Founded in 1892, the Progress of Shreveport, Louisiana, was a politically independent newspaper edited by a reform-minded Democrat and one-time Populist candidate for the United States House of Representatives, Calvin “Cal” D. Hicks (1858-1931). Hicks supported the national Populist position on monetary reform, government ownership of railroads, and labor-friendly legislation. He was also an entrenched opponent of political bossism, election fraud, and the Bourbon Democrats, a powerful faction dominated by south Louisiana sugar planters. In 1895-96, Hicks feuded with Shreveport’s leading Bourbon Democrat, U. S. Senator Newton C. Blanchard, and helped to drive him out of office. Despite Hicks’s opposition to men such as Blanchard, however, he never fully broke with the Democratic Party or fully supported Populist ideals. Although he endorsed Populist William Jennings Bryan in the presidential election of 1896, in that year’s gubernatorial election Hicks refused to back Populist-Republican fusion candidate John Newton Pharr on account of Pharr’s advocacy of black rights.
Initially published under the motto “Our Main Mission: The Upbuilding of Shreveport and North Louisiana,” the Progress promoted municipal improvements such as the building of street railways, levees, and public schools. As the official journal of the Caddo Parish Farmers Union, it carried regular columns on agricultural subjects as well as northwest Louisiana’s expanding timber industry. Society news and gossip was reported by various women editors, including Mary E. Land, Sarah Asher, Mary Dingle, and Sadie Bejach.
Adopting the Populist Party’s characteristically evangelical tone, the Progress devoted considerable attention to religious matters and discussions of social crusades such as the temperance movement; it also carried morally instructive fiction, weekly Sunday school lessons, and sermons of Presbyterian clergyman and social reformer Thomas De Witt Talmage.
The Progress was published weekly, usually in eight but at times in four, twelve, or sixteen pages. During the campaign season of 1896, it was published twice a week as the Semi Weekly Progress. The paper suffered embarrassment in 1898 when its associate editor, S. T. Abbott, was convicted of manslaughter and imprisoned for killing a black porter whom Abbott claimed had affronted him in a Shreveport furniture store. Publication ceased two years later when Hicks left journalism and returned fulltime to his law practice.