While the last few decades have bestowed upon us considerable discussion in regards to the intended meaning of the separation of Church and State, one cannot deny the abundance of religious references which have peppered the language of Presidents, regardless of their personal faith (or lack thereof), from the onset of the Union through the present. One such example is found in the June 15, 1845 issue of The New York Times, which prints the text (see below) of the letter President Ulysses S. Grant wrote to the children and youth of America at the request of the editor of The Sunday School Times for insertion into their Centennial Edition. The letter emphasizes the importance of the Bible in regards to life and liberty: “My advice to Sunday Schools, no matter what their denomination, is: Hold fast to the Bible as the sheet-anchor of your liberties; write its precepts in your heart, and PRACTICE THEM IN YOUR LIVES. To the influence of this Book we are indebted for all the progress made in true civilization, and to this we must look as our guide in the future. ‘Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.’ Yours respectfully, U. S. Grant”.
Mere religious blather, or good advice rooted in truth? Thoughts?
While I am certainly not an expert on Jewish sacred days, festivals, and special/holy celebrations, one significant event has always captured my imagination: The Year of Jubilee – referred to by some as The Golden Jubilee. It was such a celebration which led President Warren Harding to write a letter to the Union of American Hebrew Congregations in response to their invitation for him to attend the Golden Jubilee Dinner in 1923. This letter was printed in The New York Times, January 25, 1923. While we often quote the phrase “Peace on earth, good will toward men”, few are aware of its roots (Luke 2:14) or its significance and/or relationship to the Year of Jubilee. While President Harding (a non-Jew) was certainly not a popular president, this is one instance where his “good will toward men” was well-received. His letter is as follows:
Many are quite familiar with President Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation of October, 1863. However, few have read or heard of his similar proclamation from a few month’s prior which helped build the foundation for his famous October proclamation. The Star of the West, July 25, 1863 contains the text (see images below) of this earlier declaration calling for a day of thanksgiving and prayer – words which are apropos as we prepare (in the U.S.) to celebrate Thanksgiving. Note: We’ve included the text of this famous proclamation below.
October 3, 1863
By the President of the United States of America.
The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.
By the President: Abraham Lincoln
William H. Seward,
Secretary of State
One of the more desired of the newspapers reporting the assassination of President John F. Kennedy has always been the “Dallas Morning News“, published in the city where he was killed. Unbeknownst to most–including us for many years–is the curious obituary found on page 6 of the last section. Inconspicuously listed among the 33 entries in the “Deaths & Funerals” section is the one shown in the photo. It is a paid obituary notice inserted by a private funeral home announcing the death of an American president. The O’Neal Funeral Home handled President Kennedy’s remains in Dallas and furnished the casket in which he was sent to Washington. Although certainly not a local funeral, I suspect the funeral home sought the opportunity to gain some stature & credibility by letting all know they handled the remains of a President of the United States.
Has anyone else discovered this obituary notice?
And of note as well, relating to the Kennedy assassination, is the death notice of “J.D. Tibbit”, the police officer killed by Oswald shortly after the Kennedy assassination. In fact it was for Tibbit’s death that Oswald was initially arrested, the connection to Kennedy’s assassination discovered afterwards.
Today I traveled to Springfield, Illinois, by the way of the Illinois State Journal of May 4, 1865, where I found they were preparing for the funeral of President Abraham Lincoln which was to occur later in the day. The editorial begins “We are without any more definite information in reference to the arrangements for the funeral of President Lincoln, to-day, than that contained in the programme published in another column…the procession will move at precisely ten o’clock, which will require that the remains be closed by eight…Work was recommenced on the tomb on the Mather Square yesterday…Not only the citizens of Springfield but of the whole state would be rejoiced to learn that the change referred to had been authorized…”. Within another article is “…From our midst, a little more than four years ago, President Lincoln was called to the highest office in the gift of the people. Yesterday all that is mortal of him returned to us wrapped in the habiliments of the grave…The emblems of mourning everywhere displayed…Illinois receives her murdered son again to her bosom, no less loving than when she sent him forth to the most distinguished honor. To-day we lay him reverently to rest…”
150 years ago, much of the nation was still reeling from the death of Abraham Lincoln. A mere 10 days previous time stood still and tears flowed freely at the news that the President had been killed. Did many travel to Washington, D.C. to mourn his passing? Did some visit the very site of his tragic and untimely demise to place a candle… flowers… mourn? The Philadelphia Enquirer, April 17, 1865, not on only printed a sketch of the captured John Wilkes Booth, but they also included a front-page schematic (right) of the back-alley escape route where a horse was waiting for the infamous villain and his accomplice. While the region has gone through several transformations over the course of the last 150 years, this same alley exists today. The current-day photo shown below was sent to us be a collector friend who also included the following note:
I have attached a picture of the rear of Ford’s Theater as it looks today (showing the original windows/doorways that have been bricked-up)…and I want to point out that the alleyway shown on that April 17th issue is incredibly, to this day, the only exit on the entire block and proportioned to what it was in that newspaper.
If you’ve never visited Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C., it is certainly worth the trip.Note: During my days as a Middle School Teacher, can anyone guess the most common question students asked upon visiting this spot during a school trip?
What does one do when abruptly ushered into one, if not the, most powerful positions on earth by the untimely death of the President of the United States? Today, in honor of the Easter Holiday Weekend, we reach back to 1841 to see how newly elevated President John Tyler responded when placed in this situation. The following proclamation, which begins in part, “When a Christian people feel themselves to be overtaken by a great public calamity, it becomes them to humble themselves under the dispensation of Divine Providence, to recognize His righteous government over the children of men, to acknowledge His goodness in time past, as well as their own unworthiness, and to supplicate His merciful protection for the future…”, was printed in The Globe, Washington, D.C., April 15, 1841:
Happy Easter from the Rare & Early Newspapers Team
Today I traveled to Springfield, Massachusetts, by way of The Springfield Union dated October 21, 1964. There the front page had the headline of “World Mourns Death of Herbert Hoover”, “President Orders 30-Day Observance; Leaders of Both Parties Join in Eulogies”. “Herbert Clark Hoover, the son of a blacksmith who rose to serve his nation as president and the world as one of history’s great humanitarians, died Tuesday. He was 90…”. This includes a small photo of President Hoover as well as a photo of the flag being lowered to half staff over the White House. Inside the issue is a photo of the home where Hoover was born, where he would also be buried on a hillside nearby.
As we approach President’s Day, there is a part of me which is somewhat sentimental about my childhood memories surrounding Washington’s Birthday. I sure do miss it as a stand alone national celebration. I fondly remember my father bringing home a cardboard version of an ax (with a chocolate-covered cherry hidden within) to present to each of us to commemorate the holiday, and without fail, reminding us to be just like George Washington – that is, to never tell a lie. Was there a bit of lore surrounding this sacred event? Sure. Did it teach us a valuable lesson? Absolutely. Somehow we’ve lost the innocence and value of oral tradition, and I wonder if we are the better for it.
Perhaps Washington never chopped down a cherry tree… and my guess is he probably told a lie at some point, but I challenge anyone to name another political leader who, in the face of such power, tradition, and popularity, was willing to hand over the reigns of power with such humility and grace. The Massachusetts Spy, Or Worcester Gazette for March 15, 1797 records much of the proceedings of this momentous event. The link provides access to considerable details. Of particular note is his response to the Massachusetts’ Representatives of Congress who basically asked him, “What now?” His response is precious (see below). Please enjoy!
It seems that with every election or inauguration I get asked about the collectability of such newspapers, so I thought I might share my thoughts with you, and encourage you to do the same.
As for pure collectability, sure, election and inauguration issues are collectible because they document a very important part of American history and the democratic process. The smooth transfer of power from one person or administration to another does not come easily to many countries today. And to be able to add such historic issues to a collection for 50 cents or a buck is a great opportunity.
But I suspect the real interest of many who inquire about the collectability (of Barrack Obama election and inauguration issues) is the potential for such issues to increase in value. My opinion is, in general, no. They will not increase much in value in years to come. Now I’m speaking of “recent” history, say the last 30 years or so. I feel the public has become very collector-focused the last several decades, and many, many “historic” newspapers have been set aside in attics and drawers only to be found by their children many years later.
For a newspaper to appreciate dramatically in value I believe it requires several things: 1) Historic content. Yes, elections and inaugurations are historic; 2) Rarity. No, elections and inaugurations of the past 30 years are not rare because they were hoarded in large quantities and will always be relatively common; and 3) Something unique or dramatic. A “screaming” headline in tall, bold letters, or a cleverly worded headline, or something else which makes the issue unusual.
Supposedly the New York Times printed an extra one million issues of its January 21 inauguration issue, and I suspect most of them will be hoarded in quantity. The Washington Post printed a much larger quantity than normal, but they didn’t comment on the exact quantity. I’m sure it was sizable, and many of those issues will be hoarded. All this means that 20 years from now issues will be showing up on eBay (or its equivalent at that time) and anywhere else people might try to sell collectibles. With millions of such newspapers in the marketplace will the values get higher and higher? I doubt it.
Issues which tend to increase in value are those which were NOT saved. Most major headlines pre-World War II have appreciated nicely in value because they were not hoarded in quantities. I just don’t think the American public was collector-conscience then, so consequently they are genuinely rare in additional to being historic. And add a huge headline or terrific graphic and you have the potential for a very desirable newspaper; one which has appreciated nicely in value.
As an interesting side note, I understand that the New York Post printed a special afternoon inauguration edition on January 20. Given that most major newspapers are morning publications, coverage of the inaugural proceedings would be in their September 21 issue. But the Post had coverage in their January 20 issue, the same day as the election. A friend, stopping by a newsstand in New York city bought several issues of the Times of January 21 and noted a stack of other issues in the back. Inquiring what they were he was told it was the Post of the 20th, “…but they came in too late to be sold on the newsstand, so they will be returned. We can’t sell a day old newspaper…” the friend promptly purchased them all. I’d be curious to hear how many of the January 20 afternoon edition were actually sold on the streets and not returned for destruction. Perhaps that edition will have a real rarity component.
But don’t let this deter you from collecting historic events of the last 30 years and events yet to come. One of the great aspects of this hobby is the ability to assemble a great collection of truly historic newspapers at a nominal cost–at the newsstand price if you are lucky.
What are your thoughts?
Note: The Times News (out of Lehighton, PA) interviewed Tim concerning this topic. The article may be accessed at: http://www.tnonline.com/about
*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 firstname.lastname@example.org.