Is the United States perfect? Certainly not. Our forefathers did not sacrifice time, security, and in many cases, life or limb for the sake of a perfect system of government. Their hope was to establish a government for the people – which would provide the opportunity for all to pursue happiness in an environment free of governmental oppression and steeped with a host of inalienable rights. For some, “all” meant everyone. To others, “all” was defined quite narrowly. Still, even those who had a broader view understood the benefit of compromise – for the purpose of establishing a system which would have enough flexibility to adjust to their broader view of “all” over time. We know now the great advancement in this regards only came through a Civil War; however, it came. A perfect system? No. The best system ever constructed by man? Absolutely.
As we contemplate the great sacrifice paid by many to create and preserve this “best system” under God, the New York Tribune dated July 7, 1854 help us to capture the tension and need for growth that was evident to many in the 1850’s. Allow a negro to become a member of Congress? Could this be possible? Those who knew Frederick Douglass certainly thought so. Please enjoy:
Today I traveled to Springfield, Massachusetts, by the way of The Springfield Republican dated March 20, 1966. There I found a small report “Texas Western Tops Kentucky In NCAA”, upsetting Kentucky who had won for the previous four years. However, the significant of this game is noted on the website: “ESPN Classics” with: “Walking toward the red “M” at center court, in their orange uniforms and white Converse All-Stars, are the five starters for Texas Western. They are all black. Until that moment, at the height of the civil-rights era, no major-college team had ever started five blacks in an NCAA championship game. In fact, until Texas Western coach Don Haskins did it earlier that season, no major-college team had ever started five blacks in ANY game. For the first time that night, on the edge of the Mason-Dixon Line, a major American sports championship would be contested by one team that was all-white and another whose starters were entirely black.” As history would tell, and as reported in this newspaper, Texas Western would go on to win.
This newspaper is also from the founding city of basketball as well.
Today I traveled to New York City by the way of the New York Tribune (December 7, 1865). The headlines: “The Constitutional Amendment”, “It Is Adopted”, “The Twenty-Seventh State”, “Freemen To Be Protected” were all reporting: “The Constitutional Amendment has passed each branch of the Legislature. The House passed a resolution instructing the Judiciary Committee to report a bill to protect persons of African descent in their persons and property, and also to allow them to testify in cases in which they may be interested.”
This abolished slavery in the United States.
When it comes to placing a value on collectible newspapers, past prices realized can be invaluable. However, in most instances, due to the vast number of variables which exist even within a common event (city of publication, condition, dramatic appeal, etc.), finding comparables can be difficult.
We recently came across two issues which illustrate this point – both containing front-page 1st reports of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – one being the newspaper from where he was born and raised containing perhaps a little more detailed reporting (The Atlanta Constitution, Georgia), with the other being a nice issue from where the assassination took place (The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, TN). Which is the more collectible newspaper? The answer may not be as easy as one might think. Years of experience have shown the Dallas Morning News‘ reporting of the JFK assassination to be hands-down the most desired issue – that is, the issue from where he was killed. In contrast, collectors find the Wapakoneta Daily News (Neil Armstrong’s hometown paper) with coverage of Man’s 1st Moon Walk to be the best.
What about Dr. King’s assassination? It is rare we can view each side-by-side (see below). We have our thoughts, but feel free to weigh in with thoughts of your own.
The best headlines need no commentary. Such is the case with the FITCHBURG SENTINEL, Massachusetts, March 8, 1965…
Today I traveled to New York City by the means of two different titles… The New York Times of February 2, 1865 and the Harper’s Weekly of February 25, 1865. In the New York Times I found “J. S. Rock (Colored,) of the Supreme Court of Massachusetts, was to-day, on motion of Senator Sumner, admitted an Attorney and Counselor in the Supreme Court of the United States.”
The Harper’s Weekly includes a nice illustration of “John R. Rock, Colored Counselor”. Within the article reads “…Mr. Rock is known in Boston as a first-class lawyer. This even, following two days after the passage by Congress of the proposition to amend the Constitution so as to abolish slavery in the United States, will be regarded by the future historian as a remarkable indication of the revolution which is going on in the sentiment of a great people. Mr. Rock has never been a slave. He represents the colored freeman, as Mr. Douglass represents the freeman. This extraordinary reversal of the Dred Scott decision is an act almost sublime…”
In doing further research on Mr. Rock, he is also credited with coining the phrase “black is beautiful” while giving a speech in Boston in March of 1858 as a refutation of the western idea that the physical features of African Americans were unattractive. However, further research has found that he did not say those exact words but did in essence about the beauty of the black people.
The best headlines need no commentary. Such is the case with the LOS ANGELES TIMES, April 5, 1968: “DR. KING SLAIN BY SNIPER IN MEMPHIS“
Today I traveled back to London, England, by the way of The London Chronicle: or, Universal Evening Post dated February 18, 1764. There I found an interesting article on “The manner of catching Bears at Kamtschatka” (see photo below) which is a peninsula in Russia Far East. Although that article itself is quite interesting in the manner of how to catch these animals, the introduction is even more fascinating. “Bears and wolves are so numerous, that they fill the woods and fields like cattle; the bears in summer, and the wolves in winter. The bears of Kamtschatka are neither large nor fierce, and never fall upon people, unless they find them asleep; and then they seldom kill any outright, but most commonly tear the scalp from the back part of the head; and, when fiercer than ordinary, tear off some of the fleshy parts, but never eat them… It is remarked here that the bears never hurt women; but, in the summer, go about with them like tame animals, especially when they gather berries. Sometimes, indeed, the bears eat up the berries which the women have gathered, and this is the only injury they do them…”
Another article is of a death of a “…woman that went by the name of John Chivy. She dressed always in man’s apparel, and passed for a man; and notwithstanding she had been married upwards of 20 years, her sex never discovered till her death…”.
The following article caught my attention. “Among the sundry fashionable routs or clubs, that are held in town, that of the Blacks or Negro servants is not the least. On Wednesday night last, no less than fifty-seven of them, men and women, supped, drank, and entertained themselves… till four in the morning. No Whites were allowed to be present, for all the performers were Blacks.” The closing sentence made me ponder as to its meaning. I welcome your thoughts and explanations as well.
Today I traveled to Detroit, Michigan by the way of The Detroit News for May 6, 1963. There I found that for the past several days Birmingham, Alabama, has been witnessing the “Children’s Crusade”, in which several hundred students had skipped school to march for desegregation and civil rights. Today’s report states it was peaceful with singing, chanting and praying as it was Sunday. Oddly enough the only arrest made (as of this article) was of a white couple inside the church as they were not permitted inside the church.
Also in the paper was a headline “Found Hitler’s Body in ’45, Reds Say in War ‘Secrets'” which also included a large photo Adolf Hitler and his wife, Eva Braun. This was information being released about the disposition of Hitler’s body from the release of a book by Cornlius Ryan entitled “The Longest Day”.
Did you ever want to be the life of the party? There is a story of a 15-year-old boy that, with a novelty ring, “touted to possess ‘hypnotic’ powers”. Well, within a few minutes, he truly ended up placing a young lady into a trance but was unable to get her totally out of it. A call to her parents, a trip to the hospital, and a psychiatrist later, the trance was broken. Just be careful at your next party with your jewelry and what you say!
Slavery. The word itself stirs intense emotions for nearly all who hear it… even for those who have not been directly confronted with the institution. For some it brings feelings of guilt… “How could my forefathers have engaged in such activity?” For others it brings feelings of oppression… anger… and more. While many people groups have been subjected to this burdensome yoke of man through time, for Americans, none is quite as impacting as the enslavement of African Americans. In honor of Black History Month, Timothy Hughes Rare & Early Newspapers has created a Pinterest Board which takes a look back at a time in U.S. history when slavery was alive and (not so) well:
Additionally, we’ve arranged our available authentic newspapers related to Black Americana in chronological order (recent first) to provide a snapshot into the past for those interest in reviewing how slavery in general, and Black History more specifically, has been depicted in newspapers over the past few centuries. They may be viewed at: