The newspapers have gone, but some have reappeared in new dress

On March 1, the last of the historical newspapers formerly held at the Collections Deposit Library (and before that, in the basement of the Main Building) were moved to their permanent home, the Library Storage Facility.  The rarest or the most fragile, or most interesting will be scanned and posted on the University of Texas’ Digital Repository.   Already posted is The Ariel for July, 1826 through June, 1827.  It is sub-titled “Selections from the European and American Periodical Publications,” but, like most Natchez papers, it is also a source of news from Natchitoches and Nacogdoches.  In these issues, it covers news of the Fredonian rebellion, Austin’s colony, and cantonment Jessup, as well as letters from a young lady traveling in Spain, and a letter from an American volunteer in Greece’s war for independence.  It reprints from the National Gazette, “of last week’s mail” a letter, apparently unknown to his biographers, of the ornithologist Alexander Wilson, written by him at Natchez in 1810, describing his trip there from Nashville and the people he met along the way–including a “Capt. Hughes, a traveller, on his return from Santa Fe.” (Ariel, November 17, 1826)

Another posting is the Charleston City Gazette for January, to December 1827, from July to December, 1828, and for all of 1830.   This was one of the best, and most interesting newspapers of the time.  An early editor, E. S. Thomas,  was nothing if not outspoken.  He was especially outraged when the mails were late, or failed to arrive at all.  He did not blame the weather, or the roads, he blamed the Post-Master General: “Mr. Granger, Post-Master General.  The scandalous manner in which this gentleman conducts the department of the Post Office, has been borne until it can be borne no longer.  We are happy to hear that it is the determination of a number of our most respectable citizens to forward a memorial to the President of the United States, requesting him to remove Mr. Granger from office, or compel him to do the duties attached to it.”(April 16, 1813)  And indeed, eventually, Mr. Granger was dismissed.  A later editor, James Haig,  editorializes in the first paper posted on line, that of June 30, 1828:  “The papers received by the mails are completely barren of news, so much so, that we find it difficult to compile a paper that may interest our readers.  We entreat them to be content with the miscellaneous scraps we furnish them, until we again hear from Europe, when there is little doubt we shall be able to lay before them, much interesting and important matter.” This portion of the City Gazette that is online covers the election of 1828.  As usual, the editor made his position clear.  A qualified candidate for President should “possess a vast fund of the most useful learning, and to enjoy more than an ordinary portion of common sense.”  The editor announces that General Jackson, “is not so qualified.”(July 31, 1828)

Another posted paper with a peppery editor is the Boston Weekly Messenger for October, 1811 through February, 1814, edited by James Cutler.  He was violently anti-war, anti-French, and pro-England.  This was the opening of his editorial on the declaration of war, on June 26, 1812:  “The war has at length commenced. — We have tried to reason; we have attempted to arrange our thoughts, and to offer a comment upon it.  But we are astonished, oppressed, overpowered; we have no spirit, no heart for the effort; we rouse as from a dread; we ask, can this be true?  Is our beloved country indeed sunk to this depth of degradation.”  The Messenger is well-written, although very certain of its opinions. The editor encouraged native poets, among them William Cullen Bryant, himself, later, a newspaper editor, and discourages others.  He discourages praise of the dead, or flattery of the living, and advises a poet (Bryant?) who “as he tells us in his preface, he is ‘wandering through the groves of Hampshire,’ we hope he will favor us with some of his wood-notes.  We beseech him, however, to write no more ‘tributes'” (October 2, 1812).  While at the time, the Weekly Messenger may have repelled many readers because of its positions, at this distance of time it is very entertaining.

Another newspaper posted is The National Intelligencer, for 1806, 1812 and 1814 (1813 will arrive shortly) from Washington, D.C., edited by Joseph Gales.  Opponents often claimed that the real editor was James Madison himself, or, if not Madison, then a Cabinet insider, Richard Rush.  And indeed, Richard Rush did occasionally contribute to the paper — see Rush’s Index to the National Intelligencer, also posted on the Digital Repository.  In going through this newspaper, whenever an article is circled, it is probable that Rush did the circling, for he owned the papers for 1812, 1813 and 1814.  The Intelligencer was anti-England, pro-France and pro-war with England.  Joseph Gales’ father, also Joseph Gales, edited the Raleigh Register, a highly-regarded paper.  In fact, Joseph Gales junior, was on a visit to Raleigh when the British stormed Washington; on the personal orders of Admiral Cockburn, the office and press of the Intelligencerwas trashed, the only Washington newspaper to be so treated.

A single issue of a Baton Rouge paper, an edition especially for the first reunion of Confederate veterans, held July 3 and 4, 1899, has been posted.  The latest posting is most interesting.  It is the Home and State, the publication of the Texas Anti-Saloon League, and was published in Westerville, Ohio, by a woman who lived there on the corner of Home and State streets.  It spans 1922 to 1930.  Although a more recent publication than the others, it is equally rare.  Two headlines of the first issue held by the University of Texas are, “Does the Klan Issue Absolve Honest Democrats from their Primary Pledge?” and “Flip-Flop Ferguson.”

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