America – pulling a nation back together…

November 14, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

blog-11-14-2016-jfk-jr-photoMy Fellow Americans: Devastating hurricanes, Pearl Harbor, 9-11, the end of WWII, Lindbergh’s 1st flight across the Atlantic – while there is much that divides us, there have been times throughout our history when both triumphs and tragedies have inspired us to lay down our weapons and to unite as one. While these times of mutual good will are typically short-lived, they often act as a reset to help center us on that which binds us together. We need such a time!

It is was with the current atmosphere of angst as a backdrop that I was moved by an under-the-radar prayer found buried on page 11 of an issue reporting the assassination of President JFK. His death, airmailed via television directly into the living room of nearly every home in America, brought together Republicans, Democrats, and Independents alike and unified us around shared grief.  May a day come when such unity of spirit flourishes without the inspiration of deep sorrow, tragedy, or war. As another assassinated President once said: “A house divided against itself cannot stand (Abraham Lincoln).” It is time for us to lay down our weapons. Much is at stake.blog-11-14-2016-prayer-jfk

Seeking the best of the 20th century…

May 23, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Tim_2010The introduction to collecting old newspapers for most typically comes through finding a newspaper of recent past with a headline remembered from history class. They turn up in flea markets, garage sales, and attics, but wherever the discovery, there is a fascination which—for many—begins a quest to find more and better.

Of the five centuries from which old newspapers can be found, the 20th century has one distinct advantage and that is displayability. It was just before the turn of the 20th century that newspaper competition was rampant in the United States and bigger and bigger headlines became one method of grabbing attention over a competitor’s newspaper on the corner newsstand. Headlines from the Spanish-American War of 1898 were often large and dramatic, and that format carried well into the 20th century. Although the aim was to sell more newspapers, the unintended long-term consequence was to intrigue the collector with an enticing headline that would look great on display.

I will touch on some of the more notable events of the 20th century, in chronological order, which may present a “checklist” of events which would be great additions to any collection.

Their can be little question that the oil industry transformed the American landscape, and the first major discovery happened at the beginning 20th century with the Spindletop well near Houston. Just two years later the Wright brothers would make history with their first powered flight, again an event which would transform that way the entire world lives. The first major natural tragedy would be the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, and many newspapers provided graphic details.

The sinking of the Titanic was the next major tragedy which dominated the headlines for not just a day but for several weeks, and newspapers did much to dramatize the event & its investigation. While some newspaper maintained a very conservative format, others sported full banner headlines in bold type with illustrations and photos to make for an appealing front page. Just 3 years later the sinking of the Lusitania would receive similar response by newspaper publishers across the country.

World War I made headlines in American newspapers beginning in 1915, but it was America’s entry in the war in 1917 that would spark more detailed coverage of the war that would end in 1918. News of the armistice ending the war would result in some of the largest & most  dramatic headlines to appear in newspapers up to that  time.

Following the war, baseball would enter its golden era when Babe Ruth came on the scene, he becoming one of the first of the major stars of the 20th century and capturing headlines in newspapers across the country. But just prior to his hay-day was the infamous “Black Sox” scandal of the Chicago White Sox, with charges of fixing the 1919 World Series games involving several Chicago players. But those headlines would soon be supplanted by the exploits of Ruth as his record-breaking streak added much excitement to the game of baseball and newspapers were only too happy to comply with considerable coverage. Other stars would find prominence as well, including fellow Yankees Lou Gehrig & Joe DiMaggio, and later on Ted Williams & Jackie Robinson among the more notable.

Charles Lindbergh’s accomplishment of being the first to fly solo across the Atlantic caused him to be one of the most famous men in the world at the time, and newspaper coverage was exceptional. But shortly after his 1927 flight the gangster era came to the attention of newspaper, the St. Valentine’s Day massacre of 1929 being one of the first major events to find front page coverage across the country. This fascinating  era would extend into the mid-1930’s and names such as Al Capone, John Dillinger, “Baby Face” Nelson, “Legs” Diamond and “Dutch” Schultz were commonly found on front pages.

The stock market crash of 1929 would trigger the Great Depression, which affect the entire nation in so many ways. Collectors look for the most dramatic wording in such a headline, with “Crash” “Tragedy” and similar cataclysmic words making for desirable collector pieces.

Other sports and sports stars would come to prominence in newspapers of the day, including golfer Bobby Jones and his Triple Crown accomplishment in 1930; Phar Lap, one of the Pearl_Harbor_HSB_1_extramore famous race horses of the 20th century; Jim Thorpe and his Olympic and football prowess; Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympics, World Cup soccer, Notre Dame football, boxing greats Jack Johnson, Jack Sharkey, Max Schmeling & Joe Louis commanding headlines, and so much more. There was such extensive coverage of sports in the 20th century that many build huge collections with this singular theme.

Perhaps the most defining event of the 20th century was World War II, begun with the ascendency of  Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party in Germany and his invasion of Poland in 1939. With America’s entry in the war upon the attack on Pearl Harbor, barely a single newspaper for the next 4 ½ years would be devoid of war coverage. Because such issues were commonly saved and found in attics by their children, collectors pursue only the most major events and with the largest headlines. Tops of the list would be Pearl Harbor, battle of Midway, the D-Day invasion, the death of Hitler, the end of the war in Europe, the dropping of the atomic bomb, and the end of the war in the Pacific. Many tabloid-size newspapers had the entire front page consumed by headlines, lending themselves to displayability, particularly given their smaller size.

The Korean War would begin the 1950’s, and would be followed by events of the Cold War. At the end of the decade music would begin making some headlines, led by Elvis Presley and more tragically with the airplane death of Buddy Holly & Richie Valens. A few years later the Beatles would come on the scene to define the music world for the 1960’s.

Politics always made headlines in the 20th century which began with McKinley and ended with Bill Clinton, but perhaps the most collectible political person would be John F. Kennedy. His assassination –the second of the 20th century–stunned the world , and some headlines were extremely dramatic. Always the “best of the best” would be newspapers from where the event happened, so it is no surprise that Dallas newspaper reports on the JFK assassination draw the most interest.

Although the space era began as early as 1928 with the work of Robert Goddard, it was the success of Sputnik & the resulting space race in the late 1950’s that would captivate the headlines.  America made  its mark in the early 1960’s with Alan Shepard and John Glenn, culminating in 1969 with the landing of men on the moon & their safe return.

Scattered throughout the 20th century are many memorable names which made the occasional headline, including Mark Twain, Thomas Edison, Houdini, Albert Einstein, Rudolph Valentino & Walt Disney to name but a few.

Regardless what events or themes a collector might pursue from the 20th century the challenge is to find the most dramatic and impactful report. Large headlines command a premium, and when photos or graphics accompany a headline it only adds to the appeal. Collectors know some great headline reports are lurking out there just begging to be found. The thrill is finding them, and make them prized additions to their collection.

The Battle of Los Angeles…

March 14, 2014 by · 2 Comments 

The Los Angeles Times–Extra” of February 24, 1942 has one of the more dramatic, screaming headlines to be found in any newspaper: “L.A. AREA RAIDED ! ” with a smaller head noting: “Jap Planes Peril Santa Monica, Seal Beach, El Segundo, Redondo, Long Beach, Hermosa, Signal Hill”. The report begins: “Roaring out of a brilliant moonlit western sky, foreign aircraft flying both in large formation and single, few over Southern California early today and drew heavy barrages of anti-aircraft fire–the first ever to sound over United States continental soil against an enemy invader…” (see).

The Battle of Los Angeles, also known as The Great Los Angeles Air Raid, is the name given to this rumored enemy attack and subsequent anti-aircraft artillery barrage which took place from late February 24 to early February 25, 1942 over Los Angeles. The incident occurred less than three months after the United States entered World War II as a result of the Japanese Imperial Navy’s attack on Pearl Harbor.

Initially, the target of the aerial barrage was thought to be an attacking force from Japan, but speaking at a press conference shortly afterward, Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox called the incident a “false alarm.” Newspapers of the time published a number of reports and speculations of a cover-up. Some modern-day UFOlogists have suggested the targets were extraterrestrial spacecraft. When documenting the incident in 1983, the U.S. Office of Air Force History attributed the event to a case of “war nerves” likely triggered by a lost weather balloon and exacerbated by stray flares and shell bursts from adjoining batteries.

Air raid sirens sounded throughout Los Angeles County on the night of February 24-25, 1942. A total blackout was ordered and thousands of air raid wardens were summoned to their positions. At 3:16 am the 37th Coast Artillery Brigade began firing .50 caliber machine guns and 12.8-pound anti-aircraft shells into the air at reported aircraft; over 1,400 shells would eventually be fired. Pilots of the 4th Interceptor Command were alerted but their aircraft remained grounded. The artillery fire continued sporadically until 4:14 am. The “all clear” was sounded and the blackout order lifted at 7:21 am.

Several buildings and vehicles damaged by shell fragments, and five civilians died as an indirect result of the anti-aircraft fire, three of them killed in car accidents in the ensuing chaos and two of heart attacks attributed to the stress of the hour-long action. The incident was front-page news along the U.S. Pacific coast, and earned some mass media coverage throughout the nation.(credit to Wikipedia)

Headlines drive interest in World War II…

March 11, 2013 by · 2 Comments 

For likely a multitude of reasons, interest in World War II newspapers ranks far higher than in the Korean War, World War I, or the Spanish-American War.  It may be a generational thing, as most collectors today are children of World War II veterans and likely heard stories of the war first-hand, or found newspapers in their parents attics which sparked an interest. One could debate a number of other possible reasons why other wars lack the intrigue found in that fought by the “greatest generation”.

Headline collecting has always been a focus for this hobby, and as any collector knows, bold, banner headlines did not become commonplace until late in the 19th century. With the increasing competitiveness of daily newspapers across the country–Hearst, Pulitzer & others rising to prominence–flashier front pages were needed to draw attention at the corner news stand. It’s a shame there is not more interest in the Spanish-American War and World War I as both events resulted in some huge, dramatic, & very displayable headlines.

Because there are a plethora of newspapers from the WWII era available, collectors have become very discriminating in what they collect.  Only the “best of the best” will do, meaning just the major events and only those with huge and displayable headlines. If there is a “top 6” list of sought-after events, our experience is they would be: 1) attack on Pearl Harbor; 2) the D-Day invasion; 3) death of Hitler; 4) end of the war in Europe; 5) dropping of the atomic bomb; 6) end of the war in the Pacific. One could add any number of other battle reports such as Midway, battle of the Bulge, fall of Italy, Iwo Jima, battle for Berlin, and so much more. And we could step back before American involvement in the war and add Hitler’s invasion of Poland and the battle of Britain.
The bigger the headline the better. With some newspapers the entire front page was taken up with a headline and a related graphic. The U.S. flag was a common patriotic device. Tabloid-size newspapers commonly had the front page entirely taken up with a singular headline and tend to be better for display given their smaller size.

And not just American newspapers draw interest. German newspapers hold a special intrigue, but the language barrier is a problem for many. But the British Channel Islands, located in the English Channel between England & France, were occupied by the Nazi during the war so their reports were very pro-Nazi while printed in the English language (ex., Guernsey Island). And the military newspaper “Stars and Stripes“, while certainly being American, was published at various locations in Europe and the Pacific. Collectors have a special interest in finding World War II events in the official newspapers of the American military forces. Plus there were a multitude of “camp” newspapers, amateur-looking newspapers printed on a mimeograph machine for consumption limited to a military base, and typically printed is very small quantities. Their rarity is not truly appreciated by many.

For obvious reasons, there is also a high degree of collectible interest from those wishing to make sure certain aspects of history are not forgotten. The Holocaust, and the Nazi propaganda used to provide a rationale for eliminating the Jewish people, is well documented in newspapers from the era. In addition to the Holocaust and its atrocities, issues providing context through reporting other pre-war events such as the Great Depression, fascism, and increased militarism, are also desirable.

True to any collectable field, newspaper collectors are always on the lookout for an issue better than what they have, and collection upgrades are constant. Finding that special, rare, unusual or fascinating headline is what makes the hobby fun. Will interest in the Korean War and the Vietnam War gain more interest in future years? Perhaps so. With interest currently low and availability and prices very attractive, it might be a good time to explore.

The Traveler… permission to buzz the dome… if things could be redone…

June 20, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Today’s travels found the front page of The Christian Science Monitor dated June 20, 1911 with a nice variety of articles. Harry Atwood was resuming his across the country flight in his Burgess-Wright biplane, carrying different passengers on each leg of the journey.  While in Concord, New Hampshire, “Atwood glided down toward the dome of the New Hampshire state capitol and circled three times about the capitol building.” I wonder if he had permission to buzz the dome? There are additional articles pertaining to the raising of the U.S.S. Maine which had been sunk in Cuba and also of the celebration of President Taft’s silver wedding anniversary.

I found within the issue an article “See Philippines Passing As Naval Base for U.S.” The article identifies which state-side naval bases would remain open and which would be considered for closing. They also referenced Pearl Harbor calling it the “Gibraltar of the Pacific”.  It further mentions it would be the base of operations for the Pacific… “no foreign power would be able to land a large force of men in the Philippines.” Interesting to see how this statement played itself out over time.

~The Traveler

One worth sharing…

March 7, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Many newspapers which are located (geographically) close to where an historic event happened tend to have the largest headlines. The “WAR ! ” issue of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin reporting the bombing of Pearl Harbor is a good example.

When the Apollo 11 astronauts returned home, all newspapers reported the event. But where would you expect the biggest headline on Neil Armstrong’s return? His hometown: Wapakoneta, Ohio.

The photo shows the huge headline of the “Wapakoneta Daily News” when their favorite son returned home. It is certainly one of the largest headlines of the post-World War II era.

Prices realized… 20th century…

September 27, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

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 most famous of all Stock Market Crash newspapers…
THE NEW YORK TIMES, October 25, 1929 ($1,830 – 2010)

Perhaps the nicest Titanic report to be had ?
THE EVENING TIMES, Pawtucket, Rhode Island, April 16, 1912 ($2,423 – 2008)

Best of all Pearl Harbor newspapers…
HONOLULU STAR BULLETIN, 1st EXTRA, Dec. 7, 1941 ($2,352 – 2005)

Most recognized of all 20th century headlines…
CHICAGO DAILY TRIBUNE, Nov. 3, 1948 ($1,925 – 2005)

The previous posts in this series are:

Prices realized… 16th & 17th centuries…

Prices realized… 18th century…

Prices realized…  19th century…


The New York Times, September 12, 2001…

January 7, 2010 by · 19 Comments 

Tragic events in world history have been a part of the hobby of collecting newspapers since it began and likely will be for as long as newspapers exists.  Unfortunately most tragic events are history and are well documented in newspapers of the day, hence their appeal to newspaper collectors. Reports of the Titanic, the Hindenberg, stock market crash, Pearl Harbor and so many more remain among the more desired headlines.

NYT_9_12_2001The tragedy of September 11, 2001 is still raw to many, and may seem an insensitive “collectible” to be desired. Ebay was quick to prohibit the sale of any items relating to September 11 for several months, which I thought very appropriate. But as time passes and the event becomes more a part of past history than current memory newspapers on the event will be deemed as collectible.

Given that the event happened around 9:00 a.m. Eastern time virtually all morning newspapers were already on the newsstands, and unless they produced an “Extra” edition–which many did–first reports were in the next day’s edition of September 12. Afternoon papers had the report in their September 11 edition.

The “New York Times” is a morning paper and its bold “U.S. ATTACKED” banner headline read like many headlines across the country, and given the popularity of this well-known title it may become a desired issue. But let me offer a note of caution: this edition was reprinted by the “Times”. I recall reading in the “Times” a day or two later that given the great demand for the newspaper extra copies were available from the publisher, and if memory serves me correctly the extra editions produced were in the millions, and were identical to the issue which sold on the street the morning of Sept. 12 with no notations of it being a reprint.

So as collectors, be aware that this newspaper will likely never be “rare” in terms of having a limited or even normal press run. And it is likely one will never know whether their issue was printed the morning of Sept. 12 or a few days later. All of this may be perfectly fine for many collectors but I thought it appropriate to mention the situation of this “historic” newspaper.

What’s the best newspaper to have?

August 27, 2009 by · 2 Comments 

Most collectors of historic newspapers would agree that the best newspaper to have for an historic event is the city where it happened. Among the more notable would be the Boston Gazette reporting the Boston Massacre, the Honolulu issue on the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Dallas newspapers on JFK’s assassination, and a Chicago newspaper covering the St. Valentine’s Day massacre.  Stock market or finance related events are best in the Wall Street Journal, and when events happened in small towns which had no newspapers, the closest major city might be the next best thing.

But some events can’t be had—or can very rarely be had—from the city where “it” happened. What are the best issue in those situations? What’s the best issue for man landing on the moon? Or the atomic bomb dropping on Hiroshima & Nagasaki? Or the first manned flight around the earth? Or the discovery of the North Pole? Or Edison’s invention of the phonograph? What would be the best newspaper for the sinking of the Titanic?

oak_ridge_atomic_bombThere are many answers; perhaps as many as there are collectors. But I’ll offer a few thoughts. Actually what brought all of this to mind was an issue I recently wrote up for a future catalog. It announced the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and was from Knoxville, Tennessee. The headline reads: “Power Of Oak Ridge Atomic Bomb Hits Japs”. Keeping in mind that Oak Ridge, Tenn., the home of the Manhattan Project which developed the bomb, is less than 20 miles from Knoxville,  it is not surprising that they localized the headline with mention of the role Oak Ridge played. I suspect no other newspaper in the country mentioned Oak Ridge in their headline on the atomic bomb drop. Outside of finding a Japanese newspaper from the day after, I suspect this Knoxville newspaper could be the best issue on this event.

Any space flight issue might best be from the Cape Canaveral area. Or perhaps the hometown of one of the astronauts involved. We offer a Wapakoneta, Ohio, newspaper on man walking on the moon as it’s Neil Armstrong’s hometown, and their headline is localized by: “NEIL STEPS ON THE MOON” while most newspapers reported “MAN WALKS ON THE MOON”.

The graphic appeal of the front page is a major factor as well and in the eye of many is always the deciding factor in determining the “best” for that event. We price Titanic issues almost entirely on the “wow” effect of the front page, as the larger the headline and more dramatic the look the better, regardless of where the newspaper was printed. This holds true for many 20th century events, such as D-Day, V-E Day, V-J Day and and any other military event. Some might argue that the “Stars And Stripes” would be the best paper for a military event, or perhaps newspaper from Washington D.C., home of the Pentagon.

We’d like to hear what you think on the best issues for historic events which can’t be found from the city involved. I’m sure your thoughts will spark other collectors to refine their holdings with better or more appropriate newspapers for notable events. Let us here from you!

Genuine or reprint?

March 26, 2009 by · 24 Comments 

A great fear of any novice collector is knowing whether an item purchased is genuine or not. It’s a valid concern, as the other collectibles have been infested by reproduction,s reprints, or deceivingly fake material from furniture to coins to baseball collectibles.

The world of rare newspapers is not immune but it is not a serious problem either. With a few helpful hints almost every collector can avoid the pitfalls of having non-genuine newspapers end up in their collection.

Fake material of any collectible seems to become an problem when popularity and values grow. Since rare newspaper collecting remains a relatively unknown hobby with relatively low prices there is little incentive to create fake editions. And the requirements to recreate a 200 year old newspaper to have it look like a genuine edition can be complex and expensive.

With but one exception, I am not aware of any reprinted newspapers which were created to deceive. Virtually all facsimile issues on the market were created as souvenirs of historic events (Honolulu issues on Pearl Harbor can still be purchased at the memorial), on anniversaries of the first issue printed (many volume one, number one issues are reprints), as curious give-aways or “premiums” (major events such as the Boston Massacre, Declaration of Independence, etc. were reprinted), or as teaching tools in an educational environment (Harper’s Weekly issues from the Civil War were reprinted on their 100th anniversary: look for “a reissue of” above the “H” in “Harper’s Weekly” on page 1).

The lone exception is a collection of the “Pennsylvania Gazette” from the 1730’s – 1787 with issues turning up in small auction halls throughout the East some 20 years ago. The issues were aged to look 200 years old and the paper was very close to genuine newsprint from the era. Beware of this title if it contains a “Tontine Coffee House” inked stamp on the front page & if it looks a bit washed out.

The number of reprint newspapers on the market is exceedingly small so collectors have little to worry about. But keep these points in mind:

1) The most common reprint newspapers are on the Library of Congress check-list. Go here to keep the list handy. It also includes helpful tips on how to tell if genuine or a reprint.

2) Be aware of what 200 year old and 100 year old newsprint should look like. Almost all reprints were done on paper which is not reflective of the era.

3) Be suspicious of exceedingly historic newspaper turning up in illogical places. The likelihood of a genuine Declaration of Independence report being in flea market or amongst of group of papers from a non-collecting family is very remote. In other words if the find seems too good to be true, it likely is.

4) Be careful with volume one, number one newspapers. Such first editions were commonly reprinted by the publisher on the 50th or 100th anniversary.

5) Above all, buy from reputable dealers whose expertise, experience and reputation stand behind all they sell.

The “Honolulu Star-Bulletin” of Dec. 7, 1941 mentioned above is not on the Library of Congress check-list, however it’s easy to spot a reprint. The genuine issue has an ink smear between the “A” and “R” in the huge word “WAR!” on the front page (see photo). They cleaned it up on the reprint so it won’t be present.

And a news flash–I just learned that the “Dallas Morning News” issue of Nov. 23, 1963 reporting Kennedy’s assassination has been reprinted. Look for the word “Reprint” in the dateline just after the four stars. Do note those we have on our website & have sold for over 20 years are all genuine!

Common sense can be the best guide. The requirements to reprint an 8 page Civil War newspaper with a minor battle report could cost hundreds of dollars while the genuine issue might sell for $20, so chances are good such finds are genuine. For this reason our hobby is a fascinating one not prone to the pitfalls of other collectibles.

Our community of collectors is quite small which has worked in our favor. All of us are in an enviable position of being able to assemble great collections of historic material before the world at large “discovers” our hobby and changes the environment in years to come.

Enjoy!

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