The revered September 15, 1790 issue of the Gazette of the United States. The back story…

July 1, 2024 by · Leave a Comment 

We are very proud to offer the most significant American newspaper with Jewish content, in which Washington assured the congregation of the Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island, that the United States “…gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance…”, perhaps the more famous utterance by a President in the establishment of religious freedom.

The newspaper is the “Gazette Of The United States” dated September 15, 1790, published in New York at the time. To fully appreciate its significance, we offer the following “back story” to this issue containing both Seixas’ letter of welcome to Washington, 

and Washington’s response to the congregation of the Touro Synagogue.

Upon his election as President, many churches, congregations, and religious societies wrote to George Washington to congratulate him on his new office, and he replied to each of them with personalized messages of thanks for their well-wishes. In his reply to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Washington applauded the people of the United States for rejecting the European practice of religious “toleration,” embracing instead the “large and liberal policy” that religious liberty is a natural right — and not a gift of government — which all citizens are equally free to exercise.

In 1790, George Washington visited Rhode Island to acknowledge the state’s recent ratification of the Constitution and to promote passage of the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the Constitution. As was the custom, when Washington visited Newport, he was met by a delegation of citizens, who read messages of welcome. One of those who welcomed Washington was Moses Seixas, the warden of the Touro Synagogue in Newport. Touro is the oldest synagogue building in America and the only one existing from the colonial era. In his welcome, Seixas gave thanks to “the Ancient of Days, the great preserver of men” that the Jews, previously “deprived … of the invaluable rights of free Citizens” on account of their religion, now lived under a government “which to bigotry gives no sanction, to persecution no assistance.”

Washington was moved by Seixas’ letter. The president’s response differentiated between religious toleration and religious liberty, as it specifically applied to American Jews. Washington wrote that Americans “have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy – a policy worthy of imitation . . . It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights.”

Washington’s reply set a significant precedent that separated a more passive practice of tolerance, from the more potent one of liberty. Even the most liberal European states such as the Netherlands had policies that merely tolerated non-Protestants. In alluding to the Bible’s Old Testament, Washington unequivocally called for religious equality for Jews stating that “the Children of the Stock of Abraham . . . shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree.”

Notably, Washington imitated Seixas’s phrasing in his reply in writing that the United States “gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance” requiring only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.” The president’s reply made loyalty to country, as opposed to Protestant allegiance, the prerequisite for religious equality.

This letter was written during Washington’s first term as President and is Washington’s clearest statement of religious tolerance. It is considered a steppingstone for the First Amendment that would come the following year in 1791 and is considered a foundational document establishing Washington’s belief in the separation of church and state.

One of the more unusual, graphic issues on Lincoln’s death…

June 17, 2024 by · Leave a Comment 

The Philadelphia Inquirer had several issues on Lincoln’s death and funeral that were very graphic, more such issues than any other title we’ve encountered from the era. But perhaps the most unusual–I might use the word stunning–would have to be the Cleveland Morning Leader issue of April 28, 1865.

As would be expected of this date, the front page has nice column heads concerning the capture & death of John Wilkes Booth, including: “Stanton’s Bulletin!” “J. W.  BOOTH! SHOT” “Harrold Captured!” “The Murderer’s Remains in Washington” “The Funeral Train” and more.

But the ink bleed-through on the front-page hints that page 2 has something unusual. And indeed it does, as does page 3 as well. When this four-page issue is opened the entirety of page 2 is taken up with a “monument” to the memory of Abraham Lincoln, set in type, done in a graphic style that appears like a monument. There is text within the “monument” but no other text on the page.

And page 3 contains a black-bordered box with five phrases relating to Lincoln, one a quote from his Emancipation Proclamation, and another a bit from one of his speeches.

It’s curious that we purchased this issue at auction with the description limited to just the front-page content on John Wilkes Booth. No mention was made of the inside content, but having had this issue before we knew what was inside – so much more notable than the front page.

 

Be sure you are buying what you think you are buying…

June 10, 2024 by · Leave a Comment 

History can throw collectors a curve ball now and then. If something read in an early newspaper doesn’t seem quite right, take a few moments to research. With the plethora of information on the internet today, it need not be difficult nor time-consuming.
When writing up a 1792 newspaper reporting the installation of the cornerstone of the President’s house, at first blush it seems to agree with history. The cornerstone of what is now known as the White House was, indeed, laid in 1792. But it reports it happened in Philadelphia. Okay, the nation’s capital moved from New York to its temporary location in Phila. for ten years while the District of Columbia was being built out, so again the report seemed logical. However, more research uncovered what was being reported.
The newspaper is the Columbian Centinel from Boston, dated May 26, 1792. Page 3 has a somewhat inconspicuous report reading: “The following inscription is cut on the cornerstone lately laid as the foundation of the house designed for the future residence of the President of the United States, viz ‘This Corner Stone of the House to Accommodate the President of the United States, was laid May 10, 1792; when Pennsylvania was out of debt; Thomas Mifflin then Governour of the State’.”
Here is the background of the report:
As mentioned, the U.S. capital did move to Philadelphia. The President’s House was a mansion built from 1792 to 1797 by the state of Pennsylvania, located on Ninth St. between Market and Chestnut Streets, in Philadelphia. This was done to persuade the federal government to permanently stay in the city, yet this house intended for the president of the United States never housed any president.
On July 16, 1790, Congress passed the Residence Act which designated Philadelphia the temporary capital for a 10-year period while the permanent capital at Washington, D.C., was constructed. The recently built Congress Hall was used from December 6, 1790, to May 14, 1800. The president of the United States, first George Washington and then John Adams, resided at the house leased from financier Robert Morris, also known as the President’s House, on Market Street, between Fifth and Sixth Streets.
In September 1791, the Pennsylvania state government enacted the “Federal Building Bill” to pay for the renovations needed for the federal government office space and for the construction of a new executive mansion. Twelve lots were purchased on the west side of Ninth Street, between Market Street, then named High Street, and Chestnut Street.
This is the building with the cornerstone mentioned in the newspaper report, laid on May 10, 1792 (the cornerstone of the White House in Wash. D.C. was laid five months later). On March 3, 1797, Penna. Governor Mifflin offered the nearly completed mansion to John Adams on the eve of his inauguration. But Adams rejected the offer on constitutional grounds stating “as I entertain great doubts whether, by a candid construction of the Constitution of the United States, I am at liberty to accept it without the intention and authority of Congress”.
Thus neither Washington, no longer president when the mansion was ready, nor Adams, would reside in the President’s House in Philadelphia.
In 1800, the University of Pennsylvania purchased the property at public auction for use as a new, expanded campus. The university demolished the building in 1829 and replaced it with two new buildings.
So goes the interesting history of the “White House” that never was. Yet the report is an interesting piece of history nonetheless.

The reason I collected it: Newe Gazette van Brugge…

May 13, 2024 by · Leave a Comment 

Sometimes it’s nice just to be handsome to be collectible. The New Gazette van Brugge from 1815 Belgium is not particularly early for a European title, nor am I aware of any historic content. But the masthead is deep, it includes a coat-of-arms engraving, and has beautifully ornate lettering in the title, not to mention two tax stamps in the masthead. Additionally, it was never bound nor trimmed and is small enough to frame economically–hence a logical addition to our private collection.

“Collecting Newspapers – The Basics” (Part IV) – Setting Values…

March 25, 2024 by · 532 Comments 

We are often asked “What’s my newspaper worth?” in phone calls and email messages. As one might suspect, there are many factors which determine value and much like a jeweler cannot give a value of a diamond by an email or telephone inquiry, our ethics do not permit us to place values on newspapers without seeing the issues in hand.

Many factors determine value. The more important include condition, desirability among collectors, extent of coverage, completeness of the issue, proximity of the city of publication to where the event happened, time lag between the event date and the reporting date, dramatic appeal (more so with 20th century issues), and location of the report within the issue (front page? page 3?). Other factors come into play with more significant events but those noted are the prime determinants of value.

From a personal perspective setting values has been an interesting process, as no guide book of values existed 30+ years ago when I started the business. I priced an item in my catalog for $10 and if I had twenty orders for it I knew the price was too low.  If no one ordered it the price was too high. Through the years, and by data basing sold prices (on index cards prior to the computer!), I’ve honed my own “price guide” based on actual sales, and it is this now-sophisticated database which we use to set values for new inventory as it arrives.

Do values continue to rise? In general, yes, but we are careful to never recommend the purchase of early newspapers for investment purposes. As is true of most collectibles, rarity and desirability determine where prices will be for the future.

But providing an historical perspective from our own files, back in October of 1981 we sold in our catalog #26 the NEW YORK HERALD of March 5, 1865 reporting the inauguration of Abraham Lincoln, very nice condition, for $70. In 2018 we sold another issue of the NEW YORK HERALD of March 5, 1865, also in very nice condition, for $745. If we had a similar issue today, it would likely go for around $1,000 – and even more if offered through a prominent auction house.

So, what do you do if you have a newspaper and would like to know its approximate value? One resource is this Blog – not for posting questions, but for exploring. We have many posts which provide specific examples of issues and their prices. Perhaps a better resource is the Rare & Early Newspapers website which provides 10,000+ examples (best to search by date and look for a comparable – see image below). Once you’ve explored these avenues, you are always welcome to contact us directly by email (guy@rarenewspapers.com). We would need the exact title and exact date of each issue to get started. Sending only photos does not work for us.

What two resources are not helpful?

1) Ebay. Why? Just because someone is asking for an amazing price doesn’t mean they’ll ever sell it at that price. “Previous Sales” are what matters.

2) Posting a question on this Blog. Why? We rarely monitor it.

Feel free to send any additional questions concerning the valuation of newspaper to us at the same email shown above. We’ll do our best to answer any that come our way… and who knows, perhaps they show up in a future post. 🙂

The reason I collected it: The State, 1892…

February 23, 2024 by · Leave a Comment 

The odd, dramatic, and unusual have always been a draw for me, and when I encountered The State (dated Nov. 9, 1892) from Richmond, Virginia, I knew it had to be part of the private collection.
The entire front page is a celebration of the election of Grover Cleveland as President in 1892. It is done in a very dramatic fashion, featuring a huge engraving of a rooster (once the symbol of the Democratic party) that stretches from just below the dateline to the bottom of the front page. There are also insets of both Cleveland and Adlai Stevenson. Of curious interest is the lack of a headline or any text.
The condition is worn as was typical with newsprint of the era, and with various archival repairs, but wow, what a wonderful issue for display!

The reason I collected it: The Battery, 1848…

January 19, 2024 by · Leave a Comment 

THE BATTERY, from Washington, D.C., was a campaign newspaper supporting Zachary Taylor for President and Millard Fillmore for Vice President.
In the era before radio, television, and the internet it was not uncommon for political parties to create short-lived newspapers to support their candidate and publicize their political platform. Such newspapers tended to be short-lived; once the election was over… so was the newspaper. However, some titles existed for some months afterward.
Shown below is a portion of the #16 issue dated Oct. 19, 1848, the title existing from July 6 through November 2, 1848, then printing just two more issues: Nov. 16, 1848 and Jan. 25, 1849, for a total of 20 issues.
Of special interest–and a prime reason for it qualifying for the private collection–is the great masthead engraving, which is essentially a political cartoon showing the heroic Taylor on his horse commanding: “A little More Grape! Captain Bragg” to be shot at Lewis Cass, his political rival.
This phrase was a famous one in Taylor’s military career, a command to then-Captain (later General in the Confederacy) Braxton Bragg to fire more grapeshot at the Mexicans during the Battle of Buena Vista in the Mexican War.

A wonderfully rare title, a short-lived Presidential campaign newspaper, and a political cartoon for a masthead.

Some comic relief should be found in every collection… Early parachute attempt in 1785…

November 13, 2023 by · Leave a Comment 

There seems to be a preponderance of tragic, dismal events that dominate our collections. After all, they tend to be very historic and life-altering. Think of all the “great” wars, various assassinations, the Titanic, Lusitania, & Hindenburg, and so much more.
So the occasional report with comic overtones can be refreshing. I recently wrote up an issue of the London Chronicle, July 14, 1785, with American content, but it also contains on the back page a very early parachute demonstration that went awry.
The report concerning a man who scheduled a parachute demonstration at the Blanchard Aerostatic Academy in England, planning to: “…let himself down from a prodigious altitude, and to manifest his composure by playing on a violin during his descent. To fulfill these promises, the ingenious operator had provided machinery, by which he might have been raised about 45 feet!
When the time arrived, he, with his Cremona [high-quality violin], entered the vehicle, and was raised with infinite precaution…”.
Okay, read the article to see how it plays out.

The reason I collected it: The John-Donkey – 1848…

October 30, 2023 by · Leave a Comment 

While historic events & people–whether they be tragic, heroic, or celebratory–are the domain for most collectors, venturing out of this arena into the small world of comic and satire magazines can be a refreshing change.

This title is a great example, and in my 47 years of collecting newspapers this is the only issue I have encountered. It lasted but 29 weekly issues in 1848. Its significance is such that Frank L. Mott, in his book “A History of American Magazines, 1741-1850”, devoted a chapter to this title.

A few comments from his book include: “…John-Donkey always maintained the tradition of his stupidity… he claimed only to be stupid and was continually trying to prove his stupidity…Most of John-Donkey’s articles, long and short, were satires upon contemporary events or fads, upon organizations, movements, and persons. Politics were prominent…The first page of each issue bore a series of pictures of John Donkey himself in various attitudes…Each number contained a political cartoon, full pate in size, and printed on an unbacked leaf [the print in this issue of ‘The Pennsylvania Thimble-Rigger’, blank on the reverse]…  It is very probable that the seven libel suits filed against the John-Donkey in May had something to do with its demise…”. The photos below is of the issue dated March 11, 1848 – the one I collected.

The reason I collected it: Dodge’s Literary Museum…

August 21, 2023 by · Leave a Comment 

Mastheads of newspapers through the centuries offer a very wide assortment of styles, sizes and decorativeness, with many being quite mundane. Only the “special” ones make it to the private collection, and “Dodge’s Literary Museum” is one.
Any newspapering which the masthead consumes one-third of the front page qualifies. This title’s masthead engraving consumes over half of the front page, very unusual as such. The content may be literary items with no “newsy” reports, but the front page is certainly worth of collecting, regardless of what is inside.21

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