The Sumter Item has come a long way since Hubert Graham Osteen first published what was then The Sumter Daily Item in 1894 and even longer since Noah Graham Osteen started working at the paper as a printer's apprentice when he was 12 years old in …
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The Sumter Item has come a long way since Hubert Graham Osteen first published what was then The Sumter Daily Item in 1894 and even longer since Noah Graham Osteen started working at the paper as a printer's apprentice when he was 12 years old in 1855 and it was called The Watchman and Southron.
It has grown and survived through setbacks in the economy, and Wednesday marked another milestone when South Carolina Secretary of State Mark Hammond visited the newsroom on Liberty Street in downtown Sumter to officially recognize Osteen Publishing Co. as a South Carolina Centennial Business - an honor reserved for domestic businesses that have been on file with the Secretary of State's Office for 100 years or more.
"This is truly an honor to be recognized for what my family has accomplished in this business for so many years," said Jack Osteen, co-owner of Osteen Publishing Co. and former publisher of The Sumter Item. "I firmly believe we will continue to operate a strong, profitable company well into the future."
Osteen Publishing was incorporated on Oct. 21, 1904. Under the leadership of its now fifth and sixth generation, the company is thought to be the longest continuous family involved in a newspaper in South Carolina and one of the longest in the United States.
The company that owns The Sumter Item has grown through the years by coming to own publications in Florida, Alabama and New Mexico. It is estimated to generate more than $10 million in annual revenues.
"Sumter has much to be proud of today," Hammond said. "Members of the Osteen family have been involved in the newspaper business in Sumter for more than 150 years and are renowned in South Carolina's journalism community."
Hammond said at the ceremony Wednesday - where he presented an honorary proclamation and the original articles of incorporation from 1904 to the Osteens in front of an audience that included employees and community leaders - that while it is important to highlight the new businesses in the state and the growth and added opportunity they bring, he likes to take a step back to recognize "the ones that have been here for the long haul."
He said another way the company and paper have helped the community is in its articles featuring nonprofits.
"A lot of people may think there's hundreds of businesses that are 100 years or older, but that's not the case," Hammond said. "Right now, there's only about 30 businesses in the state of South Carolina, and that's a very special thing because think about downturns in the economy. Think about mergers. Think about for whatever reason a business has to dissolve.
"That's a very special thing and even more special to have the same business run by the same family."
Hammond presented the honor on Wednesday to all three Osteen Publishing Co. co-owners, Graham, Kyle and Jack Osteen, and chairman Hubert Osteen.
"'First, the growth of Sumter.' That was my grandfather's motto," Hubert Osteen said. "I wish my father and grandfather could be here ... It's been a great adventure for all of us."
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