The “top ten”: 19th century…

December 21, 2009 by  
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This was a difficult century for selecting the top ten significant events or newspapers. Certainly an argument could be made that some specific newspapers–particularly from the Civil War era–could achieve retail values far in excess of those noted on the list, but their rarity as unique items pretty much removes them from the “accessible” list of collectibles.

My focus is more on including newspapers which have a certain degree to attainability and at the same time representing the broad range of events which helped to define the United States during the 19th century. I think I’ve achieved a happy compromise among desirability, rarity, and historical significance. Fully half of my choices are specific issues. I would be curious to hear of your comments:

Jessie_James_Leslie10) Vicksburg Daily Citizen, July 2/4, 1863 This wallpaper edition from when the town was captured by the Yankees turns up very frequently as a reprint, adding enhanced appeal to a genuine issue.

9) Battle of the Alamo, 1836  In a Texas newspaper. Any Texas newspaper from this notable year in the war for Texas independence would be great, and one with one of the more famous battles of the century would be better yet.

8.) Leslie’s Illustrated, April 22, 1882 The full front page is a terrific print of Jesse James, recently murdered. A very rare print of one of the more infamous characters of the century.

7) Lincoln’s assassination, 1865  Arguably the most noted death of the century, and great to have in a Washington, D.C. title. Very historic & desirable, but not terribly difficult to find so it doesn’t rank higher on my list.

6) Tombstone Epitaph, gunfight at the O.K. Corral, 1881  I know of at least one genuine issue. Certainly a very romanticized event in a equally romanticized title and incredibly rare but not high on my historic list.

Gettysburg_Address_ANJ5) Baltimore Patriot, Sept. 20, 1814 First newspaper appearance of the Star Spangled Banner, and great to have in a Baltimore newspaper.

4) Gettysburg Address, November, 1863  This remains the most requested speech by our collectors–regardless of century–and is likely the most known by school children across the country. A front page account is best, such as the New York Times.

3) Louisiana Purchase, 1803  Who could argue with an event which doubled the size of the country.

2) Charleston Mercury–Extra, Dec. 20, 1860 It’s a broadside so perhaps some will argue not a bona fide newspaper, but we collect Extras as well so I include this notable issue. This newspaper’s “The Union is Dissolved” broadside was the first Confederate publication as South Carolina was the first state to secede. It went to press 15 minutes after the secession ordinance was passed.

1) The California Gold Rush in a California newspaper, 1849. Three California newspapers existed at the time so issues do exist yet extremely rare. Combining the great rarity with a event which did so much to spawn migration of the people across the country, and another very romanticized event in American history, and you get my top pick.

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3 Responses to “The “top ten”: 19th century…”

  1. Alan Pollack on December 22nd, 2009 1:32 am

    In the spirit of the Old West, I would also vote for the killing of Wild Bill Hickok in a Deadwood newspaper, and Pat Garrett killing Billy the Kid in a New Mexico newspaper. Having seen both on the market in recent years, I know they are both good for several thousand dollars. These would probably be more in the “romanticized” rather than “defining” vein of the 19th century US, but like the OK Corral, they remain iconic and infamous events in American history and the history of the Old West. In addition, the newspapers from these locations for these two events are extremely rare and desirable.

    On an equally historic note, how about the arrival of Lewis and Clark in St. Louis in a St. Louis newspaper after their expedition to the West. This being a hugely historic event on par with the Louisiana Purchase.

  2. Paul Sarna on December 22nd, 2009 10:45 pm

    That’s a pretty good list and very interesting.

    How close did the Burr-Hamilton duel, in say, the New York Evening Post or other NY or NJ newspaper come to making the list?
    Personally, I’d have it in my top ten…just think, a sitting Vice-President killing one of the Founding Fathers in a DUEL!

  3. Tim Hughes on December 23rd, 2009 6:08 am

    Paul – Actually it would have made my “honorable mention” list, which I should have posted and which I did include with my “20th century top ten” to appear Monday.

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