only seven editors since 1896 — compared with 12 before.

The longest serving have been Lennie Muir, 1896 to 1935, and Iain Gillies, 1980 to 2010.

Another notable editor was the future 1950-1977 Gisborne Mayor Sir Harry Barker, who was editor from 1935 to 1943.

The current editor Jeremy Muir has been in the post since 2010.