The Center of Research Libraries, an international consortium of university, college, and independent research libraries, has digitized selected years of The Gazette van Moline, the Flemish newspaper that was published from 1907 until it merged with the Gazette van Detroit in 1940.
Dates digitized are 15 November 1907-16 April 1915, and June 1920-December 1922, a total of 7,027 pages. It is possible to search the newspaper with a simple keyword search, but there are no advanced search capabilities. Readers who have time to browse the issues however, will step back in time and discover life as it was for the Flemish-Americans during the early decades of the twentieth century. Perhaps they may even find a tidbit of information on one of their own ancestors.
The first issue of The Gazette van Moline rolled of the presses on Friday, 15 November 1907.1The paper’s slogan “Godsdienst – Eenheid – Vooruitgang [Religion – Unity – Progress]” reflected the founders’ goals to respect Flemish religious and moral traditions, to elevate and inspire the Flemish people or race, and to promote the welfare and prosperity of the Flemish people in America.
One of the principal advocates for the publication of a Flemish newspaper was Father John Baptiste Ceulemans, the pastor of the recently established Belgian parish in Moline, and a native from Hever, near Mechelen. Tradition holds that Father Ceulemans encountered two Belgians in his parish who had been typesetters in the old country, Jozef Van Lancker and his cousin Alfons Van den Heede, and subsequently rallied to find support among the more prominent and affluent members of the Belgian community for the publication of a Flemish weekly.
The Moline Gazette Publishing Company was established with a starting capital of $1,000. Among the first shareholders were Charles and Edouard Coryn, Louis Sonneville, Arthur and Jules Vander Vennet, Maurits Bockaert, Arthur De Loof, all prominent Belgian-American businessmen in Moline, and the above-mentioned printers. Edouard Coryn was elected president. Arthur Vander Vennet, owner of a clothing business, was the first secretary and vice-president. Arthur De Loof was appointed as treasurer, and Josef van Lancker as the first printer. Frank Spriet, formerly a mailman, became the paper’s first publisher and manager. The Gazette encountered financial problems during the first years, partly a result of the economic crisis which hit the United States in 1908, but eventually was able to acquire modern materials and machinery, among which a lino type.
Readership was boosted significantly when war broke out in Europe. In December 1914 the paper reportedly reached 3,500 households.2 By the end of 1919 it claimed more than 10,000 subscribers.3 It absorbed De Volksstem, a Dutch-language weekly from De Pere, Wisconsin in June 1919.4
The paper flourished in the 1920s but became less profitable during the 1930s. The reasons were clear: the “old timers” in Moline who could still read Dutch were not replaced by new immigration. The recent immigration laws had practically halted Belgian immigration to the United States. Also, the children born of Flemish immigrants could speak Dutch but most were unable to read it. Outside of Moline, the newspaper had much competition from the Gazette van Detroit (founded in 1914) which still had a strong appeal, partly because of the larger Belgian population in that city, and partly because of its location near Canada, where immigration from Belgium continued. Last but not least, the newspaper lost some of its income due to the advent of a new media, the radio. In 1940 the Gazette van Moline was no longer deemed viable and it merged into the still popular Gazette van Detroit.
The Gazette van Moline was a vital source of information for the Flemish immigrants in the United States. Until they mastered the English language well enough so that they could read the regular newspapers of their town, the Gazette was how they learned of current events on the local, national, and global level. Besides political and social analysis, the Gazette van Moline devoted special columns to health, farm life, and religion. In addition, the paper featured a weekly serial, quite often a novel from the nineteenth-century Flemish writer, Hendrik Conscience. Comic strips were introduced in 1922. Perhaps more important than all the above was the news the Gazette van Moline contained about familiar people and places, both in the old country and the new. For many Belgian-Americans the Gazette van Moline was a neighborhood paper. Page two was devoted to news from Moline and surroundings, while page three was reserved for coverage of Rock Island and East Moline. Reports from Detroit, and Chicago could be found on pages four or five, respectively. On the next pages followed letters from numerous other places. The most regular correspondents were from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, and New York state. But at times letters were also printed from a variety of other places, such as Baker, Oregon; San Antonio, Texas; St. Boniface, Manitoba; Paterson, New Jersey; and South Omaha, Nebraska. For most of its existence, the following types of articles, could be found in the newspaper.
Baert, Gaston-Pieter. “Uitwijking naar Amerika Vijftig Jaar Geleden [Emigration to America Fifty Years Ago]. Deinze, 1956. P. 42-55.
Smets, Kristine A. J. “The Gazette van Moline and the Belgian-American community, 1907-1921.” Master’s Thesis, Kent State University, 1994.
City this Post
Kristine Smets, “The Gazette van Moline” The Belgian American, (https://www.thebelgianamerican.com : accessed [date]), posted 22 January 2021.
Appendix A. Managers of the Gazette van Moline.
|15 November 1907-14 February 1908||Frank Spriet|
|21 February 1908-22 October 1909||Gaston Veys|
|29 October 1909-14 January 1910||Alphons Bruynooghe|
|21 January-26 May 1910||A. Swan|
|3 June 1910-4 June 1911||Gunnar Swan|
|11 June 1911-4 April 1913||Georges Dick|
|11 April 1913-20 December 1917||Josef Van Lancker|
|27 December 1917-17 March 1921||Gustaaf De Keyser|
|24 March 1921-1940||Josef Van Lancker|
Appendix B. List of the Agents of the Gazette van Moline in 1913.
|State||Town of City||Agent|
|Chicago||Louis Van Diedonck|
|East Moline||René Van Speybrouck|
|Rock Island||Joseph Van Hoe|
|St. Charles||Charles Tuytschaever|
|South Bend||Raymond De Rycke|
|Henry Van Slembrouck|
|Minnesota||Ghent||Christian Van Winsberghe|
|Graceville||Emiel Vande Voorde|
|Missouri||Kansas City||Louis De Keyzer|
|New York||Brighton||Theophiel Cusse|
|Clifton Springs||Peter Governor|
|Palmyra||A. De Seyn|
|Phelps||Camiel De Windt|
|Rochester||Jules De Vodder|
|Williamson||Isaak De Maillie|
|North Carolina||Tryon||Richard Verbeke|
- Unfortunately, several pages of the first issue are incomplete.
- G. De Keyzer, “Nieuwjaar,” Gazette van Moline, 1 January 1915, p. 4.
- Wandelalmanak der Gazette van Moline,” Gazette van Moline, 31 December 1919, p. 5.
- “Gazette Neemt Volksstem Over,” Gazette van Moline, 26 June 1919, p. 1.
- N.W. Ayer & Son’s American Annual and Directory, 1912-1940.
- “Moline & Omstreken,” Gazette van Moline, 5 June 1908, p. 2.
- “Ghent, Minn.” Gazette van Moline, 10 January 1913, p. 4.
- “Mineral, Ill.,” Gazette van Moline, 1 November 1917, p. 10.
- “Mishawaka, Ind.” Gazette van Moline, 14 December 1918, p. 5.