The Twin City Review: A 1920s Labor Newspaper Covering Champaign-Urbana

The Twin City Review went into circulation in November 1920. The Review was originally published in Tolono, Illinois, before relocating to Champaign. The Twin City Federation of Labor published the paper “in the interest of organized labor.” At the time, Champaign County’s primary industries were higher education (the University of Illinois), railroads, and farming.  The Review frequently wrote about the perceived need for solidarity between farmers and urban laborers, including an inaugural issue article titled “Farm and City Workers Aim Identical-To Secure Justice” 

The Champaign-Urbana area boomed in the 1920s, and the population expanded by over twenty-eight percent during the decade of the Review’s existence. The paper, however, had entered an already-saturated market, so that it was competing with three well-established newspapers: The Champaign News-Gazette, the Urbana-Daily Courier, and the Daily Illini, all of which had publishing roots stretching back for over a half-century.   

H. H. Buckwalter| Buckwalter, Harry H. Rocky Mtn. News printing press. 1902. Retrieved from the Digital Public Library of America,

In the paper’s first edition, issued November 26, 1920, the editor C.F. Daugherty wrote, “The Review is not printed for profit; except the profit one derives from reading it.” The Review followed the standard model of labor union papers from the early twentieth century, which was to rely heavily on reader subscriptions due to a lack of advertisers. The Review was broadly successful in maintaining high circulation numbers despite the crowded market, as evidenced by an expansion in the number of pages throughout its run and higher production values. Editions of the Review also frequently included nationally syndicated political cartoons.  

A major talking point for the Review was the need for “Closed Shops” instead of “Open Shops.” Closed Shops are businesses that require all non-management employees to be union members. At first, the Twin City Review was not successful. The newspaper industry in Champaign was itself composed of open shops. One article from July 8, 1921, described a printer’s strike fighting for unionization and better working conditions. In this article, the author wrote, “Locally the situation remains practically unchanged. Several of the offices have imported a few strikebreakers and are making an attempt to operate, but the class of workmen that they are able to secure are of an inferior quality”. Over the next three years, collective action changed working conditions at newspapers across Champaign County. By 1924 ninety percent of printers in the county were unionized. The Review had made a clear impact on local unions.  

Geological Survey (U.S.). Illinois (Champaign County), Urbana quadrangle : topography. 1906. Retrieved from the Digital Public Library of America, (Accessed April 16, 2021.)

The Review ceased publication in 1929, and was succeeded by a new paper called the Mid-West Farmer. The name change may have been an attempt to refocus its subject matter, and to reach an important local demographic. The change was likely accelerated by the stock market crash in 1929, causing a decline in subscriptions, as the last extant weekly edition came out the week before the economic collapse. The effort to re-brand was not successful, and Mid-West Farmer closed only two years later in 1931.  

–By Connor Monson

The Twin City Review was digitized with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, as part of the National Digital Newspaper Program.