Page:The Cambridge History of American Literature, v3.djvu/337

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CHAPTER XX

Newspapers Since 1860


WHEN the sudden beginning of the Civil War changed the whole current of national life, the newspapers of the country were in many respects prepared to report and interpret the great event. Had the war been clearly foreseen for a decade, more adequate preparation could hardly have been made to. adjust the service to the momentous changes which came so swiftly. Ingenuity and aggressiveness in the gathering of news, the rise and growth of which has been sketched in another chapter,[1] had quickened the whole profession. The telegraph, which was little more than an experiment when the Mexican War came on, had by 1860 been extended to all parts of the country directly affected by the war. The revolution thereby created in methods of gathering, transmitting, and vending news had been accomplished in the interval of twelve or fifteen years, and journalism was becoming accustomed to the new order. The growing use and expensiveness of the telegraph had already led to the formation of press associations. And at almost the same time the invention of the modern papier maché process of stereotyping, together with improvements in printing presses, removed mechanical obstructions which until 1861 had curbed the production of newspapers. With all these general developments there had been, until a few weeks before hostilities began, little detailed preparation to meet the actual crisis; the press was not on a war footing; there were no experienced war correspondents.

Newspapers had spread over the whole country, flowing into the Central valleys and plains and down the Western slopes

  1. See Book II, Chap. XXI.