First published by brothers George A. And Jacob P. Chapman after they purchased the Indiana Democrat (1830) and renamed it the Indiana State Sentinel. The paper remained a supporter of the Democratic Party throughout most of its history despite its many ownership and name changes.

Yellowed print of a four-story, Second Empire, stone building. It has a clock tower (with "Sentinel Building" on it) centered at the front of the mansard roof.
Sentinel Building print, ca. 1875 Credit: The Indiana Album: Joan Morris Collection View Source

Published as a biweekly by 1844, the morning paper became a daily in 1851. The Sentinel published daily during the legislative sessions from 1841 to 1844 and thereafter tri-weekly during the sessions. Originally the paper printed political news almost exclusively and local news only occasionally, but beginning in the late 1850s it included local items on a regular basis. It had numerous owners until 1861 when purchased by John R. Elder and John Harkness of the Indiana State Guard, who merged the two papers under the Sentinel’s name.

During the Civil War (1861-1865), the Sentinel opposed the administrations of Republican president Abraham Lincoln and Republican governor Oliver P. Morton. Soldiers stationed in the city resented the newspaper’s editorial positions in favor of a peace settlement with the Confederate rebels.

On a street corner is a four-story stone building with a rounded turret on the left corner (which extends two stories above the roof line), and a flat, roof with decorative eaves.
The Indianapolis Sentinel building was located at 27-33 South Illinois Street in 1904. Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source

On several occasions, troops guarded the Sentinel building against attack by other soldiers. Military authorities arrested editor Joseph J. Bingham (who was also chairman of the state Democratic Central Committee) for complicity in a plot to attack Camp Morton and release Confederate prisoners of war. Bingham turned state’s evidence and testified against other conspirators in the military commission Treason Trial.

The paper changed hands frequently from 1865 to 1888 but achieved financial stability under the strong editorial direction of Samuel E. Morss, the owner from 1888 to 1903. While Morss served as United States consul general to Paris from 1893 to 1897, historian Jacob Piatt Dunn directed the editorial section of the paper.

After the Sentinel failed to take a stand on the 1896 “Free Silver” issue, it lost advertisers and subscribers. Continued party division over the issue and a prolonged advertising boycott resulted in irreversible financial problems for the paper.

In 1903, Morss was forced to produce the Sentinel as a one-cent evening edition. The Associated Press franchise was sold a few days later to the founders of the Indianapolis Star. After Morss’ death in 1903, the paper declined and in 1906 was sold, with the Star purchasing the Sunday Sentinel and the Indianapolis News, acquiring the daily edition and the printing plant.

Revised March 2021

Help improve this entry

Contribute information, offer corrections, suggest images.

You can also recommend new entries related to this topic.