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Best of the 20th century? - History's Newsstand Blog : History's Newsstand Blog

Best of the 20th century?

September 17, 2008 by  
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As newspaper collectors we dream of “the event” we’d like to add to our collection. It’s the search for that issue–or issues–which make this a fascinating hobby. This is, after all, a very visual hobby. How displayable are stamps and coins?  Huge headlines proclaiming a cataclysmic event or magnificent achievement lend themselves so well to display, much more so than an original document about the event.

The 20th century had a great wealth of interesting events. But what is the best?  If you could only make one choice, what single headline of the 20th century would you most want to see in your collection?

I wrestle with how to approach this thought: most life-altering? most recognizable? most historic? most appealing for display? I believe the first Wright brothers’ flight is the most life-altering; “Dewey Defeats” Truman” as the most recognizable; and a great “Titanic Sinks” report as the most displayable. Some newspapers did much with the events of the gangster era, and certainly the “careers” of Bonnie & Clyde, John Dillinger and Al Capone are well known and significant reports would be attention-grabbers on any wall. On a more positive note there are some spectacular “V-E Day” and “V-J Day” issues celebrating the end of World War II.  But limiting myself to just a single issue I would take “Titanic Sinks”. ….what’s your thought?

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9 Responses to “Best of the 20th century?”

  1. Todd And on September 17th, 2008 2:50 pm

    I like how you created award categories — most historic, most recognizable, most life-altering, etc. Perhaps you’re onto something: Historic Newspaper Awards.

    As for the best single issue of the 20th century, the “Dewey Defeats Truman” issue gets my vote… mostly thanks to the famous Truman photo (in which he’s holding the issue). I saw that photo in practically every history book and I still see it used in contemporary media reports. If it wasn’t for that photo, perhaps the “Titanic Sinks” would get my vote.


  2. Morris Brill on September 17th, 2008 11:01 pm

    After 45 years of collecting newspapers I have been fortunate to acquire most, if not all ,of the most historic banner headlines of the 20th century. Though those mentioned in the original post are truly significant ,my favorite is the:

    The Call-Chronicle-Examiner 04/19/1906
    Earthquake And Fire: San Francisco In Ruins

    Not only is this a most historic event that occurred 102 years ago, but the paper is unique in that is was jointly published by the S.F. Call, the S.F. Chronicle, and the S.F Examiner under one nameplate and has no advertising.


  3. Eric Caren on September 18th, 2008 12:55 am

    All good choices in my opinion- Morris, did you know that one SF newspaper was actually printed on April 18 in town with banner headlines on the earthquake? I have both issues in my collection, but I cannot remember the title of the one that I am referencing- if you are unaware of it, post a request and I will dig it out. Congratulations to the staff of Timothy Hughes for creating this blog! Oh and as for my favorite 20th century newspaper- it would have to be the banner front page headline “Ruth Hits 60th Homerun”. I have only seen one other paper that made such a fuss- The NY papers that I have owned or seen didn’t do it. I suspect that the reason is probably because he was breaking his own record in 1927. Another favorite is an English language Japanese newspaper that reported the end of the war and Hiroshima saying something to the effect that due to the use of the new cruel weapon, we have thought fit to cease hostilities.

  4. Paul Sarna on September 27th, 2008 9:50 pm

    All the headlines/newspapers above mentioned are excellent.
    My pick for best 20th century is the Dallas Times Herald of November 22, 1963 ,”President Dead” (incidentally with a front page article by Jim Lehrer) I feel it is the ultimate newspaper on the most powerful event of the 20th century. On inside pages it has ads for the Texas theatre where Oswald was apprehended and for Jack Ruby’s night club “The Carousel”.

  5. TimHughes on September 28th, 2008 8:08 am

    Paul – Great info. You brought to light several items within this historic newspaper I was not aware of. Thanks! Tim

  6. Paul Sarna on September 28th, 2008 3:17 pm

    Another great 11/22/63 newspaper was the Dallas Morning News with the headline “Storm of Political Controversy Swirls Around Kennedy on Visit” with a frontpage diagram of the motorcade. The inside of that issue (as you might know) has a full-page ad sharply criticizing JFK, the ad headed with the large, sarcastic “Welcome Mr. President”.
    I mentioned Jim Lehrer with a frontpage article (“Secret Service Checks In Vain”) having worked for the Dallas Times Herald. He, Dan Rather and Bob Schieffer all received their first major recognition for covering the Kennedy assassination. Schieffer (who I believe is moderating the 3rd Presidential debate) has the most interesting story of all. He was working on the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and shortly after the shooting answered a phone in their office from a woman looking for a ride to Dallas. His quote in response was “Lady, the President has been shot and this is not a taxi service”. It turned out to be Lee Harvey Oswald’s mother whom he took to the police station and Schieffer spent about 6 hours there pretending to be a detective to gain access to an office (with a phone) in the company of Oswald’s mother as well as his wife, Marina. It helped the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram to crank-out four Nov. 22nd editions.

  7. TimHughes on September 28th, 2008 4:47 pm

    Paul – Fascinating stuff!! I appreciate these fascinating historical tidbits, as–I am sure–other collectors do as well. Tim

  8. Jon Aquino on October 22nd, 2013 8:53 am

    If you ask me…

    Most Historic:
    “A Flying Machine That Flies” (Wright Brothers’ test flight; Harper’s Weekly, 1/02/1904)

    Most Recognizable:
    “Dewey Defeats Truman” (Chicago Tribune, 11/03/1948)

    Most Life-Altering:
    “First Atomic Bomb Dropped on Japan…” (New York Times, 8/07/1945)

    Most Displayable:
    “Titanic Sinks Four Hours After Hitting Iceberg…” (New York Times, 4/16/1912)

    But that’s just me. 😉

  9. Jim Wheeler on April 15th, 2023 11:28 am

    I guess if you snooze, you lose! Most of the best 20th century papers in my opinion have already been mentioned. But it appears that the Cold War and Space Race are missing from the discussion. Papers to consider include the Soviet launching of Sputnik, U2 pilot Gary Powers shot down over Russia, JFK’s blockade of Cuba during the missile crisis, and Apollo 11 landing in the moon, particularly the Wapakoneta Daily News: “Neil Walks on Moon”, and Apollo 13.

    If you would like to bookend a pair of papers that best summarize the progress of the 20th century, it would be hard to beat a 1903 Wight Brothers 1st flight and The NY Times announcing that mAn has walked on the moon. In a mere 66 yers man went from being earthbound to walking in an extraterrestrial body. Great stuff.

    Now a question for all to consider, do you save papers from recent/current events in the hope that someday they will be special impact editions? I have several in my collection that you may not have thought of. How about you?

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