Wanganui was the first town in the wider Wellington region to have its own newspaper, the Wanganui Record which was published for a few weeks in 1853.
The Wanganui Chronicle was the next newspaper attempted in Wanganui. Henry Stokes first proposed the paper in 1856 but initially publication was held back by lack of equipment. The first issue was produced on 18 September 1856 on a makeshift press, made by staff and pupils at the local industrial school. Shortly after this Stokes imported a press from Sydney.
However in the 1860s the paper had competition from the Wanganui Times and the Evening Herald (later called the Wanganui Herald). The Times didn't survive the decade but the Herald, under John Ballance, established itself as a serious rival to the Chronicle. The Chronicle responded by publishing three times a week in 1867 (publication frequency had been erratic up till then) and then daily in 1871.
The two papers competed against each other strongly for the next 100 years or more. The Chronicle tended to represent conservative opinion while the Herald was more liberal. However, the rivalry was often friendly. In 1888 Ballance let the Chronicle use his equipment to produce their paper after the Chronicle office burnt down.
Like many 19th century New Zealand newspapers, the Chronicle changed hands a number of times. One of the most noteworthy owners and editors was Gilbert Carson who took over in 1875. Carson was Mayor of Wanganui from 1881 to 1884 and a member of the House of Representatives and the Legislative Council. He proved to be an effective opponent of John Ballance and the Wanganui Herald.
In the 1970s the ownership and the editorship of the Chronicle and the Herald merged and the two papers continued to come out separately (the Chronicle in the morning and the Herald in the evening). While it may have been intended to keep the papers distinct, in reality they became like two editions of the same paper. In 1986 the Herald was replaced with a community newspaper of the same name and the Chronicle continued on as Wanganui's daily newspaper.