Newspaper Mottoes

Back in the days that are almost over, before the University of Texas’ historical newspapers were on the move to the Library Storage Facility at the Pickle Campus and when the old newspapers were mostly in one room at the Collections Deposit Library, one could walk up and down the rows and see what was there, when it was, and its condition.  If one was curious, as I was, one could collect the mottoes of the various newspapers, for in the early days, almost all had one.  There were those that used quotations – and the thoughtful newspaper told its readers where the quotation came from.  The New England Galaxy used this quote from Dr. Johnson:  “To raise esteem, we must benefit others; to procure love, we must please them.”   Shakespeare is the source of this quotation used by the Charleston City Gazette:  “Nothing extenuate, nor aught set down in malice.”  Several papers quoted from great American statesmen or heroes:  the Scioto Supporter used this from Jefferson, “Let us then, with courage and confidence pursue our own federal republican principles – our attachment to union and representative government.”  The Mississippi State Gazette quoted from Washington’s Farewell Address:  “I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy.”  In 1814, the motto of the Providence Patriot was from Stephen Decatur:  “Free Trade and No Impressment.”   The Raleigh Register uses quotations, but does not reveal the author:  “Ours are the plans of fair, delightful Peace, Unwarp’d by party rage, to live like Brothers.”  (Google attributes this first to Englishman James Montgomery, in 1794.)

Some of the religious-oriented newspapers found apt quotations from the Bible.  The Southern Lutheran used this from Ephesians 4:3:  “Endeavoring to keep the Unity of the Spirit in the Bond of Peace.”  The Banner of Peace, when it was published in Lebanon, Tennessee, used this from Psalms 60:4:  “Thou has given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of the truth.”  But when the Banner of Peace moved to Nashville, it simplified:  “The Peace, Unity and Purity of the Church.”  The Watchman of the South wanted no ambiguity in its motto:  “Devoted to the promotion of practical piety, the diffusion of religious and general intelligence, and the propagation of the tenets and institutions of the Presbyterian Church.”

Apparently there were sects in socialist organizations, as well as Christian ones.  In 1938, the motto of the Socialist Appeal was “Published Weekly as the Organ of the Socialist Party of New York.  Left Wing Branches.” But in 1939, the motto was changed to “Official Weekly Organ of the Socialist Workers Party, Section of the Fourth International.”  The Milledgeville (Georgia) Standard of Union made its position very clear:  “The friends of the Union are our friends, and its enemies, our enemies.”  But the Milledgeville Federal Union wanted friends in both camps:  “State rights and United States’ rights.”

Various languages were used. The Louisville Public Advertiser favored “utile dulci;” the Philadelphia Aurora used the phrase, “Surgo ut Prosim;” the Richmond Enquirer honored “Verite sans Peur;” and the Milwaukee Fridenker declared itself for “Freiheit, Bildung und Wohlstand.” The Shamrock featured an eagle, holding shamrocks in its beak, an Irish harp for its shield, and the rather grim motto: “Fostered Under Thy Wing, We Die in Thy Defence.”  The Shamrock failed in 1813, but was resumed in 1814 with this new motto:  “What a people can do, the people of America have done; What a people ought to do, the people of Ireland are considering.”   There were also those newspapers that were obviously very proud of their mottoes, but leave the reader a little baffled as to what they meant.  One of the very best newspapers of the early 1800’s was the Philadelphia National Gazette, whose motto was, “Principles and Men.”  Does this mean something entirely different than the Liberty Hall and Cincinnati Gazette, whose motto was “Measures and not Men”?


If you are interested in contributing funds to speed The University of Texas’ massive project of scanning and putting on-line historic newspapers online, please contact Linda Abbey, of UT’s General Libraries, phone (512) 795-4366 or online to the Historic Newspapers Preservation link.

About the Author

Mary Bowden is a researcher working at the Texas Collections Deposit Library at the University of Texas. A little-known but invaluable treasure of U.S. history and the history of American journalism is archived in the collection of bound United States’ Newspapers at the University of Texas at Austin. The collection began more than a century ago and has been stored in recent years in the Texas Collections Deposit Library on the campus of the University of Texas. The sizeable archive is currently in the early stages of being digitized before being moved to a more climate-controlled environment at the J.J. Pickle Research Campus of the University, on the north side of Austin.

Mary Bowden