The truth is we couldn't think of anything better.
Oh, sure, we came up with a thousand hilarious names that, at least in my opinion, were better than the Mercury such as The Holy Name of Jesus Newsletter, Read It and Weep, The New York Times, Bobby Sherman Fan Club Circular, Teenage Booze Party Gazette, and Ross Island Gravel Pit Week. But as it turns out? Banks don't give loans to newspapers with funny names. I know. Banks can be dicks.
So anyway, that's when we decided to steal someone else's name. Since The Oregonian was already taken, and we didn't want to align ourselves with that paper named after a shit-filled river populated by three-eyed fish, we chose to steal our name from the history books.
It may be hard to believe, but in the early days of publishing, American newspapers were a LOT more interesting than they are now. And in the pioneer town of Portland--which, in the 1860s, was the crown jewel of the Northwest--you couldn't swing an overworked Chinese immigrant working for slave wages without smacking a fledgling newspaper; each possessing their own particular ax to grind. There was the Catholic Sentinel, the Temperance Star, the Northwest Farmer and Dairyman, the Columbia Churchman, and the Democratic Era along with about 20 others that came and went. And while many of these periodicals preached the virtues of religion, cows, and the Democratic party, there was one newspaper that happily wallowed in the muddy Portland streets alongside prostitutes, corrupt cops, and drunken gunfights--the Sunday Mercury.
Under the tutelage of two of "Oregon's Fighting Editors" O.P. Watson and B.P. Mason, the Mercury steered clear of political and social humdrummery in favor of a more populist slant and the holy trinity of tabloids: gossip, sex, and violence. Stories of students being impregnated by teachers were followed by stories of fishermen capturing sea serpents, which were followed by leprosy epidemics, which were then followed by at least two instances of prisoners getting their noses chewed off by their cellmates.
The Sunday Mercury was despised by the pastors and "journalists" of the time, and therefore loved by everyone else for its willingness to unabashedly embrace smut. And while they were at it, editors Mason and Watson were not above using blackmail to make a little "dough-re-mi" on the side. For example, if one was a Colonel, judge, or other high-ranking member of society, and carrying on an illicit affair with a woman "beneath his station," Mason and Watson may have informed the person of a potential exposé in the works. However, if the "one" in question were to buy an advertisement of considerable size? The article would disappear quicker than a hippie running out of a soap factory.
For roughly 20 years, things went swimmingly for the firebrand weekly. Unfortunately, much like the present-day Mercury, Mason and Watson's big mouths often got them in trouble. Not the "fun" kind of trouble, either the "legal" kind. After printing a particularly juicy story about well-heeled lawyer Col. C.E.S. Wood, the editors were sued for libel and tossed in the hoosegow for a year. In the meantime, the Mercury was given to a receiver, A.A. Rosenthal, who was ordered by the judge to "make a decent paper out of it."
And who knows? Maybe Rosenthal tried. However, that didn't stop the diligent staff of muckraking reporters from pursuing their sacred duty to errr rake muck. In November of 1893, the offices of the Mercury were raided by the District Attorney and seven police officers, and the entire staff, including printers and newsboys, were arrested and jailed. The paper was charged with writing indecent articles on crime, and the court seemed especially offended by a small (and now lost) article called "Under the Teacups." The Mercury was immediately put out of business.
At the time, The Oregonian walked around with a big stick up its ass, and in an editorial, gloated about the Mercury's downfall. "[The judge and District Attorney] have earned the gratitude of all decent persons. Between them, they have abolished a publication insidiously demoralizing, as well as unspeakably offensive." Jesus! These guys are bigger dicks than the bank! And with these words, The Oregonian drove the nail into the paper's coffin: "It is not probable that the Mercury will ever resume publication."
So, if for no other reason, we felt as if it was our moral duty to name today's Mercury after our grand and glorious predecessor. And, as previously stated, we couldn't think of anything better. Regardless! As we celebrate our second anniversary, we'd like to pay homage to our yellow journalist forefathers by reprinting some of the few still-existing Sunday Mercury articles from the years 1883-1889, in something very much like its original context. Remember! These are original articles, so don't write us a bunch of screaming letters when you read epithets such as "Chinamen," "colored people," or stories that make fun of lesbians. As you will see, people did things a little differently back then.
And though we may now only occasionally make fun of lesbians (They live in purple houses! What's up with that?), all of us here at the Mercury hope to continue the grand tradition of entertainment and information that goes along with the name we've so gratefully stolen. We may not be there yet, but hey! It took Mason and Watson 24 years to be imprisoned. Smut wasn't built in a day.