Headlines of events that never happened offer a fascinating focus in the world of newspaper collecting. Unlike radio or television broadcasts where errors can be corrected in minutes, and without any “physical evidence” of the mistake, once ink is on the paper it cannot be retracted.
Certainly the most notable and desirable would be the famous Chicago Tribune mistake of November 3, 1948 which proclaimed in its early edition: “DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN” with issues in nice condition now extending well beyond the $1000 mark. Even in a later edition they continued the error but softening the headline by proclaiming: “G.O.P. WINS WHITE HOUSE!“, which I believe to be more rare than the more famous earlier edition.
One error newspaper which recently surfaced from our inventory comes with an interesting story, growing from the hysteria created by the surprise attack upon Pearl Harbor by Japan, which helped to usher in the U.S. involvement in World War II.
The Los Angeles Examiner “War Extra” of Feb. 25, 1942 proclaimed in large letters across its front page: “AIR BATTLE RAGES OVER LOS ANGELES“. Puzzled by the headline, as I wasn’t aware of any WWII battles reaching the shores of the United States, I did a bit of investigating.
The short answer is there was no air battle over Los Angeles. Just some hysteria run amuck. During the night of February 24/25, 1942, unidentified objects caused a succession of alerts in southern California. On the 24th, a warning issued by naval intelligence indicated that an attack could be expected within the next ten hours. Probably much of the confusion came from the fact that anti-aircraft shell bursts, caught by the searchlights, were themselves mistaken for enemy planes. In any case, the next three hours produced some of the most imaginative reporting of the war: “swarms” of planes (or, sometimes, balloons) of all possible sizes, numbering from one to several hundred, traveling at altitudes which ranged from a few thousand feet to more than 20,000 and flying at speeds which were said to have varied from “very slow” to over 200 miles per hour, were observed to parade across the skies. These mysterious forces dropped no bombs and, despite the fact that 1,440 rounds of anti-aircraft ammunition were directed against them, suffered no losses. There were reports that four enemy planes had been shot down, and one was supposed to have landed in flames at a Hollywood intersection. Residents in a forty mile arc along the coast watched from hills or rooftops as the play of guns and searchlights provided the first real drama of the war for citizens of the mainland. The dawn, which ended the shooting and the fantasy, also proved that the only damage which resulted to the city was such as had been caused by the excitement (there was at least one death from heart failure), by traffic accidents in the blacked-out streets, or by shell fragments from the artillery barrage. Go here to read the full text of this fascinating “battle” as provided by the “Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco”.
Do you have any interesting error headlines in your collection? Feel free to share with others.
*Note: This post was originally posted on 11/11/2008.
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?
*The Fall of 2013 marked the 5th anniversary of the History’s Newsstand Blog by Timothy Hughes Rare & Early Newspapers. We are grateful to have the opportunity to contribute to the newspaper collecting community, and appreciate those who have participated through guest posts, comments, and readership. In 2014 we will revisit the top 25 posts (measured by activity), with the number 1 post being revisited during the first week of 2015. Please enjoy. If you would like to contribute a post for consideration of inclusion on the blog, please contact Guy Heilenman at email@example.com.
Rick Brown at Historybuff.com provides some interesting information regarding a couple of known error editions, including the highly collectible “Dewey Defeats Truman” issue of the Chicago Daily Tribune:
The Eleven Editions of the November 3, 1948 Chicago Daily Tribune
You’ve heard of the famous error paper “Dewey Defeats Truman”. Well, they produced ten more error headlines that day.
The Story Behind the “Dewey Defeats Truman” error issue
You’ve heard of the edition, but how did it happen? You’ll find the answer here.
The Tilden-Hayes Election of 1876
“Dewey Defeats Truman” was not the only presidential election error headline. Here’s another one.
Thanks, Rick, for your ongoing contributions to the hobby.
We continue with our series on “prices realized”, with this 4th installment providing select examples of issues from the 20th century. While there are many issues to choose from, we tried to cover a variety of collectible interests.
Note: While collectible newspapers have had a good track record of increasing in value over time (see upcoming posts), we encourage hobbyists to collect for non-financial reasons. History in your hands…
20th century selections:
The previous posts in this series are:
Over the past month, Timothy Hughes has explored his thoughts concerning what he believes to be the top ten newspapers from each of the pre-18th, 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries (see below), the most recent being the latter. Some of his thoughts concerning historic newspapers from the 1900’s were captured in the following video:
Collecting authentic rare and historic newspapers from the 1900’s can be exciting, rewarding and surprisingly affordable. From the Wright brothers inaugural flight in 1903…to today’s routine shuttle hops to the orbiting space station, no other period in history bore greater witness to man’s capacity for brilliance, innovation, depravity, strife, compassion and technological ingenuity…than the 20th Century. And with this ingenuity came remarkable visibility into the daily lives of our parents and grandparents, through newspapers.
Each single page from the vast 20th Century archive of Timothy Hughes Rare & Early Newspapers brings this amazing century to life: from World War I, Prohibition, the Great Depression, World War II, onward… newspapers of the 20th century bring it all to daily account, from those who lived it!
Of course, many original newspapers documenting this century’s “turning-points” command premium prices (Titanic, Crash of 29, P. Harbor, V-E/V-J Day, Dewey Def Truman, Oil Strike, San Franc Earthquake, etc.)… but most other original and historical 20th century newspapers remain available for much less than you might think. At Timothy Hughes Rare & Early Newspapers, you can still own original editions recounting key events of the gangster era of the 20’s and 30’s, World War II, the industrial revolution, Korean War, the automobile, the golden age of Hollywood and beyond.
We also offer obscure original editions that are perfect gifts to commemorate a friend or loved-one’s birthday, marriage, graduation, or other event. They’ll love reading about what else was in the news back on their special day!
Whether your interest is in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the golden age of Hollywood, the gangster era, a view of how life looked on the day you were born, etc., original newspapers provide an excellent view of history in context. History is never more fascinating than when when it’s read from the day it was first reported. If you love history… you deserve to have it in your hands. Rare newspapers make this possible. Please enjoy.
From this period in newspaper publishing history, displayability has much to do with the desirability of a newspaper, perhaps more so than historical significance. Since I come to this task of listing the “top ten” from the perspective of a rare newspaper dealer and knowing the requests we receive for certain events, the following list may not be the same as my most “historic” but they are my thoughts for the most “desirable” based on customer demand. Certainly FDR’s New Deal is more historically significant than the death of Bonnie & Clyde, but not more desirable from a collector standpoint. I’d be curious to hear of your thoughts.
Here they are, beginning with number ten:
10) St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, Feb. 14, 1929 An issue with a dramatic banner headline, & ideally dated the 14th. Morning papers would be dated the 15th.
9) Death of Bonnie & Clyde, May 23, 1934 The gangster era remains much in demand, & perhaps due to the movie this event beats out Dillinger, Capone & the others from the era. A dramatic headline drives desirability–ideally with a photo–even if not in a Louisiana newspaper.
8.) Charles Lindbergh flies the Atlantic, May 22, 1927 The New York Times had a nice headline account with a map of the route, and the prestige of the newspaper always keeps it in high demand.
7) Call-Chronicle-Examiner, San Francisco, April 19, 1906 I note a specific title & date for this event, as these 3 newspapers combined to produce one 4 page newspaper filled with banner heads & the latest news. No advertisements.
6) Crash of the Hindenberg, May 6, 1937 The more dramatic the headline the better, & ideally with the Pulitizer Prize winning photo of the airship in flames.
5) Wright brothers fly, Dec. 17, 1903 Here’s where the significance of the event drives desirability over dramatic appeal. Few can argue the impact of manned flight on the world. Reports were typically brief & buried on an inside page with a small headline, so a lengthy front page report would be in top demand.
4) Stock market crash, October, 1929 Demand is driven by the dramatic headline and its wording. Too many newspapers tried to put an optimistic spin on the tragedy. Collectors want “collapse, disaster, crash” & similarly tragic words in the headline (how about Variety magazine’s: “Wall Street Lays On Egg”?)
3) Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Dec. 7, 1941 “1st Extra” The defining issue from World War II but be careful of reprints as most issues on the market are not genuine.
2) Chicago Daily Tribune, Nov. 3, 1948 “Dewey Defeats Truman”. What more need be said?
1) Titanic sinking, April 14, 1912 Certainly low on the historically significant list, but off the charts on the desirability scale, much due to the block-busting movie. The more dramatic the headline the better, and hopefully with a nice illustration of the ship going down.
My “honorable mention” list might include baseball’s “Black Sox” scandal of 1919, sinking of the Lusitania, end of World War II, D-Day, JFK’s election, the New Deal, a great Babe Ruth issue, etc. Maybe they would rank higher on your list.