May 27, 2013 by TimHughes · Leave a Comment
Few eras of American history have been romanticized as the Post-Civil War 19th Century
. For those who grew up in the 1950’s & 1960’s, television had more than its fair share of Western-themed shows. And the “Wild West
” was a common feature on the silver screen as well.
Not only can one capture a flavor of that time when the American frontier was pushing further West, but actual historical events can be read as captured in newspapers of the day, when the events happened. This is the intrigue of collecting rare and historic newspapers.
From the moment the Civil War
ended, the national focus was on the lands west of the Mississippi. It was common to find reports, even in newspapers from the big cities of the East, of skirmishes with Indians on the Great Plains and elsewhere. The Custer Massacre perhaps ranking as the most notable, but reports can be found on the Battle of Wounded Knee, Captain Jack and the Modoc Indian War, reports of Geronimo, Sitting Bull, the Apaches and others. Newspapers are a great resource for those wishing to explore/collect Native American history
And what about Outlaws & Gunfights
? Stage coach robbery reports are not an uncommonly found in newspapers from the 1870’s and 1880’s, and train robberies and bank robberies could be found scattered throughout newspapers of this period as well. It was a time when some of the more famous—and infamous--names of American history could be found in newspapers, including Jesse James and his gang, Billy the Kid, Wyatt Earp (yes, there are newspaper reports of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral), the Dalton Gang, Younger brothers, Robert Ford, Buffalo Bill, Jim Bridger, Vasquez, Doc Holliday, Kit Carson, Lizzie Borden, and on and on. Although “Jack the Ripper
” was a name from London crime history his deeds made headlines on this side of the Atlantic as well. Reports of their deeds are not fictionalized; they are the events as reported in newspaper accounts of the day.
Some the famous towns of the Old West
had their own newspapers and can be purchased for anyone’s collection, including titles from Tombstone
, San Francisco
, Carson City
, Salt Lake City
, and many more.
Although crime reports were common, there is so much more in newspapers from this era. Politics certainly found their way into newspapers on a daily basis. Ulysses S. Grant
and James Garfield
were perhaps the most notable Presidents of the era, and reports on the latter’s assassination are commonly found. Science and innovation were the focus of the famous title “Scientific American
” which began in 1845 and still publishes today. Within its pages were many reports on Thomas Edison
, Alexander Graham Bell
and their inventive work, plus illustrations of the creations of many of the devices and improvements we still enjoy today. Many were first unveiled in Philadelphia’s Centennial Exposition
of 1876 and the Columbian Exposition
at Chicago in 1893.
It was a time when Brigham Young
and the Mormons
were venturing west, ultimately to settle in the Salt Lake City Valley. P.T. Barnum
was making news with his circus, and Frederick Douglass
& Booker T. Washington
were coming to national prominence as spokesmen for the newly emancipated slaves. The Chicago Fire & the Johnstown Flood were but two disasters which changed the American landscape and graphic accounts were more brutal in the 19th
century then they are today.
As is the case with present-day newspapers, sporting reports
were typically found, with baseball, football, tennis and golf gaining widespread popularity as diversions for not just the wealthy but for everyone.
As you see the post-Civil War
era was very rich in history. And I only touched on a few of the highlights. Newspapers of the era reported not just the events & names we know of through history books, but captured the mundane events of daily existence which provide a fascinating flavor of life in America when the wealth & prestige of the United States was emerging upon the world landscape. A world awaits the collector who delves into this fascinating era of American history.
March 8, 2013 by TimHughes · Leave a Comment
Few eras in the broad range of American history have the appeal as that of the "Wild West
", a romanticized period following the end of the Civil War
thru the end of the 19th century. It was a time when America was healing from the wounds of war and the adventurous were pushing the American boundary further West. It was the 1849
California Gold Rush
which sparked interest. Now with the war over, new adventures were sought by many.
Those of the Baby Boom generation grew up on western movies and cowboy & Indian
television shows. Even Disney's
hugely popular Mickey Mouse Club and the newly minted Disneyland had the Wild West
as a popular theme. What we remember are battles with Native Americans
, and a multitude of other events which seem to define the era. And to the delight of collectors, all are found in newspapers from the Old West
Geographically our "Old West
" definition would be any from west of the Mississippi. Some 25 years ago we were fortunate enough to purchase a sizable collection of Old West
newspapers which were deaccessioned from the Bancroft Library, including many titles which existed only there, then only in
our inventory. With some regret many have long since sold out, but most remain available.
Ways of collecting this era are many. Some might pursue one of as many different titles as are available. Content is a lesser concern; they just want one of everything. Some might collect one from every state from before the 20th century. Many states would be easily found but others can be challenging, particularly Arizona
, New Mexico
& perhaps Idaho
. Others might be more specific and collect only titles from before statehood, typically known as "territorial newspapers" (note: Arizona
& New Mexico
joined the Union in 1912 so early 20th century issues are "territorial"). Again, many can be easily found while others are more of a challenge. California
became a state in 1850 (interesting how quickly Congress can act when a pile of gold is found in the backyard) and the number of titles which existed in the Golden State before 1850 were very few. For the best of collections, finding an early issue of the first newspaper to publish in each state can be a special challenge. But of course this is the fun of collecting.
Then there is a larger segment of collectors who pursue content, whether it be the iconic events of the Old West
such as Custer's
Massacre, Killing of Jesse James
, the gunfight at the O.K. Corral
, capture of Sitting Bull
, or just mundane reports of iconic events such as skirmishes with Indians
, barroom brawls, bank & railroad robberies
, and general reports of lawlessness. Yes, they are all found in Western
newspapers of the day, and the search can be exciting.
As a subset of an Old West collection is Mormon
content, as the story of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is part & parcel of the westward expansion. Many titles from Salt Lake City
are available and contain a wealth of Mormon
content from shortly after their settlement in Utah
. Another subset
might be popular Western towns. Yes, 19th century newspapers are available from Tombstone
, Deadwood City
, San Francisco
, Los Angeles
, San Diego
, and on and on. Of special intrigue is finding newspapers from ghost towns. Bodie
, California is a great example of a once booming mining town
which is currently a California State Park and popular ghost town attraction. Many of our titles from Northern California are from towns which are today a fraction of their size in the 19th century.
The world of Old West
collecting is endless, and to the surprise of many prices for most newspapers of the era are unexpectedly low. Explore this interesting era of American history and discover a new facet of collecting!
March 17, 2011 by TimHughes · Leave a Comment
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March 3, 2011 by TimHughes · Leave a Comment
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December 4, 2010 by TimHughes · Leave a Comment
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November 22, 2010 by TimHughes · Leave a Comment
Some reports have gained greater notoriety long after the event happened, particularly those of the Old West which have been romanticized by television, movies and countless books on the era. The gunfight at the O.K. Corral is one, and the report of the killing of Wild Bill Hickok
is another. Neither are commonly found in newspapers of the day with the Hickok report being one of the more difficult to find, and typically on a brief report when found.
We recently came across the "New York Herald
" of August 13, 1876 with the report & thought it worth sharing:
July 26, 2010 by TimHughes · Leave a Comment
While few of us will have the opportunity to visit some of the fascinating old mining towns of the Old West, holding a newspaper from a ghost town's hey day can be the next best thing. And with a little knowledge about the town, a newspaper from the neighborhood press takes on added appeal and intrigue.
With this in mind I will, from time to time, offer some background information on the towns from which some of our Old West newspapers came. And I'll start with an issue with an interesting title, the "Owyhee Avalanche" of Silver City, Idaho.
Silver City is one of the few old mining towns that did not burn down or become commercialized into a modern city. Visiting Silver City is like going back into history. The Idaho Hotel is as it was 100 years ago with a few modern amenities. Rugged and picturesque, the 8,000 feet-high Owyhee Mountains surround Silver City, elevation 6,200 ft. The history-filled town contains about seventy-five structures that date from the 1860's to the early 1900's.
During its "heydays", Silver City had about a dozen streets, seventy-five businesses, three hundred homes, a population of around 2,500, twelve ore-processing mills, and was the Owyhee County seat from 1866 to 1934. Some of the largest stage lines in the West operated in the area, and Silver City had the first telegraph and the first daily newspaper in the territory in 1874.
More that two dozen camps provided shelter, supplies and amusement for the thousands of people who came to the mountains seeking their fortunes in one way or another. The ruins of some of these can still be found though nature is reclaiming most of them at an accelerated rate. Almost a dozen cemeteries and many more remote burial sites attest to the hard and sometimes dangerous and violent lives led by many. Hundreds of mines pock-mark and honeycomb the mountains; one had upwards of seventy miles of tunnels laboriously hand-dug through it. Between 1863 and 1865, more than two hundred and fifty mines were in operation and hundreds more were developed thereafter. At least sixty million dollars worth of precious metals were taken from the area. (credit: historicsilvercityidaho.com)
for some photos of present-day Silver City.
March 6, 2010 by TimHughes · Leave a Comment
The front page of the "Weekly Missoulian" newspaper from Missoula, Montana Territory, December 12, 1873 has an article titled: "The Value of a Newspaper" which logically caught my eye. Although the item had nothing to do with the value of an historic newspaper, it does say much about the relative cost to subscribe to a newspaper in the 1870's, and has a nice story associated with it as well. Enjoy.
I have typically found Old West
newspapers to have some of the more interesting tidbits of any era or region. We have hundreds to choose from for your browsing.
February 27, 2010 by TimHughes · Leave a Comment
This nice piece concerning death, published in "The Semi-Weekly Argus
" newspaper from Port Townsend, Washington Territory, Aug. 19, 1873, is a great example of how differently--and often beautifully--writing styles were over 100 years ago.
Much of the fun of collecting newspapers is enjoying a different style of writing, whether the piece is historical or just an ordinary comment of the day, as is the case with this item.
August 13, 2009 by TimHughes · Leave a Comment
It's interesting how the stereotype of the cowboy as created by Western movies and the lore generated by Western writers can hold true to reality. This was my thought when I can across an interesting tidbit from a Yuma, Arizona, newspaper of January 7, 1882---from a truly Western town at the high point of the Wild West era:
"He Wanted to be a Cowboy"
A youth recently went all the way from Chicago to New Mexico to become a cowboy. When there he explained his desire to a typical mountaineer whom he met and asked for instructions in the role he had wished to assume. Grasping him by the hand the mountaineer said: "You want to get a buckskin suit with plenty of fringe, a pair of high boots and a pair of high spurs. Then you want to get a broad-rimmed hat--the broader the better; two fort-fives, a knife, a Winchester rifle and a horse; then you want to get drunk and get on your horse; then take the reins in your teeth, a revolver in each hand, and go down the street at a full run, shooting at every jump. then come back and yell as loud as you can: 'My name is ______ and I'm stinking for a fight; I'm a sone-of-a-gun from the plains.' After that you will be a cowboy."
The picture is duly referred to the cowboy's prototype in Western Missouri."
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