Lake Charles Commercial

Calcasieu Parish

Located in coastal southwest Louisiana near the state’s border with Texas, Lake Charles is one of Louisiana’s youngest cities. The first large influx of settlers to the region came in the 1860s and consisted mostly of Northerners and European immigrants. Lumbering was an important early industry. In the 1880s, the region’s agricultural potential began to be recognized. Lake Charles Mayor J. B. Watkins, a native of New York, embarked on an intensive advertising campaign in 1887 aimed largely at Midwestern farmers, who had experience growing grains. His efforts, together with those of Seaman A. Knapp, president of Iowa Agricultural College (now Iowa State University), led to southeast Louisiana’s rapid growth as an agricultural producer, particularly of rice.

The Lake Charles Commercial was founded in 1881 by John McCormick (d. 1892). At that time, the town had a population of just over 800. A four-page Democratic weekly, the Commercial carried a mix of local, national, and international news. McCormick focused on promoting agriculture and industry, as well as schools such as Lake Charles College, founded in 1890 by New England Congregationalists. Much of the paper consists of advertisements placed by local merchants, many of whom were Jewish. Despite the large number of ads for local saloons, in the 1890s the Commercial carried a Women’s Christian Temperance Union column as well as other articles on the temperance movement.

Shortly before his death in 1892, John McCormick turned over the paper to his son Charles Michael McCormick (1866-1900). The Commercial continued until 1898, when it merged with the Lake Charles Tribune and American [LCCN: sn88064579] to form the Lake Charles Weekly American [LCCN: sn88064580].