More on the time lag in news reporting…

August 10, 2009 by · 2 Comments 

journals_and_journeymen_briSome weeks ago I commented on the time lag between a news event and its appearance in newspapers of the day, focusing on the publication dates of the Declaration of Independence in various newspapers.

Because time lag is a major factor in looking for news reports prior to the use of the telegraph in the mid-19th century, I thought more discussion should be given to the issue.  Again I turn to Brigham’s “Journals and Journeymen” for much valuable information.

Obviously the  delay in receiving news of world events was beyond the control of newspaper publishers. The news of the death of Queen Anne on August 1, 1714 arrived in America on September 15. George I died June 14, 1727 but his subjects in America did not learn of it until August 13. George II died October 25, 1760 and it was two months later before the news arrived at Boston. Even the significance of the Treaty of Versailles at Paris which ended the Revolutionary War was first heard of at Boston on October 22 and not published in a newspaper until October 30 despite the event happening on September 3.

Ocean travel was dangerous & speed was dependent on the weather. Foreign wars & privateering also made voyages quite hazardous. The first issue of the “Boston News-Letter” of April 24, 1704 carried London reports of December 20, 1703. It was common for ships to load their passengers & their London newspapers and then wait around in the Channel for up to 3 weeks or more before sailing. During the first two years of newspaper publication there were exceptional voyages of five weeks, but the average was about two months.

After the Revolution & before 1820 merchants began building larger vessels which meant improved speed. In 1820 there were frequent sailings of 28 to 30 days, but there was no dependable time schedule.

Noting the diaries of some famous travelers we gain some insight. In 1722 Samuel Johnson traveled from Boston to England in 39 days. Benjamin Franklin in returning from England to Philadelphia in 1726 did so in 67 days. William Beverley sailed from Virginia to Liverpool in 37 days. Abigail Adams, whose story of a voyage is one of the most detailed on record, sailed from America to England in 30 days in 1784.

Postriders took a week to travel from New York to Boston, and at least two days from Philadelphia to New York. When stagecoaches came into use around 1785, the delivery of letters & newspapers was quicker & more consistent.

But by the establishment of the magnetic telegraph in 1844 and the laying of the Atlantic cable in 1858 (but not perfected until 1866) news was transmitteed from country to country instantaneously.

Some legal notices never change…

August 8, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

legal_notice_wifeAlthough the wording may be different, some legal notices placed in newspapers haven’t changed much in over 200 years. Note this item from the “New York Journal” of January 7, 1768.

My Collecting Story… Paul Sarna…

August 6, 2009 by · 3 Comments 

kentucky-derby1The first newspaper I believe I ever collected was for the 1968 Kentucky Derby followed later that month by the ’68 Indianapolis 500 (timely to write this since it’s the month of May [when Paul wrote this] and I’m going to the Indy 500 once again this year).  I was only 6 years old at the time, but proud years later, that I started collecting newsworthy newspapers at such an early age. 1968, needless to say, was quite a year and I’m glad to this day that I never sold any of the newspapers I collected when I first started (though I admit I did not keep them in the best shape I could have….I didn’t realize 41 years later that I’d still be collecting newspapers!!!). I think the first newspaper that I ever bought multiple copies of was for the first Ali-Frazier fight in 1971, but I am not sure.

Some of the best surprises I have had in collecting?….well 2 come to mind. One was purchasing, at a flea market in New York City, a Daily Morning Chronicle (Washington D.C.) of April 15, 1865 for about $20 in the late 80’s (I’m still kicking myself for even THINKING about selling that gem). Another purchase came at my table as a street vendor from a person I had never met, but came to my table to sell me this oversized box of newspapers.  I initially did not want to purchase them because I used a handcart to bring my table and inventory home and the box was big, but luckily I didn’t delay the purchase and bought them [for $35] by just glancing over the top half of the stack. When I got home I saw a New York Herald Titanic first report with some wear at the fold. The newspaper seemed to have multiple section so I initially let it go and continued looking through the stack. At some point it then dawn on me that these might not merely be sections of the same newspaper and when I looked again, neatly tucked in were Titanic first reports in the New York Times and the New York World in great condition!

The most rewarding part of my experience with newspapers was the street vending of old newspapers (and magazines) I did in New York City from 1988 until 2004. Even though I did not have many repeat customers (or not as many as I would have liked), it was rewarding. Not just for merely “making a living”, but for the people that had that certain look on their faces when they saw something that caught them by surprise or for when tourists from all over the country and world would take a photo of my stand as a memory of their visit.

Newspapers collecting is something I will ALWAYS do, and now is a good time to thank Tim, Guy, Doreen, Marc and everybody in the Rare Newspapers staff for helping me pursue my endless goal of collecting newspapers.

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Thanks for sharing your story Paul. If you would like to share your story of how you became interested in collecting rare and/or historic newspapers, e-mail it to and place “My Story” in the subject field. Although not necessary, feel free to include an image. Please do not include your e-mail address or a personal website as part of the text of your story. We will post collector stories every few weeks and will send you a notice when your story appears. Thank you for your contribution to the community.

Preserving shelf space: beginning of microfilm…

August 3, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

We again credit follow collector Paul Sarna for providing the following information concerning the very beginning of microfilm as a means of allowing libraries to preserve valuable shelf space. It is excerpted from “News-Week” magazine of Oct. 28, 1933:

“…Another idea which got yet more attention was presented by Eastman Kodak Company. A new apparatus can photograph whole newspaper pages on a strip of film one and three-eights inches wide. An eight page paper would require a strip only twelve inches long, and a complete month’s file of a bulky metropolitan newspaper could be recorded on a four inch reel of film.

Any person wanting to find an item, for instance, in the Atlanta Constitution of July 15, would ask for the film of that date at the library desk. The film would then be snapped on an axle on top of a projection box. With the light switched on, a shadow, much like that cast by any motion picture projector, appears on a slanting screen before which the reader sits. A knob on the side of the apparatus moves the film rapidly until the desired page is reached.

One big advantage of the apparatus is that the items, thrown in clear relief, appear 50% larger than in newspapers. A year’s file, instead of occupying six feet of double shelving, would not take up much more room than a shoe box.

Furthermore the non-explosive film could be renewed an indefinite number of times and reprints of news items could be made by placing photosenstive paper on the projection screen.

The ingenious apparatus is largely the work of Roy S. Hopkins of the Eastman Research Laboratory…”.

An interesting review of the birth of microfilm. I would not have guessed it dated back to 1933. 

Thanks Paul!

A legal conundrum…

August 1, 2009 by · 4 Comments 

legal_conundrumThe Olympia Transcript” newspaper of Washington Territory, Nov. 30, 1867, poses an interesting question:

“Suppose a man owns a skiff; he fastens the skiff to the shore with a rope made of straw; along comes a cow; cow gets into the boat; turns around & eats the rope; the skiff thus let loose with the cow on board, starts down stream and on its passage is upset; the cow is drowned. Now, has the man that owns the cow got to pay for the boat or the man that owns the boat got to pay for the cow?”

Any thoughts from our readers?

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