“The News” from Cleveland reports in its September 30, 1926 issue comments of the wife of famed boxer Jack Dempsey following his unexpected loss to Gene Tunney in one of the more noted fights in boxing history. In defense of her husband she noted: “…I didn’t marry the heavyweight title – I married Jack Dempsey.” and later: “I have never taken an interest in boxing… Jack didn’t bring the ring into the home… But fighting is Jack’s business. That is the thing he loves to do, and I have no more right to influence him with regard to it…”.
She put into practice the anthem Tammy Wynette would make famous some 42 years later with her song “Stand By Your Man”.
Today I traveled to New York City by the way of The New York Times dated August 17, 1965. There I found an announcement on the sports page, “Miami Is Granted an American Football League Franchise for 1966 Season.” (see below) The text includes: “A group headed by Danny Thomas, the comedian-television producer, was granted an American Football League franchise today to field a team in Miami next year… A name has not been chosen for the team yet… Once before, Miami had a professional football team, the Miami Seahawks of the now defunct All-America Conference. But the team folded after only one year of play — 1946…”. The team did receive a name, the Dolphins.
The best headlines need no commentary. Such is the case with the HERALD EXPRESS-EXTRA, Los Angeles, California, October 8, 1957: “It’s Official! DODGERS COMING TO L.A.“…
Today I traveled to Fairmont, West Virginia, by the means of The Fairmont Times dated April 6, 1915. There I found a front page photo of Jess Willard who had just beaten world boxing champion Jack Johnson in the 26th round by a knock-out. This match held in Havana, Cuba, was the longest heavy-weight title fight of the 20th century. Jack Johnson was quoted “Fought hard enough to whip ten ordinary men.” There were reports that Johnson had thrown the fight, with Willard’s response being “If he was going to throw the fight, I wish he’d done it sooner. It was hotter than hell out there.”
And if news of physical suffering was not enough…
Also on the front page is reporting of the upcoming Suffrage Convention: “Suffrage Convention Plans Complete”, which was to be in held in Fairmont.
The best headlines need no commentary. Such is the case with the LOS ANGELES TIMES–EXTRA, September 30, 1959: “L.A. DODGERS CHAMPIONS ! “
This week I traveled to Omaha, Nebraska, via the Omaha Evening Bee of October 8 through 13, 1914 (excluding the 11th which was a Sunday), where I enjoyed the 1914 World Series between the Boston Braves and the Philadelphia Athletics (see below). This series was the first four-game sweep in World Series history, excluding any tie games. The Braves had even abandoned their home field and played at Fenway Park while awaiting construction of their new home field, thus not having any “home field advantage.”
This is a bit of a unique publication as the first page of each issue is printed on pink-colored paper and features the sports news as the major headline event and large illustrations. Further reporting is continued within the regular portion of the newspaper as well.
The best headlines need no commentary. Such is the case with the MIRROR NEWS–EXTRA, Los Angeles, October 8, 1956: “1ST PERFECT GAME IN SERIES HISTORY”
In the world of collectables, early newspapers by no means rank among the most well-known of hobbies. In fact most would be surprised that it even is a hobby. Who knows anyone who collects early newspapers?
That was exactly my thought nearly 40 years ago. Having been a coin collector since I was a kid, I knew that hobby well. I knew it well enough to recognize that no bargains could be had for the truly rare coins. Coin collecting was, and is, a well exploited hobby. The number of serious collectors must run in the hundreds of thousands with a proportionate number of dealers who make a living selling coins. So as a youngster with only grass-cutting money in my pocket, it didn’t take long to become frustrated when trying to find the last few desirable coins to fill out a set. I simply could not afford them. Everyone knew they were rare, and with more people wanting them than inventory allowed, prices were beyond my reach.
I liked collecting and I wanted a hobby that dealt with history. Holding a coin minted during the time when Lincoln was President, or when Indian battles were still raging on the Plains, intrigued me. I felt like I was touching history. But I needed a collectable that was yet to be exploited. One which few people were involved in. More importantly, one where I could hope to amass a reasonably nice collection without breaking the bank.
So it was by accident that while browsing through a local flea market that I came across a Philadelphia newspaper from 1846. I was intrigued, not only by the price–$3—but by what I would get. Quickly my mind ran through the host of various coins from 1846 which would require more than ten times the price tag, and what do you get but a hunk of medal with a date & an image of a dead President? A coin could be fully examined in seconds. But this 1846 newspaper would take half an hour to absorb. So $3 exchanged hands and the newspaper was mine.
Handling this newspaper was better than touching history. Yes, someone in 1846 held this newspaper in their hands, just like coins of the era, but this collectable actually CONTAINED history. News of the day, including events of the Mexican-American War, were within its four pages. Political reports from the term of James K. Polk were scattered throughout. Even the advertisements were fascinating.
I was hooked. The coin collection went on a shelf and I pursued whatever old newspaper I could find. It didn’t take long to discover a whole new world of collectables. Better yet, because so few people were collecting old newspapers prices seemed such a bargain compared to what coins or stamps or any other collectable with similar rarity would cost. I was convinced I got in on the ground floor.
As the years passed my hobby turned into a business catering to a niche market. At best I would suspect there are less than 2000 serious collectors of rare newspapers. Compare that number to the world of stamps, coins, books, or autographs, which hundreds of thousands consider their hobby.
A hobby still yet to be discovered by the collecting world, prices remain attractive for the most modest of budgets. Consider that a genuine New York Times in very nice condition from 1863 with front page Civil War reports sells for less than $30. Or consider that a genuine London Gazette from 1680—a 330+ year old newspaper—is available for under $50. Of course content certainly drives interest and price so a newspaper reporting the Battle of Gettysburg can exceed $500, while the same in a Confederate title (much more rare) could be triple the price. But still, genuine issues covering the War of 1812 sell for $25; newspapers with Indian battles are under $35; issues with baseball reports from the 1880‘s can be had for $25; newspapers from during the administration of George Washington for $45. Is there a hobby where genuine items of comparable vintage are at comparable prices? Certainly not.
Rare newspaper collecting is a fascinating world which awaits any historical hobbyist. Whatever event or era in history intrigues, newspapers covered those events. From the Great Plague of London in 1666, to reports of pirates Blackbeard and Capt. Kidd, to the French & Indian War, the Revolutionary War, the Lewis & Clark Expedition, the Texas War for Independence, every presidential election & inauguration (and death), the outlaws of the West—you name it. Newspapers exist which document those occurrences and every other transforming event in American & world history.
Don’t just touch history with your hobby. Read history from the very day it was reported. You, too, will be hooked on a hobby you never knew existed.
Over the past 10 years we (RareNewspapers.com) have put together a series of videos designed to help educate novices about the hobby of collecting historic newspapers. While some may be a smidge old (compared to today’s high-tech standards), the information within is still pertinent. Pick a topic of interest, turn up the volume, and enjoy our perspective on the collectible.
One of the passions held by many is sports, and each season provides a new opportunity to cheer on one’s favorite teams as they follow their efforts through to a hopeful championship. It is not coincidence that “fan” is a diminutive form of the word “fanatic”. The hobby of collecting early newspaper adds an opportunity to broaden support for a team by including an historical perspective possible only through all this hobby has to offer.
Baseball, football, basketball, tennis, golf, horse racing, soccer, and on and on. You name the sport and reports can be found in newspapers going back to the very beginning of the sport, or the beginning of newspapers. We once offered a newspaper from Springfield, Massachusetts—where basketball was founded—reporting the very first public game ever played. It is the holy grail of newspaper reports on basketball, and now resides in the archives of the Library of Congress. Similar gem items can be found for other sports as well.
If a report cannot be found on the very beginning days of a sport, finding reports as old as possible is a quest which never ends. Baseball traces its history back to 1839 (although exactly when & how it was founded is up for some discussion) so finding a newspaper with a bonafide baseball report as close to this year is a worthy goal. We have some issues back to 1855 on our website, and game reports become more frequent during and just after the Civil War.
But with baseball it’s often the golden era that attracts the most attention, from when Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and other standouts from the 1920’s and 1930’s were making headlines. Just following Ruth’s standout career can create a formidable collection, from early mention of him in the majors (how about 1914?), his first Major League game appearance, his first home run, a report of him being sold to the Yankees, and then his stellar career as a home run record-setter. All were reported in newspapers.
And there was a host of notable ball players from a generation before, including Nap Lajoie, Branch Rickey, Henry Chadwick, Honus Wagner, Walter Johnson, Ty Cobb, Joe Jackson, & Christy Mathewson to name a few. In fact baseball had its own daily newspaper from the 1880’s titled the “Official Record” which chronicled nothing but baseball reports of the day.
Illustrations of baseball players are a special treat and add a graphic & displayable dimension to any collection. The popular illustrated newspaper “Harper’s Weekly” (and other well-know illustrated issues of the day) had many issues which featured half page or full page baseball prints, as well as a few doublepage centerfolds and front page prints which are particularly desirable.
There are some ancillary items which are intriguing, several found in the scientific-themed periodical “Scientific American”, which featured a new electric scoreboard dating back to the 1800’s, and a novel invention of a “mechanical baseball pitcher”. There are baseball reports of Jim Thorpe, who, although was more famous for his Olympic and football prowess, was a notable baseball player as well. Newspapers with reports involving Jesse Owens are equally noteworthy. And just a focus on World Series games would result in a sizable collection, with the goal of owning the championship report for every World Series from 1903 to the present. The “Black Sox” scandal of 1919, which involved members of the Chicago White Sox team being accused of throwing the Series, made headline reports for the next two years as the case was investigated and brought to a painful conclusion.
Although the most collectible of sports, baseball is by no means the only. Football reports became common in the 1890’s and into the early 20th century. Again, “Harper’s Weekly” did much to provide a graphic account of the sport, with both illustrations and photos of players and action, showcasing the minimal amount of protection that was worn in comparison to what’s found in the game today.
Collecting by team makes for even more focused collection. Among the more popular would have to be the Yankees in baseball, and Notre Dame in collegiate football. But any team name for any sport can be searched out of our website, whether it be collegiate football, the NFL, or nearly any other sport you can think of. Even something as obscure as pre-1800 boxing reports and ballooning can be found within collectible newspapers. Give it a try.
With golf it was Bobby Jones who gave the sport some prominence with his accomplishments which culminated in the “triple crown” victory, after which he left the sport to pursue a movie career. But again “Harper’s Weekly” put many golf themed prints in its pages, several done by noted artist A.B. Frost, which make for displayable items for any golf enthusiast.
Tennis was another sport which made the pages of “Harper’s Weekly” and those that are framed make great display items for any den. Track and field, bowling, bicycling, curling, fishing (with prints by A.B. Frost and Frederic Remington), hunting, sailing (including the America’s Cup), skiing, automobile racing, archery, and even surfing are a portion of a lengthy list of sporting events found in newspapers of the day.
Whatever sport you follow and whatever the era, the world of rare & early newspapers has much to offer. Add an historical dimension to your hobby. There is much from which to choose.