In 1817, a newspaper was started in Utica which continues in the present day: the Utica Observer. Starting as a small weekly newspaper, the Observer was owned and edited by Eliasaph Dorchester, and was published in a little room over 16 Whitesboro Street. A couple of years later it was moved to Rome and became the Oneida Observer. Soon, however, the paper returned to Utica, acquiring its own small office on Franklin Lane. After a few years, Mr. Dorchester became Oneida County Clerk and turned his paper over to one of his printers, Augustus G. Dauby, who conducted it for many years. In 1826, he took Eli Maynard into partnership. Three years later, when Mr. Dauby was appointed postmaster by President Jackson, Mr. Maynard took immediate charge of the paperalthough Mr. Dauby continued to supurvise its policies. In 1834, the Observer became a daily paper. John P. Bush, John F. Kettle, and Arthur M. Beardsley followed as editors in quick succession.
In 1852, the paper merged with the Utica Democrat, of which Dewitt C. Grove was owner, retaining the name of the Observer. E. Prentiss Bailey became a partner of Mr. Grove and John B. Miller, the editor. Later, Mr. Grove took over the editorship, to be followed still later by Mr. Bailey, who remained proprietor and editor of the Observer until his death in 1913, attaining a reputation as one of the most distinguished journalists in New York State. After Mr. Bailey's death, William W. Canfield assumed the editorship.
For many years, until March 1, 1884, the paper was published at 113 Genesee Street. On that date, it was burned out in a fire which consumed the entire block. Until a new building could be erected on Franklin Street, on property now included in the Federal Building site, the Observer was edited and printed in the offices of the other Utica papers. On November 4, 1884, the paper was first issued in its own building.
In 1912, the government decided to take over the Observer building in order to enlarge the Post Office. Accordingly, the Observer built a new building on the south side of Catherine Street, backing on the Erie Canal. This was occupied March 15, 1915. After the conversion of the Canal into Oriskany Street East, some of the unused Canal was purchased from the city and the building was extended to the Oriskany Plaza.
On May1, 1922, the Observer and the Herald-Dispatch were consolidated and the Utica Sunday Tribune added to the combination. From then on, the paper was known as the Observer-Dispatch. The Herald-Dispatch had been the outcome of a merger of the Utica Morning Herald, which had its origin in the old Whitesboro Gazette of 1797, and the Utica Dispatch, started in 1898, which two years later absorbed the Herald. This merger of the Observer and the Herald-Dispatch was engineered by Frank E. Gannett.