The Otaki Mail had an unsteady start to life. Frederick Webb started it as the Horowhenua Times in 1892. Some months later Francis Clark Millar took the paper over from Webb and changed its name to the Otaki Times. Millar lasted almost a year, before selling to Howard Jacobson (1843-1910) in May 1893. Jacobson changed the title to the West Coast Mail and Country Advertiser. After that the newspaper had at least two more owners, until it was bought by Frederick Unwin, Henry A Solomon and Frank Penn (1873-1962) in 1896. For the fourth time in four years, it was renamed, this time as the Otaki Mail and Horowhenua County and West Coast Advertiser. This was later shortened to the Otaki Mail.
Unwin and Solomon mostly left Frank Penn to run the Otaki Mail as he saw fit. Solomon retired from the firm in 1897 and Unwin sold his share in 1901, leaving Penn as both editor and sole owner. Initially a bi-weekly paper, by 1899 it was coming out three times a week.
When the newspaper started in 1892, Ōtaki was still a predominantly Māori community. A large number of Ngāti Raukawa had migrated to the southern part of the North Island in the 1820s, and both the marae, Raukawa, and Rangiātea Church were built in Ōtaki. Pākehā settlement of the coast was only just beginning after the construction of the Wellington-Manawatu railway in the 1880s. Because of this, early issues of the newspaper contained some material in te reo Māori, although this appears to have stopped being a regular feature by the 1900s.
In 1920 Penn sold the paper, moved to Cambridge and bought the Waikato Independent. The new owners of the Otaki Mail, Herbert G Kerslake (1883-1934) and Robert H Billens, also owned the Levin Chronicle (later known as the Horowhenua Chronicle). They appointed Hector M J Nicolson (1874-1948), a journalist with the Mail since 1906, as manager. The following year, Kerslake and Billens started up another Horowhenua paper, the Shannon News.
The Otaki Mail continued to be published in Ōtaki, until production of the newspapers was centralised in Levin. In 1946 the company, now Kerslake, Billens and Humphrey Ltd after Les Humphrey joined the firm in 1944, absorbed the Otaki Mail into the Levin Daily Chronicle and ceased publishing the Mail.
As of March 2018, the Horowhenua Chronicle continues to be published. The town also has a local newspaper called the Otaki Mail, unrelated to the original paper. Published monthly, it has been running since 1991.
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