Simanaitis Says

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BY THE 1870s, the Associated Press had expanded considerably from five New York City daily papers protecting themselves against a potential telegraph monopoly on news. Today, we pick up the story with AP representatives residing in Bismarck, North Dakota, Compiegne, France, and Carson City, Nevada. Sarah Bernhardt has a cameo as well.

Custer’s Last Stand. In 1876, Mark Kellogg was an AP reporter writing for The Bismarck North Dakota weekly. Filling in for a colleague, he accepted an assignment to be embedded into the 7th U.S. Cavalry led by Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer.

George Armstrong Custer, 1839–1876, American army officer and cavalry commander.

Kellogg’s dispatches from the Custer expedition were relayed by horse and rider to the nearest telegraph office along the way. He filed his first dispatch on May 31, 1876, his final dispatch on June 21. This last one read in part, “We leave the Rosebud tomorrow and by the time this reaches you we will have met and fought the red devils, with what result remains to be seen.”

On June 25, 1876, Lieutenant Colonel George A. Custer, his brothers Thomas and Boston, his brother-in-law James Calhoun, his nephew Henry Armstrong Reed, AP correspondent Mark Kellogg, with 262 Cavalry and scouts, and about 100 Native Americans died at the Battle of Little Bighorn.

WWI ends! Or does it? On November 7, 1918, news spread throughout the country that an armistice had been reached in the Great War. AP, though, trusted its sources at the front and chose not to publish this. True, the Germans were sending delegates to Compiegne, France, but ….

AP’s reluctance to run the story was controversial: Is AP being pro-German?

AP held out and double-checked its sources. It wasn’t until November 11, 1918, at 11 a.m., that the armistice was signed and war ended. It was then that AP reported it.

Wirephotos. AP began its Wirephoto service in 1935. From 1963 to 2004 it held the trademark for the term AP Wirephoto, describing the service’s use of ordinary telephone lines to send images. The first AP photo sent by wire depicted the crash of a small aircraft in New York’s Adirondack Mountains.

Today’s Associated Press. As described at, AP has 263 locations worldwide. It carries 2000 stories every day, 1 million photos and 50,000 videos each year, and has 1.7 million video clips in archive.

Sarah Bernhardt’s kisses. My favorite AP story concerns Sam Davis, correspondent for Nevada’s Carson Appeal, the San Francisco Examiner, and AP. He interviewed French actress Sarah Bernhardt in 1907 during one of her American Farewell Tours. (She had several.)

Sarah Bernhardt, 1844–1923, actress of the French stage. She made three American Farewell Tours, 1905-1914.

After an evidently cordial chat, Bernhardt kissed Davis three times: on the right cheek, on the left cheek, and then on the lips.

“Monsieur Davis,” she said, “the right cheek for the Carson Appeal, so; the left for the Examiner, n’est pas; and this, my friend, for yourself. Voilà!

“Well, Madame Bernhardt,” Davis said, “you know I also represent the Associated Press which serves 380 papers west of the Mississippi River alone.” ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2017

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