We are frequently asked to appraise final editions of newspaper titles which have gone defunct. Sadly, much like the specific publications themselves, collectors rarely find these final editions to be attractive. Some might suggest the lack of interest in current newspapers (in general) might have a negative impact on the hobby of collecting historic newspapers, but our experience has shown no such correlation. Alternately, the decline in readership of current titles and the corresponding abundance of newspaper publications going out of business seems to be directly proportional to the ease and speed for which information can be had at a minimal (if any) cost. In most instances, by the time a newspaper hits a subscriber’s doorstep, much of the news is already outdated. One journalist of such a “final edition” had their own thoughts on the matter, and interestingly enough, whether you agree or disagree with his bitter-pill-tainted analysis, some of the social issues mentioned seem as appropriate for today as they did when the article was written in 1978. The article may be read in full at: Chicago Daily News, March 4, 1978 (see images 4-10).
One of my favorite quotes regarding the internet, but whose founding warning-principle is rooted in print media is:
“The problem with internet quotes is that you can’t always depend on their accuracy.” -Abraham Lincoln, 1864
You simply cannot believe everything you read, hear, and in some cases, see. In most instances the misinformation is at least somewhat unintentional. However, sometimes even the well-intended get it wrong – including the so-called experts. Such is the case with a report in the August 16, 1932 edition of the New York Times. The heading in question reads: “Hitler Dictatorship In Reich Held Unlikely“. Just to be sure the heading would not be misinterpreted, a segment of the corresponding text states: “…the probability of Adolph Hitler and the National Socialists gaining power in Germany was not strong…” Let’s just say Frederick J. E. Woodbridge, an esteemed professor of American History at the University of Berlin, was a bit off the mark.
A sure-fire way to get yourself in trouble–at least in early 18th century America–would be to criticize the governor. John Peter Zenger, publisher of “The New York Weekly Journal“, had a problem with a decision made by of the colonial governor, William Cosby, and expressed his frustration in his newspaper. On November 17, 1734, On Cosby’s orders, the sheriff arrested Zenger. After a grand jury refused to indict him, the attorney general Richard Bradley charged him with libel in August of 1735. Thus began his imprisonment and a trial that would lead to Zenger’s acquittal and would more importantly create the foundation for the freedom of the press we enjoy today.
The “Encyclopedia of Censorship” reports that: “…In October 1734 a committee was appointed to investigate Zenger’s newspaper and to look into the charges of seditious libel that had been alleged against it. The committee found numbers 7, 47, 48, and 49, which contained a reprinted article on the liberty of the press, to be libelous as charged and ordered them to be burned. Zenger was arrested and jailed.”
See the link below which shows the entirely of issue number 47, dated Sept. 23, 1734. You can read the continued article which got Zenger thrown into jail, but ultimately won not only his own freedom but a significant freedom for newspaper publishers everywhere:
Nellie Bly (Elizabeth Cochrane Seaman), the American Journalist who became famous through her writing for Pulitzer’s New York World, is best remembered for her exposé regarding the horrific conditions within mental institutions obtained by faking her own insanity – taking investigative journalism to a whole new level, and her documentation of her record-breaking 72-day trip around the world as she emulated Jules Verne’s fictional character Phileas Fogg from Around the World in 80 Days. However, few are aware of her intimate and informative interview with Susan B. Anthony, perhaps the only woman to rival her pioneering spirit, which was printed in the New York World, February 2, 1896. The article in its entirety may be viewed at:
Hofstra University maintains a Facebook page where staff from their special collections department can post interesting finds. We recently discovered the following which illustrates one of the collecting strands of the hobby: sensational (or absurd) advertising:
Happy to report that the section “Boston Journalism Firsts” and other contents of the Boston Journalism Trail site were used to nominate Boston for the Historical Site in Journalism Award given by the American Society of Professional Journalists, the largest journalists organization in the United States. The organization gave its 2014 award to Boston, thus for the first time honoring a whole city for the totality of its contributions to journalism. The organization’s president is to present the city’s mayor with a memorial plaque to be placed in a public space in downtown Boston in 2015. Thanks for all your support over the years.
To view details:
Newspaper reports from the “other side” always provide some fascinating reading, such as Confederate vs. Yankee accounts of Civil War battles, or Allied vs. Nazi reports of World War II battles.
The same is true of the Revolutionary War. The “Pennsylvania Ledger” was a Loyalist newspaper and they spared little in criticizing the American, or “rebel”cause as they called it, for freedom. The January 21, 1778 issue has a fascinating letter which heavily criticizes Washington’s letter to Congress of October 5, 1777 (see below or go to this issue for full details). In the letter Washington puts an admittedly positive spin on his tragic loss at the battle of Germantown, which gives this writer a cause to respond.
He begins: “Mr. Washington’s letter to Congress…is perhaps the most extravagant piece of Jesuitical quackery that has been exhibited during the present rebellion. This heroic epistle abounds in deception, and incongruous contradiction in the extremely; it is calculated to mislead…”. His treatment of Washington doesn’t get any nicer. “This military quack…” is his next reference to the American leader, and he takes on one of the more famous quotes from Washington’s letter: ” ‘Upon the whole, it may be said the day was rather unfortunate than injurious.’ what a delicate and nice distinction here is held forth!…Who can help laughing at such an heterogeneous jumble of inconsistencies. Mr. Washington & his confederates have gained immortal honour by being suddenly put to flight by his Majesty’s troops…”.
At first blush, this issue appears to be exactly what one might expect from a Government sponsored publication. However, upon closer inspection of the lower right corner, we soon realize… this is exactly what one might expect from a government sponsored publication. Somewhere, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg are smiling. Please enjoy the cover of the April, 1944 issue of the U.S. Army-Navy Journal:
Editorials from the 19th century were often quite frank and not afraid to mince words, and perhaps the most scathing comments were found in newspapers during the Civil War years. The “Daily Examiner” newspaper from Richmond, Virginia, January 20, 1865, has an editorial which begins with some very biased words about Andrew Johnson:
Selecting the news for a newspaper’s headline must be quite challenging at times, especially when there are multiple significant events clamoring for top billing. We recently came across a Leominster Daily Enterprise, MA, April 16, 1947, which had 5 noteworthy events to choose from:
* Execution of Rudolf Hoess, Nazi commandant of Auschwitz… oversaw massacre of 2,000,000 Jews
* Milton Reynolds breaks Howard Hughes around-the-world aviation record in his “Bombshell”
* Jackie Robinson breaks racial barrier… 1st regular season MLB game played by an African American
* Texas City disaster (350 killed)
* Princess Elizabeth and Philip Mountbatten (from Greece) become engaged, with photo
Which do you think grabbed the headline back in 1947?To find out if you made the right choice, go to:
(see the 4th image)
What if the same events occurred today? Would the editors make the same choice for tomorrow’s headline? We’d love to know your thoughts… and reasons.