Treasures within the Treasure Chest

We have discovered, so far, some thirty-six newspapers put out by organized religious groups’ newspapers – some of which are extremely rare.  One newspaper might, by a stretch, fit this category: the Freidenker [Free thinker, or Atheist] of Milwaukee.  In addition to the Freidenker, the University of Texas has three German Catholic titles, and one French Catholic title.  UT also holds one Jewish title, but it is not rare.  As with the “news” newspapers, the bulk of the holdings are in the range of 1840 to 1870.  The geographic range resembles that of the others, from New England to the Midwest and all the Old South.  New England has four titles; the middle states have nine titles; the Midwest only has two; and the Old South holds the rest.  Unlike the “news” newspapers, however, the state having the bulk of these titles is not Georgia, but Tennessee, which claims six titles, followed by Kentucky with three.  There are none from West Virginia, Florida, and, surprisingly, none from Georgia or Arkansas.  The denominations represented are Baptist, Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, Unitarian, and Universalism.

These papers are rare because few institutions collected them, not thinking of them as “news” papers.  Nevertheless, like other papers, they do print the news. Perhaps fewer columns are devoted to it, but it is there.  For example, the Southern Lutheran of Columbia, S.C., which UT has from September 1862 to January 1865, has a column titled “Current News Telegraphic from the Charleston Courier.”  One of the items of news printed on September 6, 1862, was “The news from the seat of war in Virginia, as far as received, continues to be of the most cheering character.”  The paper ran a series of historical sketches. The one for that September issue was “History of the Swiss Colony at Purysburg, S. C.”  And they ran, as did every paper, obituaries.  An earlier paper, the Western Luminary of Lexington, Kentucky, printed news of presbytery meetings, of revivals, Colonization Society meetings, letters from missionaries abroad, but also the news from the Congress and the Kentucky State Legislature.  It gives excerpts from the President’s Message, and news of Texas, including a letter from Nacogdoches.  On March 21, 1827, it printed this item of news:  “A proposition has been introduced into the Legislature of New-York, by Gen. M’Clure, to repeal the tax on Dogs, and impose the same on Bachelors over thirty years of age.  A large meeting of the ‘ancient and honourable fraternity’ was held in New-York, on Friday evening last, to protest against this flagrant invasion of their rights and privileges.”

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