Franco-Americans enjoyed their newspapers. It seems wherever they went there was at least one French language newspaper available to them. Certainly the one with the most history was L’Etoile while the most recent was Le Journal de Lowell. There were many others which made an appearance in Lowell over the years.
The first French language newspaper to appear in Lowell was called La République. It came to life in 1875 and was published, weekly, by Honoré Beaugrand at 12 Middle Street. La République did not survive very long and Beaugrand soon returned to Canada where he founded La Patrie in 1879 and went on to become mayor of the city of Montréal in 1885.
Following the demise of La République, George Lambert started publishing La Sentinelle in 1880. This weekly was also short-lived. Shortly thereafter, L’Abeille, published by J.-B. Hurtubuse came on the scene. In 1881, the Compagnie d’Imprimerie Canadienne-Française (The French Canadian Printing Company) was established and became proprietor of L’Abeille, which was now published twice weekly.
By 1883 L’Abeille had become a daily when along came Charles-H. Chagnon who began publishing the Journal du Commerce. The two existed until 1885 when both, the Journal du Commerce and l’Abeille ceased publication.
The years 1884 to 1886 represent a hiatus in the history of French language journalism in Lowell. Hope returned with the publication of the Gazette de Lowell in 1886. Alas, it survived only nine issues but this same year L’Etoile sees its first publication on 16 September 1886.
The publishing team of L’Etoile was a numerous one. Its founding members, Aimé Gauthier, William-A. Parthenais, Charles-H. Parthenais, Henri-J. Lanthier, A. -C. Cruchet, J. -B. Fréderic, all members of the Cercle Canadien, were joined by Clovis Belanger, David Parthenais, former Senator Joseph Hibbard, and Delphis and Pierre Lanthier. In 1889, the weekly L’Etoile becomes the property of the Lepine Company (Aimé Gauthier, H.-J. Lanthier, Clovis Belanger and Maxime Lepine).
The Lepine Company controlled L’Etoile for 25 years before they sold it to the New England Investment Company, which was represented by the Réveil Publishing Company who published “Le Réveil”, a daily in Manchester, N.H. and the weekly “Courrier de Lawrence. At this time Aimé Gauthier had retired and had been replaced by Frédérick Dupont and Henri Lanthier had died. Following a disagreement between the three Lepine Associates, Joseph de Champlain took control of L’Etoile and nearly drove it to ruination. Eventually the courts forced the liquidation of the New England Investment Company and l’Etoile was sold at auction. Its new owners suspended publication, which allowed it time to establish a base of operations and new quarters.
While L’Etoile was a weekly, other publications came and went. For example, in 1889, Le Farceur, published by H. Courchesne made a brief appearance as well as L’Union, which was published by Edouard Vincelette who was also the organist at St. Joseph’s church. In 1890 L’Union became l’Indépendance but was not destined to survive very long. About the same year the National came to Lowell.
The National was a small daily published by Benjamin Lenthier and distributed throughout New England. It echoed the tenets of the Democratic Party and existed for many years. To compete with the National, L’Etoile became a daily in 1893.
Benjamin Lenthier was named American Consul to Sherbrooke and passed the reins of the National to Charles-T. Roy. In the meantime, every now and then another newspaper would be started but would quickly disappear. For example, in 1901 the Lambert Company published another La République; and in 1902-03 it published La Revue. In 1908 the Réveil Publishing Company produced Le Réveil and 1910 Alfred Gervais published La Vérité. Le Supplement, published by Le Supplement Publishing Company, Inc. was also on the scene in 1910.
The last issue published by this old regime appeared on 9 august 1910. L’Etoile resumed publication on 7 October of that same year and the offices had moved from 135-137 Middle Street to 463 Merrimack Street. It was at this time that Louis A. Biron took stewardship of this daily. Founder of L’Impartial of Nashua in 1910, this former reporter for L’Avenir National and L’Etoile was now the owner/publisher of what was now the oldest French newspaper published in New England. The newspaper continued as a daily until 8 March 1943. The following day, L’Etoile became a tri-weekly until 1955, at which time it appeared twice a week until it ceased publication and remained in the Biron family until it published its last issue on Friday, 9 August 1957, its seventy-first year.
It would be twenty-eight years before Lowell saw its next newspaper. During this hiatus “Le Petit Canada” had razed; a sacrifice for the cause of Urban Renewal, and many Franco-Americans had left the city to settle in the surrounding areas. As many bemoaned the absence of a French language newspaper, one man decided that Lowell had to have it now. In February of 1975 Raymond-J. Barrette, virtually single-handedly created Le Journal de Lowell. He continued until April 1976 when after having been struck by an automobile, he was unable to continue and turned over the newspaper to Albert and Barbara Côté.
Under their stewardship, circulation and the number of subscribers increased and interest in Le Journal de Lowell blossomed, not only locally but also nationally and internationally. The Côtés continued monthly publication until December 1995 when due to rising costs were forced to suspend publication.
Lowell’s French Language Newspapers
- La République – 1875
- La Sentinelle – 1880
- L’Abeille – 1881
- Journal du Commerce – 1883
- La Gazette de Lowell – 1886
- Le Courrier Des Etats-Unis – 1886
- L’Etoile – 1886 – 1957
- Le Farceur ~ 1889
- L’Union – 1889 – 1890
- L’Indépendance – 1890
- Le National – 1890 – 1895
- La République – 1901 – 1902
- La Revue de Lowell – 1902 – 1904
- Le Réveil ~ 1908 – 1909
- La Vérité – 1910
- Le Supplément – 1913 – 1916
- Le Journal – 1916
- Le Journal de Lowell – 1975 – 1995