Newspapers Vibrant in 1800s’ America

In the eighteen hundreds presses (and newspapers) flourished.  In 1832, in his travels across the United States, Washington Irving discovered that Little Rock, although it had only a population of 600, had two newspapers, because, of course, it had two political parties.  The editor, William Woodruff, made the Arkansas Gazette far more influential than the population of Little Rock would otherwise warrant.  Fortunately, UT has a bound run of the Gazette from 1819 to 1832, missing only one year, 1825.

Other newspapers made notable by their editors were Charleston’s City Gazette, Richmond’s Enquirer, run by Thomas Ritchie, Washington’s National Intelligencer, run by Gales and Seaton, Philadelphia’s National Gazette, run by Robert Walsh, and New York’s Evening Post, in the thirties run by William Cullen Bryant, the gentle poet, who horsewhipped in public an opposing editor.  Also in the thirties, New York’s American, edited by Charles King gained prominence.   Of these newspapers, UT has an outstanding run of the City Gazette, a run of the Richmond Enquirerexcelled only by that held by Old Dominion in Virginia, and volumes of the semi-weekly National Gazette from 1820 to 1841.

Some newspapers became important because of the physical location of the town they were printed in.   Into this category falls any newspaper printed in Natchez, important stop-over on the route up-stream from Nacogdoches to Natchitoches to New Orleans to Natchez to Philadelphia.  UT holds the Natchez Ariel, (1826-1827) the Natchez Courier (1844, 1852–1855) and the Natchez Daily Free Trader (1858-1860).  St. Louis truly was the gateway to the west since the early 1800’s, and its newspaper editors were able to personally interview those who went out to Santa Fe or California or fur-trapping in the Rockies, or going to Astoria on the Columbia.  UT has the Louisiana Gazette from 1808, so named because St. Louis was part of the Louisiana Territory.  After Louisiana became a state in 1812, the paper was re-named the Missouri Gazette, which UT has up until 1818.

In the first half of the eighteen hundreds, Savannah and Charleston seemed to be the first to collect news of the West Indies; Baltimore and Philadelphia the first to report news from South America:  Baltimore because of its great trade with South America, Philadelphia because if seemed to be the center of intrigue of the newly emerging South American republics.  Possibly this was because it was the nearest city to Washington, which, at the time, had very limited hotels or boarding rooms preferred by spies.  The other center of intrigue of both the French and Spanish was, of course, New Orleans.  Richmond often was the first to report news from Tennessee or Kentucky; Charleston seemed to have close ties with New Orleans and its news.  Boston, because of its roving merchant ships, often was first to report the news of the Mediterranean, or of China; although New York was not far behind in this respect.  UT has bound newspapers from all these cities, and is especially strong in its Charleston and New Orleans holdings, including two German papers published in New Orleans.

UT’s holdings are not limited to the “name” cities.  UT holds three issues of the Berrien County News, Alapaha, Georgia, from 1881, the date the town was incorporated (it had a population of 682 in 2000).  The issue of August 27 is unique to UT, as are more than 200 other issues.  UT hopes, eventually, to get these newspapers, first, to a safe storage, and secondly, to get them scanned so that all the world might view them–to put them on its Digital Repository, where they have already posted the 1812 issue of their bound National Intelligencer–a very unique volume once owned by Benjamin Rush, who held three different cabinet posts and was close advisor to President James Madison.  He occasionally marks the articles that arrest his attention; it is somewhat eerie to read the words that attracted the attention of this statesman some two hundred years later.  You can access the digital scan of this newspaper online at:

If you are interested in contributing funds to speed this massive project, 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