Intriguing earthquake newspaper…

January 10, 2011 by  
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A newspaper I came across recently was one I nearly tossed in the trash believing it to be only the back leaf of a four page newspaper. We have, unfortunately, many such remnants lying around the warehouse. But before tossing the issue aside I noted a heading (see below) near the top of the first column: “FORM PIED ! ” In printing parlance “pied” means the set type was reduced to a jumble by being knocked, dropped, etc. The text notes: “Going to press this afternoon the first and fourth pages of the Dispatch forms were pied by the carrier to the press rooms. We are, therefore, unable to issue more than half a sheet of the paper to-day.” (see) So, this single sheet, without a banner masthead, was a complete newspaper after all.

But even more intriguing  is that just below this “pied” report is an early report of the San Francisco earthquake of 1868, headed: “The Earthquake” which begins: “The reports from different quarters show that the great shock yesterday morning was felt with more or less intensity all around the Bay, to a great distance. It appears to have been most severe in Alameda county & the damage to property was large. In this city, the loss has been great, though probably not to the extent that was feared yesterday. Many buildings have been damaged…” with more on both sides of the newspaper.

Of curious interest is whether the type was pied as a result of an aftershock, which always accompany earthquakes. Indeed, a report at the bottom of the page is headed “Shock” and notes: “Another shock of earthquake was felt this morning a few minutes before one o’clock. It was quite perceptibly felt & several left their houses thinking it was the prelude to a heavier one…”. So did the printer’s assistant drop the type for pages 1 and 4 due to an aftershock? We’ll never know, but the combination of the early earthquake report–from the city where it happened–and the reduced state of this edition due to the type being dropped makes for an intriguing newspaper.

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