The Times was the Town's First Newspaper
Articles: Sarasota History
Three years before residents voted to incorporate the Town of Sarasota, Cornelius Van Santvoord and Rose Phillips Wilson moved to Sarasota to establish the town’s first newspaper.
C.V.S Wilson had entered the newspaper business after moving to the Orlando area in the 1880s. Several years later he started the Manatee County Advocate. In the spring of 1899 he moved to Sarasota with his second wife, Rose, and published the first edition of the Sarasota Times on June 1, 1899.
The Wilsons could hardly have expected a large readership. An estimated 600 people lived in the future Sarasota County area, which was part of Manatee County until 1921. Despite poor initial earnings, the Wilsons continually published the weekly until Rose Wilson sold it in 1923. For most of that time, the newspaper’s home (pictured) was a two-story frame building on the north side of Main Street, half way between Palm and Pineapple Avenues.
Advertisements dominated page one during the early years. In “The Story of Sarasota,” Karl Grismer notes that on the front page of the first edition, the manager of the De Soto Hotel advertised his renovated and refurbished accommodations, which provided access to Gulf beach houses where “Surf Bathing can be enjoyed.” Elijah Grantham and Dave Broadway promoted the groceries, hay, dry goods, clothing, and novelties at their store on Main Street at Palm Avenue. H.B. Harris advertised ice cream, cool drinks, fresh fruit, tobacco, and a recently opened barbershop at the back of his store. C.V.S. Wilson informed his readers that they could order wallpaper, as low as 3 cents a roll, through the Times office.
Both Wilsons were staunch supporters of the Sarasota community. C.V.S. also called “the Judge” from his several terms as Justice of the Peace, pressed the community to advertise itself to the outside world. For that purpose, he thought Sarasota should form a Board of Trade. An elder in the Presbyterian Church, C.V.S. persevered in the congregation’s efforts to construct a church building, led Sunday School, and published in the paper reports of the regional Presbyterian gatherings when held in Sarasota. Upon his death in September 1910, Rose Wilson became the editor and publisher.
While willing to give space to those of opposing views, Rose Wilson used the Times to publicize causes that she thought would benefit the community. An officer of the Woman’s Club during the 1910s, Wilson printed minutes of the club’s meetings and carried articles describing the various projects by which the women worked to benefit the social, cultural and political life of the community. When women gained the right to vote, Wilson encouraged them to become intelligent voters and provided through the paper basic information about voter registration, the political parties and the candidates in the next election. She considered herself one of the “progressives” in town and campaigned for the separation from Manatee County. When a referendum approved the creation of Sarasota County, she changed the name of the paper to the Sarasota County Times. In her last editorial, Wilson explained that she had sold the paper because the community needed a more frequent publication and she could not fund such an expansion.
Virtually none of the earliest papers survive. Thanks to Rose Wilson, copies of the Times during the time she was the publisher, 1910 – 1923, remain, although in very fragile condition. The paper copies can be read at Sarasota County Historical Resources.