News ink runs in Wise blood
The Wise family, which owns the Butler Eagle, got into the newspaper business in 1895 when Butler attorney Levi M. Wise became part owner in the Evans City Times. Its name was changed to the Butler County Observer.
In 1903, the Evans City Times merged with the Butler Eagle, which was then publishing both daily and weekly editions. The Eagle’s weekly edition was dropped after a few years.
By 1903, the Eagle was owned by only Wise and Eli D. Robinson, the son of one of the men who founded the Eagle.
On March 27, 1903, the Eagle Printing Co., which published the Butler Eagle, was incorporated.
Levi Wise’s wife, Bertha Laing Wise, became active in its operation. She served in many roles over the next 20 years, including business manager, at a time when women were a rarity in business.
At the death of her husband in 1924, she became president. She became treasurer when she was succeeded by her son, John Wise Sr., as president, and her son, Vernon Wise Sr., as business manager.
She served as treasurer until her death in 1952.
John Wise Sr. was succeeded at his death in 1959 by his son, John L. Wise Jr., as editor. Vernon L. Wise was succeeded at his death in 1968 by his son, Vernon L. Wise Jr., as president and general manager. The third-generation Wises became co-publishers, with David V. Wise, as treasurer, and Gerald L. Wise Sr. as a director.
Both David and Gerald Wise later sold their interest in the newspaper to other family members.
John L. Wise III joined the company in 1984 and is vice president, editorial page editor and secretary.
Vernon L. Wise III is vice president and treasurer, and he is also president of the Butler Color Press.
John L. Wise Jr. died in January 1996.
Vernon L. Wise Jr. remains president and publisher of the Eagle.
Keeping it in the family key to Wise operations
At 75, Vernon L. Wise, Jr., president and publisher of the Butler Eagle, remains active in the day-to-day operations of the Eagle and of the Butler Color Press, an affiliate business he founded in 1979.
A native of Butler County, Wise began his newspaper career as a carrier at the paper. Throughout high school and college, he worked at the newspaper.
In 1947 through 1951, he attended Princeton University, earning an undergraduate degree in economics.
After graduation, he returned to the newspaper, but was soon called to active military service. He served in counterintelligence for the U.S. Army during the Korean War.
In 1954, he returned to a position in the newspaper’s advertising department.
Following the death of his father in 1968, Wise became president and general manager.
In 1979, Wise founded a second company, the Butler Color Press, a commercial press designed to print advertising circulars primarily for large retail chains and other newspaper companies.
The history of innovation in the newspaper industry mirrors the history of innovation at the Eagle. The Wise family has had a long interest and the ability to introduce state-of-the-art technology to the industry.
Representatives of newspapers from around the world have visited the newspaper to see cutting-edge technology in practice.
The Butler Eagle in 2002 became the first newspaper in the United States to use a Goss Uniliner, a double-width press.
Using the press’ full color capability, the Eagle prints its own Sunday color comics. Also, the company provides printing services to larger regional newspapers and many large retail companies, including Wal-Mart, Kmart and the May Co.
Innovation in printing capabilities was not new to the Wise family. In the 1960s, the company connected a Metro offset press unit to an existing letterpress. The idea was considered novel at that time, but soon publishing representatives were visiting the plant to observe its operation.
The Eagle was the first newspaper to establish a computer terminal in the newsroom, a move that increased the speed of production.
Wise’s primary goal is to have the company remain a family business. As the fifth generation of Wise family members prepares to join the business, he wants the newspaper to remain in family hands.
Wise believes the best interest of Butler County will be served by a family business rather than by a corporate newspaper.
Wise has been on the board of directors for the Butler County chapter of the Salvation Army since 1958 and is on the board of the Community Development Corporation of Butler County.
Wise and his wife of 50 years, Sarah, have homes in Butler County and Marco Island, Fla. The couple enjoys riding and showing American Saddlebred horses. He also enjoys golfing and fishing.
Eagle’s history includes 4 homes
The Butler Eagle has had four homes:
114 E. Diamond St. until 1885
239 S. Main St. until 1901
129 E. Cunningham St. until 1904
114 W. Diamond St. where it is today.
While the present building was under construction in 1924, it moved next door temporarily to 110 W. Diamond St.
That adjacent building was removed in 1963, when a new advertising wing and photography department was added. At the same time, another wing was added at the north end of the building.
In 1989, the building on the corner of Main and Diamond streets was remodeled to include executive offices.
This year the company built its new 82,100-square-foot production center on West Wayne Street. That building houses the new printing press, distribution center and circulation department.