Picture a country town with outhouses and hard-packed dirt streets. It was the roaring 1920s, and a young man named Erwin J. Mahlandt worked as an apprentice to Guy C. Stearns, former editor of the Breese Journal. The newspaper changed hands twice before Mahlandt purchased it on May 6, 1925. He was 21 years old.
In the early days, the Breese Journal was printed on a two-page Huber press that could handle about 500 copies an hour. After one side was finished, the newspapers were turned over and printed on the opposite side. If eight pages comprised the paper, the process was reversed. The papers were hand-folded and hand-addressed by pencil as there were no addressing machines or even ballpoint pens.
When Erwin purchased the publishing business, it was housed in a brick three-story building in downtown Breese where it remained until March 1998. For many years, a local jeweler occupied the west half of the building. It wasn’t until the newspaper converted to offset or “cold type” in 1968 that the western half was used by the Breese Journal.
The day-to-day operation of the paper shifted a bit when Erwin’s son Jerry, a graduate of the University of Missouri, entered the business in 1950. Jerry became a partner in the establishment, and over the years, the circulation of the newspaper has grown to over 6,500.
The family involvement continued when Jerry’s sons joined the firm. Steve started in 1977, while Dave began in 1982.
In 1998, due to the growth of the commercial printing business, the Breese Journal & Publishing Co. was moved to a 100,000-square-foot building on the west end of Old Route 50 in Breese. In 2003, Highland Printers and K & D Printing Co. in Waterloo were acquired to expand the printing business throughout southern Illinois.
In the early 1980s, the staff included six full-time employees and several part-time personnel. Today, the Breese Journal and Publishing Company employs over 125 people in the various departments The third-generation owners have realized the importance of using the Journal’s resources to their fullest capabilities. Each time a new press or computer is added and each time a new position is created, progress occurs.
Steve’s son, Josh, entered into the business in 2006 and represents the Mahlandt’s fourth generation at the Breese Journal & Publishing Company. Today, after nearly a century of family-owned operation, the business continues to expand and thrive in both its newspaper and commercial printing businesses.
In its continued efforts to grow and change with the times, the Journal decided in November 2011 to expand the business further through digital reach. The online edition includes a page-by-page edition that readers can subscribe to and access via the website, www.thebreesejournal.com, and allows a new generation of newspaper readers to become familiar with the newspaper. This new product gives readers freedom to peruse the Journal anywhere with internet access. For non-subscribers, it offers a glimpse of the top news and feature stories each week, a review of local sports action, and additional features not published in the print edition, such as additional photographs from local events and more!
The rich history and progress of the Breese Journal & Publishing Co. is evident when you walk into the glass entryway at 8060 Old Highway 50 where a large Linotype hot-lead typesetting machine and an archaic hand-fed press greet guests when they enter the building. The two pieces of equipment serve as immediate reminders that the company, which now prints hundreds of publications, was conceived and nurtured by a man who set type one line at a time and addressed newspapers – to his hundreds of subscribers – by hand.