I’m New Here: Week Thirty (gasp!)

September 13, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

Even eight months into my first year here, I still have important job skills to acquire. This week Guy introduced me to The Weekly Register, also known as the Niles’ Weekly Register. He actually didn’t provide much of an introduction as there was new inventory to pick up, but he mentioned the title and left me to find my way to the back wall of the annex.

Before I started the metaphorical digging in, I tried to get my bearings first by looking into the background of this publication that stretched from 1811 until 1848. Our own item description mentions “significant coverage of the War of 1812”, so I extracted an issue from the title year, settling on December 5, 1812. Just below the town and date, a centered, italicized quote from Virgil’s “The Aeneid” assured me I would appreciate this new acquaintance.
Forsan et haec olim meminisse juvabit, “Maybe someday you will rejoice to recall even this.” I wonder if it was intended to bolster the staff or the new country. At any rate, the printing address on the following line is a cheery thing. “Printed and published by H. Niles, South-st. next door to the Merchants’ Coffee House”.
The issue I borrowed from the racks covers the legislatures of New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey and North Carolina, where (if the reports are accurate) the members were busily balancing affairs of their individual states with decisions concerning the authority of the president to call out a state’s militia. I was struck by the measured, pragmatic way one William Plumer attempted to persuade the governing body of New Hampshire.  My pile of recommended reading for current politicians is growing taller every day.
A list of the “excellent toasts drank at New York, in commemoration of the evacuation of that city by the British” lauds the particular prowess of American sloops of war and the late Captain Jones, resting “on the bosom of the Atlantic.”
There is a four page section devoted to “Events of the War” packed with locations of ships, letters from various regiments, descriptions of force strength, and even a transcription of a Brigadier-General’s stirring call to arms.

“Rewards and honors await the brave. Infamy and contempt are reserved for cowards.

Companions in arms! — You came to vanquish a valiant foe. I know the choice you will make. Come on, my heroes!”

I can’t help but think that if we continued to work at bringing forth great words we might encourage heroic ideals in a culture so untethered to traditions of excellence in speech and conduct. Then again, I am only seeing the parts of 1812 that made it into print.

Anyway, if you don’t know The Weekly Register, I hope you too have opportunity to become acquainted.  It has certainly been my pleasure.

Niles’ Weekly Register documented the first half of the 19th century…

June 14, 2013 by · 2 Comments 

Of the many notable newspapers published in the history of the United States there are a few stand-outs for different eras. Of the colonial era the “Pennsylvania Gazette” came to prominence under the guidance of publisher Ben Franklin, and in the latter decades of the 1700’s the “Gazette of the United States“, and the “Columbian Centinel” were two of the more significant titles which informed the American populace for many years. Of the 19th century the “National Intelligencer” and the “New York Times” were certainly among the more prominent, but a title which did as much as any other to bring the news into the households of America was “Niles’ Weekly Register“.

Considered by some a magazine due to its small size, I like to consider it a small newspaper, as its content was more aligned to presenting the politics & other news of the day rather than the literary content more associated with magazines. But of curious note is that it was devoid of advertising, relying entirely upon the strength of its subscription base for its existence.

Hezekiah Niles edited and published his newspaper in Baltimore from 1811 until 1836, making it into one of the most widely-circulated periodicals in the United States and himself into one of the most influential journalists of his day. Devoted primarily to politics, “Niles’ Weekly Register” is considered an important source for the history of the period. It continued beyond his demise until 1849.
Given its close proximity to the nation’s capital it was in an excellent position to print political reports but also the wealth of other news from all corners of the then-growing country which would eventually find its way to Washington, D.C. Having collected early newspapers for over 37 years I can attest to the quality of reporting–very in depth–in comparison to the physically larger newspapers of the day.
Founded just a year before the outbreak of the War of 1812 and lasting through the early period of the California Gold Rush, a great wealth of American history was printed within each of its 16 weekly pages, and a nice spectrum of America in the first half of the 19th century can be gathered by simply focusing on this one title.

Early in its publication the battle of Tippecanoe brought the name William Henry Harrison to prominence with his victory over the Indians, the details of which made the pages of “Niles’ Weekly Register“. Then all the event of the War of 1812, from President Monroe’s war proclamation to the war-ending Battle of New Orleans led by Andrew Jackson (actually fought after the treaty ending the war was signed) with the host of naval battles of 1812-1815.
There is hardly a topic or event from American history not found in Niles’ Weekly Register. Much Judaica content, the creation of the Mormon Church and their journey west, much on the historic Maryland Jew Bill, and even mention of Abraham Lincoln and Robert E. Lee long before they would be names known to the American public were found in this newspaper.
The slavery issue was certainly not side-stepped, as reports on Nat Turner’s Rebellion and the Denmark Vesey case were two of the more notably events which received much coverage. The Amistad affair–not found in every newspaper of the day–was reported in many issues of Niles’ as the events & trial unfolded. Certainly the issue is slavery was ever-present in congressional reports, and was a factor in the Missouri Compromise, also published in this newspaper.
As the country continued to expand, the westward march was documented in many reports including the development & opening of the Erie Canal, the exploring of the Yellowstone region, and the creation of the Santa Fe Trail being just a few. Several states joined the union during the years of Niles’ and as they did even the alterations to the United States flag were documented by the newspaper. Names such as Daniel Boone, infamous pirate Jean LaFitte, Samuel Morse, Daguerre and Eli Whitney are a few which were featured as their actions and inventions made news.
The Texas war for independence made the news in 1835 and 1836 and many of the notable battles were reported. There is even mention of Davy Crockett leaving Congress and heading to Texas to fight for their cause, where he would meet his end at the famous Battle of the Alamo.
With politics as a focus it is no surprise that elections and inaugurations were all documents in “Niles’ Weekly Register“, including the short term of President William Henry Harrison who just one month after being inaugurated would die in office.
There is so much more history to be found within the pages of Niles’. Our troubling (and often disgraceful) relationship with the Native American Indians, including the Black Hawk War & Trail of Tears, was covered in much detail. The Mexican War and all its events was the last of the military encounters to appear in this newspaper, the treaty ending that war being signed in 1848, just one year before the demise of the newspaper.
The ironic same-day deaths of Presidents Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, and on the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, received much coverage; the Monroe Doctrine and the curious efforts of Mordecai Manuel Noah to create a Jewish settlement on an island in the Niagara River are just two of the fascinating events of American history documented. And it was not just American history that was reported, as world-wide events, as their significance would dictate, would make the pages of Niles’ as well, not the least of which was the historic battle of Waterloo which spelled the doom of Napoleon’s efforts in Europe.

It was a pint-sized newspaper with a powerful impact upon the documentation of American history in the first half of the 19th century. It is a title every collector should not overlook as they consider the best newspapers for reporting some of the major events in history.  They all will be found in “Niles’ Weekly Register“.

“New Series” of a newspaper…

September 7, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

niles-register-series-1A recent inquiry by a concerned customer about the words “fifth series” printed in the dateline of his “Niles’ National Register” prompted me to share my comments with our blog readers should you have similar concerns of such notes atop this and other titles held in your collection.

Through the life of any newspaper which lasted beyond ten years it would not be uncommon for the title to change, either slightly or dramatically. This could happen for a number of reasons, such as the merging with another newspaper, the purchase of the paper by a new publisher, new city of publication, an altering in the size, theme, or format of the newspaper, etc.  While some titles made no note of such changes in their volume and issue numbering, some chose to create a “new series” and start anew with the volume & issue numbering.

niles-register-series-2The Weekly Register“, which began in Baltimore, chose the latter. The photos show five of the title or location changes in a 38 year time spread, not to mention size and type font changes as well. Note that its location moved from Baltimore to “Washington City” to Philadelphia.

Fortunately Niles chose to also retain the original volume numbering as well (right side of the dateline) as well as the “whole number”, or the number since the very first issue was published. Other titles did not choose to do so, making it more difficult to determine the newspaper’s age.