The name of George A. Joslyn (1846-1916) is connected with two of Omaha’s most notable structures: his opulent residence, often referred to as “The Castle,” and the Joslyn Art Museum, constructed and endowed by Sarah Joslyn in memory of her husband. Sometimes disdained for his ruthless business practices, but admired for his philanthropy, Joslyn gained national prominence by creating a virtual monopoly in the auxiliary printing business. His Western Newspaper Union (WNU) supplied standardized, preprinted news to more than twelve thousand newspapers throughout the United States.
Joslyn’s career peaked as the auxiliary printing business reached its zenith. At the time of his death in 1916, he was considered to be the wealthiest man in Nebraska. At its height his WNU had thirty-one plants in twenty-five states. At the same time, however, new technologies such as the Linotype machine began replacing the need for preprinted news, or at least eliminating many of the small newspapers that relied on it. The WNU entered a long decline and ran its last order in 1952. Joslyn’s business career also included the proprietorship of two residential hotels in Omaha, the St. Charles and the Metropolitan, and ownership of a patent medicine business, the Cook Remedy Company.
For more information on Joslyn’s various business activities, see Dennis N. Mihelich’s “George Joslyn: Western America’s First Media Mogul” (Nebraska History, Spring 2001), available on the Nebraska State Historical Society website. Read an excerpt from Jo L. Wetherilt Behrens’s “‘Painting the Town’: How Merchants Marketed the Visual Arts to Nineteenth-Century Omahans” (Nebraska History, Spring 2011), which reveals the contributions of George and Sarah Joslyn to the art heritage of Omaha. Printed copies of both magazines are available from the NSHS Landmark Stores. — Patricia C. Gaster, Assistant Editor for Research and Publications