History of American Journalism

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HISTORY OF AMERICAN JOURNALISM




THURLOW WEED HORACE GREELEY CHARLES A. DANA JAMES GORDON BENNETT JESSE BUEL ZACHARIAH POULSON

EPES SARGENT BENJAMIN RUSSELL PHILIP FRENEAU

HISTORY OF AMERICAN JOURNALISM

BY

JAMES MELVIN LEE

Director of the Department of Journalism
New York University

WITH ILLUSTRATIONS




BOSTON AND NEW YORK
HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY
The Riverside Press Cambridge


COPYRIGHT, 1917, BY JAMES MELVIN LEE

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Published December 1917

TO

MY FIRST JOURNALISM CLASS

NEW YORK UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF COMMERCE, ACCOUNTS AND FINANCE

PREFACE

The first printed account dealing in any way with American journalism was undoubtedly a letter addressed to the president of the Massachusetts Historical Society and published for that society in 1798 as a part of its Proceedings. This letter, entitled "A Narrative of the Newspapers Printed in New England," was, though signed "A. Z.," written by the Rev. John Elliott, D.D., Pastor of the North Church of Boston. Full of errors, it is interesting only in a sense that it marked the beginning of printed literature on American journalism. A continuation of the narrative by the same author was published in the Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society for 1800. Included in this second narrative was a shorter letter, sketching the newspapers of Connecticut from 1755 to 1800, from the pen of Noah Webster, who had already achieved fame as a distinguished lexicographer.

In 1810 Isaiah Thomas of Worcester, Massachusetts, published his History of Printing in America, in two volumes. But for these volumes little would be known about many of the early American printers and their papers. The second edition, revised and enlarged in 1878 by the American Antiquarian Society which had been founded by Mr. Thomas, will always be the standard work for the period which it covers.

Joseph Tinker Buckingham brought out in Boston in 1850 Specimens of Newspaper Literature, in two small volumes. With one or two exceptions, its contents were limited to the newspapers of New England. Though based upon the history by Thomas, it enlarged much of the biography and reprinted many extracts from the newspapers discussed. Two years later, Buckingham published two volumes, of about the same size as those already mentioned, entitled Personal Memoirs and Recollections of Editorial Life. The latter work was practically a biography of its author, who was closely associated with the journalism of Boston.

Frederic Hudson, for many years the managing director of The New York Herald, issued in 1873 his Journalism in the United States. This book, which aimed to cover the period from 1690 to 1872, contains many interesting sketches of editors and their papers, but is so full of errors, and is so biased in its point of view, that it cannot be accepted as an authority even for the period with which Mr. Hudson was most familiar.

The United States Government in 1880 issued, in connection with its publications of the census for that year, a History and Present Conditions of the Newspaper and Periodical Press of the United States. For the historical part, the book was based upon the works already mentioned and perpetuated their errors. Its statistical matter, being compiled from data furnished to the census, makes it a valuable contribution to journalism history.

In 1881 Charles Dudley Warner, a member of the editorial staff of The Courant, of Hartford, Connecticut, published an essay, The American Newspaper, which he had read before the Social Science Association at Saratoga Springs, New York, on September 6 of that year. Brief as was this booklet, it was a most comprehensive summary of journalism as it then existed. Nothing else of general scope, except scattering magazine articles and biographies of individual editors, has appeared to record the developments of American journalism.

The author of this book, while acknowledging his indebtedness to the works already enumerated, has sought in every instance to verify facts as original sources: in his attempt to do so he has been greatly assisted by secretaries of state historical societies to whom acknowledgment for courtesies rendered must first be made.

To acknowledge in print others who have helped in the preparation of the manuscript is obviously impossible, except in a few cases. For information and data about papers of the Colonial Period the author is indebted to Albert Matthews, of Boston, Massachusetts, who has always been ready to answer questions about the early papers of New England, and to Clarence R. Brigham, of Worcester, Massachusetts, who, as secretary of the American Antiquarian Society, has furnished many dates as to the beginnings of early papers in several of the States. To these gentlemen, more than to any other two individuals, he is indebted for help and coöperation.

A partial statement of some indebtedness may be given as follows: Willis J. Abbot, journalism in Chicago; N. A. Baker, first paper in Wyoming; W. W. Ball, journalism in South Carolina; Edmund Booth, activities of The Grand Rapids Press; Hilton U. Brown, story of The Indianapolis News; John S. Butler, first newspaper in Idaho; William Conant Church, attempt to make The New York Sun a religious newspaper; Clyde Augustus Duniway, freedom of press in Massachusetts; Samuel E. Forman, newspaper activities of Philip Freneau; Frederick K. Freeman, history of The Frontier Index; Robert L. Fulton, early Nevada papers; C. B. Galbreath, early Ohio papers; H. J. Haskell, data about The Kansas City Star; Grace Raymond Hebard, pioneer papers of the West; George H. Himes, early Oregon newspapers; John W. Jordan, first papers in Philadelphia; Daniel S. B. Johnston, journalism in Minnesota Territory; Robert Lathan, early papers of Charleston, South Carolina; Virgil A. Lewis, early West Virginia newspapers; Colonel Clement A. Lounsberry, first paper in North Dakota; Charles R. Miller, Tweed's exposure by The New York Times; C. P. J. Mooney, peripatetic career of The Memphis Appeal; D. D. Moore, journalism of New Orleans; Albert H. Nelson, early papers of Oklahoma; William Nelson, early New Jersey papers; John R. Rathom, story of The Providence Journal; Don C. Seitz, Sunday journalism; Joanna H. Sprague, early papers of Utah; Melville E. Stone, news-gathering associations; Reuben Gold Thwaites, pioneer papers of the West; Rev. Richard H. Tierney, S. J., bulls against news-letters; Lyman Horace Weeks, early American news-letters; Richard H. Waldo, advertising ethics; Louis Wiley, modern tendencies; Stephen B. Weeks, early North Carolina papers; Horace G. Whitney, history of The Deseret News; John P. Young, California newspapers.

For many courtesies in checking up dates of newspapers the author is indebted to William A. Slade, Chief of the Periodical Literature, Library of Congress; Horace G. Wadlin, Librarian of Boston Public Library; Wilberforce Eames and John B. Elliott, of the New York Public Library. For information from unpublished manuscripts he is indebted to Victor Hugo Palsits, of the Manuscript Department of the New York Public Library.

The sins of omission are doubtless many owing to the diffi- culty, in spite of the cooperation received, to get information desired. Suggestions and additional information will be wel- comed from any source.

The last chapter, dealing as it does with many points about which there is a difference of opinion, might very properly be considered a sort of appendix for the expression of personal views. In all other chapters a sincere attempt has been made to keep strictly to facts and to documents quoted. No history, however, would be complete without some discussion of the charges brought by critics against the newspapers of to-day. The evidence has been presented and readers may draw their own conclusions about the so-called weakness of the present press.

JAMES MELVIN LEE.

NEW YORK UNIVERSITY,

October, 1917.

CONTENTS

 
I.
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
1
II.
Precursors of American Newspapers
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
8
III.
The First American Newspaper—The Boston News-Letter
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
17
IV.
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
28
V.
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
44
VI.
Colonial Period, 1704–1765
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
62
VII.
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
82
VIII.
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
100
IX.
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
118
X.
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
140
XI.
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
164
XII.
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
185
XIII.
Transition Period, 1832–1841
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
206
XIV.
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
230
XV.
Mexican War to Civil War Period, 1846–1860
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
258
XVI.
Civil War Period, 1860–1865
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
285
XVII.
Reconstruction Period, 1865–1880
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
317
XVIII.
Period of Financial Readjustment, 1880–1900
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
352
XIX.
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
388
XX.
Journalism of To-day
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
429
 
Index
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
451

ILLUSTRATIONS

 
Nine America Editors: Thurlow Weed, Horace Greeley, Charles A. Dana, James Gordon Bennett, Jesse Buel, Zachariah Poulson, Epes Sargent, Benjamin Russell, Philip Freneau
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
Frontispiece
Hogarth's Heading of Jacobite's Journal
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
6
The First Issue of The Boston News-Letter
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
18
Mortuary Issue of Bradford's Pennsylvania Journal on Occasion of the Stamp Act
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
82
A Broadside of Edes: A Revolutionary "Extra" of The Boston Gazette
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
86
Cartoon by William Charles: "The Tory Editor and His Apes Giving their Pitiful Advice to the American Sailors
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
140
The First Issue of The New York Sun
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
188
Advertisements in The Philadelphia Aurora, showing Free Use of Cuts before the Invention of Cylinder Presses
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
224
The Extra in Charleston which announced the Ordinance of Secession
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
282
Greeley's Editorial Attack: "On to Richmond" as seen by a Contemporary
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
302
Joint Issue of San Francisco Morning Papers the Day after the Earthquake
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
416