Masterton’s Wairarapa Age had a complicated history. In 1881 the Wairarapa Star began in evening competition to the Wairarapa Daily, a staunchly conservative publication. It is possible, although difficult to confirm, that the paper was started by Joseph Ivess, ‘ragplanter’ extraordinaire. If he was involved, it was not a lengthy association because the Wairarapa Star was soon in the hands of printer J Smith and editor Alexander W Hogg. Smith and Hogg ran the paper until 1892. A W Renall, a prominent local businessman and politician, who shared Hogg’s liberal views, was also involved.
Alexander Hogg emigrated with his family from Scotland to Australia, where he had some newspaper experience, before crossing the Tasman about 1876. He worked in various capacities on the Otago Guardian, Ashburton Mail and South Canterbury Times before moving to Masterton in 1884. Under his editorship, the Wairarapa Star took a strongly liberal position, supporting the small settler and advocating universal education. He won the Masterton parliamentary seat for the Liberals in 1890, and was briefly in cabinet in 1910.
In 1892 the newspaper was sold to William C Cargill who ran it for a decade. In 1897, The Cyclopedia of New Zealand’s Wellington Provincial edition noted that ‘fourteen to twenty hands are employed in the composing, machining and delivering of the dailies and weekly.’ It also recorded that ‘Mr. Cargill has been successful in his management of the Star, which has espoused the Liberal cause freely and forcibly.’ After leaving the Wairarapa in 1902 he published several newspapers in the Waikato region.
Arthur C Major, who had previously been on the staff of the New Zealand Herald in Auckland and also edited the Wairarapa Observer, took control of the newspaper. As sole proprietor and editor, he quickly shifted publication to mornings and renamed the paper the Wairarapa Age. In 1907, the publishing and printing business became a private company.
In 1910 Arthur Major changed career – training as a lawyer – and the company was sold to James Brown, formerly editor, manager and then part owner of the Wairarapa Observer, a daily published in Carterton. When he died in 1913, his son, E James Brown, became managing director and A H Vile was editor for a number of years.
The Wairarapa Age building burnt down in October 1918, a repeat of a similar major setback in 1896. Linotype machines and printing presses were destroyed, and for a period the paper was printed by its evening competitor.
In 1921, the Wairarapa Age Co Ltd, with a capital of £10,300 (about $870,000 today), was floated to buy the newspaper. Guy H Scholefield, a part-owner and director, was appointed editor. Scholefield had been London correspondent of New Zealand Associated Press, serving a consortium of New Zealand metropolitan newspapers from 1908, and a war correspondent during World War One. In 1926 he left the Wairarapa Age to become Parliamentary Librarian in Wellington, and subsequently authored a number of significant books. He was succeeded as editor by W A Michael.
In 1938, the two Masterton dailies joined forces as the Wairarapa Times-Age, published as an evening daily. Michael was editor of the merged newspaper until he retired in 1957. In 2002, the Wairarapa Times-Age was purchased by Wilson & Horton which was subsequently acquired by APN News & Media. In 2011 the paper moved to morning publication and a tabloid format.
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