Most historic Civil War event (revisited)…

September 28, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Continuing with our discussion on the “most historic” reports to be found in newspapers, we have been discussing the events of American history by era, the last being the post-Civil War 19th century. This post will discuss the Civil War era of 1861 – 1865.

Of the many events of the 19th century which changed the course of American history few would argue that the Civil War was the most significant. But what single event during the Civil War would rank as the most significant? If you could only have one newspaper from the Civil War in your collection, what one event would you most desire?

There are a number of events to consider:

1) The election of Abraham Lincoln. Although it happened in late 1860 and not technically from the war, this event would would set the tone of American politics which would lead to the war. What would have happened had he not been elected?

2) The beginning of the Civil War in April, 1861, for obvious reasons.

3) The Emancipation Proclamation of September, 1862, providing freedom to all slaves in all states, although more in theory than practicality.

4) The battle of Gettysburg, as the turning point of the Civil War.

5) The assassination of Lincoln: how would the country been different had he not been assassinated and served out his 2nd four year term?

Perhaps other events should be considered as the most historically significant. What are your thoughts?

My vote would be for the battle of Gettysburg. If it was a given that a war was inevitable to settle the political, cultural & economic divide between the North & South, it’s arguable that the war’s end was decided at Gettysburg. The tide had turned in favor of the North and  at that point it was just a matter of when it would end and not who would win.

What’s your thought?

The Articles of Confederation formally united the 13 colonies (revisited)…

August 29, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

An oldie, but a goodie…

The following post was originally published in 2008:

For a collector of historic American documents as printed in period newspapers a printing of the “Articles of Confederation” would be a very significant issue. With much credit to Wikipedia, the creation & importance of this document provides some fascinating reading:

The Articles of Confederation was the governing constitution of the alliance of thirteen independent and sovereign states known as the “United States of America.” The Articles’ ratification, proposed in 1777, was completed in 1781, legally uniting the states by agreement into the “United States of America” as a union with a confederation government. Under the Articles (and the succeeding Constitution) the states retained sovereignty over all governmental functions not specifically deputed to the central government.

The last draft of the Articles was written in the summer of 1777 and adopted by the Second Continental Congress on November 15, 1777 in York, Pennsylvania after a year of debate. The Articles set the rules for operations of the “United States” confederation. The confederation was capable of making war, negotiating diplomatic agreements, and resolving issues regarding the western territories; it could not mint coins (each state had its own currency) nor could it borrow money, whether inside or outside the United States. An important element of the Articles was that Article XIII stipulated that “their provisions shall be inviolably observed by every state” and “the Union shall be perpetual”.

The Articles were created by the chosen representatives of the states in the Second Continental Congress out of a perceived need to have “a plan of confederacy for securing the freedom, sovereignty, and independence of the United States.” Although serving a crucial role in the victory in the American Revolutionary War, a group of “federalists” felt that the Articles lacked provisions for a sufficiently effective government. The key criticism by those who favored a more powerful central state (the federalists) was that the government lacked taxing authority; it had to request funds from the states. Another criticism of the Articles was that they did not strike the right balance between large and small states in the legislative decision making process. Due to its one-state, one-vote structure, the larger states were expected to contribute more but had only one vote. The Articles were replaced by the United States Constitution when created in 1787.

Our issue of the Pennsylvania Ledger dated March 11, 1778 contains the complete printing of the Articles of Confederation. The many photos will allow you to enjoy the significance of the newspaper and to appreciate how those who held this actual edition some 230 years ago might have felt knowing the independent colonies were joining together for a common cause–to not only provide a foundation for a united country which might some day–hopefully–become a world player, but for more immediate purposes, to survive the incursions of the British during the ongoing Revolutionary War. In 1778 no one knew how either effort might turn out.

Enjoy the issue!

More on printing newspapers in the 1700’s (revisited)…

June 27, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

This article is primarily taken from the April, 1996 edition of “Collectible Newspapers” edited by Rick Brown, whom we thank for this contribution. It offers some interesting insights into the printing & distributing of newspapers in the colonial and post-colonial era of the United States.

printing_pressNewspapers from the latter half of the 18th century were relatively scarce. One factor was that early settlers were busy clearing the land & otherwise making the land habitable & sustaining. Plus only a small percentage of the population had reading skills beyond that of the basic rudiments. Although most towns of any size by 1715 had tracts of land set aside for schools, few actually had schools built & in operation.

Nearly all 18th century newspapers were edited & published by printers that had a general printing business and also printed pamphlets, books, broadsides, lottery tickets, etc. Many also sold merchandise, groceries, patent medicines, and a variety of other goods. Rags, which were used to make the paper , were scarce in the colonies so most of the paper was imported from England.

Newspapers were printed on wooden hand presses with each application of ink to paper requiring a pull of by lever and screw. It was not until around 1816 that the new iron Columbian press came into general use. Instead of a screw it used a series of compound levers that multiplied the pull of the operator. But still, all hand presses were slow & laborious. The forms had to be laid by hand and the ink was poor and of uneven quality. Types were frequently old and worn.

After the newspapers were printed, distribution difficulties were encountered. Circulation was confined, for the most part, to the towns in which they were published. They were distributed to the rural areas by post-boys on horseback and by stagecoach drivers. The roads were bad & the postal system was slow. Subscribers were few & the cost of an issue relatively expensive so newspapers were typically handed around from one to another so that a single copy was ready by many. Even those who subscribed often failed to pay for their subscriptions.

It has been estimated that the largest circulation of a single newspaper during the earlier colonial period was about 350 and that only a few reached this high of a number of circulation. By the 1750’s circulation for larger city newspapers reached upwards of 600 of each issue printed and during the Revolutionary War some newspapers boasted circulations in excess of 2000. By 1790 most newspapers were printing less than 1000 copies but the very popular “Columbian Centinel” from Boston was printing over 4000 copies of each printing date.

Despite poor equipment, limited circulation, nonpaying subscribers, poor distribution facilities & the general unprofitability of publishing a newspaper, the number of newspapers being published continued to increase as the years went by. There were numerous failures, but new newspapers were established to replace them. From 1704 to 1820 about 1634 newspapers came to life and died. Of that number only two-thirds of them lived beyond three years.

(originally posted in 2009)

Newspaper circulation in the 1700’s (revisited)…

June 13, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

columbian_centinelWe often get queries as to what the circulation numbers were of colonial and later 18th century newspapers. Clarence Brigham, in his book “Journals & Journeymen” provides some helpful information.

The earliest comment on newspaper circulation in America was by publisher John Campbell in his Boston News-Letter of 1719. He notes that “…he cannot vend 300 at an impression, tho’ some ignorantly concludes he sells upwards of a thousand…”.

Famed publisher Isaiah Thomas remarked: “In 1754 four newspapers only were printed in New England…weekly, & the average number of copies did not exceed 600 from each press.”

Circulation gradually grew as the days of the Revolution approached. Rivington’s New York Gazetteer of Oct. 31, 1774 boated his weekly impressions “… increased to 3600…”, and Thomas noted in his Mass. Spy of Dec. 21, 1780 noted he had a pre-Revolutionary circulation of 3500 copies, then was driven out of Boston by the British invasion & established the Spy in Worcester. In 1775-6 circulation was 1500, in 1778-9 it was 1200, and in 1781 it did 500 impressions. He also noted that: “It has always been allowed that 600 customers, with a considerable number of advertisements, weekly, will but barely support the publication of a newspaper.”

Later Thomas noted that the famous Connecticut Courant of Hartford had a circulation which exceeded his Mass. Spy, that: “…the number of copies printed weekly was equal to, if not greater, than that of any other paper on the continent.”

In the last decade of the 18th century the number of newspapers increased, but circulation did not keep step & in generally averaged from 600 to 700. A few papers from larger cities were exceptions such as the Maryland Journal of Baltimore which claimed a circulation of near 2000. And the very popular Columbian Centinel would top the list of all 18th century newspapers in circulation with over 4000 per issue. Other popular late-18th century titles & their circulations included the Aurora with 1700; the Farmer’s Weekly Museum with 2000 and Porcupine’s Gazette with over 2000 in circulation in 1799.

But given these numbers, how many copies of any single date survived? A good question as certainly the vast majority were read and discarded. Outside of those held by institutions in bound volumes those which exist in collectors’ hands today almost assuredly came from deaccessioned institutional holdings and likely will be the only issues to see the light of day for many years to come.

(originally posted in 2009)

A ghost robs a bank (revisited)…

October 29, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

And just in time for Halloween, a report from “The Observer” of London, January 1, 1797 (original post, 2010):

#17 – Most historic: Pre-Revolutionary War… (*revisited)

May 9, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

As our last discussion point on the most historic event to have in an early American newspaper collection we’ll consider the pre-Revolutionary War era.

What a period of time, from the mid-1600’s thru 1775. Keep in mind that the only newspapers to be had with American content thru 1704 would be British, most likely limited to the Oxford/London Gazette. The “Boston News-Letter” as America’s first successful newspaper began in 1704 but it can be exceedingly difficult to find any American newspaper prior to 1730. In any case let’s consider the event & not the rarity of the newspaper itself. Remember, we’re dreaming here anyway.

Dig out your history books and give thought to what single historic event in American history from this period you would like to have in your newspaper collection.

Source:  The Smithsonian

Source: The Smithsonian

Much of the late 17th century was dealing with settling the “New World” and territorial issues not just with the Native Americans but the various European countries, all trying to establish a foothold, and increasing it at that. The early 18th century saw the creation of colonial governments and continuing territorial problems, leading to the French & Indian War, which in itself created financial problems in England which led to greater taxation in America to pay for related expenses. Of course the colonists were not keen on tightening controls and increased taxation levied by a government 3000 miles away and before long there was a revolution.

My choice would be the “Pennsylvania Journal & Weekly Advertiser” issue of Oct. 31, 1765. Known as the “tombstone edition” because of the great graphics, it signaled the beginning of the Stamp Act in America, the most hated of the taxes up to that point, only to be following by more from Great Britain. The Stamp Act was the catalyst for a disintegrating relationship with the mother country. This newspaper (see photo) is both visually dramatic and historically significant in presaging the biggest event in 18th century America history.

What’s your thought?

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*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. This year (2014) we are revisiting the top 25 posts (measured by activity), with the number 1 post being re-posted 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 guy@rarenewspapers.com.

#18 – America’s first newspaper… Check your attics. (*revisited)

April 18, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

The very first newspaper printed in the American colonies was published in Boston in 1690 and titled “Publick Occurrences Both Foreign and Domestick”. It was a little paper with three pages of text. The fourth page was left blank for others to write handwritten pieces of news before being passed on to others. It was published by Benjamin Harris who had experience in publishing another newspaper in London several years prior to his arrival in the colonies, titled “Domestick Intelligence, Or News Both from City & Country”.

His Boston effort focused on local news but it also included gossip and unflattering reports. One account notes it contained: “…affections of a very high nature: As also sundry doubtful and uncertain Reports…”. The mixture of doubtful and uncertain reports, as well as a ban on printing without a license which Harris did not have, caused his first issue to also be his last. Reports note that the royal governor had the printing press destroyed and all known issues of that one date of September 25, 1690 confiscated.

To this day only one genuine issue of the newspaper is known to exist, and unfortunately it’s not in the United States: it is in the Public Records office in London. Some years ago it was loaned to The Newseum in Washington, D.C. (then located across the Potomac in Virginia) for a period of time, but I believe it has been returned to London.

The intriguing part of this story is that “all known issues were confiscated and destroyed”. But exactly when did this happen? Was it done several hours since it was printed, or a few days later? It was intended to be a monthly publication. Certainly the possibility exists that a few issues were not found & confiscated, and with the owners knowing of the search they may have purposely hidden them away.

Could an issue or two still exist in a Boston attic somewhere? Is there a private library where an issue was hidden among the pages of a book in hopes of not being confiscated? Could a renovation project to a Boston area home reveal an issue tucked within its walls over 300 years ago? It is fascinating to think that some examples could be found so long after being published. But to this date none have surfaced.

Speculation runs wild as to the value of an issue should it surface. It’s America’s very first newspaper, and none exist in America. What sort of price could be set on such an issue? What should be the future home of an issue should it be found?

Feel free to comment!

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*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. This year (2014) we are revisiting the top 25 posts (measured by activity), with the number 1 post being re-posted 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 guy@rarenewspapers.com.

#19 – Coffee House newspapers: a brief history… (*revisited)

March 28, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

A number of titles on our website are referred to as “coffee house newspapers” with little explanation as to what they are. I think we owe our customers a bit of history on this interesting era.

During most of the 17th century newspaper publishing was very heavily regulated. All printing offices in England were under the control of the Surveyor of the Imprimery, or Press. Roger L’Estrange held the position in the latter half of the century and had the sole privilege of writing, printing & publishing newspapers, being involved in the “Intelligencer”, “The News”, the “City Mercury” and the “Observator“. His monopoly was broken in 1665 with the creation of the “Oxford Gazette”, renamed the “London Gazette” when it removed there after 23 issues in Oxford.

With the arrival of William of Orange in 1689 came a reduction of state control over the press. This new-found freedom gave the independent press a real impetus. Readers’ interests widened. Politics & religion were no longer everyone’s cup of tea, for it was in the post-1689 years that the coffee house as a meeting place for exchanging merchandise & ideas came into its own. Newspapers provided stimulus for conversations and gossip & entertainment became accepted & then demanded.
The London coffee-houses provided a gathering place where any man who was reasonably dressed could smoke his long, clay pipe, sip his coffee, read the newsletters of the day, or enter into conversation with other patrons. At this period when journalism was in its infancy and the postal system was unorganized and irregular, the coffee-house provided a center of communication for news and information. Runners were sent round to the coffee house to report major events of the day, such as victory in battle or political upheaval, and the newsletters and gazettes of the day were distributed chiefly in the coffee house. Most of the establishments functioned as reading rooms. In addition, bulletins announcing sales, sailings, and auctions covered the walls of the establishments, providing valuable information to the businessman who conducted much of his business from a table at his favorite coffee house.

During this era, particularly the early years of the 18th century, newspapers such as the “Tatler“, “Spectator“, “Guardian” “Athenian Mercury” & “Rehearsal” among others were very much in vogue in the coffee houses, and were more dialogue in format with back & forth discussion of a specific topic rather than reporting of news of the day.

By the latter half of the 18th century coffee house culture had run its course, but left in its wake much interesting literary work by some notable names including Daniel DeFoe (wrote for “A Review Of The State Of The Nation“, Joseph Addison & Richard Steele among others. Newspaper format tended more towards reporting news events of the day with presses being established outside the boundaries of London as well as increased activity within the city. One of the more successful titles which flourished in the latter half of the 1700’s was the “London Chronicle“, many issues of which we offer on our website, catalogs and supplements.

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*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. This year (2014) we are revisiting the top 25 posts (measured by activity), with the number 1 post being re-posted 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 guy@rarenewspapers.com.

#20 – Thoughts on the most historic 19th century report… (*revisited)

March 21, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

A few weeks ago we had some interesting comments on what collectors thought was the most historic 20th century newspaper report. Let’s try the same with the 19th century. But given the tremendous diversity of events from 1801 thru 1900 I’m going to break the century into three parts: pre-Civil War; the Civil War; and post-Civil War. Let’s work our way backwards and discuss the post-Civil War era first.

There are many ways to approach “most historic”. My approach will be the most life-altering event with emphasis on “event”. One could argue that the second Industrial Revolution dramatically changed the world but it cannot be pinned down to a single date or event.

Several items come to mind: the first successful Atlantic cable in 1866 was a major step in causing the world to be much smaller–a trend which continues to this day; the completion of the transcontinental railroad in the United States was a major step in the westward expansion & settlement of the United States which changed the country in many ways; and then there is the Battle of Wounded Knee which was the last battle in the American Indian Wars and the official end of the Old West. Not to be omitted would be the invention of the automobile by gentlemen in Germany in 1889.

I’m going to go with the completion of the transcontinental railroad. In thinking of the multitude of events which played off this event and how it changed the fabric of America (pardon the ethnocentrism) I’ll vote for it as the most historic event of the 19th century post-Civil War era.

What are your thoughts?

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*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. This year (2014) we are revisiting the top 25 posts (measured by activity), with the number 1 post being re-posted 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 guy@rarenewspapers.com.

#21 – Pricing newspapers over 30 years ago… (*revisited)

March 7, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

pricing_issues_iiIn conversations with people about how I started this business, a common question is, “How did you know how to prices newspapers back then?” Well, the short answer is I didn’t.

This venture started as a hobby with no thought of it turning into a business. But when I started getting too many of a similar title or date, selling off the “unwanteds” became a more common occurrence. My simple thought was, if I had $3 for it, try to sell it for $5. If I did, the price stuck for future issues; if it didn’t, the price dropped to $4.

But this became trickier years later when I was buying for resale but didn’t have enough experience to know what to pay, nor what to price them at. Nor did anyone for that matter, as there were no price guides, nor sufficient auction records to offer a clue.

I was flying by the seat of my pants. If I thought an event was historic, say a major Civil War battle, I would pay the $5 price and increase it by 50% or so. If it sold, then the next time I inched it up a bit more. If it didn’t, I reduced the price a bit. Never knowing how high customers might go for an event, I might have “inched up” the price of an event 15 times over the coarse of 4 or 5 years until there was some resistance. I was careful to keep records of sales through the years–even in the pre-computer days–which was a tremendous assistance in assigning values to the myriad of historical events covering 300 years of history.

pricing_issues_iDid I sell some great material too cheaply in the early years? I sure did. Looking at some of my earlier catalogs I gladly pay five times the selling price of many items I sold. But it was part of the process. I remember nce having a volume of a Las Vegas, New Mexico newspaper from 1881. There must have been 30 or 40 issues with a small “Reward” ad for the capture of Billy the Kid. I think I sold those issues for less than $20 each. If I had 40 of them how rare could they be? Certainly I’ve learned through the years, and became smarter as well.

But we are still challenged today with some items. As we continue to find truly rare, almost unique issues it becomes difficult to assign values with no history or prior sales. But these are the fun challenges. As much as you may enjoy finding interesting items in our catalogs, I enjoy finding the unusual to offer.

Although this is a business, I have always gotten more joy from buying newspapers than selling them.

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*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. This year (2014) we are revisiting the top 25 posts (measured by activity), with the number 1 post being re-posted 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 guy@rarenewspapers.com.

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