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Volume VI (1989) Number 1 


The Evangelical Origins of the Muckrakers 

by Bruce J. Evensen 


The St. Louis Post-Dispatch Campaign 

Against Middle Commercials 

by Michael D. Murray 


Historiographical Essay: 

Journalism Historians and Religion 

by Marvin Olasky 


Book Reviews 

Shore, Talkin' Socialism 

Douglas, The Early Days of Radio Broadcasting 

Lemay, Benjamiin Franklin: Writings 

Picard, The Ravens of Odin: The Press in the 

Nordic Nations 

Digitized by the Internet Archive 
in 2010 with funding from 
Brigham Young University 

The Evangelical Origins 
of the Muckrakers 

By Bruce J. Evensen* 

"Oh, God, give me faith. Oh, God, lead me out of this valley of de- 
pression. Oh, God, I am fearful and downcast, help me today to do my 
work bravely. I try to do large things, too large for me; I am not willing 
to be simple, straightforward, humble. I am terrified to speak 
generalities, to judge men and women by appearances, not realizing that 
they too, are having a bitter struggle within themselves. I am tempted 
to attack, not to press forward with positive faith. Oh, God, take me 
out of this. Oh, God, let me see and feel thy constant presence, let me 
feel my connections with thee and through thee with all of my neigh- 

The prayer is that of Ray Stannard Baker, one of the most promi- 
nent of the muckrakers, and the meditation appears in a 1908 notebook, 
which was written at the height of muckraking agitation for a better 
America.^ What makes the statement so illuminating is not its moral 
thrust, for historians have seen that impulse at work in the reformers' 
call to action. But what chroniclers have paid insufficient attention to 
is the vital struggle of faith that appears at the center of many of the 
muckrakers' personal lives and how this warfare became externalized 
in their writings. 

This article analyzes the private and public writings of seven 
muckrakers in the context of the evangelical origins of this remarkable 
group of men and women. In doing so, the researcher is reminded of the 
dangers of over-simplification, of Lincoln Steffen's warning to Upton 
Sinclair on the occasion of Edmund Wilson's muckraking of the muck- 
rakers more than fifty years ago. "The fact that he lumps us is a bad 
sign," Steffens wrote, suggesting they consider killing the critic and 

Bruce J. Evensen is an assistant professor of joiirnalism at DePaul University. 

^Ray Stannard Baker, Notebook "K," (1908), 131. Library of Congress. Washington, D.C. 


pleading self-defense.^ Fearing a similar fate, this research will at- 
tempt to portray seven of these muckrakers as individuals, who shared 
a common context, which in turn produced a literature as rich and com- 
plex as the nnen and women who made it. 

A half century's research on the muckrakers has found no shortage 
of opinions on who they were and what they intended.^ Historical in- 
terpretation of the muckrakers' work basically divided over the ques- 
tion of whether the muckrakers were "liberal social reformers" or 
"conservative advocates of middle-class values and interests." The de- 
bate arose in the post-World War II generation of historians who 
placed the muckrakers in the broader context of the debate then under- 
way over "consensus" and "class conflict." The effect of the discussion 
was to diminish the role of the muckrakers as moral crusaders and to 
see them instead as self-interested defenders of the status quo.^ 

What these frames of reference have tended to overlook is what 
the muckrakers saw themselves as doing and the deeply personal 
struggle over faith that informed their work. Two historians, Richard 
Hofstadter and Harold Wilson, have argued the muckrakers were at- 
tempting to achieve an "unselfish consensus" based on "Protestant and 
Social Gospel norms. "^ But the Hofstadter hypothesis, later developed 
by Hays, Wiebe, and Mowry, saw this popular appeal as a pretext 
through which the muckrakers attempted to fend off changes brought 
by industrialization and immigration which threatened their social 
position.^ Wilson similarly sees a sociological explanation behind 

^Ella Winter and Granville Hicks, The Letters of Lincoln Steffens, vol. 2 (New York: 1938), 928. Copy 
of letter from Steffens to Upton Sinclair, dated September 25, 1932. 

See Harry H. Stein, "American Muckrakers and Muckraking: The 50- Year Scholarship," Journalism 
Quarterly 56 (1979), 9-17, for a summary of the literature. Major works which describe the develop- 
ment of thinking on the muckrakers include H.U. Faulkner, The Quest for Social ]ustice, 1898-1914 
(New York: 1931); C.C. Regier, The Era of the Muckrakers (Chapel Hill: 1932), and Louis Filler, Cru- 
saders for American Liberalism (Yellow Springs: 1939). Compare to post-war works by Richard Hofs- 
tadter, Age of Reform: From Bryan to F.D.R. (New York: 1959); Eric Goldman, Rendezvous with Des- 
tiny: A History of Modern American Reform (New York 1959); Henry F. May, The End of American In- 
nocence: A Study of the First Years of Our Time (New York: 1959); Judson Grenier, "Muckraking and 
Muckrakers: An Historical Definition," Journalism Quarterly (1963); John E. Semonoche, 'Teddy Roo- 
sevelt's "Muck-rake Speech': A Reassessment," Mid-America (April 1964); Stanley K. Schultz, "The 
Morality of Politics: "The Muckrjiker's Vision of Democracy," Journal of American History (December 
1965); John G. Cawelti, Apostles of the Self-Made Man (Chicago: 1965); Harold Wilson, McClure's 
Magazine and the Muckrakers (Princeton: 1970); Robert M. Crunden, The Superfluous Men: 
Conservative Critics of American Culture, 1900-1945 (Austin: 1977); Richard L. McCormick, "The Dis- 
covery That Business Corrupts: A Reappraisal of the Origins of Progressivism," American Historical 
Review 86 (April 1981); Robert M. Crunden, Ministers of Reform: The Progressive Achievement in 
American Civilization, 1889-1920 (New York: 1982); and Shiela Reaves, 'How Radical Were the Muck- 
rakers? Socialist Press Views, 1902-1906," Journalism Quarterly 61 (Winter 1984). 

%ee Wm. David Sloan, "American Muckrakers, 1901-1917: Conservative Defenders or Liberal 
Reformers?" Paper given at the AEJMC Southeastern Regional Colloquium, March 29-30, 1985. 

Wilson, 265-289. Hofstadter, 173-212. 
Hofstadter, 210. Samuel P. Hays, Conservation and the Gospel of Efficiency: The Progressive 
Conservation Movement, 1890-1920 (Cambridge: 1968). Robert H. Wiebe, Businessmen and Reform: A 
Study of the Progressive Movement (Cambridge: 1968). See also, George E. Mowry, The Era of 


muckraking agitation/ They were driven as well, he writes, by a 
morality of absolutes which confused the fragmentation stemming from 
immigration, the concentration of wealth, and the rise of the cities, 
with a deterioration in the old order familiar to them. 

Wilson attempts to show that this "morality of absolutes" 
stemmed from the muckrakers' abandonment of the faith of their fa- 
thers and their conversion to Social Darwinism. This transformation, 
he suggests, took place with "remarkable ease" and led to a "radical 
social Christianity" which was the synthesis of Darwinian deter- 
minism and the altruism of the Golden Rule. The muckrakers "swept 
divinity" and "inspiration" aside in "heralding a new social order" 
which was essentially mechanistic. Human society led by a divine 
"force" was evolving progressively. The purpose of law and govern- 
ments was to recognize this transformation and to develop policies and 
institutions to move matters along.^ 

An analysis of the diaries, notebooks, and private papers of several 
leading muckrakers casts doubt on whether they embraced Social Dar- 
winism with "remarkable ease" and brings into perspective the inner 
conflicts which lay behind the public proclamation of their progres- 
sivism. The battle they waged was not so much that people should 
have faith but to describe what that faith should be in. For some of the 
muckrakers the higher criticism of Bible commentators had shaken the 
certainty of the old-time religion. Their challenge then became finding 
an absolute to substitute for a belief in the Bible as the inspired Word 
of God, something that could arouse a generation to right thinking and 
right conduct. It is perhaps the final paradox of the progressive period 
that those who tried to teach others how to live, were forever search- 
ing for the same answers themselves. 

S.S. McClure: A Progressive Pilgrim 

The process of spiritual seeking and uncertainty is nowhere more 
apparent than in the life of Samuel Sidney McClure, the founder of the 
progenitor muckraking magazine. McClure remembered only three books 
from his Ulster home ~ a Bible, Foxe's Book of Martyrs, and Pilgrim's 
Progress. His Presbyterian parents, he writes in his autobiography, 
had been caught up in a revival that had swept Northern Ireland in 
1859. The experience had changed their lives by returning them to the 
"simple teachings of the early church." His father's death and his 
mother's poverty weighed heavily upon him when he arrived in 

Theodore Roosevelt, 1900-1912 (New York: 1958); John Braeman, "Seven Progressives," Business His- 
tory Review 35 (1961); and Gabriel Kolko, The Triumph of Conservatism: A Reinterpretation of Ameri- 
can History, 1910-1916 (New York: 1963). 

''wilson, 285-289. 

%bid., ch. 19. 


Galesburg, Illinois, with fifteen cents in his pocket. At Knox College he 
would find a "purpose" for his life.^ 

"Forms wax old and perish/' he wrote in his class notes. "Principles 
are eternal." Principles of "right and wrong" necessarily had their 
foundation in teaming up with God in the battle over His creation. "We 
see that we are engaged in a terrible conflict," he wrote, following his 
studies of the Apostle Paul, "not with flesh and blood, but with princi- 
palities and powers and the rulers of the darkness of this world." He 
was sure that "though strife be long, yet slowly and surely it will end 
with the glorious triumph of the right."^° 

There were two great facts of civilization as McClure saw it - the 
individual and the state. The latter existed solely for the former, even 
as the human soul existed only for God. God would equip the "sensitive, 
shrinking, quivering soul" to fight His battles for Him. For God had 
placed into the hearts of those who followed him an "enthusiasm" for 
service. It was only through such service that one's self was brought 
into proper view. Individuality consisted of following "enthusiasti- 
cally" the pathway of service God had for man.^^ 

It was in June of 1893, the month the bottom dropped out of the 
Stock Market and the panic spread westward from Wall Street, that 
McClure published the first number of his monthly magazine. Though 
it would be a decade before the publication would take on the ap- 
pearance of a muckraking journal, McClure from the outset saw it as 
having a high purpose. In April of 1894 while in Paris searching for 
literary material for the magazine, he wrote his wife that he saw 
himself "playing for high stakes." He reported that he was in an 
"awful condition." He owed "heaps of money everywhere." He had not 
even paid his church dues. Yet he felt himself on the edge of a great 
breakthrough. The Lord had some "great work" for him to do.^^ 

As McClure shifted around with various ideas to make the maga- 
zine more attractive, his wife warned him to be true to his high ideals 
and not sacrifice the magazine to commercial interests. McClure's 
statement of policy throughout this period remained high-minded. His 
May 1894 issue, which featured a piece by Henry Drummond on Ameri- 
can evangelist Dwight L. Moody, told readers it was endeavoring to 
"reflect the moving spirit of this time" by setting forth the achieve- 
ments of the "great men of the day" and the "human struggle for exis- 

%.S. McQure, My Autobiography (New York: 1963), 18, 59 and 61 

McClure mss. Writings, n.d. Knox College class papers. Lilly Library. Indiana University. 
Bloomington, Indiana, 
^^McQure mss. Correspondence. Box 3. Folder 4. April 12, 1894. S.S. McClure to Hattie McQure. 


tence and development."^^ 

It was not only McClure's wife, but his mother, Elizabeth, who ex- 
pressed concern that the magazine be put to still higher purposes. In 
January 1895, she wrote him that her time on the earth was now 
"short." She therefore encouraged her son to publish only the work of 
men "sound in God's word." If her son wanted to bring "honor and glory 
to God" there was "only one way to do it." And that was "God's way." 
Her son needed to find "God's will." The magazine could be an instru- 
ment for that will, but she feared her son might miss this chance 
through lack of prayer and failure to "study God's will." Her greatest 
delight would be to have her son "if possible" follow the steps of his 
parents, so that whatever he did, he would do it "for God."^* 

By the end of the year, McClure could boast that circulation had 
risen from 45,000 to 80,000. Along with John S. Phillips, an old college 
classmate, now his chief editor, he promised "noble entertainment" and 
"worthy knowledge" in coming issues designed to "uplift, refresh and 
encourage all who read it."^^ 

While it has been suggested that McClure turned to muckraking to 
boost circulation, his greatest gains in readership had taken place 
years earlier, thanks in large part to Ida Tarbell's series on Abraham 
Lincoln. The series had been promoted as "proceeding in an original 
way with the subject." Tarbell's writing, readers were promised, would 
be both "entertaining and carefully considered." It would rely on mate- 
rials that had been gathered directly "from original sources," from 
people who had known Lincoln personally as well as from the Presi- 
dent's own writings and correspondence.^^ 

McClure's Magazine sold out in November and December of 1895, 
having shown a gain of 175,000 in circulation since the series started, 
while closing out the year with a readership of over 300,000. McClure 
wrote that his soul seemed finally "at rest." The "days of struggle" 
seemed over. He was now happy with his God.^'' 

Tarbell's Lincoln portrait and the publicity surrounding the series 
idealized him as a perfect type while satisfying McClure's need to of- 
fer his readers a leader worthy of emulation. The piece celebrated Lin- 
coln's pioneering origin and made much of the fact that he came from 
the stock of a "pioneering race of men and women." He had emerged 
from an ideal past where "lessons learned in early school out in the 

^^ McClure's Magazine, May 1894, &-9. 

McClure's Magazine, December 1894, 3. Also, McClure's Magazine, July 1895, 16. 
'^McQure mss. Correspondence. Box 3. Folder 7. Elyatt (Elizabeth) Simpson to S.S. McQure. 
September 2, 1895. 

^^McClure's Magazine, October 1895, 480. 

^^McQure mss. Correspondence. Box 3. Folder 10. Letter from S.S. McQiire to Hattie McClure. 
September 2, 1895. 


forest were grand and good." Everything around and about Lincoln "was 
just as it came from the hands of the Creator." It was "good" and it was 
"beautiful." It developed "both the head and the heart." It produced a 
remarkable President, who had celebrated democratic sacrifice at Get- 
tysburg and the ideal of liberty when he emancipated the slaves. It 
was then, McClure's reported, that "God knew that he was good."^^ 

McClure's Lincoln series was more than a circulation-building de- 
vice. It was McClure's effort at constructing an ideal type, someone who 
had "striven with God" in the "glorious triumph of the right." When 
McClure returned to Knox College after his election to the board of 
trustees, he remarked that it had been thirty-eight years since Lincoln 
had last addressed a Galesburg audience. "What a legacy to our peo- 
ple," he commented, "was the memory of Lincoln." Soon the time would 
come when "no one living shall have seen Lincoln." That is why it was 
necessary to remind this and future generations what he stood for. In- 
tegrity, honor, and truthfulness had emanated from "his very soul." 
This generation needed heroes like that.^^ 

Just after the Lincoln series, McClure wrote Phillips an excited let- 
ter. He reported "stumbling on" what would probably be "the most im- 
portant publishing venture of our time." A long-awaited new trans- 
lation of the Bible had just appeared. Its whole purpose had been to 
"re-discover the Bible, to make it really understandable." It would be 
an "indispensable book to all who believed in the Bible."^" As origi- 
nally conceived, the Bible series would run in 20 parts over four years. 

Within weeks, McClure had booked passage to Palestine os- 
tensibly to find background material for the series. His letters to his 
wife reveal the journey to have been a personal odyssey of faith. Pass- 
ing through each of the seven gates of the Old City of Jerusalem, Mc- 
Clure marvelled that "God was here as a man, and I can't get away 
from that." Days later he reported that he was "reading and re-read- 
ing the gospels." He never knew the Bible to be "so fascinating." He 
was now convinced as never before that "God approves of our work."^^ 

The years leading up to McClure's muckraking were filled with 
this endless stream of hope balanced by periods of ambivalence and 
skepticism. His ceaseless efforts at entering into fellowship with men 
of like-minded faith finished only in frustration. "I attended a Sal- 

-1 Q 

'^ McClure's Magazine, Jzinuary 1896, 206. Also, McQure mss. Correspondence. Jemuary 1896. 
Box 3. Folder 12. 

' McQuremss. Writings, n.d. "The Greatness of Knox College" (1894). 
McQure mss. Correspondence. Box 3. Folder 12. Letter from S.S. McClure to John Phillips. 
February 10, 1896. 

McQure mss. Correspondence. Box 3. Folder 13. Letters from S.S. McQure to Harriet Mc- 
Qure, dated May 4, 10, 11 and 16, 1896. On the 16th he added, "I realize more and more the miracle of 
Christ's life. His words and deeds seem more and more wonderful." 


vation Army preaching service/' he wrote his wife. "It was bad." 
Booth's great army kept shouting "that God was there and at work, 
though they didn't seem to really believe it. It made me sad."^^ 
Throughout what remained of the nineties, the magazine described its 
purpose as offering month to month "transcription" of the times, 
encouraging the upbuilding of the nation's "moral self-respect." Mc- 
Clure wrote that while his was not a "religious magazine," no 
"Christian family" should be without it. McClure advertised himself 
as offering the family something to live by and for.^^ At century's end, 
McClure wrote his wife how "aware" he had been of God's blessing. 
And she wrote him how convinced she was that there was yet "some 
special work" he would do to "help bring the world back to God."^^ 

McClure was now poised at the beginning of his career as the coun- 
try's greatest muckraking publisher. It was a period of acute financial 
and personal hardships which would ultimately lead to his surrender 
of the magazine and the dashing of his hopes to build through it a 
publishing empire. "The year 1902 has been the most prosperous in the 
history of McClure' s Magazine," he told his readers, while writing his 
wife the magazine was "starved" for funds.^ Muckraking had made no 
immediate impact in circulation patterns and was expensive to do 
properly. "I'm having my usual breakdown," he wrote his wife, in an- 
other of his talent hunts in Europe. Ida Tarbell, he later told his wife, 
would be her "mainstay" in the event of his death.^^ 

McClure proved a very lively corpse. The next decade would see 
muckraking cause a minor sensation, and McClure for a short time rode 
the crest of it, dining with President Roosevelt and Alexander Graham 
Bell, while addressing large audiences on the dangers that lurked all 
around them. In January 1904 he told the Twentieth Century Club in 
Brooklyn that nationwide those who broke the law conspired to put in 
office those "who let them." Machines existed in nearly every Ameri- 
can city, and they operated to benefit some at the expense of others. 
Machine politics had left America "at the bottom of all civilized 
countries." Major corporations led in the "lawlessness." The people 
needed to rise and "protect" themselves. That was what McClure' s was 
in business to help them to do.^ 

^McClure mss. Box 3. Folder 15. Letter from S.S. McQure to Harriet Mcavire. August 9, 1896. 
^McClure's Magazine, December 1896, p. 192, and October 1897, 1101. 
^cQuremss. Box 3. Folder 21. The letters were exchanged on June 2, 1899. 
^McC/Mre's Mflgflzme, October 1902. Also, McQure mss. Box 4. Folder 3. From S.S. McQure to 
Harriet McQure. April 24, 1902. 

^^cQure mss. Box 4. Folder 6. Undated. Letter from S.S. McClure to Harriet McQure. Also, 
Box 4. Folder 8. Letter from S.S. McQure to Harriet McQure. March 22, 1903. 

■"McQuremss. Box 4. Folder 12. Address to the Twentieth Century Qub. Brooklyn, New York. 
January 30, 1904. 


Years later he told the New York branch of the Y.M.C.A. the same 
thing. "The whole function of government," he observed, had been "to 
protect those who could not protect themselves." Beginning with Ida 
Tarbell's attack on the Standard Oil Trust, he told them, "we have 
fought for those unable to defend themselves. "^^ 

A generation later, as historians began to write their summaries of 
the Progressive period in American history and the magazine which 
had tirelessly promoted its program, McClure wrote Tarbell that critics 
had gotten it all wrong. His "overwhelming passion" with the maga- 
zine had been to make it "as perfect as possible" by laying out a series 
of principles through which partial men could be made whole.^^ 

Tarbell's "Religion" 

McClure was to maintain a lifelong friendship with Ida Tarbell, 
the first of the muckrakers, and a woman whose spiritual sensibilities 
may have been the closest to his. Like McClure, Tarbell wrote exten- 
sively about the forces that formed her. She described herself as hav- 
ing been raised in a God-fearing Western Pennsylvania family, rigorous 
not only in its church attendance, but also in prayer meetings and re- 
vivals. She had received Christ at age eleven. The life of prayer 
which followed aroused "self-observation," and this took her to the 
literature of Darwin and Spencer.^^ After serving as preceptress at the 
Poland Union Seminary in Poland, Ohio, where she taught geology and 
botany, she went to France, and there continued both her studies and 
her spiritual search, which by the early nineties found her still at- 
tempting to reconcile her "need to feel and to know."^^ 

On the eve of McClure's offer to join his staff, she remembered that 
she was "continuing [her] search for God in the great cathedrals of Eu- 
rope." She later explained the impact this spiritual quest had on her 
muckraking career. It grew out of a childlike "conviction of divine 
goodness at work in the world." Despite the growing sense of life's 
injustice and ugliness she could not shake an "inward certainty" that 
the "central principle of things is beneficence." This "serene, stable 
self-assurance" had a "hold" on Tarbell. It remained even as she em- 
braced Darwinian evolution and lost the sense that God had a "human 
outline. "32 

^cQure mss. Box 6. Folder 6. Address to members of the 57th Street branch of the Y.M.C.A. 
April 10, 1911. 

^^McQure mss. S.S. McQure to Ida Tarbell. October 1, 1937. See also McClure mss. Box 4. 
Folder 17. Letter from S.S. McQure to Harriet McQure. August 27, 1904. 

^Ida M. TarbeU, All in a Day's Work (New York, 1939), 15-16. 

^^Kathleen Brady, Ida M. Tarbell (New York, 1985), 31 and 61. 

^Ida M. Tarbell, "My Religion," 1-2. Lawrence Lee Pelletier Library. Allegheny College. 
Meadville, Pennsylvania. 


Tarbell expressed little patience with the fundamentalist-mod- 
ernist argument then permeating the church. She thought herself 
"outside" that quarrel. One's works and character reflected "true spiri- 
tuality." Christianity was simply the "best system" because it was 
based on the "brotherhood of man." Political institutions consistent 
with that divine purpose were good. Those that operated on the basis 
of a different set of ethics were dangerous.^ 

When she accepted McClure's offer and returned to America, she 
was immediately struck by the changes which had taken place during 
her several years' absence. What she most feared now, she wrote, was 
that "we were raising our standard of living at the expense of our stan- 
dard of character." She was convinced that "personal human better- 
ment" necessarily rested on a "sound moral basis" as well as a "personal 
search for the meaning of the mystery of God."^ 

Tarbell wrote that her personal search for answers to that mystery 
was at the center of her muckraking. It forn\ed her notion of how a 
"decent and useful person" could be formed and later could learn to func- 
tion in a social system antagonistic to individual dignity. Her "History 
of the Standard Oil Company" serialized in McClure's Magazine was a 
revelation of the evil at work in human society. John D. Rockefeller 
employed "force and fraud, sly tricks and special privilege to get his 
way." His activities were only a symptom of a phenomenon which went 
deeper. Blackmail was becoming a "natural part" of business practice. 
The result, she found, was not only a "leech" on the public pocket, but 
the "contamination of commerce." Only the principles of Christian fair 
play, she argued, could transform business practice and make it a "fit 
pursuit for our young men."^ 

Biographers might charge that Tarbell' s "greatest nuscalculation" 
was that she relied on the Golden Rule too much and law not enough in 
bringing about change, but what they fail to appreciate fully is how 
Tarbell, McClure, and other muckrakers understood their primary role 
and the intensely spiritual environment in which that fervor arose. 
Tarbell was not indifferent to the need for legal reform; but like her 
fellow muckrakers, she understood the central importance moral regen- 
eration and moral consensus played in creating a human community in 
which democratic institutions could be allowed to work. Amelioration 
of "human sufferings, inequalities, greed, ignorance," she wrote, did not 
come through law alone, but was as well a fundamental matter of the 

^id., 3-7. 

^arbeU, All in a Day's Work, 407. 

•^Ibid., 16, 27-29 and 407. Also, TarbeU, History of the Standard Oil Company (New York, 1904), 268 
and 287-289. 


human heart.^^ 

She saw her whole hfe as having been spent in a "striving in soli- 
tude and silence to enter into a fuller understanding of the divine." But 
that understanding, she insisted, was the only means by which the 
"moral diseases" ~ pride, greed, hypocrisy, cruelty, irreverence, and 
cowardliness — which so afflicted the age could be overcome. If the 
Bible gave men and women anything, it gave them a conception of how 
they ought to live. What is more, it showed them a way in which "the 
essential brotherhood of man" could be brought into being. She was con- 
vinced it came by bearing witness to an "inner light," a light which, if 
encouraged to develop, was alone capable of binding men to other men. 
Men would either "hunger and thirst after righteousness, mercy, meek- 
ness, and purity of heart," she wrote, or give way to the "poisonous" 
selfishness implicit in modern living. Her writing had been to call peo- 
ple to righteousness and to show them a means of how they might es- 
tablish "right conduct" for themselves and their communities.^^ 

Baker's Spiritual Unrest 

McClure's publication in January 1903 of the third installment of 
Tarbell's series on Standard Oil coincided with Lincoln Steffens' expose 
on Minneapolis political practices and Ray Stannard Baker's attack on 
corrupt labor practices. The edition was billed as an analysis of the 
American "contempt" for law, and it was to do much in igniting Baker's 
forty-year fire for progressive causes. It was a career that would take 
him from McClure's to the American Chronicle, to a career as the au- 
thor of best-selling fiction, and finally to a career as aide to and biog- 
rapher of Woodrow Wilson. The whole of this extraordinary progres- 
sion was punctuated by flashes of spiritual certainty and spiritual un- 
rest and a life consciously led in service to God. 

Baker began his autobiography by remembering that the Bible on 
which he had been brought up in St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin, had high- 
lighted within it by his Presbyterian parents the phrase, "in the sweat 
of thy face thou shalt eat bread." Rigorous self-discipline became a 
life's conunitment. "I read. I studied," he wrote. From an early age he 
felt, as Tarbell did, "the essential truth of the teachings of Christ."''* 
His father, educated at Oberlin, helped matters along. Ray earned a 
silver dollar from his father for finishing Pilgrim's Progress while in 
grade school. He took his meals in a dining room beneath the motto 

^arbeU, "My Religion," 7-8. Also, Mary E. Tomldns, Ida M. Tarbell (New York, 1974), 158. 
^^Tarbell, "My Religion," 7-8. 

^Ray Stannard Baker, American Chronicle: The Autobiography of Ray Stannard Baker (New York, 
1945), 2 and 58. 


"Thou God seest me."^ 

Perhaps no future muckraker had a firmer foundation laid in re- 
ligious life than did Baker. Sunday in St. Croix Falls was a day en- 
tirely set apart. Sunday school and church in the morning were fol- 
lowed by a study of the scriptures in the afternoon, and, at six, an 
evening service. In addition, there were the weekly Thursday evening 
prayer meetings in which the Bakers took the leading role.^° 

"Plow deeply, till thoroughly," he recalled his father told him as 
he prepared to begin his career in journalism. "Scatter the seed with 
care and the harvest will be all you hoped for."^^ 

Like other muckrakers. Baker for a lifetime fought a "spiritual un- 
rest" as he attempted to reconcile his old familiar faith with the 
higher criticism then engulfing much of the church. Like Tarbell, he 
sought the silence of personal rumination, even sequestering himself in 
an Arizona desert for a time, to carry on his crisis privately in personal 
faith. "I was brought up a Presbyterian," he later observed, "but I liked 
being a Quaker best. When the talk began I was usually not so certain. I 
found myself descending from the high places." Darwin's theories of 
evolution and natural selection had put him "much at sea as to what I 
should believe." The serpent, he said of his mental confusion, "began to 
tempt me. "'*2 Baker traced his "literature of exposure" to his encounters 
with William T. Stead in Chicago.*' The evangelist's efforts to "clean 
up" that city mobilized Baker's "spirit of service" and put him on a 
muckraking path of "earnest endeavor." Baker's biographer sees the 
whole of that career as stemming from a moralism which was "deep- 
seated, almost inexplicable, and which remained the basis of a life- 
time of action."*^ 

Baker's muckraking attack on the churches of his day along with 
his own private notebooks and papers gives the clearest idea of how 
his personal "journey of faith" formed a framework for his public writ- 
ing. His criticism of New York City's Trinity Church, one of the na- 
tion's wealthiest congregations, was broadened into a critique of the 
"malaise" which had fallen over the Christian community. The prob- 
lem was that the churches "lacked a moral vision." They did not know 
what they believed. They knew nothing of "social justice" and as a 


Robert C. Bannister, Ray Stanmrd Baker. The Mind and Thought of a Progressive (New Haven, 

1966), 3, 12 and 13. 

'*Olbid., 14. 
Baker, American Chronicle, p. 17. 

^Ibid., 57-58. 

^^William T. Snead, // Christ Came to Chicago (Chicago, 1894, and Evansville, 1978). See also. 
Stead, The Americanization of the World Or the Trend of the Twentieth Century (New York, 1901, and 
New York, 1972). 

Baker, American Chronicle, 30-3Z Also, Baimister, 14. 


consequence had "no message for the common man." Baker's visits to 
many of the leading churches convinced him that they had a "passion 
for efficiency" which they put to "no real purpose." The churches had 
come to appreciate the "crisis" they were in and were now trying to "get 
back to the people." They were throwing money at the problem of com- 
munity relations when it was not money but "the human touch" that 
was required."*^ 

Wilson has suggested that Baker and many of his fellow muck- 
rakers became good Social Darwinists and "swept aside" the need for a 
personal, active faith. But Baker states explicitly in The Spiritual 
Unrest that the churches had a dual mission ~ both to the individual 
and the community. This recognition is reiterated throughout his note- 
books, where he argues that "individual salvation" and "community 
salvation" are "complementary and reciprocal. "^^ 

Publicly, Baker held up the work of Walter Rauschenbusch as a 
theology which could lead to the church's acceptance of its "new social 
mission" which sought to "save man and his society." Baker's criticism 
of the old evangelism was that it had not been "selfless" enough. 
Rauschenberg's message had been to show that sin not only affects an 
individual's relationship to God but also his relationship to others. 
Repentance required the turning away from sin not for the sake of one- 
self alone but for the sake of the community in which he lived. In this 
human community, Christ was the ultimate exemplar. His life alone 
had given the pattern upon which the church could hope to "magnify" 
itself. That pattern called for a church which "touched its neighbors" 
thereby strengthening the corranunity's "fragility of faith. "^^ 

Baker's own efforts at church planting show how seriously he took 
the question of community worship in the moral upbuilding of his soci- 
ety. Here his "righteous indignation," as Tarbell had called it, could be 
put to work providing communicants a sense of shared values and mu- 
tual responsibility. How could men be their brother's keeper, he won- 
dered, if they did not know that they were brothers? What the church 
now needed were "Elijahs" willing to "imitate the life of Christ." This 
required risks and "sacrifice."*^ 

Baker saw Woodrow Wilson as an Elijah offering Americans a 
course of action rooted in communitarian responsibility. Baker wrote 
that he was bewildered by the "fixity" of the President's "immovable 
faith" while feeling at the same time a certain "envy." He saw in the 
"certainty" of Wilson's "rock-like faith" the "creative impulse" with 

'^Ray Starmard Baker, The Spiritual Unrest (New York, 1909), chs. 1 and 2, particularly 87-100. 

^%>id., 142 and 230. Also, Baker, Notebook 1," p. 116. Library of Congress. 

^^Baker, The Spiritual Unrest, 272-281. 

^^aker, American Chronicle, 182-184. Also, Baker, Notebook "1," 104 and Notebook "L," 20. 


which the new administration could defeat the powers of "bossism" 
and "venality," as well as the "wretched conditions which had become 
the American way of life."^^ 

In one of his notebooks. Baker admitted to a certain lifelong ag- 
itation behind the creative energy of his work. He had never denied 
the "reality of spiritual things" or the "essential unity" of the "inner 
voice" available to all men. But what had that to do with Christ's 
personal call on his life, and the lives of others? It appeared that 
Christ "depended on us" for doing his work on the earth, he wrote. 
Christ had obtained a "unity with God" which Baker had desperately 
sought in his own life and which he had sought to make possible in the 
lives of others. A year before his death, he wrote that the effort had 
not been without its frustrations. "Each age," he supposed, "must wor- 
ship its own thought of God." Baker remembered that as a boy, the 
"face" of God had ever been before him. As an adult, he feared, he 
would never see His face again. In old age, he saw God's handiwork 
everywhere about him.^° 

Lincoln Steffens and the McNamara Case 

"I have been contending all my life," Lincoln Steffens wrote at the 
end of his autobiography, "and always with God." The man considered 
as pre-eminent of the muckraking writers, saw all the cities and states 
he had muckraked as being part of but a single story. "They had 
different names, dates and locations," he wrote, "but the essential facts 
were all described by Christ in the New Testament." Jesus had known 
the "worthlessness of the good people," Steffens was sure. Like 
Christ's, his had been a lifelong mission to save a world indifferent to 
life-giving instruction.^^ 

A veteran newspaperman when he came to the McClure's group, 
Steffens crucified municipal government in "The Shame of the Cities" 
series. He reported how he had soured on the "best people" when he 
saw that "the law-abiding backbones of our society, in city after city, 
start out for moral reform, but turn back," when they saw it would cost 
them something. Christianity alone, he became convinced, provided 
the only possibility of real reform. It conveyed a faith, a hope, but 
more crucially a "vision" of how to act.^^ 

As was the case with many of the other muckrakers, Steffens came 
to his moral sensibility early in life. His conversion seems to have 

^^ay Stannard Baker, Woodrow Wilson and World Settlement, vol. 1 (Qoucester, 1960), 1-2, 13-14 
and 21. Also, Baker, American Chronicle, 60, 92-93 and 176-178. 

^Baker, Notebook VII, 149-153. Also, Notebook "L," 20. Also, Bannister, 119. 
^^Joseph Lincohi Steffens, Autobiography of Lincoln Steffens (New York, 1931), 523-526. 
^Ibid., 525. 


skipped a generation. Contemporaries described his grandfather, the 
Reverend Joseph Steffens, as a "bold defender of the faith once deliv- 
ered to the saints." The parents of Lincoln Steffens, however, appear to 
have been nominal Christians who went to church out of "social habit." 
Nevertheless, Steffens took a liking to Sunday school and, under the 
moral instruction of a California neighbor, read the Bible seriously in 
his early and mid-teens, even planrung a career in the nunistry.^^ 

Steffens' parents "followed his conversion patiently" as his in- 
tellect led him away from the institutional church. He was beginning 
to find that "even though the music was wet, the sermon was dry." Like 
Tarbell, he went to Europe, ostensibly to study, but not incidentally to 
find a more satisfactory basis for his faith. In Berlin, he attended a 
nondenominational American church and wrote home that he was be- 
coming suspicious of "hot-house Christians." Those who had a 
"thoughtful comprehension of the full meaning and true spirit of 
Christ" had come to the knowledge gradually and reasonably. The fol- 
lowing year he wrote his father from Heidelberg that he had received 
a letter from his sister. Dot, asking about becoming a Catholic. He 
urged restraint. Dot was in greater danger of rejecting the divinity of 
Christ, he wrote his father, than turning to the Catholics.^* 

The day before he died, Steffens, writing a preface to a collection of 
his works, said he always understood himself to be a "teacher." In the 
days in which he had 'l?reathed the news" he had in mind giving his 
readers life-saving instruction. Speaking for the historical record, he 
argued that Old Testament writers were the original muckrakers. The 
trouble was, in New Testament times, ministers had never taught the 
true message of Christ to the Christians.^^ 

Muckraking, Steffens once observed, had not gone far enough in 
proposing solutions to the corruption of the nation's political system. 
The problem was not to replace "bad men" with "good men" but to work 
for fundamental economic reforms that would prevent the perpetuation 
of a government of privilege. Steffens chafed under McClure's admoni- 
tion to "find the facts" and to leave the interpretations to others. His 
career at McClure's and American Chronicle was characterized by his 
continuing efforts to have his colleagues recognize what he saw as fun- 
damental to any campaign of reform.^ 

In December of 1909, he wrote his mother that he was finally com- 

^%id., 72. Also, Justin Kaplan, Lincoln Steffens: A Biography (New York, 1974), 22. 

^ Winter and Hicks, 11. Copy of letter from Lincoln Steffens to Lou Steffens. August 25, 1889. Also, 
49. Copy of letter from Lincoln Steffens to Joseph Steffens, July 18, 1890. 

^^Joseph Lincoln Steffens, Lincoln Steffens Speaking (New York, 1936), ix. Also, Steffens, Autobiog- 
raphy, 375. 

^^Steffens, Autobiography, 375. 


ing to terms with the "self-doubts" that had so long plagued his work. 
He was now working on the "biggest thing I've ever tackled/' It would 
be a series of articles on the life of Jesus. "I want to tell Christians," he 
wrote her, "what their Christ said they should do." He adnutted that 
while he could not "accept it all myself," he was prepared to show how 
Christ could "solve" the problems of the cities and their corrupt 
administrations. "I can't expect to convert the Christian Church to 
Christianity," he told her, "but I can show what would happen if they 
would but believe."^ 

The articles were never written, but Steffens' intentions are im- 
portant in understanding his involvement in the McNamara case and its 
aftermath. The McNamara brothers had gone on trial in the fall of 
1911 for the bombing of the Los AngelesTimes building in which twenty- 
one persons had been killed. Steffens appears to have intervened in the 
brothers' behalf in part because of his friendship with their attorney, 
Clarence Darrow, but also because he thought by doing so he could focus 
international attention on the causes of the bombing and his plan to 
prevent future episodes of similar violence. 

Steffens succeeded in obtaining a confession from the brothers, in 
exchange, he thought, for a ruling that all charges be dropped against 
them. His real scheme had been to lay before the court and the assem- 
bled press his notion that the "application of the Golden Rule" was 
crucial to future labor-business relations, for without it, the country ran 
the risk of perishing in civil strife. But the deal fell apart, James Mc- 
Namara receiving a sentence of life imprisonment and his brother John, 
who had headed the Structural Iron Workers, receiving a sentence of 
six to twelve years. Steffens bitterly blamed the outcry from the 
churches on the eve of sentencing as turning the trend in public opinion 
against him and spent the rest of his life seeking pardons for the Mc- 

Before the trial he had observed that his "drift toward Chris- 
tianity" had been triggered by his "systematic search" for remedies to 
the problem of city management. He had studied socialism, anarchism, 
the single tax, and "from time to time" the Bible. He was "amazed" at 
the teachings of Jesus. They seemed "new" to him. Jesus saw and under- 
stood, he wrote, what Christians did not. He knew the "evils" of soci- 
ety, and he knew their "cure." What was needed was spiritual renewal 
of the individual, leading to the application of the Golden Rule to so- 

Winter and Hicks, 234-235. Copy of letter from Lincoln Steffens to Mrs. Joseph Steffens. Decem- 
ber 21, 1909. 


There is an excellent summary of the impact of the McNamara case on Steffens in Russell M. 
Horton's Lincoln Steffens (New York, 1974), 83-86. See also, Steffens, Autobiography, 670-675.; and. 
Winter and Hicks, 286-288. 



But the McNamara case had shown him he had misunderstood the 
enemy. Steffens' attack on the institutional church was far more severe 
than that of Baker and far more personal than that of his friend Upton 
Sinclair. The "Christian world" leaps on men when they are down, he 
sadly wrote. "We meant to have them forgiven/' he said of the McNa- 
maras, but "all the church wanted was their blood. It makes me sick." 
At the height of his disillusion, Steffens wrote his family, "I'm getting 
lots of letters from clergymen. They may be right. It is possible that 
Christianity will not work. I may have to admit it. If I must, I shall, 
you know."^ 

Steffens was now muckraked in the press under the title "Golden 
Rule Steffens." He retaliated by wearing a small gold cross from his 
watch chain, calhng himself "the only Christian on earth." Even from 
his vantage point, many years after the experience, Steffens observed 
that Christianity could not be found in its churches. What they 
preached instead was "hate and disappointed revenge."^^ 

Steffens' remaining years were spent courting Communism, finding 
it the only "true" Christianity, and in defending its "necessary" vio- 
lence. His project on the life of Jesus remained unfinished, and an antic- 
ipated work on the life of Satan hardly was begun. He saw a consis- 
tency of outlook in the trail he had taken from muckraking to Marxism. 
"Religion" remained forever central to his thinking and work. "From 
religion my reason would never be emancipated," he observed late in 
life. "By it I was conformed to my generation and made to share its 
moral standards and ideals." Early assumptions concerning "good and 
evil," "virtue and vice" remained his nnind's measure of all things and 
the framework for his entire endeavor.^^ 

The Man with the "Christ Complex" 

Shortly after the publication of Lincoln Steffens' The Shame of the 
Cities, the author received a visit in his office from Upton Sinclair. 
"What you report, " Sinclair told him, "is enough to make a complete 
picture of the system, but you seem not to see it. Don't you see it? Don't 
you see what you are showing?"^ 

Over the years, the two men's programs for reform were perhaps 

^^Winter and Hicks, 243. Copy of letter from Lincoln Steffens to William Kent April 19, 1910. 

Winter and Hicks, 243. Copy of letter from Lincoln Steffens to Laura Steffens. November 1911. 
Also, Winter and Hicks, 286. Copy of letter from Lincoln Steffens to Lou and Allen Suggett. December 
24, 1911. 

^^Steffens, Autobiography, 688. Also, Horton, 85. 

^^Kaplan, 118. 

^Steffens, Autobiography, 434-435. 


more closely alike than any of the other muckrakers. While Sinclair 
stopped at socialism, Steffens went on to advocating communism as a 
means of solving the structural problems of capitalist society. Despite 
the divergence, the men maintained an active and respectful correspon- 
dence for more than thirty years. From the first they had shared a cer- 
tain spiritual kinship. Still early in his career when Sinclair sent 
Steffens a copy of his Cry for Justice, Steffens understood it to be a 
"Bible for the faithful. "^4 

Of the criticisms Sinclair suffered in his long career the one he re- 
ceived most gladly was the charge he suffered from a "Christ com- 
plex." "The world needs a Jesus," Sinclair reportedly answered without 
embarrassment, "more than it needs anything else."^ 

Like McClure, Tarbell, Baker, and Steffens, Sinclair lived into old 
age and left an autobiography to describe the impulses that formed his 
muckraking and led to the publication of The Jungle, his sensational in- 
dictment of the nation's meat-packing industry. Though he had always 
considered ancestors a "bore," Sinclair's relatives claimed royal descent 
from English roots and his great-grandfather was apparently Com- 
modore Arthur Sinclair, who had fought in the first American naval 
battle after the Revolution as well as the War of 1812. In a biographi- 
cal note, Sinclair would admit that a history of his ancestors read a 
little like "the history of the American Navy."^^ 

By the time Sinclair was bom in September of 1878, the family's 
fortunes had faded through the ravages of the Civil War and on "a sea 
of liquor." Sinclair's father came from a family in which four 
"gentlemen of the Old South" had turned drunks. His earliest memories 
were of his father going off as a whiskey salesman and coming home 
drunk. Sinclair remembered his boyhood homes as a succession of 
"sordid" rooming houses he shared with a status-seeking mother, who 
appeared determined to make him an Episcopal bishop. "I became a 
dreamer," he wrote. "When I was 17 1 came to the conclusion that Prov- 
idence must have some special purpose in keeping me in the world."^^ 

It was an horrific world tied to his father's unending drinking cy- 
cles. Upton remembered the father's constant prayers seeking for- 
giveness, the father's ongoing promises that he would stay sober, and 
his heart-rending debacles. As an adolescent, Sinclair remembered 
fishing his father out of bars and hearing the old man say his salvation 

"*Upton Sinclair, My Lifetime in Letters, (Columbia, Mo., 1960), 52. Copy of letter from Lincoln 
Steffens to Upton Sinclair. October 15, 1915. 
^Steffens, Autobiography, 434-435. 

^%pton Sinclair mss. Biographical Data Correspondence. 1814-1916. Box 1. Folder 1. Lilly Li- 
brary. Indiana University. Bloomington, Indiana. 

°'Upton Sinclair, Cup of Fury (Great Neck, 1956), 12 and 13. Also, Upton Sinclair, The Autobiogra- 
phy of Upton Sinclair, (New York, 1962), 27. 


had been "lost," because he had "fallen again. "^^ 

Sinclair saw those early years through the eyes of faith, it making 
him in life, by his own admission, a hopeless idealist. By fifteen he 
was an "ardent little Episcopal boy" teaching Sunday school classes at 
the Church of the Holy Communion in New York. He had gone to 
church every afternoon during Lent, "not because I was told to," he later 
wrote, "but because I wanted to." He had read his Bible "straight 
through," and while writing in his seventies remembered that "its 
language and imagery" had ever been "a part of me." The church had 
given him a "moral earnestness" to the problems of human life that 
formed the basis of his lifelong struggle for social justice.^^ 

He had supported himself as a writer since the age of sixteen. In 
these early years he wrote his mother that he would see to it that they 
never again lived in vermine-infested rooming houses. He was making 
her a promise that he could keep. He assured her, "Whether you be- 
lieve it or not, God's in heaven, who made this world." Sinclair won- 
dered if He knew "what this life is all about anyhow." He hoped that 
there might be "a higher motive in this world than the love of money" 
and "a higher end than getting it."''° 

Sinclair wrote dime novels for cheap magazines to help finance his 
schooling at the City College of New York and Columbia University. It 
was there he began his lifelong "lover's quarrel" with the church, it 
producing in 1918 The Profits of Religion. Whether muckraking the 
churches or the meat-packing industry, Sinclair measured all men by 
his "impossibly high standards of honor, continence, honesty, Chris- 
tianity and truthfulness." He observed, "We have a continent with a 
hundred million educated people, materially prosperous but spiritu- 
ally starving. I would be willing to wager that if 1 announced I had a 
visit from God last night and I communicated a new revelation from it, I 
could have a temple, a university, and a million dollars within five 
years at the outside."''^ Sinclair privately wrote that he felt he had 
been born "to reform." He told fellow muckraker Edwin Markham, "I 
want to give every second of my time and of my thought and every ounce 
of my energy to the worship of my God and to the uttering of the un- 
speakable message that I know he has given me." His muckraking at- 
tack in The Jungle had been a part of that message. He "poured" into it 
all the "tears and anguish and pain" that he had known in life. His 

Sinclair, Cup of Fury, 20-21. 
^^Ibid., 14-15. 

Sinclair mss. Box 1. Folder 5. Copy of letter from Upton Sindair to Prisdlla Sindair (1894-18). 

Sindairmss. Box 1. Folder 2. "Little Known Facts About Well-Known People," an artide by Dale 

Carnegie. Also, Sindair, Autobiography, 31. Also, Leon Harris, Upton Sinclair: American Rebel (New 

York, 1975), 11-14. 


Cry for Justice, written in 1915, was an anthology of social protest, that 
could serve as a "Bible" for the "discouraged and wounded" in their 
struggle against the econondc institutions which oppressed them.^ 

One of those institutions, as he saw it, was the church. And while 
Sinclair never abandoned his belief that organized religion was a bas- 
tion of "predatory, capitalist interests," this opinion never led him to 
abandon his personal faith in God, nor his certainty that Christ's 
teachings were the ultimate way to social betterment. God had given 
him "a vision of a world without poverty and war," where "God's 
children" would not be destroyed. His career had been a cautious labor 
to "make that vision real to my fellow men." It was a vision of a better 
world, in which "courage, resolution and hope" animated the activities 
of men in their behavior to other men. That was the only real hope for 
civic betterment. Sinclair was sure God had put him on the earth to 
give this one message to his fellow man. That "work" had for a life- 
time been his all-consuming passion.^ 

The Man with the Hoe 

"I have a deep interest in your social gospel," the muckraking poet 
Edwin Markham wrote Upton Sinclair in May of 1910, "but I think you 
push it a little too far into the front of the stage."^* 

Despite the admonishment, Markham shared the thrust of Sin- 
clair's social criticism and agreed with Baker and William Allen 
White that God "required cooperation" in bringing about change in the 
relations between business and labor and that central to that teaming 
was the application of the Golden Rule. The publication of his "Man 
with the Hoe" in 1899 won him worldwide recognition as a fighter in 
behalf of the working man. The poem itself was heralded as the 
"battle-cry of the next thousand years. "^^ It led to the publication in 
1900 of a collection of Markham's poetry and a separate volume which 
included the famous poem and his commentary on it. Both were 
publications of the Doubleday and McClure Company and reflected the 
underlying assumptions of much of the muckraking press in its infancy. 

Clearly, Markham saw himself in Millet's depiction of a worker 
"bowed by the weight of centuries" and leaning over his hoe with the 
"emptiness of ages in his face" and the "burden of the world" on his 
back. The youngest child of pioneering parents, Markham never knew 

"Sinclair, Autobiographi/, 112. Also, Harris, 171. Also, Upton Sinclair, The Cry for Justice: An An- 
thology of Social Protest (New York, 1915), 18. 

Sinclair, Autobiography, 55. Also, Sinclair, Cup of Fury, 16. Harris, 168. 
Sinclair, Letters, %. Letter from Edwin Markham to Upton Sinclair. May 26, 1910. 
■Mollis Filler, The Unknown Edwin Markham (Yellow Springs, Ohio, 1966), ch. 5. Also, William L. 
Stidger, Edwin Markham (New York, 1933), ch. 6. 


his father and quarreled with his mother during "lonely years" of farm 
and ranch work in Lagoon Valley, California. He saw himself one of 
the "hoemanry" who worked under "hard and incorrigible conditions." 
The "smack of the soil" and the "whir of the forge" had ever been in 
his "blood. "''^ What the hoeman represented to Markham, and by ex- 
tension to other muckrakers of like-minded faith, was a "type of indus- 
trial oppression" found in "all lands and labors." The hoeman was the 
"symbol of betrayed humanity, the toiler ground down through ages of 
oppression, through ages of social injustice." His stooped image became 
a rallying cry for abolishing the "awful degradation of man through 
endless, hopeless and joyless labor. "^ 

It was not the mere poverty of the industrial worker that Markham 
deplored "but the impossibility of escape from its killing frost." The 
only solution lay in the recognition of "Christ's work of public and or- 
ganic righteousness." It was through that work that He sought to save 
both man and society from themselves. Work was "good" only if it was 
done "in the passion of joy." Men had achieved political liberty, but 
now they must follow the example of Christ if they were to achieve 
"industrial freedom." That freedom would only come when "we realize 
that I am my brother's keeper." Out of that realization would come 
"cooperation," which Markham, and then White after him, would de- 
scribe as the "logic of Christianity."^^ 

In the thirty-five year career as lecturer following the publication 
of "Man with the Hoe," Markham continued to call for moral regenera- 
tion as the fountainhead for greater social justice. What had been the 
"purpose of Christ," he asked, "if not the realization of fraternity." 
That was the "holiest of all words," the word that carried with it the 
"essence of the gospels" and the "fulfillment of all revelations."^^ 

In forty years of writing, Markham never achieved the impact he 
had with his critique of industrial relations. His work on "Lincoln, the 
Man of the People," as well as his crusade against child labor in The 
Children of Bondage, continued his passionate call for social justice, 
while collections published through 1920, particularly "The Shoes of 
Happiness" and "The Gates of Paradise," reflected his continuing as- 
sertion that man needed to cooperate with a "divine strategy" if he 
hoped to live a better life.*° 

In a private notebook, Markham recorded that it was "injustice" 

''^dwin Markham, The Man with the Hoe (New York, 1900), 19. 

'^Ibid., 23. 

'^id., 32, 37-39 and 45-47. 

^id., 47. 
Edwin Markham, Lincoln and Other Poems (New York, 1901). Also, Edwin Markham, The Shoes 

of Happiness and Other Poems (Garden City, 1932, originally 1913). Also, Edwin Markham, The Gates 
of Paradise and Other Poems (Garden City, 1920). 


that he had "detested most." Men must learn that the only solution to 
the problem was the "carrying of the Christ-purpose in the heart" or 
what he called the "inbrothering of men for the common good." He was 
sure that "in a generation" the application of just such a principle 
would "cure all our social sorrows." The church should join the writers 
of the day in pushing a "spirit of reform." He observed, "the saving of 
men's souls is very closely connected with the amelioration of their so- 
cial and industrial conditions." The church in the new century needed 
more than anything else "a baptism of the Holy Spirit," which he be- 
lieved was the same as saying, "Social Spirit."*^ 

A Theory of Spiritual Progress 

Nowhere does the social spirit find a greater champion than 
William Allen White, the sage of Emporia, Kansas, who first came to 
the McClure group in 1897 with the publication of his "Boyville" sto- 
ries and who stayed on the national scene as a publicist for progressive 
causes for more than forty years. It was during his first trip to the East 
that White had lunch with Theodore Roosevelt at the Army and 
Navy club, quickly falling under "the Great Man's spell." What fol- 
lowed was a highly public twenty-year career which White under- 
stood as service to the "moral vision" the two men shared. This vision 
recognized that a "social evolution" was already underway in America 
and needed to be encouraged by national policymakers. White saw it as 
a "step-at-a-time process to secure for the working classes, better envi- 
ronment in playgrounds, schools, housing, wages and shop conditions." 
He reasoned that "after a generation or two of workers bred in the 
newer, cleaner environment, a new vision will come to the workers ~ a 
vision which will justly solve the inequalities of the capitalist sys- 
tem." Unlike Steffens and Sinclair, White remained convinced that 
"capital may be harnessed for the common good as well as for private 

How that "harnessing" would occur is best described in White's 
epistle, A Theory of Spiritual Progress, published in 1910. White wrote 
that although the world was hardly a "chocolate eclair" there could 
be no denying that life on the planet was "outward bound." The choice 
between life as an "eternal grind" and an "eternal journey" was lived in 
the context of a society where "the public sense of evildoing was 
widening." This was a good sign, because "cruelty becomes intolerable 

*Edwin Markham Scrapbook. "The Markham Book." January 1894. Box 3455. Library of 

Congress. Washington, D.C. Also, an article he wrote for the New York Times, appearing October 21, 

1899, and an interview with the San Francisco Bulletin, appearing December 30, 1900, in Box 3455. 

^^William Allen White, The Autobiography of William Allen White (New York, 1946), 300. Also, 

William Allen White, Letterbook. September 20, 1913. A letter from William Allen White to Fred D. 

Warren. Container B29, pt. 2. Library of Congress. 


as men become aware that it exists." As the "sensibilities" of the com- 
mon man grew, his capacity for "kindness" grew. His goodwill broad- 
ened. His fellow man benefited. People insisted on the passage of laws 
more closely approximating patterns of social justice. This was the core 
of White's theory of "spiritual progress. "^^ 

The theory visualized the working out of Darwinian evolution in 
societal terms based on the Golden Rule and the character of Jesus 
Christ. In 1914, White wrote that he believed the world was "growing 
better" because it was becoming "more and more capable of understand- 
ing the social and spiritual message of Jesus Christ." It seemed to him 
that society was coming to recognize what he had long seen ~ "that 
Christ is not only the living God, but the only true growing God in all 
the world."^ 

White's spiritual intensity appears to have come from his mother, 
even as his spiritual uru-est appears to have been drawn from a conflict 
lived out between his parents.^ White's mother had been an early con- 
vert to anti-slavery Republicanism, who had moved while a teenager 
with a Congregational family to Galesburg, Illinois. There she wit- 
nessed the Lincoln-Douglas debate, falling "platonically in love" for a 
lifetime with Lincoln. It took ten years of hard work to get her educa- 
tion at Knox College, where she sat under the teaching of Dr. Albert 
Hurd, the man whose daughter would marry White's sometime boss — 
S.S. McClure.86 

White's father was a lifelong Democrat, interested in the political 
life of Kansas. For a time, he had even served as the mayor of a small 
town, Eldorado. He had little use for his wife's campaign to civilize 
their only child, by encouraging his church activities and by reading to 
him out of the Good Book at night. White idealized his schooling on 
the Kansas plains. "We sang gospel hymns every morning," he wrote, 
"and the teacher read a chapter in the Bible. There was no nonsense 
about that. For we were all little Protestants. She made us say the 
Lord's prayer after Bible reading, and then we were all started off 
right for the day. At noon we sang another gospel hymn and loved it."^ 

White's own conversion came during his college days. He called it 
the "night of the light." It left him with a sense that even if the 
higher criticism be right, and much of the Bible a "myth," there was no 
getting around who Jesus Christ was. To White's mind, Jesus was the 

^^illiam Allen White, A Theory of Spiritual Progress (Emporia, 1910), 3, 13, 15, 24 and 36. 
**Willianri AUen White, Letterbook. June 3, 1914. A letter from William Allen White to Rev. Clifford 
Cole. Container B29, pt. 2. 

^Sally Griffith, Home Tovm News (New York, 1988), ch. 1, particularly p. 28, and ch. 4, particularly 
169-179. My thanks to Ms. Griffith for giving me an advanced copy of her manuscript. 
^^White, Autobiography, 6-7. 


Ibid., 38. 


"greatest hero in history/' Human happiness was achieved only to the 
degree people "made His philosophy a part of human institutions." Je- 
sus had died to save the world by "demonstrating through His crucifix- 
ion and the symbol of his resurrection the indestructibility of truth. "^ 

The essence of White's social gospel appears to have stemmed from 
his conviction that the simple application of the Golden Rule in human 
affairs would regenerate the social order. "I think the job of the church 
today/' he wrote, "is to make a public opinion that will so revolution- 
ize our industry, commerce, and political life that it will be possible for 
a man to live a generous, useful Christian life without hurt or harm to 
himself or his family. "^^ 

While he preached a message of spiritual reconciliation. White, 
like many of the publicists for progressivism, had a hard time 
reconciling the old familiar faith with the relativism of the new 
moral order. The churches were failed institutions. He had only gone to 
them as a lad, he snapped, to meet pretty girls, and had continued go- 
ing as a father because he thought it might be good for his children. But 
a preacher's business was not "any more exalted" as a "calling" than 
was the work of the newspaperman. The purpose of both, he charged in 
The Old Order Changeth, was to recognize that in the "daily struggle 
for existence" God was nevertheless "fulfilling himself" in the affairs 
of man. The growth of democratic institutions had been "God-inspired." 
The "upward direction" of social change had proved there was a 

Theodore Roosevelt had been "God's man" because he had "kept 
the faith" while serving as a role model for how the twentieth-century 
man should act in his relations to other men. He had encouraged the 
development of the "hero" in every person and in so doing had demon- 
strated that the "kingdom of God is within us." The revolution from 
"kings to capitalism" had been but one step in an evolutionary process 
at work in the human community .^^ Now democracy was "seeking to 
control capital." Roosevelt had shown a way of "expanding people's 
vision" to what democracy was about. Democracy was the playing out 
of the "self-abnegation of the Christian life" and was the greatest 
movement "in all of our national life."^^ 

^id., 108. 

"'John DeWitt McKee, William Allen White: Maverick on Main Street (Westport, 1975), 199-200. 

^A^illiam Allen White, Letterbook. November 23, 1914. A letter from William Allen White to Eugene 
Bryan. Library of Congress. 

^^William Allen White, The Old Order Changeth (New York, 1910), 251 and 263. 
^^Walter Johnson, ed.. Selected Letters of William Allen White: 1899-1943 (New York, 1947), 34 and 
97. Also, White, The Old Order Changeth, 3-4 and 229-238. Also, McKee, 198-203. 


Progressivism and Pessimism 

White's pre-war assertion that the "worker for good will is paid in 
eternity" and that "righteousness exalted a nation" as the "divine 
spark" burned "in every soul" may have seemed like wearied rhetoric 
to the generation of the twenties. White continued to chronicle the 
great men and movements of his time, always reshaping them in his 
image of the past. "What a God-damned world this is!" he wrote 
Baker, following Harding's election. "Starvation on the one hand, and 
indifference on the other, pessimism rampant, faith quiescent, murder 
met with indifference, the lowered standard of civilization faced with 
universal complaisance, and the whole story so sad that nobody can tell 
it. If anyone had told me ten years ago that our country would be what 
it is today, and that the world would be what it is today, I should 
have questioned his reason."^^ 

In 1925, White wrote Some Cycles of Cathay, a work that fairly 
summarized much of the thinking and many of the fears of that re- 
markable group of men and women who had fought with their pens for 
progressive purposes for more than a generation. He claimed that his 
belief in democratic growth under the influence of the Christian phi- 
losophy as expressed in the teachings of Christ and the Golden Rule 
remained unshakeable. It alone provided a framework which dignified 
"individual humanity." That had been his message all along.^^ 

White and his contemporaries remained convinced that there was 
a "moral purpose behind man's destiny." People still needed to learn 
that central fact. The cycle in which people now lived had sadly 
shown that "men will not take truth except through force and at a ter- 
rible cost." But eventually they must be made to see that the only hope 
for the human community lay in recognizing "the destiny God has given 
us." That destiny must continue to be known to them by writers of the 
new generation. It was a destiny in which all people could progress 
"together" or not at all, for they could live "by faith" which would 
sustain a "larger vision" or they would succumb to the "chaos" around 

White's hope, and the hope of his fellow foot-soldiers, was that 
social justice would become a permanent part of economic and political 
institutions as people came to develop the "Christ" that was in them. 
This belief was a complex of many ideas, most central of which were 
the writers' own evangelical upbringings, the impact of Darwinian 
evolution and the higher criticism on that belief, and the lifelong 

Johnson, 213. Copy of letter from William Allen White to Ray Stannard Baker. December 8, 1920. 
^ViUiam Allen White, , 
^^Ibid., 23, 60 and 87-88. 

^^William Allen White, Some Cycles of Cathay (Chapel Hill, 1925), preface and 16-23 


Struggle which then emerged to integrate their faith to the social 
problems their generation encountered. What makes their work all the 
more remarkable was that it sprang from the crucible of the writers' 
own spiritual and intellectual struggles, yet became translated into a 
social program designed to solve the fundamental injustices of their era. 
The paradox of the progressive program the muckrakers espoused 
was that many of them wondered whether it could really be made to 
work. These men and women who earnestly tried to teach other men and 
women to be their brother's keeper remained lifelong pupils them- 
selves. Their lives were experiments in man's personal struggle with 
God and his social relationship to other men. 

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch 

Campaign Against Radio's Middle 


By Michael D. Murray* 

Concerns by newspaper publishers over radio excess in borrowing 
news from the print medium while taking liberties with newspaper 
standards were expressed as early as the 1930s. The sentiment underly- 
ing what became known as the "press-radio war" was once summed up 
by James. G. Stahlman, publisher of the Nashville Banner and presi- 
dent of the Southern Newspaper Publisher's Association, who ad- 
monished colleagues: "Newspaper publishers had better wake up or 
newspapers will be nothing but a memory on a tablet at Radio City."^ 
Radio reported news initially from print sources. This reporting almost 
exclusively at the expense of American newspapers was hard for pub- 
lishers to accept. With developments of the 1930s, suddenly the impact 
of radio as a medium competing for advertising dollars began to be felt 
and created even more dissatisfaction. Many newspaper people at- 
tempted strong measures to stem competition, and the information 
"war" ensued over sources of news. These attempts to limit access to in- 
formation have been well documented, but what has received far less 
attention is the fact that in some quarters publishers were also express- 
ing concerns over the increasing commercialization of radio news. This 
study traces the premier effort to rid the airwaves of comn\ercials in- 
serted into the middle of radio newscasts, the so-called middle com- 

Some newspaper publishers worried that radio, which had devel- 
oped as an entertainment medium, would fail to adopt standards ap- 
propriate to the news business. Meanwhile, the medium was growing in 
importance among listeners. As a consequence, some stations such as 
NBC affiliate KSD radio in St. Louis adopted the policies of its parent 

Michael D. Murray (Ph.D., Missouri-Columbia) is associate professor and 
director of mass communication at the University of Missouri-St. Lx)uis. 

lyuoted in Eric Bamouw, A lower in Babel (New York: 1966), Z7». hor a discussion of the press- 
radio war see Sammy R. Danna, "The Press-Radio War," Freedom of Information Center Report No. 
213, School of Journalism, University of Missouri-Cblim\bia, December, 1968, 1-7. 


Pulitzer Publishing in setting up standards for news advertising at the 
urging of Joseph Pulitzer II.^ Owned and operated by the St. Louis Post- 
Dispatch Company, KSD frequently suspended comnnercial advertising 
to rep)ort important news developments during World War II. The sta- 
tion eliminated all advertising for a 24-hour period in June 1944, when 
the allied invasion of France took place. Also, in December of that 
year, when a two-day pressman's strike hit the St. Louis daily news- 
papers, KSD presented all material from pages prepared for the St. 
Louis Post-Dispatch — except for commercial advertisements. Later, 
when the network alerted the country of Franklin Roosevelt's death in 
April 1945, the station devoted three full days and nights to memorial 
tributes without commercial interruption.^ 

In instances in which advertisements might intrude on the solem- 
nity or seriousness of an important war-related news event, they were 
omitted. This policy was in keeping with other efforts to support the 
war by using established guidelines from the Office of War Informa- 
tion. During the war years radio advertising nearly doubled when ad- 
vertisers sought evasion of excess profits taxes not applicable to print 
because of paper shortages.^ At the same time, the federal government 
encouraged radio advertising growth to offset war profits and encourage 
growth in the economy. By the end of the war, radio listeners would 
recognize the marked increase in advertising. At the same time a 
precedent had been set ~ important news and public affairs program- 
ming would get priority treatment on radio which was developing as a 
predominantly entertainment medium. 

Some stations such as KSD did not allow commercial interruption of 
newscasts ~ viewing them as breaks in editorial continuity. In 1945 the 
St. Louis Post-Dispatch started an editorial campaign advocating the 
elimination of all middle commercials, those placed in the middle of 
radio newscasts. The timing of the effort, during a period when war ca- 
sualties were a dominant feature of the news, was further enhanced by 
the policy of KSD to turn down advertising it considered distasteful or 
excessive such as proprietary medicine accounts.^ The campaign against 
"excess" in radio advertising began on January 18, 1945. Joseph Pulitzer 
II urged Ralph Coghlan, editor of the editorial page of the Post-Dis- 

James Lawrence, personal interview with author, September 30, 1987. See also "Lawrence is 
Your Man: James Lawrence Speaks Out and Looks Back on 12,000 Editorials, " St. Louis Journalism Re- 
view, June, 1988,10-11. 

The radio networks were establishing credibility for reporting political and war-related coverage. 
NBC News had transported listeners overseas a totsd of 7,838 times from January 1, 1942 until Decem- 
ber 1, 1945. Quoted in Jan Anscll, Jr., "The Story of a Station: The History of Radio Station WDAF," 
Unpublished Masters Thesis, University of Missouri-Columbia, 1950, 130. For specifics on suspension 
of KSD advertising see L. Qark Secrest, "The History of Radio Station KSD, St. Louis," Unpublished 
Masters Thesis, University of Missouri-Columbia, 1961, 177. 

J. Mimlott, "Public Service Advertising: The Advertising Council," Public Opinion Quarterly 
(1948), 211. 

James Lawrence, interview with author, September 30, 1987. 


patch, to take up the issue of radio commercialism. As a result, the 
newspaper ran a lengthy editorial accompanied by a Daniel Fitz- 
patrick cartoon calling it 'Time for Radio Networks to Come of Age."^ 
The editorial asked NBC, CBS, Mutual, and the Blue Network to (1) 
quit inserting commercial plugs in news broadcasts and (2) eliminate 
objectionable advertisers from the airwaves. Pointing to the major 
sporting events being reported by radio, the editorial questioned the 
appropriateness of having news broadcasts peppered "by the appeals 
of patent medicine or cosmetic advertising."^ The editorial cited a 
decision by another major station, WJR of Detroit, to ban middle com- 

WJR used the war effort to establish the importance of radio news. 
Station Manager Leo J. Fitzpatrick said that "the public today listens 
to radio news with reverence and solemnity," calling it "one of the most 
important show windows of radio."^ The WJR executive clearly viewed 
the ban as an opportunity to establish a certain level of dignity with 
his listenership. The Post-Dispatch's station, KSD, clearly shared 
that view. It had established a policy the preceding year to avoid 
broadcast of news sponsored by personal products such as "palliatives 
for bodily aches and pains, stomach acidity and gas, body odors, en- 
larged pores, bad breath and a thousand and one equally revolting sub- 
jects."^ This policy of turning away advertising considered unfit or not 
suitable for public airing was consistent with the Post-Dispatch policy 
and an attempt by Pulitzer Publishing and Joseph Pulitzer II in 
particular, to discriminate between entertainment and news program- 
ming with respect to the placement of commercials. The January 18 edi- 
torial called on the radio networks to take a leadership role and 
"avoid the cheap commercialism associated with mixing laxatives and 
liberation," as the message suggested by the accompanying editorial 
cartoon in which a listener was bombarded with a mixture of pills and 
war casualties. 

Eighteen days after this first editorial, the Post-Dispatch ran a 
second lead editorial on this subject. It summed up the response received 
since its initial call for wiping out the middle commercials which were 
dubbed "plug-uglies" by editorial writer James Lawrence, author of the 
editorials on the subject. Lawrence had been brought over to the Post- 
Dispatch editorial page from KSD Radio. The editor sought a writer 
experienced in radio broadcasting. According to Lawrence: 

*"' A Suggestion to Radio," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 18, 1945, 2B. 


Ibid. KSD Radio claimed to have cancelled or refused more than $100,000 in undesirable accounts 
— from advertisers insisting on commercials to be inserted in newscasts. Sec "Advice to Radio," Time, 
January 29, 1945, 69. 


^See Daniel W. Pfaff, 'Joseph Pulitzer II and Advertising Censorship, 1929-1939," Journalism 
Monographs, (July 1982), 18-19. 


[Coghlan] called me over for advice and after I talked to him for 
about a half-hour he said:"Well, you know a lot more about this 
than I do. There's a typewriter, you sit down and write the edito- 
rial.". . . 

So I sat down and wrote an editorial that was in the next day's pa- 
per with hardly a change in it. So he then invited me to join the 
editorial page which I did, briefly, and I wrote those editorials on 
bad taste commercialism and it became quite a nationwide affair. ^° 

The national debate over commercialism in radio news had begun. 
A Post-Dispatch follow-up piece reviewed coverage received from 
Time, Newsweek, and other elements of the press and radio, including 
the print trade publication Editor and Publisher. The broadcast trade 
magazine Broadcasting referred to Lawrence as "the editorial writer 
who writes with a bag over his head,"" ignoring demands of the field. 
On this occasion the Post-Dispatch also included letters of support and 
encouragement from Federal Communications Commissioner Ray C. 
Wakefield, the president of the Association of Radio News Analysts, 
John W. Vandercook, and celebrated commentator Raymond Gram 
Swing. Swing's contract on the Blue Network specified that his pro- 
gram not be interrupted by middle commercials.^^In a letter to the Post- 
Dispatch, Swing reported on his 1940 revolt against what he termed 
"jarring interruptions" and the "hideous" mixture of sales talk with his 
report on Nazi violation of Belgian, Dutch, and French neutrality 
while reporting for the Mutual Network. The network supported 
Swing's stand; and he, obviously, applauded steps called for by the 
Post-Dispatch and KSD Radio. 

The newspaper continued to pound away on the issue. Another ac- 
companying editorial cartoon entitled "The Sublime and the Ridicu- 
lous" hastened the call for additional action by major stations and the 
networks. Taking the argument of good taste a step further. Broadcast- 
ing asked whether the patience of listeners "with rude and ill-timed 
interruptions" would be able to tolerate these commercials once the 
need for war information abated. Broadcasting editorialized that it 
thought not.^^ 

As the campaign gained momentum nationally, divergent views 
began to surface. The four major radio networks expressed a reluctance to 
follow the editorial lead, preferring to let local stations decide this 

James Lawrence, interview with author, September 30, 1987. See also "Lawrence is Your Man," 
St. Louis Journalism Review, June, 1988, 10-11. 



^^ See 'Two Leading Commentators Take Their Stand," St. Louis Post-Dispatch. February 5, 1945, 



Quoted in "Newscast Qeanup Moves Forward," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 5, 1945, 2B. 


issue for themselves. Network chiefs argued, for example, that the 
management of local stations made the decisions on commercial adver- 
tising time. They also cited lack of public response to the campaign as 
an indicator that this was a trade issue and one without popular sup- 

The Post-Dispatch subsequently featured an article on Sunday, 
February 18, 1945, providing network feedback on the controversial 
plan to eliminate middle commercials and unsavory ads.^* The networks 
generally maintained that there was nothing inappropriate with the 
placement of ads provided it was clear to the listeners that no 
relationship existed between products and people, as long as the timing 
was proper, and that the ads contained nothing reprehensible. CBS 
said it reserved the right to eliminate the nniddle commercials if the 
nature of the news made it difficult to break to an announcement. The 
network reported very positive feedback from listeners and affiliate 
stations when that had been the case in past instances. Columbia was 
said to be particularly sensitive to issues related to news presentation 
because of the confusion and public outcry over its well-known broadcast 
of Orson Welles' "War of the Worlds." Dr. Frank Stanton, CBS admin- 
istrative vice president, reported that, as a consequence, even dramatic 
programs were exanrdned by the network, to avoid misleading listeners. 
Stanton also pointed to a CBS policy statement from ten years earlier 
addressing the issue of personal ads for body cleansing and sanitary 
products which were also carefully scrutinized before being accepted for 
broadcast. ^^ Meanwhile, NBC President Niles Trammell told the Post- 
Dispatch that he thought the issues raised in the campaign against 
middle commercials required a great deal more research, although he 
said he agreed in principle with any effort to improve service to the 

Also receiving some attention from the network bosses was the re- 
lated issue of having announcers go from reporting an important news 
event to delivering a commercial announcement, a practice that had 
been abandoned in many quarters even at that early stage in radio his- 
tory. NBC's Trammell went on to point out that many of radio's cele- 
brated voices, including H.V. Kaltenborn and Lowell Thomas, had 
banished the middle announcements years before.^^ Concluding his 
statement to the Post-Dispatch, Trammell suggested that the issue be 

^* "Radio Chains Don't Want Reform," St. Louis Post Dispatch, Febraary 18, 1945, 3A. 




*' Kaltenborn experienced a great deal of difficulty with commercial sponsorship early in his career. 

When sponsored by General MUls, he was required to read middle commercials but insisted on writing 
them himself smd m<iking them more of am institutionad endorsement. See Irving Fang, Those Radio 
Commentators! (Ames, Iowa: 1977), 29, and David G. Qark, "H.V. Kaltenborn and the Sponsor's Role," 
Journal of Broadcasting 12 (1968), 309-321. 


submitted to the Code Authority of the National Association of 
Broadcasters for further study and action. 

In a follow-up editorial two days later, "Networks Trail the Pa- 
rade," the Post-Dispatch credited individual stations in Detroit, Mil- 
waukee, Indianapolis, and Ashland, Kentucky, along with KFRE Ra- 
dio in Fresno, California, for their efforts to deal with the problem by 
supp>orting the campaign.^^ It also applauded the enthusiastic reception 
KFRE advertisers gave to the policy and noted that it was only a mi- 
nority of fringe advertisers who found it not to their liking. These ar- 
guments were coupled with a plea to acknowledge that the networks 
were giving up their leadership function to local stations by their fail- 
ure to adopt industry-wide standards. In addition, this editorial cited 
the support of the leading broadcast editor of the day. Jack Gould of 
the New York Times, who provided an additional favorable opinion. 

Some sources claimed that advertisers would seek other outlets if 
such a plan were implemented. Gould labeled these kinds of claims 
"utter poppycock." He argued that the plan would have little or no 
economic impact. Gould concluded by pointing to the separation of news 
and commercial advertising in a newspaper context. He advanced the 
argument that radio had progressed in the maturity of its news opera- 
tions to support implementation, thus putting aside "the indiscretions 
of youth."^^A month later NBC announced its decision to eliminate 
middle commercials from newscasts, thus, at least temporarily, 
supporting the Post-Dispatch stand.^^ 

When the federal government was pressed by major newspapers and 
broadcasters to respond to the debate, the chairman of the Federal 
Communications Commission, Paul Porter, expressed the need for 
broadcasters to clean up their own house on this issue, saying that the 
commission lacked the authority to abate what he termed "nuisance 
practices."^^ He also recounted recent legislative attempts by Senator 
Burton K. Wheeler of Montana to prohibit commercial endorsement and 
all commercial sponsorship of broadcast news. Porter applauded the 
efforts of the Post-Dispatch but made it known that requirements re- 
garding the appropriateness of commercialism in news programming 
was not the domain of the FCC. He added that, as an admirer of the 
Post-Dispatch, he was impressed by both the newspaper's efforts and 
the endorsement of the trade publication. Broadcasting. 

Major advertisers, for the most part, remained quiet. They let the 
broadcasters do their talking; and most of the major network represen- 

^* "Networks Trail the Parade," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 20, 1945, 2B. 

Jack Gould, "Plug-Uglies' Campaign for Improved News Broadcasts Reflect a Broader Plan," 
New York Times, February 18, 1945, x7. 

^° See "And Now We Brine You . . . ," Newsweek, March 26, 1945. 

Raymond B. Brandt, "Radio Plug-Uglies Poor Business, Justin Miller, New President of N.A.B. 
Warns Station Executives," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 3, 1945, IC 


tatives cited not only the need to remain independent of what they re- 
garded as a local controversy, but also expressed the desire for restraint 
in viewing the specific applications of the proposal. Blue Network 
President Mark Woods suggested that conunercial copy be studied in 
instances in which an indiscretion might occur. He argued that the need 
to cut commercials was seldom required unless the "continuity of 
thought" was altered by an intruding commercial message. 

Mutual Broadcasting's Edgar Kobak also argued that he saw no use 
for prejudice against news accounts simply because of the nature of the 
products but added that issuing of war news on his network would al- 
most certainly result in the discontinuance of commercials, regardless of 
the product. Kobak called for additional study and predicted that 
eventually middle commercials would be abolished. He thanked the 
Post-Dispatch in the public's behalf.^^ 

For its part, the Post-Dispatch continued to raise questions. On 
Monday, April 16, 1945, the newspaper reiterated its position, one it 
claimed was misinterpreted in many quarters. It said, for example, that 
a speech by the then president of the National Association of Broad- 
casters (NAB) had misconstrued the intent of the campaign as a more 
general attack on broadcast news. The Post-Dispatch offered a clarifi- 
cation in another editorial, which was published as an advertisement 
in various trade publications including Radio Daily. In addition to 
earlier points regarding the newspaper's editorial stand, the Post-Dis- 
patch pointed out how many major companies including Standard Oil of 
Indiana had adopted policies in line with the ban against "plug- 

The initiator and leading proponent of the campaign continued to 
reinforce its position. The Post-Dispatch's summary statement on the 
issue was set out as follows: 

The plug-ugly, we hold, is neither good broadcasting nor good ad- 
vertising. New is news and the public is entitled to hear it reported 
with dignity and good taste. We hold that the radio industry 
whose function it is to serve the 'public interest, convenience and 
necessity' has far more to gain than to lose by eliminating the 
newscast plug-ugly ~ lock, stock and barrel. If radio did so, it would 
fortify the great and fundamental principle of freedom of the air.^ 

It looked like that would be the last word on the "plug-ugly" debate 
that would come from the newspaper; but soon recommendations from 
other broadcasting quarters were issued, calling for a closer look and 
vindicating the Post-Dispatch on its strong stand. 



The Post-Dispatch reprinted a "Letter to the Editor" from broad- 
cast manager Rex Howell,2*a member of the NAB News Committee 
that drafted proposals for improved news programs. Howell's remarks 
included many compliments to the newspap)er in the face of what he 
termed anti-radio papers that had seized on the controversy as a means 
of damaging competitors. As a follow-up KSD Radio continued to ad- 
dress the issue it had raised. It did so by examining public statements 
by government officials including members of the F.C.C., thus avoiding 
the opportunity of being misconstrued by counterparts as serving a sp>e- 
cial interest. 

FCC Chairman Paul Porter's attack against excessive commer- 
cialism on radio, entitled "Radio Must Grow Up," was published in the 
October issue of American Magazine and reprinted in the Post-Dis- 
patch. Porter, a native Missourian, instructed broadcasters on the need 
to improve the medium with particular attention to current program- 
ming or what he called "Neurotic Twaddle." He discussed the role 
broadcast advertisements play in everyday American life and pro- 
vided a short comparison to the BBC. The Post-Dispatch also included 
excerpts from Porter's article that did not make it into the pages of the 
magazine. He discussed some of radio's shortcomings including an 
overemphasis on the dominant ratings service of that day, concluding 
"There is more to life and radio than a Crosley rating. The broadcaster 
has often argued it is not his function to 'reform' public taste, but be that 
as it may, it certainly is the broadcaster's function not to lower it."^^ 

The St. Louis newspaper restated its stand on the issue once again 
after a lengthy review of Paul Porter's assessment of radio's status. The 
review was augmented with a Daniel Fitzpatrick editorial cartoon 
with Porter standing on top of a huge microphone, screaming an an- 
nouncement while airborne. In the aftermath of his discussion of radio, 
one of his frequent adversaries on the FCC, Clifford Durr, in a speech in 
New York City, agreed with Porter's denunciation. Durr, while ap- 
plauding radio's efforts to report the news, condemned the medium in 
instances in which "unfortunately, news of the greatest importance is 
sometin\es overwhelmed and deprived of its significance by the com- 
mercial advertisements which precede, interrupt and follow it."^^ 

In the wake of Porter's denunciation and Durr's expression of sup- 
port for that view, additional voices were heard. The next week, the 
newly installed president of the NAB, Justin Miller, denounced plug- 
uglies at a meeting of radio station owners in Washington, D.C. He as- 
sailed the ads as poor business practice and called for a greater degree 

"A Radio Man on Plug-Ugly Campaign," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 7, 1945, 2B, reprinted in 
Broadcasting, June 18, 1945, 8. 

^ Paul A. Porter, "Radio Must Grow Up," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 16, 1945, ID. 
2^ Ibid. 


of self-discipline among the owners. The speech was an elaboration of 
an earlier letter Miller had sent to the Post-Dispatch while he was 
still a nnember of the U.S. Court of Appeals. In that earlier view. 
Miller asserted himself on behalf of the newspaper's stand on the issue, 
stating: "There is no reason why a newscast should be interrupted by a 
plug-ugly than that such ads should be inserted in the middle of news 
stories or in editorials in a newspaper; especially when the interrup- 
tion ~ deliberately or unconscious, whatever it may be ~ is in nauseat- 
ing contrast to the subject under discussion by the commentator."^^ FCC 
Chairman Porter, who also spoke at that event, commended the NAB 
in its selection of Miller as president and indicated that this was a 
symbolic gesture on the part of the association to clean up the airwaves. 
He added that Miller's record demonstrated that American broadcast- 
ers had "no desire to rest upon past achievements but face tomorrow 
with hope and confidence in themselves and the people they serve."^^ 

The final speaker at the meeting, the retiring FCC boss, defended 
the broadcasters, saying that although there had been some concern 
over commercialization, peacetime broadcasting would assure that the 
listener's needs would be served at the local level. He also pointed to 
the NAB Code as a means of assuring the maintenance of lugh stan- 
dards and the needs of the community served. He praised the role of 
commercial advertising in the distribution of goods and services at a 
critical juncture for the country. Beyond this, he said that American 
broadcasting had demonstrated its role as providing the best system of 
broadcasting. Clearly, the tactics of commercial advertisers and pro- 
gram practices of his counterparts in the NAB were far from ugly. In 
addition, the organization held the potential to provide supervisory 
assistance or advice in instances when broadcasters failed to use discre- 

When the Radio News Committee of the NAB issued recommenda- 
tions on post-war news coverage, the Post-Dispatch expected a major bit 
of attention to be paid to commercialization. The editorial staff dis- 
covered that the term "plug-uglies"appeared nowhere in the report. 
Instead, the document contained recommendations concerning the need 
to provide competent, thorough, and speedy news coverage, more local 
coverage, and a change of reference from news processing to "reporting." 
Commercialism was not addressed in the report; and, according to the 
Post-Dispatch, the committee preparing the report on news had not 
kept up with news of its own business. The Post-Dispatch advised a 
more thorough study and asked: "When is it going to get out some rec- 
ommendations as up-to-date as the news broadcasts on which it hands 



out advice?"^^ 

In spite of the national attention to this issue and the arguments 
advanced on both sides, surprisingly little follow-up was offered. Once 
the broadcast of war news subsided— particularly when reports on war 
casualties left the airwaves ~ the hue and cry over distasteful and in- 
appropriate middle commercials died down, although, from time to 
time, a divergent view was aired. In one widely reported incident in 
1946, newscaster Don Hollenbeck was fired because he began an early 
morning report following a singing commercial with: "The atrocity you 
have just heard is not a part of this program."^ 

By 1946, broadcasters were becoming preoccupied with the impli- 
cations of the FCC's report. Public Service Responsibility of Broadcast 
Licensees, more commonly known as "The Blue Book." The document 
castigated American radio for a variety of failures, targeting commer- 
cial excess and specifically mentioning the middle commercial. It 

quoted a segment from the New York Times. 

The virtual subordination of radio's standards to the philosophy of 
advertising inevitably has led the networks into an unhealthy and 
untenable position. It has permitted Gabriel Heatter to shift 
without emphasis from a discussion of the war to the merits of hair 

In spite of warnings of "The Blue Book," middle commercials 
played much less a role in the abbreviated radio newscasts of post- 
World War II America. Of course, crisis reporting and coverage of war 
news have raised similar concerns since that time and some additional 
changes have taken place. Newscaster endorsement of products has 
been eliminated from the airwaves, newscasts have become segmented, 
and single-product sponsorship of newscasts has become virtually ex- 
tinct, thus lessening the likelihood of commercial influence. The 
introduction of personal hygiene and contraceptive ads on television 
has created a stir, and some excesses in children's advertising have 
caused denunciations; but efforts by the NAB and adherence to the 
NAB Code, plus efforts by consumer groups to monitor potentially of- 
fensive advertising, have decreased the chance of another campaign 
against middle commercials. 

Unlike the brief press-radio war preceding it, the "plug-ugly" 
campaign was, by and large, a highly selective attempt by the St. 
Louis Post-Dispatch to apply newspaper standards to a still rela- 

^^ "News Committee Misses the News," St. Loviis Post-Dispatch, October 9, 1945, 2C. 


Fang, Those Radio Commentators! , IZ 
^' Quoted in Charles A. Siepmann, "Storm in the Radio World," The American Mercury 63 (August 
1946), 201-207. See also Richard J. Meyer, "The Blue Book," Journal of Broadcasting 6 (1%2), 203. 

40 AMERICAN 10URNAUSM VI (1989): 1 

lively young broadcast industry. It undoubtedly affected the trend 
away from having newscasters read advertising copy but had little 
long-temn effect on the placement of ads. In spite of the limited impact 
of the campaign, Joseph Pulitzer II continued to monitor ads placed on 
KSD Radio. He took a personal interest in this area and had staff 
members keep him informed on occasions when the station deviated 
from established standards.^^ of course, television would soon begin to 
catch on nationally and radio broadcasters would have less of a chance 
to pick and choose potential sponsors. In the aftermath, except in time 
of national crisis, the American public has come to accept and even ex- 
pect commercial interruption as an integral part of the major newscasts 
of the day. 

In the context of the evolution of broadcast news — from a loss lead- 
er to a significant money-maker— the campaign against middle 
connmercials stands out as something of a last-ditch effort to curtail 
commercialism. It is ironic that the effort evolved against the back- 
drop of what is now regarded as a golden age of radio news, relatively 
devoid of commercialization by contemporary standards. In the after- 
math of the campaign, the author of most of the Post-Dispatch "plug- 
ugly" editorials admitted that it was probably wrong for a newspaper 
to demand that radio adhere to the standards of print journalism be- 
cause of the differences in the manner in which information is pre- 

^ See, for example, Joseph Pulitzer H, memo to George M. Burbach, May 15, 1946, Pulitzer Papers, 
University of Missouri, Western Historical Manuscripts Collection, St. Louis, Missoiui. 

Historiographical Essay 

Journalism Historians and Religion 
By Marvin Olasky* 

As journalism historians, we like to believe that there has been 
substantial progress in our field during the twentieth century. In some 
sub-disciplines progress is evident, but in at least one area of investiga- 
tion, the relation of journalism to religious belief, journalism history 
writing until recent years went steadily downhill. Virtually every 
major new synthesis in the twentieth century ~ Payne to Bleyer, Mott to 
Emery ~ presented less information and more obfuscation in this area 
than its predecessor. 

This historiographical essay will trace the decline, point to 
opportunities for renewal, and suggest new research paths. The essay 
stands on three assumptions. The first is that statements and actions of 
historical characters ~ such as early American journalists ~ should be 
taken seriously on their own terms. For example, when Benjamin Har- 
ris' first stated purpose in publishing Publick Occurrences was that 
"Memorable Occurrents of Divine Providence may not be neglected or 
forgotten, as they too often are,"^ we need to understand what he and 
his contemporaries meant by that theological term, "Providence." 
When one of the Boston News-Letter's chief goals was to help readers 
know "how to order their prayers and praises to the Great God,"^ we 
should not cynically dismiss such wording as a cover for sheer money- 

The second assumption is that there is a religious component to all 
interpretive journalism. Any story that does beyond 
"who /what /when/ where/ how" into "why" stirs up questions of mean- 
ing and causality. Those questions are essentially religious (or "world 
view," if we are scrupulous about restricting the term religion to beliefs 
pertaining to a deity). Therefore, historians need to examine how pre- 

Marvin Olasky is an assistant professor of public relations at the University of 

Publick Occurrences, Both Foreign and Domestick, September 25, 1690. 
^ Boston News-Letter, January 21, 1723. 


suppositions have influenced action not only in earlier times, but in our 
own century as well. E.W. Scripps wrote that "I do not believe in God, or 
any being equal to or similar to the Christian's God." Lincoln Steffens 
wrote on the last page of his autobiography, "1 have been contending, 
with all my kind, always against God." We should not shrug off such 
comments as merely rhetorical. We should ask how such answers to 
deeper "why" questions influenced journalistic treatment of the every- 
day "why." A history that refuses to examine such issues lacks a basic 

The third assumption is a call for simple historical accuracy. In 
discussing the major influence of "religion" on at least early American 
journalism, it is inaccurate to speak of religion in general, or even a 
vague Judeo-Christian ethic. The dominant religion was Protestant 
Christianity as explained by Reformation leaders including John 
Calvin and John Knox. Their essential message was that "God saves 
sinners." They argued with great precision that God is sovereign over 
everything. They stated with great sadness that every person, without 
exception, is prone to do evil. They explained with great fervor that 
man's only hope lay in fundamental personal change that could be ac- 
complished only through God's merciful redemption. Christians were 
those who personally accepted Christ, not members of a particular cul- 
tural or ethnic group. 

Emphasizing the historical role of Reformed Protestantism is not 
an attack on other religions. Historical facts are facts, and to un- 
derstand the roots of American journalism we need to learn how a dis- 
tinctively Reformed world view led to a theocentric journalism 
emphasizing personal change among sinful individuals.^ 

Nineteenth-Century Nationalist 
and Developmental Interpretations 

The tendency among journalism historians to stand apart from 
America's Christian heritage began early. American journalism's first 
two major historians, Isaiah Thomas and Frederic Hudson, were not 
Christian believers. Nevertheless, they paid attention to a historical 
record that in those days was too recent to forget. 

Thomas, author in 1810 of the massive History of Printing in Amer- 
ica, worshipped liberty and economic progress. A Nationalist histo- 
rian, he saw America as the leading manifestation of both. He showed 
his commitment through courageous action as a leading Patriot printer 
and editor during the American Revolution. He never showed much in- 
terest in the Bible; he had been apprenticed to a printer who cared lit- 
tle about Christianity and knew less. Thomas may have also been un- 

Christian concepts of mcin's sinfulness, for example, led to an early journalistic emphasis on the 
individual rather than on social structures of governmental solutions. 


derstandably hostile to Puritanism because his great-grandfather was 
hanged as a witch. Bored with catechisms, Thomas was in a rush to go 
on to things more exciting, in his case deism and an Enlightenment sense 
of having progressed "beyond" the Bible.^ 

Yet Thomas' bias did not keep him from conscientiously recording 
specific detail concerning the religious connections of early 
printer/journalists. His listing of what was printed is valuable in it- 
self. Titles such as "Speedy Repentance Urged," a news report/ sermon 
about a murderer, "With certain Memorable Providences relating to 
some other murders," show practical applications of a Christian world 
view.^ But Thomas went beyond the bare essentials to comment about 
the religious underpinnings of journalistic pioneers such as Samuel 
Kneeland, Richard Draper, and others. He sympathetically portrayed 
men such as Bartholomew Green, first printer and second owner of the 
Boston News-Letter, as "a very humble and exemplary Christian" with 
a "tender sympathy to the poor and afflicted."^ 

Thomas' history was standard for many decades. At mid-century 
Joseph T. Buckingham and James Parton wrote of some journalists,'' but 
the second general history, Frederic Hudson's developmental Journal- 
ism in the United States from 1690 to 1872 (1873), did not emerge until 
the Gilded Age was putting on its finery. Hudson, as managing editor of 
James Gordon Bennett's New York Herald, also had personal experience 
that undoubtedly affected his history writing: the Herald had been 
attacked by clergymen, especially during the "moral war" of 1839-40. 
Understandably, Hudson tended to write his own irritation into the 
past, and he sometimes portrayed the colonial press not as a product of 
Reformation thought but as a graduate of combat with Christianity. 
For example, in discussing the New-England Courant he wrote of 
"efforts made to crush the paper and editor in the interest of religion."^ 

While interested mainly in the development of journalism, Hud- 
son's book was like Thomas' in that concern for accurate detail and 
recording of crucial documents often seemed to overcome bias. For exam- 
ple, Hudson reprinted the entire first (and only) issue of Publick Occur- 
rences, allowing attentive readers to see the way editor Benjamin Har- 

Isaiah Thomas, The History of Printing in America, with a Biography of Printers and an Account of 
Newspapers, 2nd ed. (Albany, N.Y., 1874), vol. 1, xxiv. Masters were supposed to instruct their 
apprentices in matters theological as well as occupational, and Thomas reports that his master gave 
him "a weekly lesson . . .by rote merely." The master asked "the question from the catechism What are 
the decrees of God;' I answered I could not tell, and then, boy-like, asked him what they were. He read 
the answer from the book. I was of the opinion he knew as little about the matter as myself." 
^ Ibid., voLn, 332. 
Quoted from the Boston News-Letter, January 4, 1733. 

Neither Buckingham {Specimens of Newspaper Literature: With Personal Memoirs, Anecdotes, and 
Reminiscences, [1850]), nor Parton (The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin [1864]) provided any sys- 
tematic examination. 

® Frederick Hudson, Journalism in the United States from 1690 to 1872 (New York, 1873), 71. 


ris' stress on God's sovereignty affected his coverage of news items. 
Harris wrote that God supplied the harvest, that God aided 
firefighters, that "God alone will have all the glory."^Hudson 
reprinted Andrew Hamilton's masterful speech at the 1735 Zenger 
trial, allowing readers to see the biblical basis of the Zenger defense: 
that since bad leaders are criticized in the Bible, such criticism is 
proper. ^° Hudson also reprinted an autobiographical sketch of nine- 
teenth-century Christian editor Nathaniel Willis and briefly gave the 
history of some of New York's mid-nineteenth-century Christian news- 

The third general history written in the nineteenth century, S.N.D. 
North's History and Present Conditions of the Newspaper and 
Periodical Press of the United States (1884), was far below those by 
Thomas and Hudson in that it had a purely materialistic emphasis. 
The first two historians both spotlighted the role of individual editors 
and their choices, but North ~ who had been commissioned by the U.S. 
Census Bureau to study newspapers for the 1880 census ~ saw the growth 
of newspapers almost purely in terms of industrialization and new 
technology. With statistical tables replacing discussion of ideas at 
North's inn, there was no room for analysis of religion's impact. 

Early Twentieth-Century Works 

The first general history of journalism published in the twentieth 
century, James Melvin Lee's History of American Journalism (1917), also 
reflected a developmental emphasis that ignored theological con- 
siderations. It was methodologically similar to Thomas' century-old 
work in its tracing of printing's progress colony-by-colony (and terri- 
tory-by-territory, and state-by-state, and so on, and so on). However, it 
lacked the patriot printer's fervor and pride. Lee believed that 
"neutral" reporting was the highest journalistic calling. He was unable 
to appreciate journalists of an earlier age who saw world view as vital. 
For example, Lee labeled the early nineteenth century ~ a time of great 
ideological debate in the press, with Christian-based publications 
dominant and editorial passion evident ~ as "the darkest period in the 
history of American journalism."" 

George Henry Payne's Progressive History of Journalism in the 

^ Ibid., 24-27. 

Ibid., 89: 'Tf a libel is understood in the large and unlimited sense urged by Mr. Attorney," Hamil- 
ton argued following remarks of the prosecutor, "Moses, meek as he was, libelled Cain. . . . Were some 
persons to go through the streets of New York now-a-days, and read a part of the Bible, if it was not 
known to be such, Mr. Attorney, with the help of his innuendos, would easily turn it into a libel. As for 
instcince, the sixteenth verse of the ninth chapter of Isaiah: The leaders of the people caused them to err 
and they that are led by them are destroyed." Hamilton, in his citing of biblical passages concerning 
corrupt leaders, blind watchmen, and "greedy dogs that can never have enough," essentially argued 
that Zenger merely had followed the biblical model. 

James Melvin Lee, History of American Journalism (Garden Qty, N.Y., 1917), 143. 


United States, published only three years after Lee's, showed appre- 
ciation of the courage of some early Christian journalists. For example, 
Payne quoted Benjamin Harris' declaration on being sentenced to prison 
in England for publishing a work openly critical of the King ~ "I hope 
that God will give me patience to go through with it" — and wrote 
that, "There is something of the best of American journalism in that 
simple declaration."^^ Yet, while Payne praised "the democratic ten- 
dency that came with Christianity,"^^ he was conventional in his crit- 
icism of Puritanism and viewed religion as a vestigial organ of the body 

The next author of a general journalism history, Willard Bleyer, 
wanted that organ surgically removed. In his Main Currents in the 
History of American Journalism (1927), Bleyer equated "Church" with 
"restrictions on freedom of discussion"^^ and ignored differences among 
church traditions. Essentially a Developmental historian, Bleyer had 
the elitist belief that the "unthinking" masses were ruled by emotion 
and primitive faith. The goal of journalists, as members of the enlight- 
ened class, was to point the way to democratic reform. Bleyer wanted to 
make sure that journalism developed along responsible lines. In the 
1930s he argued for professional licensing of journalists and for legal re- 
quirements that newspapers be run in what he defined as the public in- 
terest. ^^ 

Some popular critics and Progressive historians of the 1920s and 
1930s also fostered hostility to the idea that independent journalism 
grew out of Reformation thought. Oswald Garrison Villard, in Some 
Newspapers and Newspaper-Men (1923), attacked Christian belief 
and twisted Bible passages to promote an early version of liberation 
theology. He wrote that "There are plain masses seeking a journalistic 
Moses to clarify their minds, to give them a program of reconstruction, a 
moral issue through which to rebuild a brokendown society. ^^ George 
Seldes similarly examined recent newspaper history and saw press, 
church, and "big business" embracing each other adulterously.^^ 

Both academic and popular Progressive historians more and more 
seemed to consider Christianity a conservative ally of the upper class 
and therefore a reactionary foe of the masses' drive for equality. A new 
publication during the inter-war period. Journalism Quarterly, showed 

George Henry Payne, History of Journalism in the United States (New York, 1920), 21. Payne also 
described Harris reading the Bible while on the ship taking him to Boston. Payne himself showed a lib- 
eral deism in writing of how "humanity could be led to reverence the Deity through the simple processes 
of Eternal Law, unfolding «ind unraveling man's liberty, equcdity and happiness" (1 1). 

^^ Ibid., 2. 

^* Bleyer, 2. 

^^ See Bleyer, 'Journalism in the United States: 1933," Journalism Quarterly 10 (1933), 296-301, and 
'Treedom of the Press and the New Deal," Journalism Quarterly 11 (1943), 22-35. 

^^ Villard, 314. 

^^ See George Seldes, Lords of the Press (New York, 1945). 


some of the same tendencies and (probably reflecting the lack of inter- 
est among journalism professors) ignored Reformation origins. However, 
one article did go on at great length about an early deistic editor.^^ 

Mid-Century Developmental Influences 

Frank Luther Mott, the leading journalism historian from the 1940s 
through the 1960s, expressed scorn for George Seldes' opinionated 
historiocity. He wrote of one Seldes book that "the way to read our au- 
thor is to forget about facts and concentrate on the gyrations of flashing 
mind and a violent set of emotions."^^ Mott showed in his large, general 
text American Journalism (1941),^° that he never met a fact about jour- 
nalism history he didn't like ~ and therefore, the Christian heritage 
did receive some mention. He noted that from 1801 to 1833 " a phe- 
nomenon of the times was the 'religious newspaper,' a weekly journal 
which printed some secular news [and] often competed successfully with 
the secular papers.... Many of these papers were conducted with great 
vigor and ability."^^ 

Mott, however, refused to see religious influences in any way 
significant for the larger development of journalism; he thus left many 
important stories incomplete. He wrote, for example, that in the 
Courant inoculation debate Episcopalians were lining up on one side and 
Calvinists such as the Mathers on the other ~ but Mott did not see, or 
did not explain, how journalistic visions grew out of theological 
distinctives. He did not explain the role of religion in either the Harris 
or Zenger episodes. In comparing Virginia Governor William Berke- 
ley's famous ban on learning and publishing with the emphasis on 
schooling and printing in New England, he did not even mention the 
difference between Calvinist and Anglican ideas of individual and 
state. He described Kentucky editor Cassius Clay as a "picturesque 
character," which he was, but did not even touch on the religious be- 
liefs that underlay Clay's courage. He mentioned that the New York 
Journal of Commerce was founded as "a commercial paper with strong 
religious bias" and the New York Times as a newspaper designed to 
"take a higher moral tone," but in neither case did he discuss the influ- 


Chester E. Jorgenson, "A Brand Flung at Colonial Orthodoxy," Journalism Quarterly 12 (1935), 

272-277, praised coloniid printer Samuel Keimer: In Keimer's deism "superstition has given place to 
science," and "Calvin's wrathful and petiilant God" was no more. Jorgenson applauded Keimer for 
"extolling reasonableness rather than saintliness, nature rather than have scripture, humanitarian ser- 
vice rather than the spiritual ascent of the individual . ..." On this Jorgenson differed from Benjamin 
Franklin, quoted in Thomas, I, 233; Franklin sympathized with Keimer's expressed theology but ob- 
served that Keimer "was a great knave at heart, that he possessed no particular religion, but a little of 
all upon occasion.") 

^^ Review of The Facts Are in Journalism Quarterly, 20 (1943), 335-336. 


Mott's five-volume history of American magazines is also worth analysis, but in the interests of 

space is passed by in this essay. 

Mott, American Journalism, 206. 


ence of a Christian world view on those great beginnings.^^ 

In short, Mott deserves credit for his perseverance in scholarship, 
but his developmental perspective led him to believe that as newspa- 
pers became more "professional" they would leave world views behind. 
Thus, his discussion of more recent decades ignored religion entirely, 
except to note the existence of some ghettoized churchly publications. 
The tendency was still to equate the dominant American religious her- 
itage with suppression of thought and opposition to press freedom. 

Progressive/Developmen tal Synthesis 

Following Mott's death in 1964, a new, simpler textbook, Edwin 
Emery's The Press and America, now in its sixth edition, was able to 
sweep the field. ^ The Press and America was accepted not only for its 
ease of presentation, but because its liberal materialism and emphasis 
on class struggle fit perfectly with academic orthodoxy of recent 
decades. Power, the book informed students, is "grasped by one class at 
the expense of another." Politics is a battle of "the rights of property 
versus the rights of the individual." The American Revolution began 
because journalists and others saw "the need for a realignment of class 
power." In one astounding paragraph about the Revolution, The Press 
and America five times brought in "class struggle... class conflict... class 
struggle... class leaders.. .a class insisting upon a greater share of con- 
trol." This struggle continued into the early twentieth century, when 
"crusaders for social justice" fought against "unrestricted economic 

The book's historical materialism included a treatment of religion 
as superstructure and material as base. The Press and America termed 
Puritan theology "religious double talk" and equated it with the ante- 
bellum slavery debate as "the basket in which all differences of peo- 
ples, regions, and ideologies could be carried."^ The few mentions of re- 
ligion showed the authors accepting stereotypes that historians who 
took theology seriously long had discredited. For example. The Press 
and America equated Calvinism with a gospel of prosperity in which 
money is the sign of "having passed through the eye of the needle into 
the circle of the elect."-^^ In reality, Calvinists frequently warned about 
the snares of wealth. "Riches are no part of your felicity," Richard 
Baxter wrote; "riches are nothing but plentiful provision for tempting 


Henry Ladd Sinith wjis co-author of the first edition published in 1954; Michael Emery is now co- 

2* Emery and Emery, 13, 106, 58, 47, 245. 
^ Ibid., 146. 
2^ Ibid., 20. 


corruptible flesh."^^ 

The Press and America, influential simply because it was so widely 
used as a textbook, was one of n\any works that emphasized the rela- 
tion of media and society. Some tried for breadth. Sidney Kobre, a 
prolific historian of the Cultural school, viewed press development 
from what he called a "sociological" perspective intended to take into 
account economic, political, technological, sociological, geographic, 
and cultural forces. In practice, though, religion received only minor 
attention in his books, and the attention it received was as negative as 
that in Emery. For example, he wrote of the problems faced by those 
"who dared defy the wrath of the Puritan clergy and the royal gover- 
nor," as if those were one force.^^ Kobre did write two favorable arti- 
cles on the remarkable Jewish editor of the early nineteenth century, 
Mordecai Noah.^^ 

The few Journalism Quarterly articles that touched on reli- 
gious/historical aspects during the 1950s and 1960s often mixed 
progressivism with theological know-nothingism. This approach 
probably reflected the general ignorance or antipathy toward Chris- 
tianity among many professional historians.^ For example, Howard 
H. Fogel in 1960 was amazed that Cotton Mather campaigned for a 
colonial charter following the downfall of royal governor Sir Edmund 
Andros: "His agreement and acceptance of the Charter and his subse- 
quent fighting for it seems remarkable considering how limited the role 
of the clergy in the government's affairs would be." That was not at all 
remarkable, since the Reformation political theory required a limited 
role for the clergy in government, but Fogel was echoing the prejudice 
that a free press must have emerged in a battle against "theocracy."^^ 

The Centrality of Christianity to Early Journalism 

During the past twenty years, historians have begun to look more 
closely at the relation of religion and journalism. Part of the increased 
interest may simply be the result of the expansion of journalism his- 
tory-writing generally, and the search for previously-ignored topics. 
Part may represent a new yearning for cultural roots. Part may come 


Richard Baxter, Chapters from A Christian Directory, ed. Jeannette Tawney Gx)ndon, 1925), 50. 

Sidney Kobre, Development of American Journalism (Dubuque, 1969), 3; see also 5, 6, 24, 154. 

2^See Sidney Kobre, "The Editor Who Freed Hostages," Media History Digest 1 (1981) 55-57, 60. Noah 

may have been of particular interest to Kobre, who is Jewish. My own background is also Jewish, and I heard 

about Mordecai Noah at a very early age. At that time I was antagonistic to writers who saw a Christian 

belief as central to the development of American institutions. 


My co-authored book. Turning Point, with Herbert Schlossberg (Westchester, 111., 1987), notes some 
recent examples of academic bias. 

^^Howard H. Fogel, "Colonial Theocracy and a Secular Press," Journalism Quarterly 37 (1960), 525-532. 
Fogel wrote that "A theocracy, by defirution dosed and narrow, does not favor <m inquisitive mind" (527) — 
but doesn't that depend on the type of theocracy, and on whether it is deiicocratic or bibliocratic? 


from a personal search for meaning. In any case, useful work concerning 
denominational publications and coverage of church news has 
emerged. ^^ 

These several dozen points of light are very welcome, but they still 
tend to examine what could be called marginalized religion. It is good 
to have information about publications of and about various groups, but 
we are still without a solid history of the way that world views have 
always been central to American journalism, affecting coverage of ev- 
erything from abortion and crime to governmental programs and eco- 
nomic news. 

Some excellent work concerning early journalism has perceived that 
centrality. C. Edward Wilson's article on the Boston inoculation con- 
troversy of 1721-22 overcame generations of journalism history books to 
finally tell the story right. Instead of following the crowd and por- 
traying the affair as the first triumph of journalistic freedom against 
the government-theocratic alliance, Wilson showed that the Courant 
was actually allied with the town government against the innovative 
position of Cotton Mather.^ The journal Journalism History also came 
through with a "Special Issue on Sensationalism" that included back- 
to-back articles relating Christian views to news coverage in the six- 
teenth, seventeenth, and late nineteenth centuries.'^* 

Similarly, David Nord placed Andrew Hamilton's defense of John 
Zenger in an accurate theological framework. Nord pointed out that 
"the Zenger case was a disputation on truth, and on how truth is re- 
vealed to man. In Nord's words, "Hamilton did not ~ he could not— ask 
the jury to decide the nature and extent of individualism and free 
thought. He asked them instead to decide the question, 'What is 
truth?' In our age of relativism and skepticism, this would seem to be 
the more troubling question. But in 1735, the jury was prepared to take it 
on. Nord also suggested other far-reaching differences between jour- 
nalists of then and now. Noting that the New York Journal prominently 
featured "Cato's Letters," written by John Trenchard and Thomas Gor- 
don, Nord pointed out that "To an extent not often appreciated, Cato's 
understanding of truth was rooted in religion. All human authority and 
power were divinely limited, in Cato's view. 'Power without control 
appertains to God alone, and no man ought to be trusted with what no 
man is equal to.'" Finally, Nord alluded to the foolishness of trying to 
view colonial newspapers as somehow removed from religion: "Though 

These works eire cited in Wm. David Sloan, American Journalism History: An Annotated 
Bibliography (Westport, Conn., 1989). 

C. Edward Wilson, "The Boston Inoculation Controversy: A Revisionist Interpretation," Journal- 
ism History 7 (1980), 16-19, 40. 

Mitchell Stephens, "Sensationalism and Moralizing in 16th and 17th-Century Newsbooks and 
News Ballads," and Marvin Olasky, "Late 19th-century Texas Sensationalism: Hypocrisy or Biblical 
Morality?" Journalism History 12 (1985), 92-95, 96-100. 


the New York Weekly Journal was essentially a political newspaper, 
it professed a politics with deep religious roots. The easy interplay be- 
tween politics and religion in the pages of the Journal suggests that for 
many New Yorkers the two were actually one."^ Nord also has argued 
that America's mass media had evangelical origins. "A missionary 
impulse . . ., " he wrote, 'lay at the foundation of the popularization of 
print in the 19th century."^^ In a paper delivered at the 1988 AEJMC 
convention, Nord decisively broke from an almost century-long journal- 
ism history tradition of disparaging the Puritans as book-bound nar- 
rowers of life. Instead, he praised their nose for news: Puritans were 
"obsessed with events, with the news. They could see all around them 
the providence of God." Instead of disparaging the Mathers, Nord 
emphasized their event-oriented sermons and noted that "Increase 
Mather's publication record in the last quarter of the seventeenth cen- 
tury represents the first major flowering [of] indigenous American jour- 
nalism." Nord even noted that Increase Mather's reporting of both ma- 
terial and spiritual phenomena "is empirical in its way. The empirical 
data are the statements of the sources. Mather's method is the em- 
piricism of the news reporter, not the scientist."^^ 

To understand more about the people behind early American jour- 
nalism, historians should examine Leland Ryken's Worldly Saints: The 
Puritans as They Really Were (1986). Ryken showed that Puritans 
liked sex, laughter, sports, brains, and good writing. Harry Stout's The 
New England Soul (1986) also provides a positive ree valuation that 
should be of wide interest to journalism historians. Both Ryken and 
Stout are to some extent following the path blazed by the brilliant 
Perry Miller a generation ago, but their depictions of the Puritans as 
human beings rather than walking treatises are probably more accessi- 
ble to general readers. 

The decade-old work of Elizabeth Eisenstein will also be vital in 
any reexamination of the roots of American journalism.^^ Her careful 
scholarship shows the relation of the Protestant Reformation to the 
early development of printing and bookselling, with Protestants told by 
their leaders to read in order to avoid superstition, and Catholics com- 
manded to avoid heresy by not reading. The difference in literacy, 
combined with the Reformation desire to apply the Bible to every area 
of life, formed the cultural basis for the development of newsbooks. 

■^ David Nord, "The Authority of Truth: Religion ai\d the John Peter Zenger Case," Journalism 
Quarterly 62 (1985), 227-235. 

■^ David Paul Nord, "The Evangelical Origins of Mass Media in America, 1815-1835," Journalism 
Monographs 88 (1984), 2. 

37 David Nord, 'Teleology and News: The Religious Roots of American Journalism, 1630-1730," 
presented to the History Division, Association for Education in Joumftlism and Mass Communication, 
Portland, Ore. July 1988. 

^® Elizabeth L. Eisenstein, The Printing Press As an Agent of Change (Nev/ York, 1979). See 
especially chapter 4, "The Spiritual Recast: Setting the Stage for the Reformation." 


broadside ballads, and ~ eventually ~ newspapers. Eisenstein's work 
helps to explain why American journalism got its start in the area of 
the country most deeply rooted in the Reformation tradition. New Eng- 
land. That was where literacy was most widespread and ideas of press 
freedom had the greatest opportunity to win slow acceptance. 

This recent scholarship undermines the conventional tendency of 
journalism historians to start the story of independent journalism with 
the supposed rebellion of the Courant against the f)owers of Boston; the 
legend then continues with other journalists who fought against Refor- 
mation theology. In actuality, though, if the real starting point of 
American journalism is the Protestant Reformation, with the Courant 
episode forming just one sophomoric blip on the chart, then the real 
story of American journalistic courage lies in the attempt of printers, 
encouraged by the Reformation perspective, to become independent 
truth-tellers within a biblical framework. I am currently writing on 
these questions. 

The Recent Dominance of Non-Christian World Views 

Needing far more discussion is the question of religion's role in 
American journalism once biblical Christianity, during the late nine- 
teenth and early twentieth century, lost its dominant p)osition in Amer- 
ican life.^^ I have discussed this in a number of convention papers and 
articles, and in two books published in 1988, Prodigal Press: The Anti- 
Christian Bias of the American News Media and The Press and Abor- 
tion, 1838-1988. Historians a century from now may well be examining 
the way a world promising freedom from religion but demanding par- 
ticular rituals of its own took over twentieth-century American journal- 

Some books by scholars outside of journalism history suggest meth- 
ods of approach. For example, James Billington, who now heads the 
Library of Congress, has described the mixture of revolution, journalism, 
and world view that turned Europe upside down from the time of the 
French Revolution through the advent of Lenin's Soviet dictatorship. 
As Billington noted, "In revolutionary France journalism rapidly arro- 
gated to itself the Church's former role as the propagator of values, 
models, and symbols for society at large."*° The pattern continued into 
the nineteenth century, as "journalism was the most important single 
professional activity for revolutionary Saint-Simonians and 

■^ The tradition still had an effect on journalists. See, in this issue, Bruce Evensen, "The Evangelical 
Origins of the Muckrakers," American Journalism (1989), 5-30. 

^ James Billington, Fire in the Minds of Men (New York, 1986), 33: "Indeed, the emergence of dedi- 
cated, ideological revolutionaries in a tradition<d society (in Russia of the 1860s no less than in France of 

the 1790s) depended heavily on literate priests and seminarians becoming revolutionary journalists 

Journalism was the only income-producing profession practiced by Marx, Lenin, and many other lead- 
ing revolutionaries during their long years of powerlessness and edle." 



For many years America was spared what Billington called "the 
new breed of intellectual journalist" filled with revolutionary faith, 
but American journalistic exceptionalism began disappearing early in 
this century when Lincoln Steffens, Charles Edward Russell, and others 
became influential. I have written about Lincoln Steffens' definition of 
sin in 1931 ~ "Treason to Communism" — and the sad ending to his 
search for faith.^ To my knowledge, however, the number of current 
journalism historians examining and criticizing the influence of Marxist 
belief in American journalism may be numbered on the famous hand of 
oldtime baseball player Three Finger Mordecai Brown. As the academy 
strikes out, some of the best critical analysis of journalistic practice is 
conung out of independent groups such as the Media Research Center in 

A New Paradigm 

What is to be done? For many years journalism scholars have been 
calling for new historical interpretations. Among them, James Carey in 
the early 1970s called for a "cultural history" and noted that 
"journalism is essentially a state of consciousness, a way of ap- 
prehending, of experiencing the world. "*^ In the late 1970s Joseph 
McKerns proposed that journalism historians "turn to a study of the 
dominant ideas in society, and to the journalistic purveyors and con- 
veyors of those ideas, within the context of the times."*^ 

With all these good intentions, however, no book-length work 
integrating journalism history and religious trends has been published. 
Two new survey history books published in 1988 ~ Mitchell Stephens' 
A History of News and the Jean Folkerts/Dwight Teeter text Voices of 
a Nation — are improvements in many respects on The Press and Amer- 
ica, but they hold to the conventional pattern of minimizing the influ- 
ence of religion. Joseph McKerns a decade ago accurately described The 
Press and America as "the most complete statement of journalism his- 
tory as Progressive history, and it leaves very little to be said that is 
'new' within the Progressive paradigm."^^ To my mind, that statement 
still holds. 

The problem may be that the Developmental and Progressive 
schools, even when shorn of some of their specific elements, still have a 
hold on most journalism historians and both schools have, with rare 

^^ p. 308. 

^ Marvin Olasky, 'Steffens Wanted to Know Why,"' Houston Post, August 9, 1986, 35. 

James Carey, "The Problem of Journalism History," Journalism History 1 (1974), 3-5, 27. 

Joseph P. McKerns, "The Limits of Progressive Journalism History," Journalism History 4 (1977), 



exceptions, tended to equate biblical Christianity with the beast from 
twenty thousand fathoms. To develop a more accurate view of journal- 
ism history, we need to depart completely from the developmental and 
progressive paradigms. For example, journalism historians should ex- 
amine the work of Nathaniel Willis, William Leggett, and other 
early-nineteenth-century journalists who emphasized a combination of 
spiritual, political, and economic freedom. If we see this earlier period 
of American journalism not as something to rise above but as a princi- 
pled era that has much to teach us, a different perspective on Greeley, 
Pulitzer, and other nineteenth century "great men" will emerge. Radi- 
cally different appraisals of journalists often held up as twentieth cen- 
tury heroes ~ Scripps and Duranty, Graham and Woodward ~ will 

Journalism historians who are Christians — by which is meant not 
family background but a personal belief in Christ as Lord and Savior ~ 
may be most inclined to accept the attacks that come with breaking new 
ground in this way. But some historians without that faith have the 
desire to dig out all the facts and then tell the whole story, come what 
may. Their honesty deserves great support. The battle to develop an 
accurate history is for everyone for, if we do not recognize the impor- 
tance of the role of Christianity, we will be unable to look at the whole 
story of journalism's past without trying to sweep much of it under rugs 
far too small. 

Journalism historians are not alone in having dropped down the 
memory hole the integral place of Christianity in American history. A 
recent National Institute of Education study of sixty representative pre- 
college social studies textbooks found Christianity virtually excluded. 
In books for grades one through four that introduced children to an un- 
derstanding of American society, researcher Paul Vitz and his associ- 
ates found not a single word about Christianity. Fifth-grade history 
texts made it appear that religious life ceased to exist in America about 
a century ago. Fundamentalists were described as people who followed 
an ancient agricultural way of life. Pilgrims were defined as "people 
who took long trips."*^ Some writings in journalism history are more so- 
phisticated but not different in kind. Should we laugh? Should we cry? 
No, we should get to work. 

*^ Paul Vitz, Religion and Traditional Values in Public School Textbooks (Washington, D.C., 1986). 

: BOOK : 


Shore, Elliot. Talkin' Socialism, J. A. Wayland and the Role of the 
Press in American Radicalism, 1890-1912. Lawrence, Kansas: Univer- 
sity Press of Kansas, 1988. 280 pp. Cloth, $25. 

J.A. Wayland promoted his cause and made a handsome living — by 
"talkin' socialism" in a weekly newspaper published in the small town 
of Girard, Kansas, during the movement's American heyday. Way- 
land's Appeal to Reason, Elliot Shore points out in this intriguing 
study, "was the only mass-circulation radical publication in the his- 
tory of the United States." Moreover, says Shore, after the demise of 
this widely-read newspaper no other radical American publication 
would have control of state-of-the-art communication facilities such as 
the Appeal boasted in its day. 

Wayland's paper, ensconced in its own publishing plant, had a 
half-million readers when he went home on November 10, 1912, and put 
a bullet through his head. The reason for his act remains unclear. His 
death occurred just days after the Socialist party's presidential candi- 
date, Eugene V. Debs, polled a million votes ~ the largest yet for the 
Socialist party. But Shore, noting that Debs ran a distant fourth behind 
Wilson, Teddy Roosevelt, and Taft, says that the election "show[ed] 
conclusively that the Socialist party would neither replace the 
Democrats nor become a third party of strength." Indeed, Wayland left 
a note which said: "The struggle under the competitive system is not 
worth the effort; let it pass." However, there were other possible rea- 
sons for his suicide, chief among them his despondency over his wife's 
death in an accident. The newspaper would survive Wayland, flourish 
for two more years, and then begin a steady ~ eventually fatal — de- 

Shore writes that his central purpose in this study is to examine 
the key newspapers of the socialist movement during a period of 
development of mass culture "to understand better the nature of the ap- 
peal that socialism made to a mass audience." Although he touches on 
other socialist publications and journalists, it is the Appeal to Reason 
and the contradictory figure of its founder on which he concentrates. 

The socialism of Wayland, like that of Debs, grew from American 
roots and was idealistic but often intolerant. Irving Howe in his 1985 
Socialism in America characterizes the Appeal as expressing "both an 
unspoiled idealism and the naivete' of a poorly digested Marxism. 
Bubbling with ingenuous enthusiasm, it spoke in rich homespun accents. 


It was remarkable, also, for its air of certainty, its lack of reflective- 

Shore's more detailed depiction of the Appeal and its guiding 
spirit is not in conflict with Howe's assessment. He takes note of the 
contributions that the Appeal and the Socialist party made in present- 
ing "the possibilities for radical change in the United States" and in 
"forc[ing] the pace of most Progressive reforms in the first two decades 
of the twentieth century." But he also dwells on Wayland's personal 
contradictions, his practice of living in "separate spheres." 

While propagandizing for socialism, Wayland printed profitable 
advertising for quack cures and get-rich-quick schemes. He was, be- 
sides, an indefatigable speculator in real estate. Shore puts Wayland's 
rationalizations into words: "Why not make the most of the existing 
system, even as you work to overthrow it? One's personal economic life, 
then, can be kept separate from one's political vision." Shore says 
Wayland thus "throws into question the entire socialist program, by 
removing his own economic life from that of the whole." 

Talkin' Socialism is a well researched and perceptive addition to 
the histories of both American socialism and journalism. It adds a new 
dimension to historical scholarship on a period when the star of Amer- 
ican socialism seemed to be rising. 

John E. Byrne 

The National Archives 

George H. Douglas. The Early Days of Radio Broadcasting. Jefferson, 
N.C.: McFarland & Co. 1987. 248 pp. 

The 1920s fascinate the broadcast historian, and this book focuses 
its attention on that period in an informal account that is dotted with 
anecdotes. The book is easily read and can add some interesting stories 
to enliven lectures on journalism history. 

"The truth is, it has never been easy to decide when radio broad- 
casting really began," Douglas writes. Then he begins Chapter 1 with 
the KDKA story. Chapter 2, "The Radio Rage," describes the rapid 
growth of the industry and concludes with the WEAF toll broadcast 
experiment. "Up from the Crystal Set," next, is a continuation of the 
technological discussion. Chapter 4, "The Rise of the Radio An- 
nouncer," briefly identifies early radio personalities: Tommy Cowan, 
Milton Cross, Graham MacNamee, Norman Brokenshire, Charles 
Popenoe, etc. Douglas also notes the presence of several "women an- 
nouncers [who] did well on women's and children's programs." Unfortu- 
nately, there is little discussion of these individuals their contribu- 


tions. Chapter 5, "A Million Sets Are Sold," would seem to have been 
better placed as a continuation of radio's rapid growth (chapter 2). 
Chapter 6, "The Beckoning Hand of Advertising," discusses differing 
support theories of taxation and the toll. "To understand the original 
and somewhat innocent idea of a toll station today one has to under- 
stand how the telephone company conceived of radio," Douglas writes. 
Direct advertising evolved from the toll, and eventually, "advertising 
had arrived to stay." 

"The Wave Length Wars," Chapter 7, is the most disappointing 
one in the text. In only seven pages, Douglas dismisses this important 
aspect of radio development. He says nothing of the people or the 
socio-economic factors affecting these legislative decisions. The anec- 
dotes and information about people included in previous chapters are 
noticeably missing here. 

"The Birth of Radio News" reviews the early public events covered 
by the new medium and discusses the backgrounds of H.V. Kaltenborn 
and Lowell Thomas. Moving to sports, in Chapter 9, Douglas declares 
that "no people in the history of the world... have been more attracted 
to sporting events.. .than the people of the U.S." Again, this chapter is 
a review of people and major events. Chapter 10, entitled "Networks," 
follows up the question of advertising and industry support, and implies 
that if there ever was a question as to how radio would be financed, 
"the network idea gave the answer." In his discussion of "The Educa- 
tional Broadcast Stations," Chapter 11, Douglas switches from the de- 
velopment of commercial radio to the new educational medium: 'Three 
things are clear about educational radio. It had a glorious beginning. It 
has always had a struggle for funding.... The alternative of the educa- 
tional station will continue." Chapters 12 and 13 examine the forms of 
classical and popular radio music. Chapters 14 and 15 focus on the evo- 
lution of entertainment programming from "The Expanding Broadcast 
Day" to "Amos 'n' Andy." In his conclusion, "Radio Reprise," Douglas 
broadly summarizes major themes and comments on their effect: "Radio 
was new and sounds had to be plucked by the cat's whiskers . . . [but] it 
has in fact conferred more blessings on society than even its most enthu- 
siastic supporters could have hoped." 

The text will be disappointing to scholars of broadcast history be- 
cause it adds little new information beyond interesting anecdotes and is 
almost universally lacking in documentation. But it is colorful, light, 
and informative, which is precisely what Douglas intended it to be, 
and makes fine extracurricular reading. 

Donald G. Godfrey 
Arizona State University 


Benjamin Franklin: Writings. Edited by J.A. Leo Lemay. New York: The 
Library of America, 1987. 1605 pp. Index. Cloth, $30. 

The Library of America's collection of the writings of Benajmin 
Franklin, one of the greatest journalists of our history, is a worthy ad- 
dition to the shelves of anyone interested in Franklin or 18th-century 
America. It is an excellent production that presents a variety of mate- 
rials in a well-organized manner. Both published pieces and private 
letters are included and are presented in a chronological arrangement 
covering the entirety of Franklin's life and career. J.A. Leo Lemay's 
ability as an editor is well demonstrated, particularly in the carefully 
produced end notes which identify in great detail quotations used by 
Franklin and people mentioned in the course of his writings. 

This collection of Franklin's work, however, is much more than a 
well-crafted book. In his choice of pieces to include, Lemay has gath- 
ered materials that ably present the many aspects of Franklin: politi- 
cian, rebel, statesman, diplomat, scientist, political philosopher, and, 
of course, journalist. 

Franklin's interest in local affairs is indicated in the many essays 
about current issues which he wrote and published during his long pub- 
lic career. Examples of these include the "Silence Dogood" series (5-42) 
and "The Busy-Body" essays (92-118). Some treatises and letters, such 
as "What would satisfy the Americans?" (747) and "The sale of the 
Hessians" (917-919), show us Franklin's ideas about and role in the 
American Revolution. Franklin's efforts at statesmanship and diplo- 
macy are revealed in several letters to the Comte de Vergennes (1034- 
1037, 1060-1061). His interest in science is shown many times ~ as in 
"Cause of Experiments" (355-357), "Letter to Jean Chappe D'Auteroche" 
(831-832), and "Letter to Benjamin Vaughan" (1163-1166). Franklin's 
views on how one should live and life in general are exhibited through 
the selections from Poor Richard's Almanac and Autobiography. 

More important for the historian of American journalism, however, 
are the materials which exhibit and explain Franklin's place in the 
development of the American press. The materials dealing with 
Franklin's printing and newspaper career present his ideas about edit- 
ing, his fellow printers, newspapers, and the profession of printing in 

As the publisher of both books and newspapers, Franklin served as 
an editor on many occasions. Letters to Thomas Hopkinson (431-436), 
Cadwallader Colden (466-468), Oliver Neave (792-794), and the Abbe' 
Soulave (1056) provide insight into his editorial style. As any good 
critic should, Franlin tried to make suggestions in a positive manner 
that would improve the pieces under scrutiny without offending the 


Franklin had strong opinions concerning the state of printing in Eu- 
rope and America. He was very conscious of how a printed work looked. 
He commented on printers who did good work (1040-1041), and he criti- 
cized his colleagues for publishing faulty work because of bad types 
(1012-1013) or poor style (1173-1178). He showed great pride, too, in the 
quality of the work done at his own Philadelphia shop (1364). 

A newspaper, in Franklin's view, was the highest production 
possible for any printer. Newspapers provided an "important means of 
communicating Instruction" to the general public (1398). He was proud 
of his own paper, the Pennsylvania Gazette. Franklin thought that a 
newspaper had to be run properly, and he tried to do that in his own 
paper. He stated in his Autobiography that, in conducting his newspa- 
per, he "carefully excluded all Libelling and Personal Abuse" in order 
always to produce a clean newspaper (1398). 

Finally, Franklin believed printing was a difficult but rewarding 
career. He worried about demands that the public made on printers and 
what they produced. He concluded that "it is unreasonable to imagine 
Printers approve of every thing they print, and to censure them on any 
particular thing accordingly; since in the way of their Business they 
print such great variety of things opposite and contradictory. It is 
likewise as unreasonable what some assert. That Printers ought not to 
print any Thing but what they approve; since of all of that Business 
should make such a Resolution, and abide by it, an End would thereby 
be put to Free Writing, and the World would afterwards have nothing 
to read but what happen'd to be the Opinions of the Printers" (173). 
Furthermore, "if all Printers were determin'd not to print any thing till 
they were sure if would offend no body, there would be very little 
printed" (173). But, even with all the problems, Franklin still praised 
the profession because "by the press we can speak to nations; and good 
books and well written pamphlets have great and general influence. 
The facility, with which the same truths may be repeatedly enforced 
by placing them daily in different lights in newspapers, wWch are ev- 
erywhere read, gives a great chance of establishing them" (1049). The 
impact of printing made it worth all the headaches. 

Carol Sue Humphrey 
Oklahoma Baptist University 

Robert G. Picard. The Ravens of Odin: The Press in Nordic Nations. 
Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University Press, 1988. 153 pp., $22.95. 

The media of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland 
should be of interest to mass communication scholars for several reasons. 


Chief among them is their long tradition of press freedom which has 
served as a model to Western countries. The Ravens of Odin explores 
this tradition and many other aspects of the Nordic press. 

Of special note to historians is the first part of the book, which in- 
cludes a brief overview of the 300-year history of the Nordic press. 
This section piques one's interest in the subject which ususally has had 
only perfunctory mention in standard journalism histories. Given the 
brevity of this section, historians will inevitably long for something 
more substantial. In fairness, however, it should be understood that the 
historical section is, after all, part of a book whose focus is broad. 

As such. The Ravens of Odin makes several contributions. It de- 
scribes, concisely and lucidly, the nature of the Nordic press, paying 
special attention to its standards of freedom and accountability and the 
social, economic, political, and cultural milieu in which each nation's 
press functions. The book will make it plain to American students who 
hold up the First Amendment as a model of press freedom that they 
need to consider, as well, the Nordic countries. As Picard writes. 

Social observers in the Nordic region do not view freedom of the 
press as merely the absence of...restaints but also the presence of 
conditions that provide the effective ability of citizens to take 
part in the communication process, i.e., freedom of expression in the 
mass media is based on two interrelated criteria: that citizens 
shall be enabled, without unreasonable financial sacrifice, to 
spread information and express their views; and that all citizens 
shall be able to choose between messages with different political 
biases. Therefore, the structure of the mass media shall make pro- 
visions for a many-sided approach to all situations. 

Picard also contributes some interesting facts to the literature of press 
economics. He devotes considerable space to discussing how the Nordic 
nations have worked to prevent newspaper mortality and to assure a 
variety of diverse media outlets. 

The second part of The Ravens of Odin consists of concise, up-to- 
date descriptions of the press of these northern lands. Included are the 
large, well-known newspapers, as well as less-known but significant 
ones. With generous illustrations, this section provides an excellent in- 
troduction to the contemporary Nordic press. The value of Picard's ex- 
tensive travel and research is especially evident in the section, as it is, 
indeed throughout the book. 

Nancy Roberts 
University of Minnesota 

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AMERICAN JOURNAUSM aSSN 0882-1127) Editorial and Business Offices: College of Com- 
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Volume VI (1989) Number 2 


A Last Hurrah for the Fronter Press 
by V. Delbert Reed 


George Seldes and the Winter Soldier Brigade: 

The Press Criticism of In Fact, 1940-1950 

by Pamela A. Brown 


"Purse and Pen": 

Party-Press Relationships, 1789-1816 

by Wm. David Sloan 


Book Reviews 

Schlesinger, Putting 'Reality' Together: BBC News 

Prichard, The Making of McPaper: The Inside Story of USA Today 

West, Satire on Stone: The Poltitical Cartoons of Joseph Keppler 

Morrison and Tumber, Journalists at War: The Dynamics of News Reporting 

during the Falklands Conflict 
Suggs, P.B. Young, Newspaperman: Race, Politics and Journalism in the New 

South, 1910-1962 
Sanders and Rock, Waiting for Prime Time: The Women of Television News 



This issue of American Journalism contains the historical works deemed the 
three best submitted to the 1988 paper competition of the American Journalism 
Historians Association, which sponsors publication of American Journalism. 

After these three papers had been selected through blind judging, a special 
board of editors for American Journalism examined them. Authors used the edi- 
tors' comments and suggestions, along with those of the original paper judges, 
in writing, revised, final versions for publication. 

A Last Hurrah for the Frontier Press 

By V. Delbert Reed* 

The discovery of gold and silver in the Coeur d'Alene region of 
North Idaho in 1884 brought a rush of prospectors from Nevada, Mon- 
tana, South Dakota, Colorado, southern Idaho, California, and even 
the Yukon, where earlier strikes were already mined out or all prime 
property claimed. These adventurers quickly dotted the deep, twisting 
canyons and riverbanks with mining camps that soon turned into 
bustling and often short-lived boom towns. 

Closely behind the prospectors were the merchants, saloonkeepers, 
gamblers, and prostitutes; and not far behind came the frontier printers 
to report the news of the rich strikes and dance-hall scrapes; describe 
the beauty and limitless opportunity of their camps; urgently call for 
railroads to haul away the easily-had wealth and bring in much- 
needed supplies; and fight the political battle for the growing com- 

Wallace, Idaho, was such a town. Located among the steep moun- 
tains near the Idaho-Montana border and eventually boasting such ac- 
claimed mines as the Morning, Sunshine, and Bunker Hill, Wallace 
quickly became the center of one of the world's richest mining districts, 
and remains so more than a century later. As it changed from camp to 
town, Wallace provided one of the last hurrahs for prospectors, gun- 
fighters, gamblers, outlaws, and frontier journalists. 

Idaho, like many other western territories in the late 1800s, was in 
a state of transition from wilderness to settlement, if not civilization, 
as roads, railroads, and settlers pushed inward from each coast. North 
Idaho was still robust, young, and untamed, however; and Wallace and 
surrounding camps were little more than rows of tents along a small 
wilderness river. 

Delbert Reed conducted his research while completing graduate studies at 
the University of Alabama. 

66 American Journalism VI (1989): 2 

The first newspaper in town arrived a full three years after the 
first gold strikes, and it became much like the town itself. It was at 
times loud and boisterous; at times boastful and demanding; at other 
times the voice of reason and reform. As the town's first paper, it 
helped tame the new territory by bringing news, ideas, and more people 
from the "civilized" world to the region. 

One early Idaho historian recognized the value of the press in the 
development and civilization of the Coeur d'Alene region. The History 
of North Idaho, published in 1903, said the press was the "key that 
has unlocked the treasure vaults of northern Idaho and exposed their 
contents to the world, conveying the information to the people of other 
states and lands, drawing them hither... .No other human agency could 
have achieved such a triumph as has the press in this civilizing 
work. ...By means of the press, the individuals, the communities that 
make up the country, have been kept in close touch with one another 
with the natural result-encouragement, new ideas, new life, coopera- 

Although not an exact replica of any other frontier newspaper, the 
Wallace Free Press, founded in 1887 in the midst of the Coeur d'Alene 
boom, was not unlike earlier mining-camp newspapers described by 
other historians. In fact, most of the characteristics of the frontier press 
listed by historian William Huntzicker^ were clearly visible in the 
Free Press, its editors, and content at different times between 1887 and 

The Free Press had two very different editors during the five years 
of it existence, yet under each it can be argued that the paper was 
somewhat typical of the frontier press. Overall, the Free Press rep- 
resented two major models of the frontier press, one more stylish, ur- 
bane, and business-oriented, the other more feisty, political, and criti- 
cal. At the beginning of its five-year life, the newspaper was greatly 
dependent on economic patronage for success and therefore was a booster 
press. Later it was at least partly sponsored by a political party, mak- 
ing it a partisan paper. Its pages were consistently filled with the per- 
sonal journalism typically found in other frontier papers. The editors 
usually displayed strong political interest and involvement as did most 
frontier newsmen, and they regularly agitated for such community 
needs as transportation, schools, mail service, sidewalks, etc. De- 
pending on the editor, the paper also engaged in varying degrees of 
bombastic editorial combat with other editors in the region. 

TheFree Press was started in much the same manner as some of 
those newspapers described in The Chroniclers,^ where, due to the great 

'■History of North Idaho (Western Publishing Company, 1903), 1205. 
William E. Huntzicker, "Historians and the Frontier Press," American Journalism V (1988), 36. 

^e Chroniclers Time-Life Books (New York, 1976), 69. 

A Last Hurrah for the Frontier Press 67 

demand for and short supply of newspapers, editors were all but shang- 
haied to locate in, publicize, and promote new towns. As with the 
Idaho Statesman} the first publishers of the Free Press were brought to 
Wallace by the guarantee of initial success. Colonel W. R. Wallace, 
the town's founder and major developer, lured the first newspaper to 
his town on the promise of six months' free office rent and the guarantee 
of $1,800 in revenue during the same period.^ 

As historians Barbara Cloud^ and Barron Beshoar^ found in their 
studies of the frontier press, a newspaper was vital to a new community 
because it provided the region with a political voice; acted as a civi- 
lizing influence to ensure law and order; provided a means of publishing 
laws; provided reading matter and news from outside to the growing 
population, and publicized the potential of the area to the outside 
world as a means of luring new settlers to the area, much to the benefit 
of merchants and land developers. Colonel Wallace's main interest in 
bringing a newspaper to his namesake town apparently was to profit 
from land sales. 

His economic guarantee was sufficient to encourage two brothers, 
Alfred J. and John L. Dunn, to leave the Portland Morning Oregonian, 
travel to one of the most remote regions of the country, and begin pub- 
lishing a newspaper of their own for the first time on July 2, 1887.^ The 
Dunns, ages twenty-five and twenty-seven at the time, came to the 
frontier from one of the largest cities in the Pacific Northwest, and 
they immediately produced a newspaper in Wallace that reflected an 
enveloping civilization and their previous newspaper influences and 
experiences. On the Oregonian, the Dunns had worked under noted edi- 
tor Harvey W. Scott, one of the most prominent editors of his era (1865- 
1910),^ and the Dunns obviously brought some of his influences with 
them to Wallace. For example, Scott was strongly opposed to women's 
suffrage, was strongly Republican, and was unsympathetic to the de- 
mands of labor;^° and the Dunns displayed these same tendencies as co- 
publishers of the Free Press. It can also be argued that the Dunns were 
influenced by the "California" style of writing typical of Mark Twain 
and Bret Harte of earlier years, since the Free Press they produced al- 
ways included a mixture of tall tales, adventure, and colorful, descrip- 
tive language, indicating their inclination to "deal with the amusing. 


^WaUace Free Press, March 16, 1889. 
Barbara Cloud, "Establishing the Frontier Newspaper: A Study of Eight Western Territories," 
]oumalism Quarterly 61 (1984), 805-810. 

Barron Beshoar, 'The Strife and Struggle of a Newspaper in the Old West," The American West 10 
(Seotember 1973), 45. 

^History of North Idaho, 1211. 

Dictionary of American Biography VlII (New York, 1935), 491. 

68 American Journalism VI (1989): 2 

rather than the serious, aspects of Ufe."" 

Their newspaper was carefully edited and included a wide variety 
of news gathered by an excellent network of correspondents in sur- 
rounding mining camps. It could scarcely be called excessive, pas- 
sionate, or sensational either editorially or otherwise, indicating their 
awareness of the style of such papers as the New York Times, New 
York Herald, and other eastern papers. In fact, each edition of the Free 
Press usually included lengthy feature stories picked up from eastern 
papers as well as briefly rewritten straight news. Their interest in the 
riches, heroes, and beauty of the West also hinted that they were more 
than slightly aware of Horace Greeley and his New York Tribune's 
promotion of the frontier. 

Not only did the Dunns start the first newspaper in Wallace; they 
also founded the second. This was the Coeur d'Alene Miner, started in 
1890, just a year after they sold the Free Press to a publisher from a 
nearby town.^^ The Miner had sponsorship much like the Free Press, but 
following the pattern of partisan newspaper development described by 
Cloud in a study of nearby Washington Territory newspapers,^^ the sec- 
ond newspaper in Wallace was founded for political purposes. The pa- 
per was sponsored by the Republican party after the Press abruptly 
shifted its support to the Democratic party under its new publisher just 
before election time.^^ During their two years as publishers of the Free 
Press, the Dunns had given equal coverage to Republican and Demo- 
cratic candidates, meetings, etc., but had routinely endorsed Republican 
candidates at election time. With the Miner, they clearly established 
a partisan press in Wallace. 

The Dunns seemed sincerely impressed by the beauty and lore of the 
West, the tall tales of adventures and heroics of mountain men and 
prospectors, the exploits and accomplishments of individuals, and es- 
pecially stories of self-made wealth. The Free Press carried such items 
in each Saturday edition as long as the Dunns were its publishers. 
Examples of headlines to be found on such stories included: "Men of 
Mark. Some of Our Great Men-How They Got Their Start," "The Way 
to Wealth. A Sure Way to Get Rich and Save Part of Your Earnings," 
"How Colonel Kelley Made a Cool Million Dollars in a Mining Specu- 
lation," "Fortunes in Mining. A Few of the Men Who Have Made For- 
tunes in Mining," "Jay Gould. The Method and Means Which Have Won 
Him Greatness," "How to Get Rich," "Cyrus W. Field. How He Rose 
from Poverty to Great Wealth," "A. B. Steinberger. The Remarkable 

^^Henry C. Merwin, The Life of Bret Harte fBoston, 1911), 194. 
^^History of North Idaho, 1212. 

Barbara Cloud, "A Party Press? Not Just Yet! Political Publishing on the Frontier," Journalism 
History 7 (1980), 54. 

^'^Wallace Press, November 13, 1980. 

A Last Hurrah for the Frontier Press 69 

Career of a Typical Adventurer," "William R. Hearst. How He Made a 
Great Success of the San Francisco Examiner." 

In the beginning, as they had contracted to do, the Dunns went seri- 
ously about the business of promoting the town to the outside world. 
Their first edition carried an "Introductory" noting that "indeed no 
better way is known to place before the outside world the resources of a 
new section than through the columns of a local press." The stated aim 
of the paper was "to give truthful accounts of the resources of the Coeur 
d'Alene; to represent the interests of the Upper South Fork...; to give 
local, mining, and general news of interest at home and abroad...." The 
comments, signed by the Dunns as co-publishers, added that "no exag- 
gerated accounts" of the section would be published. They also wrote 
that "The Free Press claims that independence which grows more 
popular with each election among the voters and leads to the support 
for public service of those men only whose integrity and honesty are 
known. ...,"^^ leading one to assume that although they were "hired" as 
town boosters, they had not obligated themselves politically. 

A separate story on page one of their first edition also mentioned 
the paper's aims, saying: 

In the future weekly issues of this paper, it is designed to write of 
all the business interests; to commence with the early prospectors, 
whose courage and faith were never shaken by the many adverse 
storms... in the ultimate result of their discoveries. From the horde 
of adventurers who made up the stampede in the early spring of '85, 
only about a dozen genuine miners or prospectors remain.... They 
represent now, as in the past, such elements of manhood as place 
them in the front of whatever they undertake, viz: courage, en- 
durance, perseverance. ...The history of mining camps in America 
has no parallel to this. There have been no blanks drawn in the 
discoveries of mines; no failure of any mining enterprise within the 
districts. ...^^ 

The first edition also listed a number of businesses, with a brief de- 
scriptive statement about each, and carried what appeared to be a 
page-one editorial praising the town as something of a "Garden of 
Eden," saying, "The location of Wallace is unsurpassed in any country. 
Nature seems to have omitted nothing. Pure water, invigorating air, 
beautiful scenery, a level tract walled by high hills at a safe distance- 
these go far toward making a pleasant home...." The item also men- 
tioned that the town already had a population of 1200-1500 people and 

^^ Wallace Free Press, July 2, 1887. 


70 American Journalism VI (1 989): 2 

a modern post office with "the latest patent call and lock boxes. "^'' The 
Dunns were obviously living up to their end of the bargain with Colonel 
Wallace by serving as town boosters from the start. 

The first edition of the Free Press was typical of practically every 
edition the Dunns produced. It included a poem, a tall tale reprinted 
from the California Pioneer of 1850, a list of property transfers, a per- 
sonals column made up of general town gossip, a variety of news items 
from area mining camps, and rewrites of news and feature stories from 
newspapers throughout the country and abroad. In all, the Dunns pro- 
duced a balanced package of news in their four-page paper, which in- 
cluded about one-third advertising.^® The second issue of the paper 
carried, as promised, a column-length editorial praising the prospec- 
tors as self-confident, brave, intelligent men who most often faced un- 
known dangers alone in their search for the great mineral strikes they 
produced. "To the prospector the western empire owes its birth, its 
population and its prosperity. ...The prospectors of the Upper South 
Fork. ..who, during the dark days of its early history went many days 
hungry. ..can look back with pride upon their work,"^^ the editorial 

The "personal journalism" characteristic of most other frontier 
newspapers was also found in the Free Press published by the Dunns, 
whether they were reporting a fire, barroom shooting, baseball game, 
or the death of one of the town's well-known animals. In reporting a 
brush fire that had threatened the lumber mill, the Free Press said: 

Sparks were hurled into the air in all directions, many lighting 
on and among the piles of lumber. In the meantime, Mr. Howes and 
his faithful mill men were manfully and strenuously battling with 
the sparks and flames. ...For two solid hours they kept a steady 
stream of water dashing and splashing in all directions, scarcely a 
word was spoken, every nerve was strained, and but one thought 
seemed to be in the minds of all-the property must be saved and 
their prompt and determined efforts were all that saved it from 
being a mass of ruin. Mr. Carter is to be congratulated for having 
such faithful men in charge of his interests, and well may he feel 
assured that they are just as safe with them as though he were 
here in person.... ^o 

The Free Press report of a body being found in the street answered 
all possible questions for the readers (as well as the coroner): "Sunday 



^^Ibid., July 9, 1887. 


A Last Hurrah for the Frontier Press 71 

morning the dead body of Barney Burns was found lying a few feet from 
the porch of Fred Stevens' hotel.... From the position of the body it was 
evident that the deceased had fallen from the porch, a distance of 
about five feet, and struck the ground as he lay, when found, face 
downward in the dust. Being stunned by the fall, and under the in- 
fluence of liquor, he was probably unable to move, and the closing of 
apertures for breathing caused death by suffocation. ..."^^ 

In commenting on the nearby mining camp of Mullan, the Free Press 

There are more old bachelors brousing around here who have 
never been soothed by the cooing of a prattling babe than in any 
camp in the wild West. There are quite a number of those who 
would marry, and they are desirable property for the fair sex, too, 
but they do not seem to pull the right strings to drown their sorrows 
in the charms of a pretty woman. They are too much westernized, 
and in this hope fadeth like a miner's pants. A few marriageable 
young ladies could make a square deal here.^^ 

When reporting the arrest of a former sheriff by the new sheriff, 
the Dunns wrote that "Sheriff Hanley had several close calls, one bul- 
let glazing his head and another going through his coat sleeve.. ..All 
the officers deserve credit for the cool manner in which they acted, es- 
pecially Hanley, who would have been justified in shooting Matt 
Guthrie instead of hitting him over the head."^^ The loss of a horse in 
a trail accident was explained by the Free Press in great detail also: 
"Dad Acres lost one of his best horses on the trail between Wallace and 
Burke last Thursday. The animal was pretty heavily loaded and in 
some manner lost its balance and went down the side of the mountain, a 
distance of over 100 feet, almost perpendicular, killing it instantly."^'' 

The personal descriptive style was evident in the stories picked up 
from other sources also. One such item was selected from Railway Age 
and described a large Indian cemetery in Dakota". ..where the bones of 
many thousand Sioux lay bleaching in the sun. ...The cemetery is sev- 
eral hundred years old and includes the bones of countless braves whose 
spirits have gone to the happy hunting grounds. The Indians are not 
buried, but are wrapped in blankets, placed on a scaffold of sticks about 
six feet high, where they remain undisturbed. On every hand can be 
seen hundreds of bleached skeletons and grinning skulls. ..."^^ 

^^Ibid., July 23, 1887. 
^ Ibid., August 6, 1887. 
^Ibid., September 24, 1887. 
2'*Ibid., October 22, 1887. 
^Ibid., IDecember 10, 1887. 

71 American Journalism VI (1989): 2 

The Dunns were especially sensitive to the fate of animals, and of- 
ten mentioned one of heroic stature. When a stray mule was found dead, 
they ran an "obituary" saying that the mule, 

...whose form became so familiar to our people last winter, lies 
a corpse in the South Fork, just below the first ford east of town. The 
life of a mule is never a happy one. Born without pride of ancestry 
or hope of posterity, they seem to be doomed to the hardest of labor 
and shameful abuse. But this one, which now sleeps in a watery 
grave, seems to have been more unfortunate than his brothers. 
Having served his master well for many years, it would seem that 
he was deserving of some protection when his strength failed him 
and he passed down the western slope of life. But such was not his 
lot. He battled with the elements during the past winter in a man- 
ner worthy of one of more noble origin. He conquered, but scarcely 
had the conflict ended when he succumbed. Some claim that while 
fording the river, in search of fresh fields in which to forage, he 
was carried away by the strong current and drowned, others that in 
a fit of despondency he threw himself into the clear waters, con- 
vinced of the vanity of life and determined to end this struggle for a 
mere existence. ...^^ 

When calling for a ridge across a nearby creek, the Free Press did so 
much for the sake of the animals, saying, "No bridge has yet been built 
across Nine Mile Creek where the wagon road to town crosses that 
stream. Drift has lodged against the footlog and it is necessary to ford a 
deep pool of water to cross. Teamsters justly complain of this, as it sim- 
ply amounts to cruelty to force animals into water in this cold 
weather. ..."2'' 

Each edition of the Free Press was filled with news of new gold or 
silver strikes, the fast-approaching railroad, the coming of regular 
mail service, the opening of a new business, etc. Editorials praising the 
growing town, presumably in accordance with the Dunns' agreement 
with Colonel Wallace to promote the town in an attempt to attract new 
settlers,^^ were also weekly features of the paper. A typical comment 
noted that "the sound of the hammer is heard in all directions, mingled 
with the buzzing. A glance over the town shows improvement in every 
quarter. New buildings are under way, additions are being placed to 
those already up, older houses are receiving the benefit of paint, streets 
are being prepared for use, vacant lots are being cleared of stumps and 
logs, and in fact, an air of general improvement pervades the whole 

^^Ibid., May5, 1888. 
^''ibid., Decembers, 1887. 
28ibid., March 16, 1889. 

A Last Hurrah for the Frontier Press 73 

camp. ..."2^ 

On another occasion, predicting greater prosperity with the coming 
of the railroad, the Free Press mentioned that "the whistle of the lo- 
comotive will ere long announce a new era in the history of mines des- 
tined to astonish the world with their output."^^ Such reports of rich 
strikes and the glorified life of the prospector eventually led to a brief 
setback in news service for the Dunns, as the Free Press reported that its 
Mullan correspondent had "joined the stampede to the new strikes, 
which accounts for the absence of our usual collection of interesting 
items from that camp."^^ 

For the first several months, practically every issue of the Free 
Press made prominent mention of Colonel Wallace, whether boasting of 
his fishing exploits ("Colonel Wallace caught 247 trout in Placer Creek 
Thursday"^^ ); his election to an office; his offer to donate land for a 
school, church or hospital, etc. ("Just back of Colonel Wallace's resi- 
dence is part of the body of a tree, cut down by the Colonel himself, 
which measured something like 225 feet in length"^^) jj- certainly ap- 
pears that the Dunns were appreciative of Colonel Wallace's sponsor- 
ship of their paper. At the same time, the Free Press, for each week 
during the first several months, carried a two-column advertisement for 
the Wallace Townsite Company, apparently part of the agreement by 
Colonel Wallace to help ensure that total revenues would reach $1,800 
during the first six months. 

The townsite advertisement was aimed at attracting buyers for his 
land, and proclaimed Wallace as the "center of the Coeur d'Alene min- 
ing district, the terminus of the Coeur d'Alene Railway and destined to 
be to this section what Leadville is to Colorado." The ad, saying the 
town was "beautifully situated in a wide and pleasant valley with the 
best of water and timber in abundance," also boasted of its first-class 
school facilities. There apparently was no school, however, as the Free 
Press published an editorial on March 31, 1888, (after the ad had been 
running for nine months) calling for a school, not for the sake of educa- 
tion, but as a means of attracting more settlers. The editorial said, 
"...Situated as Wallace is, it is easy to see how a good school. ..would be 
the means within a year or so of bringing hundreds of families 
here.. ..This is a matter well worthy of attention from a business stand- 
point. A good liberal investment in a schoolhouse would, we believe, 
bring a handsome return to property owners and business men."^'* A few 

^^Ibid., July 16, 1887. 
^Ibid., July 23, 1887. 
■^^Ibid., September 3, 1887. 
^^Ibid., August 20, 1887. 
^Ibid., December 24, 1887. 
^Ibid., March 31, 1888. 

7^ American Journalism VI (1 989): 2 

months later the paper carried a report of a town meeting in which 
Colonel Wallace offered to donate a lot for the school building and in 
which the school board had agreed to hire a teacher for a six-month 
term. The story ended with the comment that the building". ..will be 
credit to our town, and will no doubt be the means of bringing many 
families to reside here...."^^ 

The relationship between the Dunns and Colonel Wallace took a 
sharp turn in the spring of 1889 when the Dunns somehow learned that 
Colonel Wallace's title to the property he had been selling was in 
doubt. They quickly and prominently displayed the news on page one,^^ 
and it created a heated feud between Wallace and the Dunns as well as 
between Wallace and other citizens who had bought property from 
him. The squabble eventually forced Colonel Wallace's hasty depar- 
ture from the state, long before it was finally determined that he in- 
deed had not held clear title to the land. 

Colonel Wallace was immediately critical of the Dunns for their 
initial attack on him, and in a letter to the Free Press revealed their 
original agreement which brought the first newspaper to Wallace. The 
Dunns ran the letter on page one and did not deny that Colonel Wallace 
had helped start the newspaper. They did assert their independence, 
however, saying, "We owe no debt of gratitude to Colonel Wallace. He 
never paid us one dollar for which he did not get value received, nor 
have we accepted a favor from him which we did not stand ready to 
return. The starting of a newspaper in Wallace was purely a business 
proposition by both him and us...."'^'' 

The Dunns explained their agreement with Colonel Wallace in de- 
tail, noting that they had been promised free rent and the guarantee of 
$1,800 in combined patronage from all sources during the six months 
starting with the first issue. In addition, Wallace had agreed to buy six 
subscriptions to the Free Press for a year at $3 each. At the end of the 
six months, the Dunns said they had purchased their building and lot 
from Wallace for $550. They also pointed out that Colonel Wallace 
had withdrawn the patronage (advertising) of his townsite company 
from the paper nearly a year before. In addition, they noted that he 
had known about his title problems for several months, but had kept 
them secret and continued to sell (and generously give away) more 
lots .38 

Regular stories on the land title problems and resulting claim jump- 
ing filled page one of the Free Press for several weeks, and apparently 
Colonel Wallace felt threatened by some of his dissatisfied customers. 

^^Ibid,, June 2, 1888. 
3%id., March 9, 1889. 

A Last Hurrah for the Frontier Press 75 

as he began to wear and randomly discharge a pistol about town, for 
which he was again reproached by the Dunns in the pages of the Free 
Press ?'^ 

One might assume that the Dunns attacked Colonel Wallace so 
strongly because they, too, had been used by the Colonel in helping to 
lure people to the area to purchase what turned out to be untitled land. 
Not only had they been duped themselves, they had played a role in 
deceiving others. Whatever their reason, by taking issue with the 
town's founder and leading citizen, they certainly seem to have placed 
moral "right" above loyalty to their benefactor and perhaps even 
above the secure existence of their newspaper. Such a stance is not sur- 
prising if one accepts the premise that the Dunns were of the 
"California school" of writers, described in The Life of Bret Harte as 
"young gentlemen.. .essentially men of honor," who in public matters 
"took the high ground."^° 

The Dunns, by taking such a stand, fall into historian Oliver 
Knight's mold of "active agents" in the civilization of the frontier.'^^ 
Knight contended that regardless of the founding motivation, frontier 
newspapers that campaigned for better transportation, schools, 
churches, etc., helped to facilitate social change and further a sense of 
community by encouraging and reinforcing their efforts toward urban- 
ization, even though much of what was written was "puffery, intended 
to encourage immigration into the area...." In promoting towns. Knight 
said, "editors bleated repetitive refrains about their communities," 
calling them the "garden spots of the world," boasting of their 
"unexampled richness of soil or timber or minerals or salubrious cli- 
mate" and predicting that the town was "marked by destiny to be a 
great metropolis.. .. "^2 x^g Dunns were surely guilty of such puffery, but 
seem not to have given up their sense of right. 

Wallace's title problems were not the only issue on which the 
Dunns took a moral stand. When the nearby town of Burke announced 
the search for a minister, the Free Press noted that "It would doubtless 
be an excellent field for missionary work, as it is practically virgin ter- 
ritory.. .."^^ They also editorially condemned prostitution in Wallace 
saying, "A boisterous dance hall in the business center of Wallace, with 
rooms above occupied by women whose characters are too plainly 
apparent by every act and feature, and who frequently appear before 
the windows in indecent exhibit, to the disgust of respectable people in 

^^Ibid.JuneS, 1889. 
^ Merwin, 195. 

Oliver Knight, 'The Frontier Newspaper as a Catalyst in Social Change," Pacific Northwest 
Quarterly 58:2 (April 1967), 75. 


Richard G. Magnuson, Coeur d'Alene Diary (Portland, Oregon, 1969), 264. 

76 American Journalism VI (1989): 2 

the community, is not conducive to a high moral standard."^'* The 
editorial did not totally solve the problem if it had any effect at all, 
as one such "dance hall" still operated openly in Wallace in the sum- 
mer of 1988. 

The Free Press of June 29, 1889, carried an abrupt announcement that 
the Dunns had sold the paper. It might easily be assumed that the 
Dunns were pressured out of business in some way due to their problems 
with Colonel Wallace, and that possibility may exist. However, the 
amount of advertising in the paper did not decline over a three-month 
period immediately prior to the sale, and no other evidence of economic 
pressure is evident. Apparently the Dunns did not feel physically 
threatened, as they remained in town and were involved in other busi- 
ness interests.'*^ Among the positions held by the Dunns over the years, 
based on frequent mention in the papers, were postmaster, town clerk, 
and mayor. 

Although it was not evident in the brief announcement of the sale, 
it soon became clear that the Free Press had been purchased by Adam 
Aulbach, publisher of the Coeur d'Alene Sun in nearby Murray, through 
friends in Wallace. He immediately changed the name of the paper to 
the Press and personally began publishing it on September 28, 1889, af- 
ter it had been managed by Ed Tibbals for a few months. Under 
Aulbach, the Press changed in many ways. At about the same time, by 
front-page news accounts, the town of Wallace was becoming more 
typical of the lawless, rip-roaring mining towns depicted in frontier 
movies. Headlines hinting of the publisher's interests and of the events 
of the period included "Skulls Cracked," "One Dago Dead," "An Awful 
Tragedy," "Foul Slander," "Death in a Mine," "Death from Gas," "A 
Ride to Death," "The Lying Dunns," and "A Trainload of Scabs and 
Hessians Arrive." Headlines for less dramatic events, such as county or 
city meetings or routine banking or mining news, were often little more 
than labels such as "Banking News," "County Board," "City Fathers," 
"District Court," or "Banking." 

Wallace had grown from a town of 1,200-1,500 in 1887 to 3,000 by 
1890, and boasted a list of businesses which included six hotels, one 
bank, one preacher, one teacher, five doctors, two lawyers, one drug 
store, one brewery, eight restaurants, and twenty-eight saloons.'*^ Much 
of the new population was working class, brought in by large mining 
companies, which had brought out the prospectors, to work the mines. 
There is also evidence that a variety of other characters had joined the 
stampede to Wallace and surrounding camps, as fabled gunfighter- 

^Ibid., 135. 
'^^Ibid., 96. 

A Last Hurrah for the Frontier Press 77_ 

lawman Wyatt Earp was a registered voter in the town in 1890.^'' 

Aulbach brought to Wallace a long, colorful, and somewhat 
combative newspaper past. At age forty-three, he was at the peak of 
his success, publishing or owning an interest in newspapers at Wallace, 
Murray and nearby Wardner. He had first come to the Coeur d'Alene 
region in 1884, setting up the second newspaper in Murray. His arrival 
in Murray could not have been better timed, as even before he published 
the first edition of the Sun, the editor of the town's only other newspa- 
per shot and killed his printer in a pay dispute and was eventually sent 
to prison, leaving the town to Aulbach.'*^ 

The outspoken Aulbach wasted little time in taking advantage of 
his position. He printed an editorial in his first edition condemning the 
former competing publisher, saying, "The crazy crank who killed poor 
Enright has at last realized his awful position and was crying like a 
child all day yesterday. Whether he was lamenting the death of his 
victim or his own chances of a speedy death on the gallows I would not 
undertake to say. His feelings will not bring poor Enright back to life. 
There is no sympathy for the murderer in this community.'"*^ 

Unlike the Dunns, about whom little history has been written, 
Aulbach's newspaper past has been reasonably well documented, 
partly by his own unfinished and unpublished memoirs. He started his 
career as a compositor on the St. Louis Republican at age 16, but soon left 
that job to join a wagon train headed for Oregon. He never arrived in 
Oregon, however, choosing to search for riches in the gold fields in- 
stead. He failed to strike it rich, and ended up working at a variety of 
jobs before finally joining the army in 1864. After serving with the 
Union army in Utah, he remained there to work on an anti-Mormon 
newspaper. When he realized he was in phyical danger there, he 
moved to San Francisco, where he worked as a compositor on the 
Chronicle. While there, he drafted the constitution and bylaws for the 
local printers' union, which later grew into the National Typo- 
graphical Union.^° 

At the Chronicle, Aulbach seems to have adopted some of the 
characteristics (pro-labor, anti-Chinese) of its publishers, the deYoung 
brothers, who in turn had been influenced by James Gordon Bennett's 
New York Herald. Both papers had reputations for siding with the 
masses or have-nots in class disputes; reporting heartily and bluntly on 
crime, sin and corruption: and frequently attacking competing newspa- 
pers and their editors. ^^ Aulbach often displayed these same 


Ibid., 107. 
"^^History of North Idaho, 992. 
^^ Coeur d'Alene Sun, July 8, 1884. 

Adam Aulbach, incomplete and unpublished memoirs, 1-42. 
^^Mark W. Hall, 'The San Francisco Chronicle: Its Fight for the 1879 Constitution," Journalism 

78 American Journalism VI (1989): 2 

characteristics as publisher of the Press. From the Chronicle, he went 
to the San Jose Herald, the Philadelphia Record, the New York Her- 
ald, and perhaps others, before heading back West in 1883. He printed 
a paper briefly in Belknap, Montana, before arriving in Murray in the 
summer of 1884.^ 

Under Aulbach the Wallace Press quickly became more outspoken, 
especially editorially and especially against other editors. Through 
his name-calling attacks on competing editors, Aulbach personified 
historian Robert Karolevitz's frontier editor, whose "behavior did lit- 
tle to raise the public esteem of newspapermen, but it certainly enter- 
tained the public."^^ Historian John Tebbel's list of characteristics of 
New York's newspaper giants of the pre-Civil War era also closely 
resembles those of Aulbach: restless, egocentric and combative, politi- 
cally ambitious, partisan, and sometimes guilty of excesses.^'* 

Aulbach's violent editorial attacks were fired in all directions, and 
frequently at the Dunns, especially after they started another Wallace 
newspaper in competition with him just a year after selling the Free 
Press. Aulbach pointed out the development of the new paper edito- 
rially, saying, "...We are informed. ..that the Dunns Brothers received 
a clean thousand dollars to publish a Republican paper and nothing 
else. ...^^ The Dunns countered in the Miner by accusing Aulbach of 
"flopping from a loud Republican" to a Democrat just three weeks before 
an election "for $300 for the paper and the man." They added that "the 
Democratic party got the worst of the bargain at that small figure.. .."^^ 
With that exchange, partisan journalism was begun in Wallace. 

In the midst of his editorial feud with the Dunns, Aulbach wrote 
that his rule of life was to "beware of entrance to a quarrel, but being in, 
make the fur fly. "5'' He proceeded to do just that, attacking the Dunns 
in practically every issue, calling them at first "schoolboys," but 
quickly moving on to such names as parasites, asses, birds of prey, hyp- 
ocrites, ingrates, backbiters, mangy pups, etc., and regularly headlining 
his attacks "The Lying Dunns." Aulbach wrote that the Dunns "have 
the nature of coyotes instead of men, and truth and fairness are as for- 
eign to them as intelligence or manhood. "^^ He condemned the Dunns 
for "turning" on Colonel Wallace more than three years before, saying. 

Quarterly 46 (1969), 505-510. 


N. Avon Wilson, "The Pack Mule Press of the Coeur d'Alenes," Student Research Paper, 

University of Idaho, 1938, 19-20. 

^^Robert F. Karolevitz, Newspapering in the Old West (New York, 1965), 15. 

John Tebbel, "The Giants of New York," in The Compact History of the American Newspaper 

(1963), 94. 

^WaUace Press, November 13, 1890. 

Ibid., December 11, 1890. 
^^Ibid., December 4, 1890. 


Ibid., March 14, 1891. 

A Last Hurrah for the Frontier Press 79^ 

"...When the first cloud of trouble overcame him they turned round like 
the dogs they are and bit his hand.... Never perhaps in the history of 
the West was there baser ingratitude shown than these two Dunns 
have displayed toward Col. Wallace. They now flaunt their ill-gotten 
gains in the face of the community, crowing of a victory over their 
benefactor.. .."^^ 

Aulbach's pen was especially sharp in one editorial attack on an 
item printed in the Dunns' Miner. He described it as "vomited forth out 
of the filthy mouths of the Dunns like offal out of a sewer. These in- 
grates, common panderers, have no other motive in life but to crawl on 
their slimy bellies and hiss out their spite, seeking to poison every at- 
mosphere they breathe; their low nature has no higher ambition than 
to lie: their putrid minds no nobler aim than to traduce their betters; 
men spit upon the world like lice and other human vermin; men who are 
a curse to themselves and the con\munity in which they live; men de- 
void of every vestige of honor and who know no shame."^° 

Aulbach's angry attacks on the Dunns apparently did not represent 
an overall community feeling, however, as Aulbach's own Press re- 
ported J. L. Dunn's election as chairman of the town's trustees (mayor) in 
April 1891.6^ 

The Dunns, on the other hand, rarely attacked other editors or in- 
dulged in name-calling. However, they did both in taking issue with 
Aulbach on one political matter while he was publisher of the Sun, 
saying, "It doesn't look well in print to call a man a Har, sheep, mut- 
tonhead, or any vile epithet the depraved mind can muster.. ..The press 
should set a different example. But a man can convict himself if he so 
desires. The editor of the Sun has had plenty of rope. See what he has 
done." They then proceeded to print a number of contradictory Aulbach 
statements. ^^ 

Aulbach, on the other hand, was indiscriminate in his attacks on 
other newspapers. He often attacked the Spokane Falls Review, once 
calling it "a cheat, hypocrite and foul monster, which seeks to tear 
down everything that does not pay tribute to its capacious maw. ...Its 
breath is the breath of a leper, and its touch begets the dry rot.. .."^•^ He 
had no sympathy for his fellow editors in hard times, or at least never 
displayed any. When commenting that the Osburn Statesman was on 
the verge of failure, he said "it is writhing like a rattlesnake with its 
head cut off. The body is in terrible agony, and the tail rattles the 

^^ Ibid., July 2, 1892. 

60 Ibid. 

6^ Ibid., April 18, 1891. 

6^ Wallace Free Press, November 3, 1888. 

Wallace Press, July 7, 1890. 

80 American Journalism VI (1 989): 2 

death roll."^'* 

Aulbach even took issue with the Spokane postmaster for closing 
for lunch during the noon hour, although the post office was seventy- 
five miles away. He said the postmaster was "either a crank or a fool, 
or perhaps both.... and by reason of his meanness, is unfitted for the du- 
ties devolving upon him."^ The Dunns had complained of mail service 
also, though less severely than Aulbach, saying, "The mail continues 
irregular though we see no good reason why it should be so....With or- 
dinary business management there is no reason why the mail cannot be 
carried through Fourth of July Canyon with the same regularity as any 
other route."^ 

On the issue of Chinese labor, Aulbach was outspoken as usual. In 
the Press he said the Coeur d'Alene region was "in no more need of Chi- 
namen than it is of a Mafia society,"^^ but that was mild compared to 
an earlier Sun editorial in which he said: 

...As cooks they would oft times be very acceptable; as laun- 
drymen, they would be convenient; as pack animals on the different 
trails they would be bonanzas. But they had better stay away just 
the same... .This camp.. .will never feel the curse of cheap coolie 
labor.... John Chinaman got into the California mines, into many 
other mines, but he must not think of attempting to visit into those 
of Northern Idaho. If he insists on coming, however, let him bring a 
roast hog, plenty of firecrackers and colored paper, and all the es- 
sentials of a first-class Chinese funeral. He need not bother to bring 
the corpse. It will be in readiness. ...^^ 

The Aulbach-produced Press focused more on the "hard" news of the 
day, dropping the tall tales, poetry, heroic adventure features, and 
most of the gossip-filled reports from surrounding camps. These were 
replaced with more news on political issues, more mining news from 
around the country and world, more reports of saloon fights, mining ac- 
cidents, rich mineral strikes, crime of any and all sorts, the buying and 
selling of claims, and the growing problems between the working-class 
miners and the large, corporate mine owners. Aulbach apparently 
brought with him from the county seat of Murray the county printing 
contracts, as he regularly placed prominently in bold print on page two 
the claim that "The Press is the official newspaper of Shoshone County 
and the town of Wallace." Meanwhile, the Press regularly carried 

^ Ibid., March 12, 189Z 

^ Ibid., February 8, 1890. 

^ WaUace Free Press, January 21, 1888. 

^^ Wallace Press, April 4, 1891. 

^Coeur d'Alene Sun, March 22, 1885, quoted in Wilson, 27. 

A Last Hurrah for the Frontier Press 81 

large amounts of legal advertisements. 

It was the dispute between labor and the mine owners which drew 
national attention to Wallace and Aulbach, and eventually led to his 
downfall as publisher of the Press. Aulbach, not surprisingly, chose the 
side of labor in a heated dispute between the miners and mine operators 
involving wages and union recognition in the spring of 1892. In announc- 
ing his stand on the side of labor, he wrote that he would "rather feed 
upon the vapors of a dungeon with a toad" than to side with the own- 
ers, who he said were "devoid of every sense of moral, social or manly 
attributes. "^^ 

Aulbach also harshly attacked the governor of Idaho for express- 
ing support for the mine owners, saying, "His Accidental Excellency, 
Governor Willey (by the forebearance of God and the stupidity of the 
Republican Party, Chief Executive of Idaho), by the position he has 
taken in regard to the labor troubles in the Coeur d'Alenes, by his cre- 
puscular reasoning from false premises, backed up by distorted, untrue 
statements of facts, has not only shown himself incapable, prejudiced, 
unjust and the laboring man's most malignant foe, but has forever de- 
stroyed his party in the state of Idaho. ..."''" 

Meanwhile, the Dunns were calling for reason in the matter, urging 
the parties to "settle down to a conference table within the district and 
argue the subject.... "^^ The Dunns "usually.. .favored the mine owners, 
but every once in a while they would truly take a mighty crack at 

Aulbach's attacks on the owners and the "scab" labor they were 
importing grew more vicious each week, and the mine owners eventu- 
ally obtained an injunction preventing the Press for commenting further 
on the labor dispute. This prompted Aulbach to write that "...We have 
the sad Russian spectacle of a muzzled press at the beck of a com- 
bination of wealth. ..."''3 He printed the Press on the same date with 
two blank columns which had been reserved for his commentary on the 

The injunction drew national attention, and the New York World 
printed an editorial in support of Aulbach, which he proudly dis- 
played on page one of the Press under the headline "The Press Re- 
straint. An Opportunity and a Duty for the Publisher of the Paper." 
The World editorial read: 

Adam Aulbach, editor of the Wallace (Idaho) Press, has a 

^^WaUace Press, AprU 23, 1892. 

''°Ibid., July 2, 1892. 

' 'Magnuson, 183. 

^Ibid., 184. 

'^Wallace Press, May 14, 1892. 

82 American Journalism VI (1 989): 2 

duty and an opportunity. The owners of the Coeur d'Alene mines 
have some controversy with their workmen. Mr. Aulbach, in his 
newspaper has commented upon the controversy, taking the side of 
the men. The mine owners have therefore induced a court to enjoin 
Mr. Aulbach, to forbid him from criticizing them, and to suppress an 
edition of his newspaper. At this point, Mr. Aulbach's highest duty 
is to fight. He owes it to himself, to the public, and to liberty to 
disregard the injunction, print the truth as he understands it, and, if 
necessary, go to jail for contempt of court. A court which would at- 
tempt in this way to interfere with the liberty of the press deserves 
contempt, and the more widely its wrongful course is advertised the 
more generally will it incur contempt. The WALLACE PRESS has a 
right to comment upon matters of public interest. If it libels any- 
body, it is liable under both civil and criminal statutes. But it is not 
the right of any court to suppress the newspaper or by injuction to 
forbid it to comment upon a particular matter not in hearing before 
the court. Against such a wrong the editor is bound to make the 
sturdiest fight he can, and if he goes to jail in such a cause, incar- 
ceration will honor, not disgrace him... .Mr. Aulbach ought to resist 
this tyranny at the threshold.''^ 

Violence finally erupted in the mine dispute when two non-union 
miners were killed in an explosion. The Press headlined the story: "Two 
Men Blown to Bits, Non-Union Men. Mystery as to How Explosion Oc- 
curred. Bodies Fully Mangled."^^ The trouble reached a peak in July 
when a non-union miner (called a scab by the Press, as was the custom by 
Aulbach when reference was made to non-union workers) was severely 
beaten by union men on July 9. The beating triggered an all-out battle 
which lasted several days and involved hundreds of union and non- 
union miners. The violence left six dead, seventeen wounded,^^ four hun- 
dred arrested, and six hundred nonunion workers chased from the 

The Press filled page one with a report of the trouble, prominently 
inserting near the beginning of the lead story the statement that "The 
scab [was] entirely to blame" for the fight that started the shooting. 
The same issue included yet another brief editorial attack on the mine 
owners which said they "are trying to reduce miners' wages and in- 
crease their own profits, so that they may have more money to squander 
on panderers, politicians and poker."''^ 

''^New York World. May 1892, quoted in Wallace Press, June 4, 1892 
^Wallace Press, June 25, 1892. 
^%id.,Julyl6, 189Z 
^Magnuson, 236-237. 
Wallace Press. July 16, 1892. 

A Last Hurrah for the Frontier Press 83 

Another Aulbach editorial in what was to be his final edition of 
the Press had a somewhat subdued tone and at least mildly criticized 
labor for the outbreak of violence. Aulbach wrote: 

...However bitter the controversy between capital and labor 
may be, labor always gets a further setback by resorting to arms and 
bloodshed. ...Although the provocation may be most grievous some- 
times, it is much better to endure the ills that exist than to fly to 
more serious ones. No domestic cause was ever benefited by vio- 
lence. ...The vast body of the people always sympathize with labor 
organizations, but they cannot harmonize with bloody strife and 
destruction of property. Labor must be more conservative and rea- 
soning, and capital should not try to crush because it has the 
power... .The friends of the miners' unions had hoped for a peaceful 
solution of the difficulty between themselves and the mine owners, 
and they deeply deplore the present condition of af- 
fairs.... Whoever provoked the conflict at Frisco and Gem ought to 
be punished, but it should be a fair and impartial investigation. Let 
the law get at the bottom facts. ...Let justice be done.^^ 

The governor responded to the outbreak of violence by declaring 
martial law, and as many as 1,000 troops were moved into the area to 
restore order and arrest the instigators.^'^ Along with the trouble and 
troops, of course, came a number of newspapermen, representing the 
Chicago Herald, New York World, San Francisco Examiner, the Asso- 
ciated Press, and a number of others.^^ Aulbach had previously served 
as the correspondent for the Associated Press, but the Portland Orego- 
nian had protested his work by refusing to print his articles because it 
felt he was too sympathetic with the labor causes.^^ 

Others apparently felt Aulbach had leaned too far to the labor 
side also. State Adjutant General E. J. Curtis, who had visited the 
Wallace area before the violent outbreak and who commanded the 
troops who enforced martial law in the area, openly called Aulbach a 
murderer for the role he played in inciting the riots.^^ Others obviously 
shared the opinion. "Undoubtedly, the people of Wallace considered 
the editor of the Wallace Press to some degree responsible for the vio- 
lence and the subsequent military rule they endured," concluded N. 
Avon Wilson in a 1932 study of newspapers in the region.^ 


Magnuson, 230. 
^^Ibid., 233. 
^^Ibid., 239. 
Wilson, 42. 

American Journalism VI (1989): 2 

That seems a valid conclusion, as Aulbach left Wallace without 
printing another issue of the Press. He nnoved back to Murray, where 
he revived the Sun and published it for a few nnore years before the 
shrinking town forced its demise. He died there in what had become all 
but a ghost town in 1933, having served as mayor, county commissioner, 
and state representative .^^ 

The Wallace Free Press with the Dunn brothers as publishers 
(1887-1889) was as much a frontier newspaper as any of its era in the 
creation (sponsored), function (town boosterism), and content; yet its 
publishers do not fit squarely into the generalization of frontier editors 
made by historian William Lyon in his 1980 study of the frontier 
press.^^Lyon said that frontier editors "proclaimed one set of values 
and lived another" because they were "subservient to an economic or 
political master."^^ Although the Dunns were assisted in the founding 
of their newspaper by Colonel Wallace, they did not surrender their 
values. They seem also to have been reformers to some degree, whereas 
Lyon concluded that frontier editors were not reformers.^^ 

Aulbach, on the other hand, was the product of another era of fron- 
tier journalism, being a generation older than the Dunns and a veteran 
of many other mining camps in his younger days. As publisher of the 
Wallace Press (1889-1892), he presented an image similar to that of the 
frontier editor described by Lyon: individualistic, competitive, and 
surly at times. "He stood among the colorful men striving for recognition 
and influence in frontier society; but changing conditions of journalism, 
his own individualistic personality, his itinerancy, and his lax busi- 
ness methods deprived him of the stature he sought," Lyon wrote of the 
frontier editor.^^ Such was the case with Aulbach in Wallace, Idaho. It 
could even be argued that Aulbach, a former mining camp vigilante^^ 
and union organizer who boasted of keeping a Spencer seven-shooter in 
his office,^^ symbolized the end of frontier journalism in America, and 
that Wallace, Idaho, was its deathplace. 

' ^Ibid., 46-48. 

Svilliam H. Lyon, 'The Significance of Newspapers on the American Frontier," Journal of the West 
19 (April! 980), 3-13. 
^'Ibid., 12. 

^^William H. Lyon, The Pioneer Editor in Missouri 1808-1860 (Columbus, 1965), quoted in 
Huntzicker, 33. 


Aulbach memoirs, 14. 

^^Ibid., 35. 

George Seldes and the Winter Soldier 
Brigade: The Press Criticism of In Fact, 


By Pamela A. Brown* 

In recent years the field of journalism has rediscovered George 
Seldes, most notably after he was interviewed about his memories of 
journalist John Reed in the 1981 film "Reds." Since that film's release, 
"scores of reporters and historians have sat in the book-cluttered living 
room of his red brick home recording his remembrances of such political 
figures as Leon Trotsky and Benito Mussolini and such writers as Ernest 
Hemingway and Sinclair Lewis." ^ Though most known today for his 
books, Seldes spent twenty years as a newspaper reporter. He began his 
career as a cub reporter in 1909, working for the Pittsburgh Leader. In 
1917 he went to work for the Chicago Tribune Army Edition in Paris, 
covering World War I, and from 1919 to 1929 he reported events in Eu- 
rope for the Tribune's Foreign News Service. He left reporting in 1929 to 
write for his first book. 

However, it is noteworthy that attention has been focused on 
Seldes the man rather than on his work. Lee Brown's history of press 
criticism. The Reluctant Reformation, gives short shrift to Seldes' 
work. He notes without discussion that "Seldes produced a weekly 
newsletter. In Fact: An Antidote for Falsehood in the Daily Press, and 
wrote several books critical of the press." About twenty pages later 
Brown writes: "If press criticism languished during World War II, it 
was nascent during the last half of the 1940s and 1950s."2 Yet Seldes 
began writing critically about the press in the 1930s including publish- 
ing numerous articles and books by the mid-1940s. In addition, between 
1940 and 1950, he published 521 issues of In Fact, each issue replete 
with detailed and harsh press criticism. Seldes' regular and substan- 

Pamela A. Brown is an associate professor of journalism at Rider College. 

^William Cockerham, "At 93, this Journalist Still Searches for Truth," The IRE Journal, Summer 1984, 

^Lee Brown, The Reluctant Reformation (New York, 1974), 32, 53. 

86 American Journalism VI(1989): 2 

tial contribution to a discussion of the content and decision-making of 
the American press has remained largely ignored even by chroniclers of 
the genre. The ideas and criticisms expressed in nineteen books and in In 
Fact remain now, as when published, largely unaddressed. 

What was it about Seldes' criticism that made it so unpalatable? 
What kind of criticism was it? And why has it been so easily ignored 
by the press, journalism historians, and scholars of press criticism? A 
reading of the newsletter In Fact reveals much about the nature of 
Seldes' approach to the American press and suggests some possible an- 
swers to these questions. 

From the outset, Seldes intended his newsletter to be for the people 
at large and not for a smaller segment of journalists or highly educated 
readers. Over one-third of the circulation came from labor union mem- 
bers, and the newsletter was marked by a decidedly pro-labor bias. The 
first issue carried the motto "For the millions who want a free press," 
though this motto would change twice during the publication's life. In 
the second year of publication, announcing that In Fact would go from 
fortnightly to weekly publication, Seldes wrote, "Naturally In Fact is 
pro-labor, organized and unorganized, and prefers to see this country run 
by and for the benefit of the majority...."^ It was perhaps because of his 
goal to reach millions (his prospectus for the publication stated thirty 
million) of ordinary Americans that the publication was written in a 
very down-to-earth tone. His language was simple yet colorful. Nor did 
he pull any punches. Newspapers were not inaccurate; they lied. The 
press did not miss stories; it suppressed them. 

Like A.J. Liebling and I.F. Stone, Seldes was a true "character" in 
American journalism. But Liebling and Stone wrote in a higher tone and 
addressed themselves to a more elite audience. Seldes, in seeking to 
reach the population at large, did not produce copy of much literary 
merit. Indeed, his writing was often almost headlinese. He omitted ar- 
ticles, used ideosyncratic abbreviations, and seemed to lack consistent 
rules for identifying individuals and organizations. For example, a 
typical story in September of 1947 noted that a "list of U.S. corpora- 
tions linked to the I.G. Farben cartel which supplied $12 million to put 
Nazi Party in power in 1933" was not reported by the press. "Many pa- 
pers including NY Herald [sic] Tribune suppressed list." He referred to 
both the man and the newspaper corporation as "Hearst." A favorite 
phrase to describe many individuals was "native American fascist."'* 

What Seldes saw as the persistent "suppression" of news items was 
the main topic addressed in eleven years of In Fact. In the post-World 
War II years, his revelations of suppressed nevys increased noticeably. 
The sample read for this study included just over one-quarter of the to- 

^/n Fact, January 13, 1941, 3. 
'^In Fact, September 15, 1947, 1. 

George Seldes and the 'Winter Soldier Brigade 87 

tal issues published (130 of the four-page issues, averaging eleven per 
year). In the sample there were an average of 3.5 articles each year on 
suppressed news. Prior to 1946 only three such articles appeared in a 
year; in the post-war years that number rose to five. In the 1947 sample, 
there were seven of these articles, more than any other year, and in 
1948, there were six. The second most frequently addressed topic was 
what Seldes characterized as "lying" in the news. Here, too, the post- 
war period showed a greater emphasis on this topic than in prior years. 
The third most frequent topic was In Fact itself, its readers, or its edi- 
tor. This, too, showed a marked increase in the post-war years. 

Other recurring topics in In Fact were consumerism (often presented 
as news that the media refused to provide for fear of offending adver- 
tisers), the evils of big business (Seldes' assaults on "Hearst" and the 
other chains were often extensions of his general suspicion of big busi- 
ness), labor news (again, often presented as news that the media either 
lied about or suppressed), and Seldes' three great evils-fascism, reac- 
tion, and Nazism-which were forces that he saw as endangering 
America's future and as present in both the media and other forms of big 
business. Seldes also occasionally cited heroes in journalism such as the 
short-lived newspaper PM or in some instances the New York Daily 
News, the New York Herald Tribune, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. ^ 
Of the three major topics of discussion in In Fact, it is useful to look first 
at its self-reflection-what Seldes had to say about himself, his 
newsletter, and his readers. This backdrop provides a clearer view of 
the context in the "suppressed" news items and the "lies" in which the 
press was viewed. 

Seldes clearly fit Into a group of liberal thinkers and theorists of 
his day who saw the media as powerful forces in society able to be used 
effectively for good or for evil. Seldes' years as a reporter, beginning in 
1909 in the heart of the Muckraking era, only seemed to enhance his 
belief in the values with which he was raised. He described his father 
as "a libertarian, an idealist, a freethinker, a Deist, a Utopian, a Sin- 
gle Taxer, and a worshipper of Thoreau and Emerson, [who] was also a 
joiner of all noble causes. ...Gilbert [his brother] and I. ..remained 
throughout our lifetimes just what Father was, freethinkers. And, 
likewise, doubters and dissenters and perhaps Utopians." George 
Seldes saw the press as having (and failing in) a responsibility to ex- 
pose wrongdoing and to promote moral values in society. Like other 
Progressives of the first half of the century, he viewed wrongdoing in 
society as reparable through the creation of an educated public opinion 
and public conscience. His philosophy an ticipated the Social 
Responsibility Theory of the press articulated by the Commission on 

^In Fact, September 9, 1950, 3; May 17, 1948, 1; August 19, 1946, 3; July 10, 1940, 1. 

American Journalism VI (1989): 2 

Freedom of the Press in 1947 and cited often in the pages of In Fact. The 
behef that media have an obligation to function for the benefit of the 
community is apparent in all of Seldes' writings as is the implication 
that citizens have a duty to be informed and active participants. It is 
from this perspective that Seldes, the press critic, viewed his field. 
This perspective led him to condemn the links between the press and 
big business that resulted in "suppressed" news and "lies." ffwas the 
corrupt "press lords," whose power was growing stronger all around 
Seldes, that encouraged him to seek to open the public's eyes and 
thereby bring about positive change. His reflection on the role of his 
own publication told much about what he expected of the press gener- 
ally and of its readers.^ 

Seldes had an enduring belief in the power of the American people 
to make positive change in the world. The necessary tool for this, his 
newsletter's content indicated, was "truth." With a truly liberal spirit, 
he believed that somehow by being given the "truth," the people 
would act to stamp out the enemies of what Seldes understood to be true 
democracy. He called his critics "enemies of truth and enlightenment." 
He thus approached the production of In Fact with the zeal of a cru- 
sader. In house ads^(ads in which the newsletter promoted itself), he 
called his readers "the Winter Soldier Brigade" and regularly sent 
them forth to capture more subscribers to keep the publication alive and 
affordable. In the ninth issue of In Fact, Seldes told readers: "In Fact 
knows that if it had one million subscribers it could become a great force 
for American democracy."^ 

In an editorial marking the switch to weekly publication, 
Seldes wrote that ultimately he hoped to increase circulation enough to 
make In Fact "a great free independent daily newspaper, owned and 
edited by its readers." He stated that he had "no intention of making a 
profit" but sought increased circulation in order to keep the price down 
(then fifty cents for fifty-two issues) and to spread the truth in its 
pages among a wider audience. He wrote to readers, "I have been in 
journalism 32 years come February. I have never been so optimistic about 
a free press as today. If you make a success of the weekly In Fact this 
year you will not only assure an eventual free daily newspaper, but you 
will challenge the entire commercial, unfair press of the nation." Yet 
another house ad in September of 1940 proclaimed, "Don't Follow the 
Headlines Into the Front Lines." It continued: 

With the press misrepresenting the news and whipping up hyste- 
ria, it's more important than ever to stick to the facts. ...Facts that 
reveal the real enemies of the American people.. ..Facts that expose 

George Seldes, Witness to a Century (New York, 1987), 4, 8. 
^/n Fact, January 13, 1941, 3; March 24, 1941, 4; September 9, 1940, 1. 

George Seldes and the Winter Soldier Brigade 89 

the "powers" interested in sending American soldiers to foreign ter- 
ritory.. ..Facts that are indispensible for calm and objective 
evaluation of news. 

The ad then shifted into a plea for subscribers to help build greater cir- 
culation for In Fact. "Carry a subscription blank with you always," 
Seldes told readers in an editorial.^ 

It was not unusual for editorials to conclude with a pitch for In 
Fact. One asked, "Do You Want This Work to Go On?" The work of In 
Fact could only continue, it stated, with increased dollars from 
subscriptions. Another editorial titled "You, and European News" was 

For nine years this weekly has been telling many Americans that 
their press does not serve them well and honestly. ...[T]he press is 
their enemy and handles and mishandles the news accordingly. 

You have to know what is happening in Europe. From now on our 
fate is tied to the fate of Europe. The days of merely sensational 
news stories from abroad should be over, and the American people 
must be told about the great currents of events-the labor movements, 
the tides to the Left or Right, the peace and the war currents- 
which are more important than much of the news which today 
covers the front pages of our newspapers....! hope you want this in- 
formation, and that you will be interested enough to ask ten or 
twenty or even a hundred people to send me their subscriptions, so 
that I can continue to build up a news service of help to all intelli- 
gent Americans.^ 

An issue in October of 1944 was devoted to a report carrying the la- 
bel "Copyright; Exclusive; Documented; Official" and telling of an 
anti-labor "lying campaign" in the press and radio aimed at U.S. ser- 
vicemen. It was accompanied by an "Open Letter to Thousands of New 
Readers" which stated: 

This is a typical issue of this newsletter. The purpose of In Fact is 
to expos e native fascism, the corrupt press, and qtlier enemies of the 
Americanj2eople....No other publication in America has so consis- 
tently exposed the big money, the financial and industrial inter- 
ests, the real powers behind American fascism.... The pen and the 
sword must unite to destroy the common enemy of all people. 

^In Fact, January 13, 1941, 3; September 23, 1940, 4; July 15, 1940, 3; Seldes explained in an interview 
on January 25, 1988, at his home in Hartland-4-Corners, Vt., that he never needed income from In Fact 
to live on. He had a "living trust" that supported him and his wife for years. 

%n Fact, May 22, 1950, 4; February 21, 1949, 3. 

90 American journalism VI (1989): 2 

To the thousands whose first acquaintance with In Fact is this is- 
sue, we earnestly recommend Facts and Fascism by the editor of this 
newsweekly. It will help you catch up on four years of exposes of 
the real fascist movement in America which this publication is 
printing. ^° 

This promotion of Seldes' book Facts and Fascism was not unusual. 
Ads in In Fact were nearly always for the newsletter itself or for its ed- 
itor's books. Occasionally, In Fact ran ads for the books of supporters 
like Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes. In September of 1945 a 
boxed item headed "Post Office Reminder" noted the date by which 
packages should be mailed to soldiers overseas in order to be received 
by Christmas. The item added, "See list of books below" for selection as 
gifts to soldiers, referring to an advertisement for Seldes' books. But the 
books were being promoted, Seldes says today, to keep In Fact alive, 
especially during its last two years of publication." The importance of 
that source of income increased markedly in the later years of its 
publication as the content and tone of the newsletter revealed a 
newsletter on the defensive. 

In the post-war years In Fact began to publish frequent items de- 
fending the publication and/or its editor against charges of being a 
"fellow traveler" or of being "subsidized by foreign gold." Seldes had 
addressed such charges early in the life of In Fact. In September of 1940, 
In Fact published a letter labeled as sent by "the editor" of In Fact to 
the Scripps-Howard newspaper the World-Telegram in response to 
criticism of Seldes for his opposition to military conscription. Seldes 
had endorsed an Emergency Peace Mobilization in Chicago which was 
a rally of 25,000 people against conscription. The letter justified Seldes' 
stand, stating, "there is no evidence of an emergency therefore no neces- 
sity" for conscription. It continued: 

As a result of my endorsement you say in your paper today: 
"George Seldes, frequently verbal defender of Communist organiza- 
tions, described as a fellow traveler." 

This statement is a lie and a smear. 

1 have not defended Communist organizations verbally; 1 am not a 
fellow traveler. I am not a Communist. I am a newspaper man who 
believes in unions, a member of the CIO, and my chief activity for 
years has been exposing the corruption of the newspapers. ^^ 




In Fact, October 9, 1944, 1, 4. 

In Fact, September 24, 1945, 4; interview with George Seldes. 

In Fact, September 23, 1940, 2. 

George Seldes and the Winter Soldier Brigade 92_ 

In November of 1943, under the newletter's new motto "An Antidote for 
Falsehood in the Daily Press," another signed editorial restated the 
publication's goals and the credentials of its editor: 

Only four or five times in the 160 issues of In Fact have its readers 
found editorial comment instead of the news exposing American as 
well as foreign fascism, the corrupt newspapers, labor-baiters, anti- 
Semites, and the great and powerful forces of money and greed 
which are behind our small-time fascists.... [Fascism is] grounded in 
the National Association of Manufacturers and the newspapers 
they control, and radio speakers they hire to poison the air, and 
the magazines, the powerful syndicates which send out anti-labor 
propaganda, their radio spokesmen and their prostitute journal- 
ists.... The male harlots of the kept press and the radio,. ..are now 
conducting a campaign of slander and falsehood against this 
weekly.... My field is the corrupt press and I wrote all the items on 
this subject. My objective was the Euripidean ideal, "to let the facts 
speak for themselves," without interpretation, and from the day I 
became sole editor this weekly has published nothing but substan- 
tiated facts;... It has never published a lie. It has defended labor, 
it has exposed Nazi propaganda, while the publications which 
now attack In Fact have done the opposite .... To fight fascism I 
was then [during the Spanish Civil War] and am now willing to join 
with any men, group, movement, or nation .... I am not a member of 
the Communist Party, nor of the communist movement, nor of any 
organization which I am aware is communist, nor what the smear- 
ers and liars call "fellow travelers" in order to avoid a libel suit. 

I am, however, an anti-Fascist. I have always been one.... 

One war at a time, gentlemen. If we are not in uniform we must 
fight the fascists at home. To achieve this end, and to let the facts 
speak for themselves, has always been and still is the purpose of 
this weekly and its editor.^^ 

But in the post-war years, in the cold-war climate, Seldes was 
more frequently moved to use In Fact for self-defense. In August of 1946, 
In Fact chronicled an incident that revealed much about the changing 
nature of the times and what might be called Seldes' naivete. Seldes 
wrote: "Although the American press has maintained a conspiracy of 
silence about this newsletter, it editor and his books-295 out of 300 big 
papers actually refusing to review certain books-it could not suppress 
one of the most sensational incidents of the present peace conference in 
Paris." The conference between Secretary of State James F. Byrnes and 

^^/n Fact, November 8, 1943, 1-4. 

92 American Journalism VI (1989): 2 

V.M. Molotov of the Soviet Union was marked by an exchange between 
the two concerning the nature of freedom of the press in the two nations. 
In Fact reported that Molotov said the U.S. press might be free but it 

is neither fair nor honest; it is in the hands of "trusts," and it is run 
by "bosses." Mr. Molotov based his reply, according to the Associ- 
ated Press and United Press texts, on a book by George Seldes. The 
AP and UP translated the name of the book and of course got it 
wrong. They made no effort in New York to spend five cents for a 
phone call to get the facts straight. Also the words "trusts" and 
"bosses" are poor translations from the Russian. The actual terms 
should have been "press chains" and "press lords," or "lords of the 
press. "^'* 

In the next week's issue in an "Editor's Column" Seldes pursued the 
matter further: 

From the first day In Fact was published there has been a conspir- 
acy of silence against it, myself and my books. ...This conspiracy 
was broken on August 6 at the peace conference in Paris.... Readers 
might think that in view of the great publicity occasioned by the 
Byrnes-Molotov debate that a million or even ten thousand persons 
rushed in subscriptions to In Fact or bought Lords of the Press [the 
book referred to by Molotov]. 1 regret to state that nothing hap- 
pened. We spent a lot of money for advertising, but it didn't work 
.... I have to ask our readers to double their efforts. I would prefer 
300,000 subscribers at $1 to 150,000 subscribers at $2. I believe my 
weekly is a tremendous force against fascism, against labor-baiters, 
against the corrupt press, and for the welfare of the majority of 
Americans. ...It is later than you think. The forces of fascism are or- 
ganizing in America, apparently their last great stronghold. In 
self-defense you must get into this fight against native fascism.^^ 

On the next page, in an article headlined "Press Attacks Editor," 
Seldes noted that papers all over the nation including the New York 
Times and Herald-Tribune "attacked the editor of this weekly" fol- 
lowing Molotov's comment. He noted that the Times refused to publish 
his letter of reply to the critical editorial, and published the letter 
himself: "I write this protest in the hope that you will print it, al- 
though I have been informed by members of your staff that there is a 
boycott in The Times against me, my books and my newsletter In Fact. 
Your advertising censor, in refusing advertising for my newsletter and 

'^^In Fact, August 19, -1946, 2. 
^^/n Fact, August 26, 1946, 1. 

George Seldes and the Winter Soldier Brigade 93_ 

the book from which Mr. Molotov quoted, admitted this conspiracy of 
silence. "^^ 

As the grip of cold war tightened over the United States following 
President Truman's pronouncement of his policy of containment of com- 
munism in 1947, In Fact's criticisms became increasingly unwelcome. In 
1948 an item headlined "Time Challenged" responded to Time maga- 
zine's characterization of Seldes as a '"leftist pressbaiter'" and of his 
book 1000 Americans as "'a collection of truths, half truths and untruths 
about the U.S. press and industry.'" Seldes wrote, "This is a typical 
Time falsehood, a typical Time trick. It does not review a book; it 
smears. I challenge you to point out errors. ...I denounce your statement 
charging half truths and untruths. ...I furthermore denounce your... list- 
ing me as a '"pressbaiter."'^^ 

In the last years of the newsletter's life, circulation dropped from 
the high of 176,000 to 56,000. In retrospect, Seldes blamed this on a 
"nationwide campaign of newspapers, columnists, magazines, and radio 
against the newsletter, accusing it of following the Communist line or 
the Stalinist line. ...Eventually this campaign ironically enough aided 
by a Communist Party boycott, killed the newsletter." ^^ Seldes commu- 
nicated this concern in several pleas to readers in the last years of pub- 
lication. In July of 1949 a page-one item headlined "To All Readers" 

Much has happened and many things have changed since May 
1940 when the first issue of In Fact was published, as we all realize 
.... [Because In Fact] has not hesitated to expose the powerful and 
the mighty, in Congress, in the press, in big business, in advertising, 
among the columnists, book writers, the reactionaries, the native 
fascists and the fakirs, it has earned for itself more enemies than 
any other publication in the United States .... We can say that the 
reactionaries cannot deny what In Fact has said, so they smear .... 

In the present atmosphere of hysteria and witchhunting the 
reactionaries have. ..pretty well established thought control in 
America through the agency of fear .... Your obligation is to keep In 
Fact free and independent as it has always been, a voice against 
the present campaign of smears, character assassination, liberal- 
baiting, and the spread of falsehood in which congressmen, the 
yellow press and all the reactionaries of the nation are united. 
Don't just sit still and deplore the situation. One of the things you 
can do is help get that larger circulation. ^^ 

^^Ibid., George Seldes, Never Tire of Protesting (New York, 1968), 27. 

^''/n Fact, May 17, 1948, 2. 

^^NeDcr Tire of Protesting, 53, 55, 57. 

^^/w Fact, July 11, 1949,1-3. 

94 Ameriain Journalism VI(1989): 2 

Two issues later the newsletter noted that "it is the failure of those on 
the side of democracy to support the voices of democracy which gives 
the reactionary weeklies and dailies the main voice in American af- 
fairs." Those voices of democracy referred to were In Fact itself and the 
recently discontinued PM. Seldes bemoaned the inability of such publi- 
cations to awaken an active readership among the nation's liberals. 
But, during the Cold War, Seldes was really addressing an almost par- 
alyzed population. At the start of what was to be In Fact's last year, 
Seldes wrote that his newsletter was 

the only publication in America which notes the propaganda, bias, 
fakery and falsehood in the vast majority of newspapers. There- 
fore, if you know anyone who reads a newspaper, you should also 
get them to read In Fact. Our only means of getting new readers is 
through readers, and we hope that in 1950 you will raise our circu- 
lation to the 100,000 mark again. 

But that was not to happen; In Fact appeared only thirty-eight more 

The first page of the last issue of In Fact was headed in all caps 
across the full page: "EDITORIAL: TO ALL OUR FAITHFUL SUB- 
SCRIBERS." It was Seldes' letter of explanation for the death of his 
newsletter. He wrote: 

In Fact is forced to announce it is suspending publication 

I think this is a tragic event. Not for us on In Fact, but for the 
American people. We were the only publication in this country de- 
voted to printing the important news the commercial press sup- 
pressed, distorted, faked or buried. We were the only publication in 
the country exposing reaction-which is the first step before fas- 

He blamed apathy for his inability to increase circulation: 

In 1940 when In Fact started, and again now in 1950, there is not 
only apathy but there is downright defeatism on the Left, the lib- 
eral, intellectual, democratic and anti-fascist minority in the 
United States. The witchhunt of 1950 is a hundred times worse than 
that of the 1920s.... 


'/n Fact, July 18, 1949, 1; January 9, 1950, 3. 

George Seldes and the Winter Soldier Brigade 95 

There is no protest, no indignation. Or very little. People are 
frightened to death. ...Everyone who is anti-fascist today is 
branded a communist, and since the nation is at war with commu- 
nism, the word "traitor" is also being used.... 

I expected to be libeled, smeared, redbaited, and this expectation 
was fulfilled..../« Fact has made more enemies than any other pub- 
lication in America. 

The remainder of the last issue was devoted to a retrospective of In 
Fact's exposes and accomplishments over eleven years. In the last two 
paragraphs under the subhead "We Fought A Good Fight," Seldes 

I have always felt that we were together in this fight against 
reaction, and I was not helping you nor were you helping me, but you 
and I were together in this desperate battle against the real ene- 
mies of America .... I do not feel defeated and I am sure that you too 
will never give up in this conflict with your real enemies, the ene- 
mies of all the American people, including the apathetic major- 

Those "real" enemies were identified regularly in In Fact as those 
who would keep the truth from the public. The newsletter captured 
that spirit best when, in 1943, Seldes changed the slogan that ap- 
peared weekly on page one. From the first issue in 1940 until May 3, 
1943, the slogan had been "For the Millions Who Want a Free Press." 
Then, for nearly six months, the slogan was "Exposes Native Fascism, 
Corrupt Press, Labor-baiters." Finally, the slogan changed to "An 
Antidote for Falsehood in the Daily Press." This was fitting because, 
indeed, the content most frequently addressed factual sins of omission 
and commission in the press. Suppressed news and lying in the press 
were the most prevalent themes in In Fact with the two often inter- 
twined. For Seldes, the newsletter's content was the only way to coun- 
teract those poisons. Generally Seldes saw the press as deliberately 
suppressing and lying about news in order to protect big business of 
which it was a part and on whose advertising revenue it was depen- 

In 1945 Seldes wrote,"The people of America have long been aware 
that some of the great daily newspapers of the land, either adver- 
tently or inadvertently, have been distoring [sic], coloring, and other- 
wise suppressing or falsifying the news by one means or another." In an- 
other issue he wrote matter-of-factly that "many hundred news items" 


In Fact, October 2, 1950, 1-3. 

96 American Journalism VI (1989): 2 

had been "suppressed within the past week or so by the majority of the 
1900 daily newspapers of America." But he added that suppression was 
less prevalent than in the past, given that the press had learned to 
"bury and distort instead. In this way they come out way ahead: no one 
can accuse them of suppressing news, and by adding coloration, bias, 
distortion and propaganda to the news, they put over their own policy: 
the policy of the paymasters, the advertisers. National Association of 
Manufacturers, the Big Business system which styles itself 'Free Ener- 

During National Newspaper Week in 1943, Seldes devoted an en- 
tire issue to the week's "suppressed news," noting the irony of the 
situation. Similarly, in 1947 a boxed item headlined "Prayers Don't 
Help," cited a United Lutheran Church call for a "pray for the press 
week" so that journalists "may discharge their trust in the interests of 
godliness and good order." Wrote Seldes, "Evidently the parishioners 
didn't pray loudly enough, or else reporters and editors are above re- 
demption. A survey of newspapers in the two weeks following the 
prayers showed no change from the ordinary bias, distortions, fabrica- 
tions, suppressions. "2^ 

General press cooperation with government establishment was reg- 
ularly addressed. For example, during the Korean War, Seldes noted, 
"There is always reaction in time of war, and opportunistic politicians, 
hiding behind the sensational headlines of war news, pass corrupt and 
vicious laws, and the press plays its part by underplaying and 
suppressing this news." Citing a general climate of "war propaganda" 
in 1949, Seldes accused "the nation's newspapers" of suppressing a 
senator's "scathing denunciation in Congress of the propaganda cam- 
paign for war waged by the U.S. press, culminating in the charge that 
hysteria has been whipped up to the point where even senators are 
afraid to oppose present foreign policy because they would be accused of 
treason..." Noting the difficulty of getting minority political views 
into the U.S. press, Seldes lauded the decision of the Denver Post to 
syndicate socialist leader Norman Thomas twice weekly. But he criti- 
cized the paper's statement to readers that it was doing so to offer all 
sides of American thinking while simultaneously reassuring readers 
that Thomas would not "crusade for socialism." Seldes wrote, 
"According to the yardstick for a truly free press laid down by the 
Commission on Freedom of the Press, Thomas should have been able, if 
he wished, to write for and about socialism. The restriction... on his 
writings makes it apparent that the new column will add little in the 
way of new ideas to the so-called marketplace."^'^ 

^hn Fact, January 29, 1945, 3; June 21, 1943, 1. 

^■^In Fact, October 11, 1943, 1-4; February 17, 1947, 1. 

^'^In Fact, August 21, 1950, 1; March 28, 1949, 1-2. 

George Seldes and the Winter Soldier Brigade 97 

Most frequently. In Fact detailed suppression of news that might 
harm what it called the "three sacred cows of press and radio"-the to- 
bacco, automobile, and drug industries which Seldes said were the na- 
tion's largest advertisers. He regularly described the refusal of the 
press to publicize studies from Johns Hopkins University that "prove 
beyond question that there is a relationship between the use of tobacco 
and the shortening of life." There "is not a newspaper or magazine in 
America (outside scientific journals) which has published all the 
facts." In another instance, Seldes reported, "The venality and corrup- 
tion of the press is further illustrated when there are labor troubles, 
strikes, frame-ups at the big tobacco plants. When the R.J. Reynolds Co. 
is mentioned the newspapers suppress the story entirely; they know 
who pays for the Camel ads."^^ 

Similarly, he accused the press of bowing to the interest of the 
liquor industry in exchange for ad revenues. He named over 200 papers 
and the Associated Press as having gone "wet because the wets paid 
them via advertisements." Though In Fact "holds no brief for Prohibi- 
tion" its "point is that the press follows its own selfish motives in 
whatever it does. ...The welfare of the people when it comes into con- 
flict with the welfare of the business office, comes off a bad last." In 
another issue. In Fact claimed, "One of the most amazing stories of the 
corruption of the American press. the story of the fight the liquor 
interests waged against the prohibition amendment, the support the 
newspapers gave them because of the advertising money, and the re- 
peal fight which was won by the DuPonts, the distillers and the 
press. "26 

Overall, In Fact characterized the American press as deliberately 
suppressing news on the actions of the Federal Trade Commission that 
were in the best interests of the public but not of the advertisers. Under 
the heading "Suppressed as Usual," Seldes reported on an FTC action 
against an insecticide spray. He concluded, "All this news [of FTC ac- 
tions], every item known by every editor, publisher and reporter to be a 
challenge to the honesty of the press, is suppressed 365 days in the year 
by at least 1740 of the U.S. 1749 papers." Another item stated, "The 
'free' American press is the main instrument by which manufacturers of 
harmful drugs poison millions of people." Still another headed 
"Everybody Suppresses" declared, "Everyone in the newspaper business 
knows that the daily fraud orders of the Federal Trade Commission are 
a daily challenge to the integrity of the press-and prove its corruption 
daily." This was followed by a list of excerpts from these orders. In 
still another instance, after revealing FTC action against the beauty 
cream industry and the failure of the press to report it, he summed up as 

"^^In Fact, February 2, 1948, 1; January 13, 1941, 1; January 1, 1945, 3. 
^^In Fact, November 2, 1942, 3-4; June 29, 1942, 3. 

98 American Journalism VI(1989): 2 

follows: "One percent of the press prints the news, one percent buries it, 
98 percent suppresses it because it means loss of ads."^'' 

Such criticism was consistent with In Fact's ongoing argument that 
the press was aligned with big business for its own self-interest. Seldes 
wrote in 1946 of the "greatest 'conspiracy of silence' in American his- 
tory, the silence on the part of the press regarding the most powerful, 
and at times, one of the most corrupt, force [sic] in the nation," the Na- 
tional Association of Manufacturers. He called it "the most powerful 
lobby in Washington today" and said it: 

controls a lot of legislation, still controls the press, and has the 
pubhc "over a barrel.". ..About 98 percent of the U.S. press.. .makes 
money from NAM members' advertising, cooperates with the NAM, 
is influenced by NAM advertising. ..and runs its editorial policy to 
suit the NAM, whose 15,000 members represent the big business in- 
terests of the nation. 

He accused the press of "suppressing" the news of 1947's unprecedented 
corporate profits, stating that 

the American press, which serves the coporations (spearheaded by 
the National Association of Manufacturers and U.S. Chamber of 
Commerce) rather than the general welfare (as confirmed by the 
Commission on Freedom of the Press) has been able to deceive the 
American people on a matter which affects their pocketbook, their 
health, their standard of living.^^ 

In Fact also detailed the extent to which the press itself was in- 
creasingly a big business. In an item titled "Power of the Press," the 
"strong arm of the nation's press lords" was blamed for an indefinite 
postponement of the "first formal investigation of newspaper monopoly 
in U.S. history." The postponement was the result of Republican sena- 
tors and "big chains and powerful press lords' efforts "to prevent 
disclosure of news which the major papers and wire services have sup- 
pressed for several months." The article cited a report by a congres- 
sional committee that the large metropolitan dailies were monopoliz- 
ing newsprint supplies during a time of scarcity and that the growth of 
chain ownership and the decreasing number of cities with competing 
daily newspapers were '"a matter of concern.'" It was the press' 
identification of itself as a business that also led it to "distort" and 
"suppress" the report of the Commission on Freedom of the Press, Seldes 
wrote. He saw the report as "confirming the charges of corruption, sup- 

^"^In fact, January 6, 1947, 1; October 8, 1945, 2; December 2, 1946, 1; September 9, 1940, 4. 
28/„ Fact, May 27, 1946, 1' December 1, 1947, 2. 

George Seldes and the Winter Soldier Brigade 99 

pression, falsehood, and venality made in these colums since 1940." He 
reported that Commission Chairman Robert Hutchins told a gathering 
of editorial writers that "'some of the editorial writers read the com- 
mission's report incorrectly, some treated it unfairly, some used 
untruthful headlines and some just plain lied about it.'" Added Seldes, 
"Most papers, incidentally, didn't print this AP report" of Hutchins' 

Much of Seldes' concern over the lying and suppression that he 
found in the press reflected his belief in the power of public opinion, 
propaganda, facts, and truth. He offered a recurrent column called 
"Nail That Lie Dept." which presented the contrast between falsely 
reported items and the "facts." The "nailing of lies" in the press was a 
true mission of the newsletter because of the power Seldes attributed to 
public opinion. He saw lies as geared toward manipulating that opin- 
ion, especially on the subjects of war, labor, and communism. For exam- 
ple, in an article in 1941 he wrote of a single issue of the New York 
Times, "the foremost newspaper in America," that it contained 
"sensational headlines, overplayed items, underplayed items, and an 
editorial policy" typical of "the sort of journalism which rules Amer- 
ica; this is the sort of journalism which makes war, peace, neutrality, 
hysteria, labor-baiting, red-baiting, etc., etc. It manufactures public 
opinion." Some months later, he noted that Americans had been misled 
about the Soviet Union for years: "...when the history of this epoch is 
finally written, the record of the press in regard to Russia ever since 
1917 will rank as the most scandalous campaign of sustained lying the 
world has ever known.''^^ 

Seldes also accused the press of participating in a campaign of ly- 
ing about the various probes of alleged communist subversion in the na- 
tion. He wrote that the inquiry into the film industry that it was 
marked by testimony taken "chiefly from stoolpigeons, thugs, perverts 
and Uars.. .refusing everyone smeared the American right of rebuttal." 
He said it "produced reports which are 99 percent falsehood, hearsay 
and smears (although the press published them as news)." He said the 
contention that Hollywood was engaged in a "plot to overthrow the 
U.S. Govt [sic] is nothing more than a Hearst story, and one of the 
biggest of the many falsehoods Mr. Hearst has published." In another 
issue he stated that all of the various committees inquiring into "un- 
American" activity "have stated their purpose has been to use pub- 
licity as their weapon. Most of the press has lent itself to this purpose" 
and refused space to those seeking to deny or rebut charges made against 

2^/m Fact, January 20, 1947, 1; December 6, 1948, 2. 


''^/n Fact, January 9, 1950, 2; May 5, 1941, 1; December 29, 1941, 1. 
^^/n Fact, September 22, 1941, 1; July 30, 1945, 1; December 6, 1948, 2. 

100 American Journalism VI(1989): 2 

Often "lies nailed" by In Fact concerned labor and what Seldes de- 
scribed as attempts to characterize labor as unsupportive of the war ef- 
fort: "Numerous newspapers which have aided the Nazi axis by pub- 
lishing lies against American labor, and the Associated Press, world's 
biggest news service... spread the most vicious lie of 1943 on Jan. 22. It 
was a fake story alleging that seamen refused to unload ships at 
Guadalcanal on a Sunday." Often Seldes exposed similar "fake" stories 
that depicted labor as striking or refusing to work contrary to the inter- 
ests of a nation at war. He targeted some publications specifically: 
"Every issue of Reader 's Digest includes one or more items which can be 
classified under bias or falsehood. Almost every issue includes an at- 
tack on labor." In another instance, he criticized the press for "faking 
the news" about U.S. laborers who worked on July 4, 1945. In reality, 
Seldes wrote, "This magnificent fact knocks out every lie against labor 
told the past four years by 99 percent of the U.S. press, by all the reac- 
tionary columnists of the [Westbrook] Pegler type, all the radio liars, 
all the plain and fancy liars who poison the information of the Ameri- 
can people."''^ 

In the end, of course. In Fact really wasn't an antidote to the poison 
it detected. When Seldes ceased publication, in 1959, the newsletter 
had lost two-thirds of its circulation and was being overwhelmed by 
"the almost universal flood of red charges against us." His writings 
were often dismissed as those of a "fellow traveler," some subscribers 
reported being harassed by the postal service for merely receiving In 
Fact, and the not uncommon paranoia that marked the domestic Cold 
War took its toll. Seldes gave up, he says today, not because of any fi- 
nancial considerations or because of the work itself; he gave up because 
"it was no use" continuing to pursue his initial goal: "since it had been 
my announced purpose to publish a newsletter 'for the millions who 
want a free press,' and there was no longer a chance of reaching a large 
public, publication was suspended...." He concluded that "the five buck 
liberal in America, the liberal who had five bucks to spend, is limited 
to 30,000" people and they all subscribe to several existing liberal pub- 
lications. "If I'm going to reach these same people I don't see any use in 
publication," he said in 1988.-^^ 

But those who interview Seldes today at age 99 find a man no less 
spirited and committed than the one who optimistically began In Fact 
almost fifty years ago. He still collects folders full of suppressed news 
items and still argues vigorously that the press too often fails in its so- 
cietal mission because of its selfish commitment to advertising revenues 
and its refusal to be responsive to its critics. He wrote in his latest book. 

%n Fact, February 1, 1943, V, January 27, 1947, 1; July 30, 1945, 1. 
Never Tire, 57; interview with George Seldes; it should be noted that Seldes was actually "cleared" 
of charges of communist affiliation by Sen. Joseph McCarthy in 1953. 

George Seldes and the Winter Soldier Brigade 101 

Witness to a Century, that "the press itself, is probably the sacred cow 
that will outlive all others." Seldes has his own theory as to why he 
has suddenly been "rediscovered" by the media: 

From that day I reached my ninetieth birthday, the American 
press, which had for almost fifty years maintained a "non-conspir- 
acy" of silence about me and my work, suddenly seemed to forgive 
and forget, and again treated me as a living human being.... 

I cannot explain this change of heart except to say: if you can 
make it to the magical age of ninety, all your sins are forgiven.^* 

More seriously, Seldes attributes the neglect of his work by journalists 
and scholars to the simple fact that its message was one no one wanted 
to hear. Holding old issues of his newsletter, he points to the slogan 
"For the Millions Who Want a Free Press" and says, "This is the rea- 
son. Because this says plainly that the press is not free." He points to 
the final slogan, "An Antidote for Falsehood in the Press," and says, 
"This is an attack on the press. I say that there are daily falsehoods in 
the press. And then I prove it every week with a certain number of 
daily falsehoods. "•^^ 

But there are other reasons for failing to respond to Seldes' criti- 
cisms. At base, his criticisms were and are an assault on the very foun- 
dation of the press in the United States. The vast majority of In Fact's 
suppressed news stories were sent to Seldes by reporters who could not 
get them published in their own papers. Seldes would publish them 
without identifying the reporters and jeapordizing their jobs. Those re- 
porters recognized that Seldes functioned outside of the restraints that 
existed in their own newsrooms. He was free to attack the financial 
nexus between the press and big business because he did not have to rely 
on advertising (or circulation) dollars for his subsistence. He brought to 
his press criticism his Utopian philosophy and a free thinking nature. 
The result was unbridled passion that was reflected in the language 
with which he indicted the press and the goals to which he believed 
newspapers ought to aspire. His kind of criticism was neither practical 
nor compromising. How can one compromise with "fascism"? How can 
one justify "lies" in the newspaper? If such charges are given serious 
consideration, however, then they also would have to be acted on. That 
possibility is a highly problematic one. Perhaps Seldes' goals required 
changes far too sweeping even to be considered. Perhaps his tone and 
colorful language caused him to seem too much the character and too 
little the serious critic. In Fact may also have been a victim of bad tim- 
ing. Cold-War America did not offer a climate conducive to the consid- 

^^ Witness, A63,A7 A. 

Interview with George Seldes. 

102 American Journalism VI (1989): 2 

eration of any radical ideas. The assaults on the newsletter and its 
editor were not inconsistent with the reaction any dissident voices of 
the day garnered. As the temperature of the Cold War dropped, so too 
did In Fact's once strong circulation. Seldes' criticisms would have been 
unwelcome at any time, but at such a time they never really had a 

"Purse and Pen": 
Party-Press Relationships, 1789-1816 

Wm. David Sloan* 

In calculating how Republicans in the 1790s could gain national 
power, Thomas Jefferson believed the most serious obstacle was the 
Federalists' support from the majority of newspapers. Thus, even after 
he had become the recognized leader of the opposition party, he put 
more emphasis on newspapers than on party organization. His 
declaration to James Madison in 1799 vividly illustrated his attitude. 
To support the press, he wrote, "[e]very man must lay his purse & his 
pen under contribution."^ 

Following the Republican triumph in the 1800 presidential elec- 
tion, members of the party continued to encourage the establishment 
and support of papers. Massachusetts Congressman Barnabas Bid well, 
urging Vice President Aaron Burr to consider founding a national party 
paper, reasoned that in making political decisions the public "must 
judge from impressions, communicated thro News-papers principally," 
that people therefore needed to be given "true explanations" of issues, 
and that "[f]or this purpose there ought to be one authentic paper."^ 
Samuel Harrison Smith's National Intelligencer, publishing under the 
patronage of Jefferson, soon fulfilled that role. 

Federalists generally were disdainful of the opinion of the masses; 
but in America, a nation in which public opinion was "sovereign" and 
political parties fought to influence it, some Federalists realized that 
their party was forced to encourage a favorable press.^ Alexander 
Hamilton, the Federalists' national leader, had shown his perception 
of the need of newspaper support even earlier than had Jefferson. In 
1789 he had assisted in the establishment of the Gazette of the United 

Wm. David Sloan (Ph.D., University of Texas) is an associate professor of 
journalism at the University of Alabama. 

To Madison, Feb. 5, 1799, Paul Leicester Ford, ed., The Works of Thomas Jefferson (New York, 

1892-1899) Vni, 344. 
July 6, 1801, Gratz Collection, Hist. Soc. of Pa., in Noble E. Cunningham, Jr., The Jeffersonian 

Republicans in Power: Party Operations, 1801-1809 (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1963), 259. 

"TFisher Ames to Timothy Pickering, March 12, 1799, Seth Ames, ed.. The Works of Fisher Ames (New 

York, 1%9 [reprint]). Vol. I, 254. 

104 American Journalism VI (1989): 2 

States. After the Federalist defeat in the 1800 election, he initiated 
the plan for the founding of another national organ, the New York 
Evening Post. Throughout his career he supported these and other pa- 
pers not only by financial assistance but by literary contributions as 
well. Fisher Ames was another Federalist who recognized the impor- 
tance of the press. He believed that if France's nobles had used the 
press to argue their side, the worst of the French revolution would have 
been averted. Federalists, he argued, should not make the same mis- 

In the United States' first party system of the 1790s to 1816, Repub- 
licans and Federalists looked upon the press as a most important in- 
strument for appealing to the public. They believed in the value of 
partisan newspapers and thought they needed editors who could ably 
support their views. To obtain the support, national and local leaders 
established papers, aided them, or in some way allied themselves 
with the press. 

This study looks at the specific nature of the relationship between 
newspapers and America's first political parties. The relationship was 
more complex than many historians have assumed. The general picture 
they have given is one in which parties and politicians controlled edi- 
tors by providing or withholding financial rewards. In this picture, ed- 
itors are shown as sycophants of politicians and as motivated primar- 
ily by money .^ Such a description of the party press seems to rest in 
historians' views that the press should be independent of parties and 
politicians and that the primary factor influencing people's actions is 
material gain. The first attitude is based on the approach journalism 
historians have used in applying journalistic values of their own times 
to the historical past. That error is known as "present-mindedness." 
The second appears rather superficial, for it is rare that any single, 
monolithic motivation accounts for people's actions. The economic ex- 
planation, however, has been popular with journalism historians writ- 
ing in the twentieth century. This century has been one in which mate- 
rialistic motivation seems to have become widespread in the United 
States; and historians have, it appears, tended to assume that eco- 
nomics played as key a role in motivating earlier Americans as it has in 
the historians' own time. Along with the description of the nature of 

''To Christopher Gore, Dec. 14, 1802, ibid., 312. 

^he critique historians have offered is not a sophisticated economic one emphasizing the material 
nature of society or the journalists' long-term self-interest. Neither is it a Marxist critique, since 
Marxist historians have done little on the American press and virtually nothing on the party press. 
Typical of the monetary explanation of party editors are such works as Mary Lindsay Thornton, "Public 
Printing in North Carolina, 1749-1815," North Carolina Historical Review, 21 (July 1944), 181-202; Carl 
E. Prince, "The Federalist Party and the Creation of a Court Press, 1789-1801," Journalism Quarterly, 53 
(1976): 238-241; and Culver C. Smith, The Press, Politics, and Patronage: The American Government's 
Use of Newspapers, 1789-1875 (Athens, Ga., 1977). Along with such works, there also are many that 
focus on other aspects of the party press. Economics has not been the sole interest of historians. 

Party-Press Relationships, 1789-1816 105 

party-press relations, one of the fundamental findings of this present 
study is that financial reward, while an aspect of the relationship, 
was secondary. 

Historiographically, this study fits into that body of works which 
recently has explained the party press as central to America's early 
political system. Typifying that approach have been the studies by 
Sloan, who has focused on the Federalist-Republican period, and Bal- 
dasty, who has concentrated on the Jacksonian period.^ They have ar- 
gued that historians, rather than evaluating the party press by jour- 
nalistic standards of our own time, need to consider the press within the 
context of its own time and setting. 

The nature of the relationship between parties and newspapers was 
essentially this. Politicians and editors believed that newspapers were 
critical in the political system. Politicians therefore supported news- 
papers, and editors worked closely with them and often as leaders in 
the party organization. The support editors received often was meager 
or insufficient, yet they continued to support their party's cause, for it 
was more important to them than financial reward. 

Under urging from such leaders as Jefferson and Hamilton, Republi- 
cans and Federalists became actively involved in the support of a party 
press. Federalists were especially successful during the years in which 
George Washington and John Adams occupied the presidency. A party 
owning the administration had a distinct advantage in the government 
patronage it could dole out to editors. The early papers also were pub- 
lished chiefly in the seaports and commercial towns where Federalists 
were more numerous and where most potential advertisers were busi- 
nessmen with Federalist inclinations.^ The Federalists thus achieved a 
decided advantage in the numbers of newspapers. In some locales, their 
papers outnumbered those of the Republicans by margins of five to one.^ 
As 1800 neared, with increased efforts by Republicans to strengthen 
their party organization and newspaper support. Federalists recog- 
nized a serious need to add to their newspaper numbers. While 
Federalists believed they also enjoyed the advantage of correct 
philosophy, Ames feared Republican newspapers could circulate lies so 
assiduously that "they will beat us."^ Even as late as 1804, however, 
their nemesis, Thomas Jefferson, believed that Federalists controlled 
three-quarters of the country's newspapers. ^° Whether or not the Pres- 

See, for example, Wm. David Sloan, 'The Early Party Press: The Newspaper Role in American 
Politics, 1788-1812," Journalism History, 9 (1982), 18-24; and Gerald J. Baldasty, 'The Press and Politics 
in the Age of Jackson," Journalism Monographs, 89 (August 1984). 

'Frank Luther Mott, Jefferson and the Press (Baton Rouge, 1943), 51-52. 

^erry Knudson, 'The Jefferson Years: Response by the Press" (Ph.D. dissertation. University of 
Virginia, 1974), 56. 

Boston Gazette, April 1799, in S. Ames, 11, 116. 

^°To WiUiam Short, Jan. 23, 1804, in James E. Pollard, The Presidents and the Press (New York, 1947), 

106 American Journalism VI (1989): 2 

ident exaggerated, it is clear that the opposition party's percentage of 
papers was greater proportionately than its support among the 
populace. A Republican broadside circulated in 1808 estimated that 
Federalist papers outnumbered Republican papers two-to-one. ^^ Al- 
though the number of papers backing the Federalists remained large for 
several years, by 1816 the party's efforts at maintaining a press 
flagged. The fact that Federalism was on the wane discouraged the 
founding and support of papers. By the end of the period. Federalists 
neither dispensed patronage nor subsidized party papers. ^^ Journalisti- 
cally, this time was surely the "twilight of Federalism." 

As newspaper support declined with enthusiasm for Federalism, so 
Republican newspapers increased with the fortunes of the Republican 
party. By 1798 virtually every state had at least one pro-Republican 
paper, but few of the papers had more than local prominence. The cam- 
paign of 1800 gave the first strong impetus to the founding of Republican 
papers. Everywhere Jefferson and other leaders encouraged the estab- 
lishment and support of papers. ^^ By the summer of the campaign, re- 
ported a Federalist senator, opposition papers were springing up "in 
almost every town and county in the country."^'* Boston's leading Fed- 
eralist paper, the Columbian Centinel, complained that the opposition 
was establishing papers "from Portsmouth in New Hampshire to Sa- 
vannah in Georgia. "^^ 

Republican encouragement of a large and vigorous press intensified 
with Jefferson's triumph. Although Republicans recognized a great 
victory in the election, they did not believe naively that the battle 
was over. Convinced of the influence of the press, they continued efforts 
to build up their support among it. In July after Jefferson had assumed 
the presidency. Attorney General Levi Lincoln wrote him from Worces- 

If Massachusetts gets right, all will be right. The other eastern 
states will be with her. A few more republican newspapers, and the 
thing is accomplished. Exertions are making to obtain them. Editors 
alone are wanting; sufficient encouragement would be given them.^^ 

Republicans' increased power to dispense patronage because the presi- 


^^In Cunningham (1963), 245. 

Shaw Livermore, Jr., The Twilight of Federalism: The Disintegration of the Federalist Party 1815- 
1830 (Princeton, N.J., 1962), 29. 

^^John C. Miller, Crisis in Freedom: The Alien and Sedition Acts (Boston, 1951), 29; Claude G. 
Bowers, Jefferson and Hamilton: The Struggle for Democracy in America (Boston, 1925), 445 and 484. 
^'*Uriah Tracy to OUver Wolcott, Aug. 7, 1800, in Bowers, ibid., 484. 
^^In Bowers, ibid., 455. 
July 28, 1801, Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress. 

Party-Press Relationships, 1789-1816 107 

dent was a Republican aided the multiplication of Republican papers.^^ 
The proportion of Republican to Federalist papers especially improved 
in the newly settled areas in the west - along the western borders of 
New York and Pennsylvania and in Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee - 
because Republican politics were more favorable toward development 
of those areas than were Federalist policies. ^^ During Jefferson's first 
term, during which the issues of the Louisiana Purchase and the repeal 
of the Federalist judiciary act created intense partisan division. 
Republican papers gained maturity as a well-disciplined political 

By 1808 Republicans finally had gained the upper hand in 
newspaper numbers, although their majority rested on the support of 
weeklies rather than dailies. The majority of the latter supported the 
Federalists. Of 273 pro-party papers, 142 supported the Republicans, 
while 131 supported the Federalists. Of pro-Republican papers, 114 
were weeklies, 11 were semi-weeklies, 9 were tri- weeklies, and 8 were 
dailies. On the Federalist side, 97 were weeklies, 15 semi-weeklies, 5 
tri-weeklies, and 14 dailies.'^^ Thus, although more papers backed the 
Republican party, the newspapers supporting the Federalist party ac- 
tually printed slightly more total issues per week. In some regions, the 
picture appeared even bleaker for Republicans. In Maine, a Republican 
paper was not established until 1803, although eleven Federalist pa- 
pers had appeared. Only two of the Federalist papers established be- 
fore that year, however, survived until 1803. Thus, Republican papers 
in Maine which had been soundly overmatched by Federalist journals 
in the early party period were able to equal them in number for the 
elections of 1808, 1812, and 1816.2^ 

Editors who supported a party expected the party to aid them. 
Newspaper publishing was not a lucrative business. Advertising often 
was sparse; subscription payments frequently were delinquent. Without 
official favor, many newspapers would have perished. "Subsisting by a 
country news-paper," the editor of the Trenton (N.J.) True American 
wrote in 1802, "is generally little better than starving. "^^ James Lyon, 
when planning to establish The Friend of Liberty in Richmond, Vir- 
ginia, in 1800, urged "the friends of both [liberty and virtue] - among 
the republicans of New Hampshire - of Georgia, and of the in- 
termediate states, to aid in the circulation and support of this paper. 

Clarence S. Brigham, Journals and Journeymen: A Contribution to the History of Early American 

Newspapers (Philadelphia, 1950), 62. 

^^Mott, 52. 

^^Knudson, 337. 

2°Cunningham (1%3), 237. 

These figures on numbers of newspapers are calculated from Frederick Gardiner Fassett, Jr., A 
History of Newspapers in the District of Maine 1785-1820 (Orono, Me., 1932), 196. 

^Trenton (N.J.) True American, July 26, 1802. 

108 American Journalism VI (1989): 2 

which is devoted to their service. "^3 John Israel, seeking support for 
his newly established Herald of Liberty in Washington, Penn- 
sylvania, wrote Congressman Albert Gallatin in 1798: 

Without the support of literary talents a periodical publication 
must of necessity sink into insignificance and disrepute. Therefore to 
you Sir, do I look for that Support, which is in your power to give 
and which will at the same time be instrumental and beneficial. 
The most base and villainous opposition have I borne.. ..[M]y repu- 
tation has been wantonly attacked - all my interests attempted to 
be ruined - but solus have I been forced to repel these attacks - and 
stand firm to the post. Now that my friends and the friends of the 
principles we have professed have returned I look up to them for 
their friendly aid - not doubting that I shall receive it.^"* 

James Callender, fleeing Federalist prosecution in 1798 and not getting 
aid from Jefferson as quickly as he thought he should, suggested that 
the Vice President was derelict in his duties. "In Europe," Callender 
told him, "it is understood, that if a political party does not support 
their assistant writer, they at least do not crush him."^^ 

Politicians agreed: newspapers needed and deserved aid. Such was 
true even in the notorious case of Jefferson and the slanderous Callender. 
When later criticized for aiding Callender, Jefferson defensively 
protested that his contributions were mere charities. They "were no 
more meant as encouragements to his scurrilities," he explained, "than 
those I give to the beggar at my door are meant as rewards for the vices 
of his life."2^ Jefferson had a habit of trying to put on the best public 
face he could, and his protestation rings hollow. Earlier he had written 
that Callender's work could not "fail to produce the best effect."^'' He 
confidentially had declared to James Monroe that it was "essentially 
just and necessary" that Callender should be aided.^® 

The support given to papers fell into about a dozen categories. The 
most obvious in terms of real aid were loans and cash contributions. 
William Duane,^^ John Fenno,^^ and Noah Webster-^^ were among the 

^New London Bee, Feb. 5, 1800. 

2'*Sept. 23, 1798, Gallatin Papers, box 4, N.Y. Hist. Soc. 

^Oct. 26, 1798, Jefferson Papers, CIV, 17873, Library of Congress. 

^^o James Monroe, July 15, 1802, P. Ford, Vffl, 165-166; to Mrs. John Adams, July 22, 1804, ibid., 309. 

27to James CaUender, Oct. 6, 1799, ibid., VII, 395 

^ho Monroe, May 26, 1800, ibid., 44. 

^%fferson to William Wirt, March 30, 1811, ibid, IX, 316-317; Duane to Tench Coxe, Oct. 5, 1798, in 
Peter J. Parker, "The Revival of the Aurora: A Letter to Tench Coxe," Pennsylvania Magazine of History 
and Biography, XCVI (1972), 524-525. 

•^Hamilton to Rufus King, Nov. 11, 1793, in C. Smith, 14. 

Allan Nevins, The Evening Post: A Century of Journalism (New York, 1922), 13-14. 

Party-Press Relationships, 1789-1816 109 

recipients of loans. Some loans, such as those to Fenno, were dismissed 
without repayment, while others were expected from the first to be 
repaid. ^2 Callender and a number of other editors benefited from 
outright gifts. He, Charles Holt of the New London (Connecticut) Bee, 
and Andrew Brown of the Philadelphia Federal Gazette were benefi- 
ciaries of Jefferson's charity .-^^ 

Of financial help also were politicians' efforts to enlarge newspa- 
per subscription lists. Politicians considered newspapers a valuable 
source of political information,^ and party leaders and workers often 
bought them in large numbers and circulated them gratuitously.^^ 
While the politicians' primary motive often may have been to receive 
and spread information, their assistance with circulation helped pro- 
vide financial support for editors. 

Subscriptions were so important as a financial support that some 
editors such as Thomas Ritchie largely were able to eschew advertis- 
ing. Politicians recognized the importance of subscription revenue and 
often sought new subscribers for preferred or endangered newspapers. 
The national Republican leadership was especially active in attempt- 
ing to gain a substantial circulation for Philip Freneau's National 
Gazette. Jefferson encouraged fellow Republicans to subscribe,^^ and he 
and Madison enthusiastically sought subscribers in their home state of 
Virginia. Madison lent his name to Virginians soliciting subscribers,^'' 
and in the fall of 1791 he returned to the national capital with his own 
list of subscribers from Orange County .^^ In Philadelphia, General 
Henry Lee gathered subscriptions;^^ Daniel Carroll signed up Maryland 
subscribers;'^^ John Hancock and Samuel Adams secured subscriptions in 

Methods unique to the period were used to raise circulation revenue. 
During election campaigns, state party managers bought bundles of pa- 

See Nathaniel Willis' 1858 statement about his operation of the Eastern Argus in Portland, Maine, 
in Frederic Hudson, Journalism in the United States, from 1690 to 1872 (New York, 1873), 290. 
^Jefferson to Monroe, July 17, 1802, P. Ford, IX, 390. 

Jefferson wrote Monroe that he assumed Monroe "probably receive[d] Freneau's paper regularly, 
and consequently all the news of any importance." May 5, 1793, ibid., VI, 238. 


Boston New England Palladium, May 10, 1803; New Haven Connecticut Journal, Feb. 24, 1803; 
Elisha Babcock to Ephraim Kirby, Feb. 3 and March 29, 1803, Kirby Pap>ers, Duke University, and Sept. 
17, 1801, in Cunningham (1963), 245-246. 

Jefferson to Washington, Andrew A. Lipscomb, editor-in-chief. The Writings of Thomas Jefferson 

(Washington, 1904-1905), VIII, 405. 

Madison to Mann Page, August 1791, in Noble E. Cunningham, Jr., The Jeffersonian Republicans: 

The Formation of Party Organization, 1789-1801 (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1957), 169. 


Madison to James Madison Sr., Nov. 13, 1791, Gaillard Hunt, ed.. The Writings of James Madison 

(Philadelphia, 1865), VI, 62. 

^^Madison to Henry Lee, Dec. 18, 1791, ibid., 69-70. 

Carroll to Madison, Dec. 12, 1791, Madison Papers, XIV, 88, Library of Congress. 
"^^Jefferson to Randolph, Nov. 16, 1792, Lipscomb, VIII, 440. 

110 American Journalism VI (1989): 2 

pers which they gave to county and town nnanagers for distribution. '^^ 
Postmasters by law were permitted and encouraged to collect subscrip- 
tions. ^^ Newspapers collected subscriptions for other papers.'*'* The 
New-England Palladium was supplied without charge to ministers, 
who then were expected to "spread. ..them among their parishioners 
and procure. ..subscriptions." Joseph Dennie's Port Folio was "sent to 
some gentlemen free of expense for similar purposes."'*^ The financial 
power of procuring circulation was revealed by the offer of Republicans 
in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in 1799 to raise 500 subscriptions for the 
local editor if he would print only news favorable to their party.'*^ 

Of a similar nature was political help in distributing newspapers. 
Distribution by politicians was intended primarily to spread political 
information rather than to aid printers.^^ Of direct financial benefit to 
newspapers, however, were postal regulations designed to allow cheap 
or free mailing of papers. Congress approved special postal rates be- 
cause politicians considered the circulation of newspapers important to 
the political system.'** Rates were too low to pay the postal costs and 
much lower than the rates charged for letters. 

Of even greater financial aid to newspapers were government 
printing contracts. Costs for federal government printing were rela- 
tively small because needs were not great. The First Congress (1789- 
1791) spent approximately $6,000 for its printing, stationery, 
bookbinding, and related items; and its spending remained at that level 
for a number of years.^^ Expenditures from other government branches, 
however, raised the total and often were greater than those of 
Congress. In 1794, for example, the State, Treasury, and War depart- 
ments expended more than $7,000;^° and the collector of the port in 
New York City alone had a bill of $700 in 1804.5^ 

In terms of individual newspapers, payments averaged approxi- 
mately $150 yearly for printing the laws of Congress.^^ When this in- 
come was added to that derived from other government printing, the 

^Cunningham (1%3), 129-130. 
^C. Smith, 10. 
^^assett, 115. 

Levi Lincoln to Jefferson, July 5, 1801, Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress. 
'*^Portsmouth (N.H.) Federal Observer, May 16 and Oct. 17, 1799. 

Lexington Kentucky Gazette , AprO 27, 1801; Hartford Connecticut Courant, March 31, 1800; New- 
England Palladium, Oct. 11, 1803. 

George Washington, Nov. 6, 1792, in J. D. Richardson, Messages and Papers of the Presidents, I, 
128, and Statement of Members of the House of Representatives, ibid., 132, both quoted in C. Smith, 4; 
and Jefferson to Thomas Mann Randolph, Jan. 22, 1792, Jefferson Papers, LXX, 12122, Library of 

Senate Report 247, 4th Cong., 3d Session, 1-2, quoted in C. Smith, 34; and William E. Ames, A 
History of the "National Intelligencer" (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1972), 30. 

^^Robert W. Kerr, History of the Government Printing Office (Lancaster, Pa., 1881), 16, 

Cheetham to Jefferson, July 25, 1804, Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress. 
^^C. Smith, 40 and 46. 

Party-Press Relationships, 1789-1816 Ul 

patronage to some editors became sizable. During Jefferson's first term, 
Samuel Harrison Smith's printing for the State Department alone av- 
eraged nearly $2,000 per year,^^ vvhile William Duane earned be tween 
one and two thousand dollars annually from government printing.^ On 
the state and county levels also government printing could be lucrative. 
The state printer in North Carolina received approximately $1,200 a 
year from 1800 to 1810.^^ While all the revenue from printing was not 
profit, it should be viewed in terms of expenses. Printing shop workers, 
for example, were paid no more than $5 a week, and editors $5 to $10.^^ 

Officials also rewarded editors with government positions. The 
most notable appointment was Jefferson's employing Philip Freneau as 
a clerk of foreign languages in the Department of State to encourage 
him to edit the National Gazette . After the Gazette was suspended in 
1793, Jefferson and Madison assisted Freneau in his attempt to enter a 
newspaper partnership with Thomas Greenleaf of the New York 
Journal. Despite their letters of recommendation,^'' arrangements for 
the partnership never were completed; and because the two politicians 
were not willing to provide funding for continuation of the Gazette, 
Freneau found himself on his own in further attempts to publish a Re- 
publican paper. 

Advertising provided another source of political support. While 
subscriptions and printing jobs were important to the financial health 
of newspapers, most could not have survived without advertisements. 
"Merchants alone," wrote Noah Webster, editor of the American Min- 
erva, "enable printers to sell their papers low, & they will have their 
advertisements displayed. A literary paper without advertisements 
would cost fifteen or twenty dollars a year, if daily, and in proportion, 
if published once or twice a week."^^ 

While merchants did not always advertise exclusively in newspa- 
pers sharing their political convictions,^^ more often than not ad- 
vertising and politics went hand-in-hand. The Federalists' early 
strength in newspaper support resulted from the fact that the majority 
of merchants in larger seaboard cities were Federalists. In 1795 Jeffer- 
son, echoing the sentiments of a fellow Republican, wrote that the Fcd- 

^^An Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of the United Stales, Vols, from 1802-1810, National 
Archives, in C. Smith, 18. 
^C. Smith, 44. 

Raleigh Star, Nov. 29, 1810. In that year, however, the amount was reduced to $900. 
^^Milton W. HamUton, 77ie Country Printer, New York State, 1785-U30 (New York, 1936), provides 
an informative narrative of the conditions that existed in the printing trades. 
Madison to Robert R. Livingston, Livingston Papers, New York Pub. Lib. 

^'Hvebster to the Rev. John Hiot, Nov. 25, 1798, in Mass. Hist. Soc. Mss., Vol. 29, 10c. 


The Providence (R.L) Federalist Gazette complained that the town's Republican paper, the 

Phoenix, had both the largest circulation and the greatest advertising patronage in a town that was 

overwhelmingly Federalist. Quoted in James Mclvin Lee, History of American ]oumulism (Boston, 

1923), 115-116. 

112 American Journalism VI (1989): 2 

eralists "live in cities together and can act in a body readily, and at all 
times; they give chief employment to the newspapers, and therefore 
have most of them under their command."^ 

Parties provided financial aid as well as moral support in the form 
of legal aid to editors. This help was especially valuable to Republi- 
can journalists during their persecution under the Sedition Act. Jefferson 
later explained: 

I as well as most other republicans who were in the way of do- 
ing it, contributed what I could afford to the support of the republi- 
can papers and printers, paid sums of money for the Bee, the Albany 
Register, etc. when they were staggering under the sedition law, 
contributed to the fines of Callender himself, of Holt, Brown and 
others suffering under the law.^^ 

Legal aid included attempts to prevent editors from being indicted and 
arrested, free defense services at trial, help in paying fines, and when 
possible dismissals of convictions. Politicians also defended editors in 
civil suits which were initiated on partisan grounds. When Benjamin 
Bache was sued for libel in 1798, Moses Levy and Alexander James Dal- 
las contributed their legal services, and Thomas Leiper and Israel Is- 
rael paid his bail.^^ Hamilton volunteered free defense counsel when 
William Cobbett was considering fleeing the country because of a libel 
suit brought by Republican Benjamin Rush.^^ Maine Attorney General 
Barnabas Bidwell and Joseph Story, both leading Republicans, served 
as defense attorneys for Nathaniel Willis, editor of Portland's Eastern 
Argus, when Joseph Bartlett sued him for libel in 1806.^'* 

Of indirect financial aid but of vast help was politicians' assis- 
tance in providing information and written material to newspapers. 
Written contributions were intended primarily to present political 
points of view, but editors and politicians considered them necessary as 
a means of support if a newspaper were to carry adequate opinion. Be- 
cause an editor usually had to serve as printer, advertising salesman, 
and circulation manager in addition to performing his editing chores, 
he seldom had sufficient time to devote to political writing. Besides, in 
a period when writing ability was becoming more important in further- 
ance of a cause and "editors" rather than mere printers were running 
metropolitan papers, comparatively few country editors were able to 

^Jefferson's notes on a letter from C. D. Ebeling, July 30, 1795, P. Ford, VII, 48. 
^^Jefferson to Monroe, July 17, 1802, P. Ford, VII, 167. 

Massachusetts Mercury, July 6, 1798. 
^^Greenleafs New Daily Advertiser, Dec. 18, 1799. 
^%assett, 136. 

Party -Press Relationships, 1789-1816 113 

write adequately their own editorial opinions.^ If these country pa- 
pers were to serve their partisan cause - or even fill their columns - 
contributed writings were indispensable. 

In assisting newspapers editorially, politicians employed a vari- 
ety of methods. Mathew Carey suggested one of the more ambitious 
plans for supplying the press with articles. He proposed, although un- 
successfully, that Republicans contribute to a fund to pay a writer $10 a 
week to pen political articles. Had the plan been adopted, most arti- 
cles would have gone to Duane's Aurora, although occasional pieces 
would have been given to papers in Baltimore, Boston, and New York.^ 

Although such efforts were useful to newspapers, the greatest help 
came from politicians who wrote articles and letters themselves for the 
press. Both Federalists and Republicans considered the need for politi- 
cal contributions a serious one. Hamilton was among that group of 
politicians who believed writing for newspapers was one of the neces- 
sary ingredients for the career of a public man.^^ These politicians in- 
cluded the range from national leaders to local office seekers. Almost 
always writing under pseudonyms, some were occasional contributors 
while others such as Tench Coxe of Philadelphia were indefatiguable 
writers. Coxe's biographer, Jacob Cooke, compiled a five-page bibliog- 
raphy of articles Coxe wrote from 1789 to 1816 and discovered twenty- 
six pseudonyms he used.^ 

The fact that politicians contributed so much support to the press 
raises the question of how much control they exercised over newspapers. 
The aid is one of the factors causing contemporaries and historians to 
feel the press was susceptible to control.^^ The prevailing historical 
opinion has been that politicians controlled the press and that such a 
situation was unfortunate. This latter view seems to be the result of ap- 
plying to the party press the standards of a later era, those standards 
being not only press independence from politicians but actually an ad- 
versary relationship with them. 

While journalists and politicians expected the party press to be 
partisan, they criticized opposing editors for being under the control of 
politicians and condemned opposing politicians for having editors un- 

^^M. Hamilton, 53-54 and 110-111; Tench Coxe to Andrew Brown, June 10, 1790, in Jacob Ernest 
Cooke, Tench Coxe and the Early Republic (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1978), 223; Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle, 
March 19, 1808; John Israel to Albert Gallatin, April 15 and Oct. 6, 1799, Gallatin Papers, box 5, N.Y. 
Hist. Sec. 

""Carey to Jefferson, April 24, 1802, Jefferson Papers, Lib. of Cong. Since Jefferson believed it would 
not be appropriate for him as President to propose a plan to Congressmen and since Duane was not 
enthusiastic about the plan, it was dropped. Jefferson to Carey, May 4, 1802, Jefferson Papers, Lib. 
Cong., and Duane to Gallatin, March 15, 1802, Gallatin Papers, N. Y. Hist. Soc. 

Eric W. Allen, "Economic Changes and Editorial Influence," /ourna/ism Quarterly, 8 (1931), 345. 

^Cooke, 530-534 and 553. 

Fassett, 63; John Quincy Adams, July 24, 1818, Charles Francis Adams, editor. Memoirs of John 
Quincy Adams, IV, 116; Cooke, 123; National Gazette, Aug. 15, 1792. 

114 American Journalism VI (1989): 2 

der their thumb. William Cobbett, in his inimitable way, was espe- 
cially harsh. Speaking of Bache, he charged that "the infamous 
Lighting-rod, jun., was a hireling of, and in correspondence with the 
despots of France."''^ He claimed that editors of Philadelphia's True 
America were the "lickspittle tools of Tench Coxe."''^ In a similar vein, 
James Cheetham called William Coleman of the New York Evening 
Post a "hireling" of a group of Federalist politicians. ''^ When 
Federalists charged that Republican leaders dictated the National 
Gazette's opinion,''^ Phihp Freneau replied in kind. If his annual 
salary of $250 as a translating clerk proved that politicians controlled 
him, he asked, did not Fenno's annual "emoluments" of $2,500 make 
him a "vile sycophant"?''^ 

Historians have used such charges and countercharges as evidence 
that politicians really controlled editors and that editors thereby vio- 
lated a journalistic rule. Such statements from the party press period, 
however, should not be accepted necessarily at face value. Contempo- 
rary criticism was intended more for political advantage than as eval- 
uation of press ethics. In a period when Americans publically frowned 
on factional and party politics, charges that politicians controlled 
newspapers were aimed primarily at traducing opposition political 
leaders rather than editors. Criticisms of editor subservience rarely 
were stated in terms of any journalistic standard requiring independence 
but invariably were linked with accusations of party politics. Hamil- 
ton's attacks on the National Gazette centered on his claim that it was 
the "faithful and devoted servant of the head of a party. "^^ In con- 
demning Bache's Aurora, Congressman John Allen of Connecticut argued 
that "this paper must necessarily, in the nature of things, be supported 
by a powerful party. ...This is the work of a party; this paper is de- 
voted to a party; it is assiduously disseminated through the country by 
a party; to that party is all the credit due; to that party it owes its ex- 
istence."^^ To charges that he was responsible for what the National 
Intelligencer published, Jefferson pointed out, "Tory printers should 
think it advantageous to identify me with that paper, the Aurora, etc.. 

"^^Porcupine's Gazette, Jijne 1798. 

'^'^Ibid., May 13, 1799. 

^In Nevins, 32. 

"^■^Gazette of the United States, July 25, 1792. 

^National Gazette, July 28, 1792. For other statements to the effect that editors were under the 
control of politicians, see Brownsville (Pa.) American Telegraphe, May 29, 1816; Hall to Pickering, July 
26, 1799, Pickering Papers, XXV, Mass. Hist. Soc, and Rep. John Allen, April 20, 1798, in James M. 
Smith, Freedom's Fetters: The Alien and Sedition Laws and American Civil Liberties (Ithaca, N.Y., 
1956), 15; and Jefferson, July 30, 1795, P. Ford, VII, 48. 

'^^Gazeite of the United States, Aug. 4, 1792. 

Speech before the House of Representatives, July 5, 1798, quoted in J. Smith, 117-118. For other 
statements attacking parties because they supported newspapers, see Philadelphia Gazette, March 11 
and 12, 1800, and Hartford Connecticut Courant, July 6, 1808. 

Party-Press Relationships, 1789-1816 115_ 

in order to obtain ground for abusing me."'^ 

The fact that accusations were politically motivated does not 
mean, however, that politicians exercised no influence over editors. 
While editors did not admit publicly that they were controlled by 
politicians, the relationships between some editors and some politi- 
cians leave little doubt that some politicians could control certain 
newspapers either directly or indirectly. Especially prone to political 
influence were those papers which had been founded through the en- 
couragement and aid of politicians. Of Fenno, whose Gazette of the 
United States expressed the official viewpoint of the Hamilton wing 
of the Federalist party. Federalist Fisher Ames said, "No printer was 
ever so correct in his politics."''* William Coleman's Evening Post stood 
in a similar relationship with Hamilton. Although Coleman denied 
that Hamilton and other Federalists owned the paper, he consulted 
them for guidance/^ 

The situation was similar with the Republicans' leading party-es- 
tablished organs. While Jefferson and Madison perhaps did not di- 
rectly control Freneau's National Gazette,^^ they did have a strong 
indirect influence. The National Gazette, explained another pro- 
Jefferson paper, was "published under the eye of... Thomas Jefferson."*^ 
Jefferson and his successors exercised even stronger influence over 
Smith's National Intelligencer. When charged with directing the pa- 
per, Jefferson as usual adamantly protested. "I neither have, nor ever 
had, any more connection with those papers [National Intelligencer 
and Aurora]," he claimed, "than our antipodes have; nor know what is 
to be in them until I see it in them."*^ Jefferson was careful to a fault of 
avoiding being associated publicly with newspapers, but in private 
correspondence he more candidly explained the relationship of the 
National Intelligencer to his administration. On the question of the 
accuracy of some reports in the paper, Jefferson wrote John W. Eppes 
that Smith "is at hand to enquire at the offices [of administration offi- 
cials], and is careful not to publish them on any other authority."*^ 
When Vice President Aaron Burr was asked about the official position 
of the National Intelligencer he answered that it got "information and 
advice" from the President.*'* 

'^Jefferson to Thomas Paine, June 5, 1805, P. Ford, VUI, 361. 

-^^In John C. MiUer, The Federalist Era 1789-1801 (New York, 1960), 89. 

'^Hudson, 219. 


Both Jefferson and Freneau argued that the National Gazette was not estabhshed through 

Jefferson's efforts or its contents directed by him. Gazette of the United States, Aug. 8, 1792; Jefferson to 

Washington, Sept. 2, 1792, P. Ford, VI, 106-107. 


Boston Independent Chronicle, Sept. 6, 1792. 

*2jefferson to Paine, June 5, 1805, P. Ford, VDI, 361. 


March 27, 1801, Jefferson Pap>ers, University of Virginia. 

**Burr to Barnabas Bidwell, Oct. 15, 1801, Henry W. Taft Collection, Mass. Hist. Soc. 

116 American Journalism VI (1989): 2 

With Smith's transfer of the paper to Gales and Seaton and the in- 
auguration of Madison as President, the National Intelligencer re- 
mained just as firmly, if not more, under the influence of the Republican 
national leadership. Shortly after taking office. Secretary of State 
Monroe summoned Gales to his office because of an article the paper 
had carried on foreign policy. He bruskly notified Gales that any re- 
ports the editor printed on such matters would be issued directly by 
Monroe if the National Intelligencer were to remain the official organ. 
Gales accepted the terms under the full realization that he had little 
freedom to express his own views or criticize the course of the adminis- 

Lesser politicians than the president and secretary of state could 
direct some editors. Early in 1790 when Philadelphia's George Logan 
decided to fight Hamilton's policies through the press, he was confi- 
dent his essays could be published because Eleazer Oswald's Indepen- 
dent Gazetteer was "at his devotion. "^^ Tench Coxe was able to influ- 
ence the course of Philadelphia's Federal Gazette and Evening Post 
because he had a "conditional" contract with editor Andrew Brown 
that allowed Coxe to annul the contract whenever he wished, an option 
he exercised shortly after the contract was agreed to.^'' In a political 
race for the New York state assembly in 1797, editor Elihu Phinney felt 
obligated to run the long-winded, often trivial disquisitions of candi- 
date Jedediah Peck even though the circulation of his Cooperstown Os- 
tego Herald dropped from 800 to 300.^^ Other editors, while not under 
the control of politicians, easily were persuaded by them. Benjamin 
Russell, for example, opposed the Cincinnatus Societies until he 
learned that George Washington was one of the founders. Then Russell 
recanted and became a strong supporter of the organization.^^ 

On the other hand, some editors were truly independent of politi- 
cians. At the most, politicians' suggestions to them were just that: 
nothing more than suggestions. Considering themselves equal partners 
in the political cause, many editors felt free to take or disregard 
politicians' suggestions and go their own way. A few editors actually 
exercised more power than some politicians; and, if directions were to 
be given, they came from the editors. One of the primary reasons 
politicians felt compelled to encourage the establishment of organs was 
that they could not dictate the nature of privately-established news- 
papers even though editors may have been sincerely committed to the 

^W. Ames, 90. 

^^The Journal of William Maclay (New York, 1927), 276 and 346, quoted in Frederick Barnes ToUes, 
George Logan of Philadelphia (New York, 1953), 109, 

^'Coxe to Brown, June 10, 1790, and Daniel W. Coxe to T. Coxe, June 14, 1790, both in Cooke, 122- 

^^Cooperstown Ostego Herald, Nov. 15, 1796, and June 1, 1797. 


George Henry Payne, History of journalism in the United States (New York, 1920), 113. 

Party-Press Relationships, 1789-1816 217 

party cause.^° 

A number of editors showed their independence by their willingness 
to criticize the actions of party leaders. Thomas Ritchie - although his 
Richmond Enquirer was established through the assistance of Republi- 
can politicians - argued that Jefferson's dealings with Spain in 1806 
were a "melancholy example" of Jefferson's human frailties.^^ John 
Adams complained that as President he had received "nothing but in- 
solence and scurrility from the federalists. Look back and read the fed- 
eral newspapers in Boston, New York and Philadelphia of that period 
and you will then see how I was treated."^^ Even the real leader of the 
Federalists, Alexander Hamilton, could not always command obedi- 
ence. Although he recommended that Federalists support New York 
Chief Justice Morgan Lewis in the state's 1804 gubernatorial election, 
most party newspapers refused to go along.^^ 

Some editors - instead of being subservient to politicians - were po- 
litical leaders. Foremost among them was William Duane, one of Penn- 
sylvania's most powerful political figures in the first decade of the 
1800s. Early in his journalistic career he openly broke with Jefferson on 
the issue of American shipping rights.^'* He submitted even less to 
Madison's discipline. In 1812 he warned Madison that if he did not 
drop Albert Gallatin from his cabinet, the editor would support George 
Clinton in that year's presidential election.^^ Some editors served as 
public and party officials. Benjamin Russell was elected to the Mas- 
sachusetts House of Representatives in 1805 and remained in the legis- 
lature until 1821. Among members of Virginia's state Republican com- 
mittee from 1800 to 1808 were editors Meri weather Jones, Samuel 
Pleasants Jr., and Thomas Ritchie.^^ 

While it is true, as several historians have concluded, that some 
editors were mere sycophants of politicians, many - Bache, John Binns 
of the Philadelphia Democratic Press, Duane, Russell, Freneau, and 
Coleman, for example, the list being almost endless - were intel- 
lectually independent. They were supporters of parties not because of 
the financial support their politics might merit but because they were 
devoted to the political causes they espoused. 

In return, politicians often were considerate and consistent in their 


Richmond Enquirer, May 13, 1806. 

See Jefferson to Thomas Randolph, May 15, 1791, P. Ford, V, 336-337. 

^^April 20, 1809, Charles Francis Adams, ed.. The Works of John Adams (Boston, 1854), IX, 619-621. 
Hamilton inspired much of the Federalist newspapers' opposition to Adams, but it is notable that 
editors felt free enough to criticize a President from their own party. 


New York Spectator, Feb. 25, 1804. See also Dixon Ryan Fox, The Decline of Aristocracy in the 

Politics of New York 1801-1840 (New York, 1965), 63. 


Duane against Jefferson," Gazette of the United Stales, May 1, 1801. 

^^ Aurora, Jan. 25, 1812. 

^^Richmond Enquirer Jan. 23, 1808; circulars, Richmond, Aug. 9, 1800, and Feb. 1, 1804, in 

Cunningham (1963), 185. 

118 American Journalism VI (1989): 2 

support of editors. The many attempts to aid the press mentioned ear- 
her demonstrated this fact. On the other hand, there were many in- 
stances of inconsistency and what appeared to be inconsiderate treat- 
ment of editors based on political expediency. Financial support was 
undependable or inadequate with irritating frequency. 

Trying to collect payments from delinquent subscribers gave editors 
some of their worst headaches. Pleas for payment were common items in 
the newspapers.^^ Delinquency would not speak ill of political support 
if it were not for the fact that most newspapers were published with an 
intent of aiding their parties and their editors were led to expect they 
would be supported through subscriptions among party adherents. Ben- 
jamin Edes, frustrated that one-third of the subscribers to his Kennebec 
(Me.) Gazette had not paid, complained to readers, "As his chief sup- 
port is from the Federalists, the editor hopes this call will not be in 
vain."^^ The Republican editor at Abington, Virginia, rebuked delin- 
quent subscribers: 

In three weeks' time our stock of paper will be out, and we have 
not a dollar to help in the purchase of a new supply. When we ask 
such as have not paid for their papers, we generally receive this 
answer, that they only subscribed for encouragement. Fine encour- 
agement, to take a man's labor and never pay him for it!^^ 

Party leaders also were critical. A Republican circular issued in 1808 in 
western New York complained that Republican editors were not sup- 
ported as liberally as were Federalist editors. Every Republican, the 
circular challenged, should have considered it a moral duty to pay his 
subscription when due.^°° 

To collect payments, editors offered subscribers arrangements as 
convenient as they could make them, agreeing, for example, to accept in 
lieu of money such items as pork, beef, butter, cheese, rye, wheat, corn, 
flour, wood, meal, oats, lard, eggs, wool, flax, honey, and candles. ^°^ 
Others appealed to their subscribers in verse,^^^ or, as the Baltimore 
American's proprietor did, in hyperbole aimed at pricking readers' po- 
litical conscience: 

^Kennebec (Me.) Gazette, April 24, 1801; National Gazette, July 20, Aug. 18, and Sept. 11, 1793. 
June 5, 1805. For another of Edes' appeals based on party spirit, see his Kennebec Intelligencer, 
May 10, 1799. 

Abington Intelligencer, quoted in Natchez (Miss.) Gazette, Nov. 19, 1808. 
Circular, Canandaigua, March 23, 1808, in Cunningham (1963), 245. 
^^^Columbus (Ohio) Western Intelligencer, Dec. 10, 1814; Kennebec (Me.) Intelligencer, Dec. 20, 

^^^Fryeburg (Me.) RusselS Echo, May 17, 1798. 

Party -Press Relationships, 1789-1816 119 


Never did R. G. HARPER want an appointment - Never did 
Judge CHASE want a fat salary - Never did Mr. AMES want to 
hold his seat - Nor did Republicans want to turn him out of it, more, 
than at this crisis, the editor of the AMERICAN wants the pay- 
ment of monies due to him.^*^ 

Neither could merchants always be depended on to give their ad- 
vertising to papers of their political faith. The financial problems 
Fenno's Gazette of the United States faced in 1793 were due primarily 
to meager advertising. In Providence, Rhode Island, the Federalist 
newspaper, the Gazette, faced financial difficulties because in that 
overwhelmingly Federalist town, the Republican paper received most 
of the advertising. ^°^ 

Politicians sometimes were just as undependable. Nathaniel 
Willis, editor of the Eastern Argus in Portland, Maine, after recounting 
his problems with politicians who supposedly were supporters of his 
paper, concluded that "politicians are not only ungrateful, but 
supremely selfish. "^°^ Government office holders did not always 
award patronage to papers which had supported the party before it 
gained power. Transferring patronage from a paper of the losing party 
to a supporter of the new governing party sometimes was slow. After 
Jefferson was inaugurated in 1801, the editor of the Republican paper in 
Pittsburgh, still not being awarded the government printing by the 
summer, complained to Treasury Secretary Gallatin: 

[T]he Anglo printer here [John Scull of the Pittsburgh Gazette], 
although he continues to throw as much odium on the President as 
he can, and misses no opportunity of Scandalizing him and 
Republicanism, yet he is employed to do all the printing for the 
United States in this place. You know sir there is a Republican 
Press here and I presume the President nor you will approve of Mr. 
Scull's having public Printing to do in preference to the Republican 
press here, which you know has been a support to the Republican 
Interest and the President's Character and Election.^°^ 

William Duane had numerous problems trying to get patronage. 
Even though his Aurora had been the most prominent newspaper in Jef- 
ferson's bid to be elected president, Jefferson overlooked the Aurora in 

^''^altimore American, Oct. 20, 1800. 

■'"* See James Melvin Lee, History of American Journalism (Boston, 1923), 115-116. 

Autobiography written in 1858, quoted in Hudson, 290. 
^°^ Nathaniel Irish to Gallatin, Aug. 14, 1801, Gallatin Papers, New York Hist. Soc. 

120 American Journalism VI (1989): 2 

favor of the newly established National Intelligencer, which was 
channeled n^ost of the printing of the national government. To make up 
for the scarcity of printing, Duane opened a stationery business in 
Washington, but it failed because of inadequate support.^°^ 

Duane was not the only Republican editor to receive unfavorable 
treatment at the hands of the Republican leadership. Freneau, for one, 
had been induced to establish the National Gazette partially because 
of Jefferson's offer of a clerkship in the State Department; but when 
Jefferson resigned as Secretary of State, Freneau was left without sup- 
port. He lost his government job, and Republican leaders made no 
provision for continuing the newspaper. Despite Freneau's efforts to 
keep the paper going even at a financial loss, it died for lack of sup- 
pQj.t_i08 While Freneau lost a government job, other editors were unable 
to obtain one. John Daly Burk, after leaving the editorship of the New 
York Time Piece, asked Jefferson to recommend him as private secretary 
to some official in the administration. Jefferson promised to mention 
Burk to departmental heads, but he cautioned Burk that he had little 
hope that Burk would receive an appointment.^°^ While it would be 
unrealistic to expect Jefferson to get a job for everyone who was seeking 
one, it does not seem improbable that the President could get a compe- 
tent^^° former journalist a job if he tried. 

Even the Republican treatment of James Callender might not have 
been altogether to the politicians' credit. Historians invariably have 
viewed the relationship between this journalist and the national Re- 
publican leadership as one that soured because of Callender's intem- 
perance and surliness."^ Callender usually has been pictured as a 
vengeful individual who irrationally turned on a patient, benevolent 
Jefferson and became his most virulent opponent. Callender, indeed, 
was not a person who invited high regard. He tended to drunkenness, 
slovenliness, and abusiveness. His relationship with the Republican 
leaders, however, usually has been told from the politicians' side. Even 
though Callender tended to put a favorable light on his motives, his 
own account is not beyond credibility. Awareness of his feeling of hav- 
ing been mistreated by the Republican leaders may help make him a 
little more sympathetic figure. 

An English refugee who settled in Philadelphia, Callender was 
the most intemperate of Republican writers. He established his 
American reputation with his pamphlet "History of the United States 


Duane to Gallatin, Aug. 12, 1802, in Worthington C. Ford, "Letters of William Duane,' 

Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Series 2, XX (1907), 394. 

^°^efferson to Thomas Mann Randolph, Nov. 2, 1793, P. Ford, VI, 437-438. 

^°^Jefferson to Burk, June 21, 1801, ibid., VIII, 66. 

Burk later became a lawyer and wrote a history of Virginia. J. Smith, 219. 

See Mott, 30-36, for a typically glowing treatment of Jefferson in the Callender affair. 

Party-Press Relationships, 1789-1816 222 

for 1796." In it, he charged that Hamilton had stolen from the U. S. 
Treasury, an accusation which forced Hamilton to admit his affair 
with Mrs. James Reynolds in an attempt to vindicate his reputation for 
financial integrity. In 1798, fearing the Alien and Sedition Acts, Cal- 
lender fled to the haven of Republican Virginia. He appealed to 
Jefferson for help in finding a job, and Jefferson sent him fifty dollars. 
Soon he became a writer for the Richmond Examiner. In the fall of that 
year he began making plans for the publication of a pamphlet entitled 
"The Prospect Before Us" to assist Jefferson in his presidential cam- 
paign. He again approached Jefferson for aid and again received fifty 
dollars. Soon he began sending the Vice President proofs of the pam- 
phlet. Jefferson responded with praise. "Such papers," he said, 
"...inform the thinking part of the nation. "^^^ "The Prospect Before Us" 
was unsurpassed as abuse of John Adams. Callender wrote: 

[The President] has never opened his lips, or lifted his pen 
without threatening or scolding. The grand object of his 
administration has been to exasperate the rage of contending par- 
ties, to calumniate and destroy every man who differs from his 
opinions....[He] is not only a repulsive pedant, a gross hypocrite, 
and an unprincipled oppressor, but.. .in private life, one of the most 
egregious fools upon the continent. 

For this. Federalists charged Callender with violation of the 
Sedition Act. Republicans, at Jefferson's request,^^^ came to the 
journalist's aid by serving as his defense attorneys."^ All, however, 
was for naught. Callender was convicted, fined $200, and sentenced to 
nine months in jail.^^^ There, he had time to write a second volume of 
"The Prospect Before Us," just as abusive of Adams as was the first vol- 

After Callender had spent eight months in prison, Jefferson as- 
sumed the presidency and pardoned him - as he did all people con- 
victed under the Sedition Act - on March 16. His fine, however, was not 
returned until three months later. During this time, Callender became 
impatient with the delay. Three weeks before release from jail, he 
asked Jefferson that the fine be remitted because he could not leave jail 
without paying it.^^^ On April 12, after being released, he repeated 
his plea to Jefferson, complaining of the "unexampled treatment which 

"2 To CaUender, Oct. 6, 1799, P. Ford, VH, 395. 
■"■^^ Jefferson to Monroe, May 26, 1800, ibid., 448. 
"^ J. Smith, 334-358; Miller (1951), 217-218. 
^^^ Aurora, June 13, 1800. 

'^^eb. 23, 1801, in Worthington C. Ford, "Thomas Jefferson and James Thomson Callender,"New 
England Historical and Genealogical Register (1896-1897), I, 32. 

122 American journalism VI (1989): 2 

I have received from the party" and pointing out his financial 

During the two years that I have been in Richmond, I was paid 
ten dollars per week as an editor for four months and a half; for a 
half of the rest of that time, I received victuals; and for what I did 
in the next nine months I neither received, nor do I ever expect to 
receive a single farthing. 1 mention these particulars as this is 
probably the close of my correspondence with you, that you may not 
suppose that I, at least, have gained anything by the victories of 
the Republicans. By the cause, I have lost five years of labor; 
gained five thousand personal enemies; got my name inserted in 
five hundred libels, and have ultimately got something very like a 
quarrel with the only friend I had in Pennsylvania."-^ 

Callender felt the President was showing little responsiveness. In 
late April he told Madison that in writing to Jefferson he "might as 
well have addressed a letter to Lot's wife." He also suspected that Jef- 
ferson was unconcerned about creating a conflict between the President 
and the journalist. "And surely. Sir," he wrote Madison, "many syllo- 
gisms cannot be necessary to convince Mr. Jefferson that, putting feelings 
and principles out of the question, it is not proper for him to create a 
quarrel with me.""^ Soon afterward, he wrote Attorney General Levi 
Lincoln that he had never received "any communication from Mr. 
Jefferson, which I could regard as amounting to a serious mark of atten- 
tion.""^ He then appealed to Virginia Governor James Monroe to ex- 
pedite the refunding of the fine, but Monroe explained that legal tech- 
nicalities were involved. Callender easily may have viewed this re- 
ply as procrastination, reasoning that if the President truly wished to 
have the fine refunded, he would have faced no real obstacle in getting 
it done immediately. He left Monroe, grumbling of "the ingratitude of 
the republicans who after getting into power had left him in the 

Almost ten weeks after he had ordered the fine repaid, Jefferson 
decided to assist in raising money to reimburse Callender the $200.^^^ 
Whether this money was intended as charity or to mollify Callender is 
uncertain. By then, however, despite the fact Jefferson had delivered 
$50 to Callender through the President's personal secretary, the jour- 
nalist had grown bitter, feeling Republican leaders had neglected and 

"^Callender to Jefferson, April 12, 1801, ibid., 33-34. 
"^ April 27, 1801, ibid., 35. 

"^ April 29, 1801, Gallatin Papers, New York Hist. Soc. 


Monroe to Madison, May 23, 1801, Monroe Papers, New York Pub. Lib. 

^^^ Jefferson to Monroe, May 26, 1801, P. Ford, IX, 259. 

Party-Press Relationships, 1789-1816 123 

mistreated him. He hinted that FederaHsts would be only too happy to 
know that Jefferson had encouraged Callender's scurrility and abuse of 
Adams. ^22 Some Republicans had mistrusted Callender all along. John 
Taylor of Caroline had cautioned Jefferson in early 1800 to be circum- 
spect in his relations with Callender "because upon any disappointment 
of his expectations. ..there is no doubt in my mind, from the spirit his 
writings breathe, that he would yield to motives of resentment." Tay- 
lor was concerned about what Callender might do with some of Jeffer- 
son's letters he possessed.^^ 

When Jefferson saw that Callender did not accept with gratitude 
the money Jefferson had sent him, he instructed Monroe that fifty dol- 
lars more he had sent to Monroe was not to be used.^^'* When Callender 
began to divulge that he had received money from Jefferson while 
writing against the Adams administration, Jefferson reacted de- 
fensively. "I am really mortified at the base ingratitude of Callender," 
he said. "It presents human nature in a hideous form." He claimed that 
the aid he had given Callender was from "mere motives of charity. ^^^ 
Even though he had written Callender confidentially while the latter 
was working on material attacking Adams that his writing would pro- 
duce a good effect,^^^ he now claimed that the money he had given was 
really an attempt to get Callender to stop writing, "yielded under a 
strong conviction that he was injuring us by his writing. "^^^ Callender's 
fine finally was remitted to him on June 20, 1801, almost four months 
after Jefferson's inauguration; but when Jefferson turned him down for 
the postmaster's job at Richmond, Callender turned on Jefferson. On July 
11, Callender and Henry Pace established the Richmond Examiner, 
which quickly became Jefferson's worst vilifier. Callender revealed 
the letters which had passed between him and Jefferson when the lat- 
ter was vice president and charged that Jefferson had sponsored the 
worst attacks on Adams. ^^^ It was Callender who published some of 
the most malicious stories about Jefferson, including one that Jefferson 
had fathered the children of one of his slaves. Callender, while drunk, 
drowned one night in 1803. 

If the Jefferson-Callender episode were an isolated instance of Jef- 
ferson's approach to editors, it more easily could be dismissed as caused 
by the personality of Callender. A number of other incidents, however, 
indicated Jefferson's moral support was not always to be depended on. 

^^ Callender to Madison, April 17, 1801, in W. Ford (1896-97), 35. 

^^ Taylor to Wilson Gary Nicholas, Jan. 31, 1800, in Cunninghan\ (1957), 171. 

^^'^ Jefferson to Monroe, June 1, 1801, in W. Ford (1986-97), 39. 

^2^ To Monroe, July 15, 1802, Lipscomb, X, 330. 

^2^ Jefferson to Callender, Oct. 6, 1799, P. Ford, VH, 395. 

^^^ To Monroe, July 15, 1802, Lipscomb, X, 331 . 

W. Ford (1896-97) provides an anthology of the correspondence between Jefferson and 

124 American Journalism VI (1989): 2 

The most notable case involved Freneau. When Washington, bothered 
by the arguments his two most important cabinet officers carried on in 
the press, asked Jefferson and Hamilton to desist for the sake of the 
government, Jefferson denied that he was involved with the National 
Gazette. His editorial relationship with the paper, he claimed, was 
limited to providing copies of the Leyden Gazette to Freneau so that a 
"juster view of the affairs of Europe" could be provided. He protested 
falsely that he had never had any influence over the conduct of the 
paper, had never written for it, and had never encouraged others to 
write for it.^^^ Although Jefferson offered to resign from the cabinet 
and a facade of decorum was restored, the newspaper battle continued. 
However, Freneau's job as translator in Jefferson's State Department 
cost the editor almost as much as he made because he had to hire 
translators to do the work. The National Gazette lost money, Jefferson 
was not prepared to support it with his own money, Freneau lost his 
clerkship when Jefferson resigned in 1793, and the paper was forced to 
suspend publication. ^^^ Later, Jefferson behaved in a similar fashion 
when he felt Washington might blame him for articles appearing in 
Bache's Aurora. He seemed extremely eager to protest again that he 
was in the habit of never writing "a word for the public papers. "^^^ 
Even after he became president he was sensitive not to be identified 
with any paper, including his own organ, the National Intelligencer. '^■^^ 

The best that can be said of Jefferson in these episodes is that he 
played the practical politician. He had nothing to gain by being iden- 
tified with newspaper partisanship in a period when party politics 
was frowned on. The fact that many partisan papers were abusive in 
their language probably intensified Jefferson's reluctance to be associ- 
ated publicly with them. Reacting with what seems a touch of both 
paranoia and a sense of his own importance in the eyes of opponents, he 
once complained, "I am the single object of their [Federalist newspa- 
pers'] accumulated hatred. "^^-^ If he detested Federalist newspapers as 
much as that remark indicated, it is easy to comprehend why he did 
not want the public to know he was encouraging in Republican papers 
the same gross behavior found among Federalist papers. 

While such pretenses may have been justifiable in terms of practi- 

^^^ Jefferson to Washington, Sept. 9, 1792, P. Ford, VI, 101-109. Jefferson's claim that he had not 
written for the newspapers was a fabrication. Near the end of his life, Philip Freneau claimed that 
Jefferson had written a number of articles for the National Gazette and exhibited a marked file of the 
newspaper as proof. See Lewis Leary, That Rascal Freneau: A Study in Literary Failure (New 
Brunswick, N.J., 1941), 212. Jefferson's correspondence and newspaper files provide much evidence that 
Jefferson wrote for newspapers on numerous occasions after becoming President. 

^3° Leary, 243; C. Smith, 19; Miller (1960), 97. 

^^^ Washington, June 19, 1796, P. Ford, VII, 81-85. 

^^2 Jefferson to Paine, June 5, 1805, ibui., VIII, 360-362. 

^^^ To WilUam Short, Jan. 23, 1804, in PoUard, 75. 

Party-Press Relationships, 1789-1816 125 

cal politics,^^'* Jefferson as president built a record with the press that 
was not conducive to pubHc enlightenment. His relationship with the 
press, according to Jerry Knudson, was at its worst during the contro- 
versy over his embargo policy in 1807-1809. He attempted to keep the 
reasons for his decision secret, even though the American political sys- 
tem supposedly was based on public information, and never actively 
tried to educate Republican editors or the public in the necessity of the 
embargo. Once in office, it appears he neglected to provide any direc- 
tion for his party's press. ^-^^ 

In fairness to politicians, however, Jefferson should not be consid- 
ered the epitome of them. Madison and Hamilton were much more in- 
dustrious in cultivating the press, and other men in high office were 
more active in the journalistic battles. 

Yet, politicians could not always assure the continuing loyalty of 
all newspapers. Several editors withdrew their support of their patron 
politicians, and some actually switched party allegiance. Cheetham's 
American Citizen, which Aaron Burr had aided financially, turned on 
him in 1802. After Enos Bronson took over the Gazette of the United 
States, the Federalists' original organ, it tended to drift away from 
strict party loyalty. The Boston Gazette took a similar course in the 
1790s under the editorship of Benjamin Edes. The Pittsburgh Gazette, 
the first paper west of the Alleghenies, was established with the help 
of Hugh Henry Brackenridge, but it became so strongly Federalist under 
John Scull that Brackenridge felt obligated to start another paper to 
support his interests. ^^^ 

Some historians have considered such instances as evidence that 
editors were fickle despite the support politicians lavished on them. 
The Callender-Jefferson episode especially provides fuel for the argu- 
ment that editors were not loyal. Historians, it seems, have found it 
easy to place the blame on editors during a period highlighted by some 
of the nation's foremost political figures and some of its most abusive 
editors. Yet, most of the instances of journalists changing their political 
loyalty which historians have prominently mentioned provide little 
evidence that editors were at fault. Cheetham abandoned Burr because 
of Burr's political machinations against the national Republican lead- 
ership. Duane turned to factional politics in Pennsylvania after Jeffer- 
son, whose quest for the presidency had received its strongest editorial 
advocacy from the Aurora, gave the lion's share of national government 
printing to the infant National Intelligencer and turned his back on the 

Jefferson was not alone among politicians in disavowing any association with newspapers they 
actually helped support. See, for example, the Salem (Mass.) Gazette, November 1802, in Hudson, 173. 
^^ Knudson, 338. 

J. Cutler Andrews describes this episode in the paper's history in Pittsburgh's Post-Gazette: "The 
First Newspaper West of the Alleghenies" (Boston, 1936), 27-49. 

126 American Journalism VI (1989): 2 

Aurora. Noah Webster of the American Minerva turned on Hamilton, 
who had provided financial help in the founding of the newspaper, 
only after Hamilton split with John Adams. 

What occurred more often than editors deserting politicians was a 
situation in which politicians encouraged editors to start papers but did 
not support them adequately once the papers began operation and fre- 
quently deserted them once politicians felt the papers had fulfilled 
their political usefulness. ^^■^ Of course, this last action is under- 
standable in a period when the press was intended to serve a political 
function. On the other hand, many papers were neglected even while 
the fight was raging; and editors were left on their own even though 
pubhshing a partisan paper was not intended primarily to benefit the 
editor and in most cases was not a profitable business. Continued support 
of the party's cause was left to the financial devices of the editors; and 
many, if not most, of them lost money. The problems of Callender and 
Freneau have been described. 

During the eight years Bache edited the Aurora, he lost a total of 
from $14,700 to $20,000. At no time was the income from the paper 
enough to pay his family's living expenses. ^^ Skelton Jones' Richmond 
Examiner folded because of lack of support,^^^ as did Edes' Kennebec 
(Me.) Intelligencer and Kennebec Gazette}'^^ These all were prominent 
papers. The misfortunes of lesser papers can only be imagined. Without 
government printing contracts, official favor, and substantial paid-up 
subscriptions, it was not easy for them to survive. Of the twelve papers 
established in Washington between 1800 and 1820, only Smith's Na- 
tional Intelligencer and one other lasted more than two years. ^'*^ Of 
the eighty-one newspapers in operation at the time of Washington's 
inauguration, only twenty-eight were publishing when Jefferson became 
president. ^'^^ This does not mean that no party papers became successes. 
A number did. The National Intelligencer , New York Evening Post, and 
Richmond Enquirer are good examples. Yet if editors had been primar- 
ily concerned about profits, rather than the victory of their cause, most 
could have found more lucrative jobs in less trying occupations. 

Papers continued under hard circumstances because profit was not 
the most important consideration of the party editors. Certainly, there 
were some whose support could be bought.^'*^ But men like Bache, Fre- 

See, for example, Nathaniel WiUis' account of his trials and tribulations while editing the Eastern 
Argus in Portland, Maine, quoted in Hudson, 289-291. 
^^ Aurora, April 23, 1800, and Aug. 11, 1802. 

^^^ Kennebec Intelligencer, June 6, 1800; Kennebec Gazette, Nov. 21, 1804. 
^^^ C. Smith, 25. 
^^^ Donald H. Stewart, The Opposition Press of the Federalist Period (Albany, N.Y., 1969), 7. 

New York American Citizen, May 24, 1802. Callender might have been an editor who could be 
accused of this disloyalty. Even Duane at one time threatened to change parties in an attempt to get 

Party-Press Relationships, 1789-1816 227 

neau, Cobbett, Russell, and Coleman did not need financial inducement 
to support their cause. Some actually may have been ahead of the po- 
litical leaders in their definition and espousal of the dominant po- 
litical creeds of the period.^'*'* It was the cause, and not the financial 
gain that might be had by supporting it, that was their motive. 

more patronage. 

Leary and Bernard Fay, The Two Franklins, Fathers of American Democracy (Boston, 1933) 
made such an argument in regard to Freneau and Bache. 

: BOOK : 


Philip Schlesinger. Putting 'Reality' Together: BBC News. New York: 
Methuen, 1987. First published 1978 by Constable & Co., Ltd., London. 
331 pp. Paper, $17.95. 

On a slow day in the early years of the BBC, an announcer was 
likely to come on air at the scheduled bulletin time and simply say, 
"There is no news tonight." 

The anecdote, related by Schlesinger in his summary of the BBC's 
first decades, suggests both the paternalistic philosophy that underlay 
the founding of the corporation as well as something of the complacency 
that has pervaded its history. Since its inception as an "independent" 
broadcasting corporation, the BBC has fostered, with worldwide suc- 
cess, an image of itself as authoritative, impartial, and exempt from 
the kinds of news values that sully the rest of the working press. But 
Schlesinger argues that such an image is not reality and just because the 
BBC believes itself to be impartial and neutral does not make it so. 

Despite the BBC's purported independence, Schlesinger's view is 
that the history of the organization indicates that it has been expected 
to promote a nationalistic agenda. From its role in the General Strike 
of 1926 to its present coverage (or lack of coverage) of Northern Ireland, 
the BBC has operated under a variety of strictures. Some have been 
formal, such as the Official Secrets Act and, since 1974, the Prevention 
of Terrorism Act, which banned broadcast interviews with members of 
illegal organizations. Others have not been written down, including 
the government view that the role of the BBC is to represent the 
orthodox values of the national interest. When the BBC has tested 
such boundaries, it has quickly felt the shortness of the leash. The 
BBC incurred the wrath of Margaret Thatcher during the Falklands 
crisis when BBC reporters, in efforts to stay true to the impartial im- 
perative, chose to represent the Argentinian view as well as the 
British. Mrs. Thatcher expressed astonishment that "we and the Ar- 
gentines are being treated almost as equal and almost on a neutral ba- 
sis." The organization submitted to government pressure in 1985 and 
pulled a documentary on Northern Ireland that included an interview 
with a leader of the Provisional IRA. 

But it is Schlesinger's argument that the BBC has had a relatively 
long and stable life because it has so seldom challenged authority. In- 
deed, it has admirably performed the function of supporting the status 

Book Reviews 129 

quo and British orthodoxy not so much because of the overt poHtical 
control now at work as much as institutionalized factors - a hierarchal 
system of controls and the internalized values of the reporters and pro- 
ducers on the line. 

Putting 'Reality' Together's account of the BBC may have sugges- 
tions of the London Gazette - a newspaper that became renowned for its 
worldwide coverage but had the maintenance of the Stuart dynasty as 
its essential guide. The Schlesinger book fits nicely into a history of 
communication that examines information when it comes from highly 
legitimized sources. 

Patricia Bradley 
Temple University 

Peter Prichard. The Making of McPaper: The Inside Story of USA To- 
day. Kansas City: Andrews, McMeel & Parker, 1987. 370 pp. Index. 
Cloth, $19.95. 

This is the story of how Allen H. Neuharth, chairman and chief 
executive of Gannett, Inc., led the country's largest newspaper chain 
where others feared to tread, evoked sneers from critics who saw USA 
Today as an ego trip and a bastardization of journalism, jeopardized one 
of the longest earning streaks of any American corporation, and finally 
saw his dream secure when the newspaper turned a profit in 1987. 

While such critics labelled the paper as little more than self- 
paced television, such USA Today trademarks as the full-page 
weather summary, beefed-up sports and business sections, and a liberal 
use of color began showing up in more and more newspapers. McPaper 
apparently has changed the way newspapers look and approach their 

When Neuharth asked Prichard to write this book, he said it 
would prove to be " a damn good entrepreneurial story and a pretty good 
journalism story," and that it is. According to Prichard, a Gannett em- 
ployee since 1972, Neuharth made no attempt to control the manuscript 
and gave Prichard access not only to the newspaper's employees but 
also to corporate files. The result is an always interesting but some- 
times appalling look at how hundreds of newspaper people toiled to 
get Al's Spruce Goose off the ground. 

The sheer scale of the problems entailed in launching a national 
newspaper provides much of the book's interest. For instance, research 
indicated that magazine-quality color was needed to attract advertis- 
ers, but achieving uniform color reproduction at twenty printing sites 
proved an especially vexing and expensive problem. Newsprint and ink 
had to meet exacting specifications, printers had to be retrained, and 

130 American JournalismVI (1989): 2 

presses had to be bought. Lots of them. As Prichard says, Gannett 
bought presses the way most people buy groceries. 

Even the selection of news racks proved to be a gargantuan under- 
taking. Neuharth wanted a rack that would be immediately recogniz- 
able and would allow customers to read the front page without bending 
down. After studying forty different designs, he provided his critics 
with additional ammo by settling on the now-familiar blue and white 
design resembling a TV set. Cost: $225 each. And Gannett would need 
over 135,000 of them. 

If employees labored under the enormous problems of production and 
distribution, they also labored under the crushing weight of 
Neuharth's ego. No failure seemed to escape his eyes: if a news rack 
was dirty or if color registration wasn't uniform from coast to coast, the 
helpless employee risked receiving a blistering note on Neuharth's 
trademark peach-colored paper (employees called them "orange mea- 
nies" or "Pumpkingrams") or a face-to-face reminder of what USA To- 
day's success meant to Gannett's future - and the employees. 

The book creates a surprisingly candid portrait of Neuharth, who 
emerges as part benevolent dictator and part Captain Bligh. Neuharth 
saw USA Today not only as a way to end his career on a note of triumph 
but also as a way of elevating Gannett, which Jack Germond, for many 
years Gannett News Service's Washington Bureau chief, described as 
just "a bunch of shitkicker papers." 

If the newspaper failed, Neuharth told his board of directors, he 
would resign, and he worked tirelessly to prevent either from happen- 
ing. For the first year, he personally laid out the paper every day, 
read every word of everything that was written, and often wrote and 
rewrote headlines on his 1926 Black Royal typewriter. Its pages re- 
flected his conviction that USA Today was to be a newspaper for read- 
ers, not for other editors, and that its succinct, fact-filled stories 
("McNuggets," critics called them) would exemplify what Neuharth 
termed "the journalism of hope," stories that covered "all of the news 
with accuracy, but without anguish, with detail but without despair." 
During the first few months of publication, so intense was the second 
guessing about lead stories that, as Prichard wryly notes, USA Today 
was probably the only newspaper in which reporters fought to keep 
their stories off the front page. 

While Prichard gives Neuharth the lion's share of the credit for 
the newspaper's success, he also concludes that his compulsive, hands- 
on management style sometimes caused significant problems. Because 
he didn't understand computers, Neuharth ignored an early request for 
a computer expert with the result that within a month of its launch, 
USA Today had a computer system that could not produce a bill; when 
the paper began selling subscriptions in metro markets, customers' 

Book Reviews 232 

names and addresses were recorded on scraps of paper because the com- 
puter's memory banks were filled. 

"Sometimes he managed by persuasion, sometimes by fear," 
Prichard writes, and he recounts a number of hair-raising stories of 
Neuharth's sometimes brutal management style. The most bizarre ex- 
ample occurred in 1984, when the paper was losing more than $10 mil- 
lion a month. Neuharth invited a group of USA Today executives to 
Florida for a strategy session and appeared before them wearing a 
crown of thorns. Before a huge wooden cross, Neuharth announced, "I 
am the crucified one." He then presided over "The Service for the 
Passed-Over," based on the Jewish Passover ceremony, which 
Neuharth explained, signified that the executives were going to be 
"passed over" unless the newspaper cut its losses. Some looked on with 
amusement, but Neuharth's personal assistant called it "the most of- 
fensive thing I've seen in my adult life. I was waiting for lightning to 
strike the place down." Lightning didn't strike, and USA Today passed 
over into profit, because of or in spite of Neuharth's obsession with de- 

Prichard shares some of his boss' obsession. He says he conducted 
over 150 interviews whose transcripts fill five large volumes, and the 
book sometimes reads as though he interviewed everyone who ever 
worked for Gannett and almost everyone who ever read the newspaper. 
But despite its disjointed organization and sometimes distracting de- 
tail, the book is what Neuharth wanted: a very good entrepreneurial 
story and a pretty good journalism story. 

Harris Ross 
University of Delaware 

Richard Samuel West. Satire on Stone: The Political Cartoons of 
Joseph Keppler. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1988. 465 pages. 

Confessing that he has "woven some swatches of Keppler's life 
with very few threads indeed," Richard Samuel West goes on to state 
that much information about the life of this important German-Ameri- 
can cartoonist simply does not exist. Working within this limitation. 
West has written a remarkable book, the first biography of Joseph 
Keppler, one of the creators of modern political cartooning. 

Keppler was born in 1838 in Vienna and was graduated from the 
Academy of Fine Arts in 1855. Unable to find employment as an artist, 
he set out for Italy. There, he joined a traveling theatrical company to 
paint scenery and backdrops and soon became its lead actor. For the 
next nine years, he enjoyed great success on the stage, and West believes 

132 American JourmlismVI (1989): 2 

these early stage experiences were important to Keppler's later adap- 
tation of theatrical devices to his cartoons. During this time he also 
contributed cartoons to the satirical magazine Kikerikil 

In late 1867, Keppler, his wife, and brother-in-law left Austria to 
join his father, who had emigrated to the United States shortly after 
the 1848 democratic revolution. He joined Heinrich Binder in St. Louis 
to publish a weekly satirical paper. Die Vehme, but the paper folded 
in 1870. 

Convinced of the potential for a German-language satirical maga- 
zine in St. Louis, Keppler helped to found Puck in 1871. Despite the 
magazine's uncertain first year, an English-language version was begun 
in 1872. When financial problems forced closure of the two publica- 
tions, Keppler moved to New York City to work for Frank Leslie's 
Illustrated Newspaper, the Democratic competition for Harper's 
Weekly, which then featured the work of Thomas Nast. Keppler's 
work soon attracted attention as genuine competition to Nast. While at 
Leslie's Keppler met Adolph Schwartzmann, foreman of the print 
shop, and the two German innmigrants decided to publish a new version 
of Puck. 

Puck, Illustrirtes Humoristisches Wochenblattl began September 
23, 1876, and in a bold move, included color lithographs. The use of 
color set Puck apart from its competition, and in 1877 an English-lan- 
guage edition was launched. For the next eighteen months Keppler did 
all of the art for both magazines plus other work in order to bring in 
additional income. Later three men would be hired to do these tasks. 
Satire on Stone provides a fascinating glimpse of the development of 
the development of chromolithography and its impact on American 

West discusses in detail the question of whether Schwartzmann 
supplied Keppler with the ideas for his cartoons, a rumor which pre- 
vailed even during Keppler's lifetime. Nast had been the first 
cartoonist to insist that his work must be his own, and West believes 
that Keppler, too, both conceived and executed his cartoons. 

West compares Keppler's output with that of Nast and believes 
that Keppler, not Nast, was the creator of the legacy within which 
today's cartoonists work. Citing Keppler's broad political vision as a 
satirist desiring both to enlighten and entertain. West states that to- 
day's leading political cartoonists such as Oliphant, MacNelly, Peters, 
and Auth follow Keppler's tradition. 

By 1880 the success of Puck was assured, and before his death in 
1894, Keppler enjoyed wealth and fame. He was able to attract re- 
markable talent to the magazine to assist him with the cartoons. 

Much of Satire on Stone is devoted to reviewing the then contempo- 
rary political situation so that today's readers can appreciate Kep- 
pler's cartoons. The book is illustrated with many black and white 

Book Reviews 133 

cartoon reproductions as well as a section of exquisite reproductions of 
the chromolithographs. The color plates make the reader wish that 
all of the cartoons could have been reproduced in color because some of 
the monochromes are rather muddy. 

With his background as the publisher of two journals devoted to 
political cartooning. West has made an important contribution with 
this book. A major figure in the development of American political 
cartooning has now been recognized with his own biography, and West 
has used his insight and expertise to assist the reader in evaluating 
Keppler's influence. Adding to the book's usefulness are extensive and 
interesting notes, a bibliography, and an appendix with brief biogra- 
phies of Keppler's colleagues and students. 

Lucy S. Caswell 

The Ohio State University 

David E. Morrison and Howard Tumber. Journalists at War: The Dy- 
namics of News Reporting during the Falklands Conflict. London: Sage 
Publications, 1988. 370 pp. Index. Paper, $16.95, cloth, $49.95. 

The authors have sought to accomplish four main goals: to discuss 
how the Falklands War of 1982 was reported from the British side; 
how the news was handled by the Ministry of Defense, the BBC, and 
other agencies; how the news was perceived by British newspaper 
readers, radio listeners, and TV viewers; and what the current status of 
independent news is in Britain. 

Regarding the first goal, media personnel who covered the war 
were interviewed as to how they functioned, and the book contains ex- 
tensive quotes from them. The first eight chapters are devoted to these 
matters. Included are details as to how the Ministry of Defense infor- 
mation officers - the "minders"- fared in their duties of shepherding 
the reporters and correspondents about their activities. Caught be- 
tween officialdom and the journalists, the minders' lot was an unenvi- 
able one. Not fully accepted by military and navy personnel, they were 
sometimes cordially detested by their charges. Tensions and misunder- 
standings were therefore inevitable. It also proved difficult for re- 
porters to get their stories to their home offices, logistics and censor- 
ship often to blame, as were the war conditions in general, further 
adding to the frustrations of all involved. 

Other chapters focus on how the agencies of government and the 
publishing industry interrelated, with considerable attention being 
paid to what sort of news was required in time of war: propaganda or 
cool, objective presentations of facts. Key questions pertaining to free- 
dom of information in a democracy at war are explored. 

134 American JournalismVI (1989): 2 

Numerous charts are presented revealing how the public perceived 
the war news that it encountered. These were based on straight-for- 
ward but effective questionnaires, respondents being simply asked what 
they thought of what they read, heard, and saw. From the point of 
view of champions of a free press, the results of the surveys were en- 

The concluding chapter is not a mere recapitulation of the study, but 
rather a discussion of British public opinion regarding the necessity of 
their nation's nnaintaining an independent media. The public clearly 
understood that the fourth estate must not become merely another gov- 
ernmental service in time of war. Its very independence is of great 
value to the country and its traditional interests. The feeling was that 
the media should never be subordinated to a party, class, or group, nor 
to justifying the conduct of the nation itself, if the price was the loss of 
a free press and independent broadcasting systems. 

This detailed account contains much useful analysis regarding how 
journalists traditionally function in a free society. In particular, those 
desiring to understand how news is gathered, processed, and dissemi- 
nated in the modern era of big organizations and advanced technology, 
often against a background of world tensions and strife, will find much 
of interest in this useful, generally well-written study. 

Alfred Cornebise 

University of Northern Colorado 

Henry Lewis Suggs. P.B. Young, Newspaperman: Race, Politics and 
Journalism in the New South, 1910-1962. Charlottesville, Va.: 
University Press of Virginia, 1988. 254 pp. $24.95. 

This insightful biography of Plummer Bernard Young, Sr., who for 
more than fifty years published one of the nation's outstanding black 
newspapers - the Norfolk Journal and Guide - provides historians with 
a most helpful insight into black Americans' struggle to deal effec- 
tively with racism during the period from World War I to the civil 
rights "revolution" of the 1960s. Because of his subject's frequently 
vacillating attitude toward militancy versus accommodation in race 
relations, the author's task was a difficult one. His research appears 
to have measured up, however, to the challenge. 

Considering the problems frequently encountered in researching 
black American history, the book reflects some exceptional accom- 
plishment. Its author, an associate professor of history at Clemson 
University, uses the expertise acquired in his earlier book. The Black 
Press in the South, 1865-1979, to put Young's life into appropriate con- 
text. Working primarily with Young's own papers, Suggs has con- 

Book Reviews 135 

structed a comprehensive and detailed account of the publisher's com- 
plex and sometimes contradictory activities. Upon occasion, he appears 
to be pushing his data a bit, stating conclusions that the evidence cited 
doesn't appear to drive. However, the possible cost of such indulgence 
appears a small price to pay for the riches of historical fact assembled 

The book has a two-level index of nineteen pages; and twenty-four 
pages of notes provide excellent documentation. 

As a result of Young's many activities, his biography provides nu- 
merous perspectives on other black American leaders such as Booker T. 
Washington, Mordecai Johnson, Luther P. Jackson, Ralph Bunche, W.E. 
B. DuBois, Thomas Fortune, and J.M. Gandy, and on black institutions 
such as Norfolk State University and Howard University, which 
Young served many years as chairman of the trustees. We also get per- 
spectives on black organizations such as the National Association for 
the Advancement of Colored People, in which Young was active, gener- 
ally, and on national political issues such as integration of the U.S. 
military services, the federal government's Fair Employment Practices 
Commission, the Democratic party's "Dixiecrat" revolt, and other ar- 
eas of race relations, politics, civil rights, and education in the South- 

By virtue of its broad scope, in-depth research, fine detail, and in- 
tegrated explanation of an influential figure's role in the life of his 
times, the book makes a significant contribution to the history of mass 
communications in the United States. 

John DeMott 

Memphis State University 

Marlene Sanders and Marcia Rock. Waiting for Prime Time: The 
Women of Television News. Urbana, University of Illinois Press, 1988. 
Illustrated. 214 pp. $19.95. 

Memoirs of television news executives and news personalities are 
nothing new. They are often written by out-of-favor executives, who 
seek to set the record straight by chronichng what they view as their 
overlooked contributions to television news, or by news people in mid- 
career whose account of themselves, legitimized between hard covers, 
can fuel their careers. Witness Dan Rather's autobiography a few 
years ago and Linda Ellerbee's recent best seller. 

Such books add bits and pieces to our knowledge of the television 
landscape, but the egocentric nature of the works tends to make them 
best suited for airplane travel. Not so Waiting for Prime Time, which 
is neither in the setting-the-record straight mold nor another polemic 

136 ^ American JournalismVI (1989): 2 

on the shallowness of TV news. The book has particular interest to 
journalism historians because Sanders and Rock have chosen to relate 
Sanders' career in the context of the periods through which it traveled. 
The account has a lateral construction in a way, connected to the atti- 
tudes that defined women's roles in news over the past thirty years, 
rather than the narrow, goal-driven focus of the male model of most 
biographies. The approach moves the book out of the genre of celebrity 
biography into a work that makes a substantial contribution to the 
history of television news. 

The book begins with what could have been the closing hours of 
Sanders' career. In March 1987 she was one of the CBS correspondents 
marked for extinction by the new CBS hierarchy during CBS's well- 
known house-cleaning episode. Not being a "star," she was offered a 
radio job, working weeknights to 11 with Thursdays and Fridays off. 
Affronted by the offer, she quit. 

The close of her years at CBS was only appropriate in that it was 
affected by the show business values that had played a role in bringing 
her into television news in the '50s. It was her expertise in running 
summer theatre, not her news background, that resulted in her job as an 
assistant to a new television news show in New York that was to be 
hosted by Mike Wallace. When "Nightbeat" succeeded and the team 
was offered an ABC network opportunity, Sanders was only invited to 
go along on the proviso she would remain in the subservient "girl Fri- 
day" position to producer Ted Yates. He made it clear that hard work 
and willingness to take on authority was not the road to success for 
young women that it was for young men. 

When Sanders finally arrived on air, it was because, for once, the 
prejudices of the times worked in her favor. When Lisa Howard was 
dropped by ABC from its afternoon, five-minute newscast, Sanders was 
put in her place. It was not so much talent as gender. The name of the 
show was "News with the Woman's Touch," and Sanders was the only 
other woman around. Eventually, she was able to succeed despite the 
limitations associated with women in news. 

The book's greatest value to historians is not so much in its account 
of her role in legitimizing a movement that was ridiculed at first, but in 
the account of how network women broke down the barriers based on 
gender. In Chapter Six, "Women Make News," Sanders and Rock offer 
one of the most complete, first-person summaries of the steps the net- 
work women took to move toward sexual parity. On the local level, 
women were able to move into on-air positions and technical jobs 
thanks to the level of the license challenge. But network news opera- 
tions are not licensed as are local television stations and the network 
women had to find different pressure points. What they found was Re- 
vised Order #4, a labor department ruling that covered all companies 
that held government contracts. By threatening action under the ruling. 

Book Reviews 137 

by ongoing n^eetings with network managennent (news of which had to 
be posted originally in ladies' rooms), and a growth of trust and com- 
mitment between the women themselves, women brought about changes. 
Because the women moved when both the law and the profits were on 
their side, the women were able to prove they could do the jobs, and 
that has led to a retention, even expansion, of those changes despite 
the onset of de-regulation and the Reagan presidency. 

Sanders does not overplay her role in the movement. In fact, she 
was on vacation with her family at the time of one of the first impor- 
tant meetings with management. She is frank about the difficulty of 
achieving consensus among the women. Her account is informed by her 
objectivity as well as research (she has utilized the NOW Legal De- 
fense and Education Fund Media Project file to bolster her memory). 
Reading the book suggests that although this is recent history, barely 
twenty years behind us, the role of civil rights activism in changing the 
face of television news needs to be given a larger place in our teaching 
and research responsibilities. 

Patricia Bradley 
Temple University 

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AMERICAN JOURNALISM solicits manuscripts through- 
out the year. Articles are "blind" judged by three readers 
chosen from the Editorial Board of American Journalism 
for their expertise in the particular subject matter of the 
articles. On matters of documentation and style, American 
Journalism follows the MLA Handbook. Authors are 
asked to do the same. Four copies of a manuscript should 
be mailed to the following address: 

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Editor, American Journalism 
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University of Tulsa 
Tulsa, OK 74104 

If authors wish to have manuscripts returned, they 
should include a self-addressed manila envelope with ad- 
equate postage. 

Errata: In his historiographical essay in American Journalism, Vol. 6, no. 1, Dr. 
Marvin Olasky was incorrectly identified as an assistant professor of public 
relations at the University of Texas. He is an associate professor of journalism. 






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EDITOR: Wm. David Sloan, Alabama 

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AMERICAN JOURNALISM (ISSN 0882-1127) Editorial and Business Of- 
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Volume VI (1989) Number 3 


Joseph Pulitzer n and the European 

War, 1938-1945 

by Daniel W. Pfaff 


W.A. Scott and the Atlanta YJorld 

by Leonard Ray Teel 


Historiographical Essay 

The Civil War Press: 

Promoter of Unity or Neutral Reporter? 

by Thomas Andrew Hughes 

Book Reviews 

Linton and Boston, The Newspaper Press in Britain 

Kreig, Spiked: How Chain Management Corrupted America's 

Oldest Newspaper 

Goulden, Fit to Print: AM. Rosenthal and His Times 

Heyer, Communication and History: Theories of Media, 

Knowledge, and Civilization 

Winship, Inside Women's Magazines 

Whited, Knight: Publisher in the Tumultous Century 

Olasky, The Press and Abortion, 1838-1988 

Stephens, A History of News: From the Drum to the Satellite 

Williams, The Baltimore Sun, 1837-1987 

Siegman, World of Winners: A Current and Historical Perspective 

on Awards and Their Winnners 

Riley, American Magazine Journalists, 1850-1900 



This issue brings to an end the five-year tenure I've enjoyed serving 
as editor of American Journalism. The editorship has been a most 
gratifying experience, and I appreciate the American Journalism His- 
torians Association membership for giving me the opportunity to work 
with the journal. 

The new editor is John Pauly. We give him the helm with full con- 
fidence that he not only will maintain the quality of the journal but 
will improve it during his five years, and we wish him the best. 

Many journal editors will tell you that the job is a bear. It does, in- 
deed, occasionally have its trying moments, and it does require an 
enormous amount of time. But my good recollections overwhelm the 
others. I credit my enjoyment to the numerous people — staff members 
and contributors alike — with whom I've had the privilege to work. 

In almost every instance, contributors have been thoughtful, friend- 
ly, patient, and most gracious in all dealings with the journal's some- 
times ponderous and trying editorial operations. 

We hope that American Journalism has contributed to raising stan- 
dards of scholarship, and for a large measure of that we owe the con- 
scientious efforts of the members of the Editorial Board. In evaluating 
manuscripts, they work anonymously and receive little glory. It has 
been their efforts, however, that accounted for the consistent quality of 
material the journal has published. 

I wish to give special notice to the journal's two Associate Editors, 
Jim Startt, whose evaluations of manuscripts always have been de- 
tailed, thoughtful, and prompt, and Gary Whitby, who had the fore- 
sight to found American Journalism in 1983. 

Similarly, Ed Nickerson, the Book Review Editor, has done an ex- 
cellent job at a task that is more demanding than one who has never 
done it would realize. 

And I never can offer enough thanks to the assistant editors I've 
had over the years. All were graduate assistants in journalism at the 
University of Alabama, and all did an excellent job — ^although none 
did it better than the present one, Marion Steele. 

Finally, without the support of the administration in the College 
of Communication at the University of Alabama, publishing the journal 
would have been impossible. I appreciate the support the dean of the 
college and the journalism department chairmen have tendered over 
the years. 

^David Sloan 

Joseph Pulitzer II and the European 
War, 1938-1945 

By Daniel W. Pfaff* 

Joseph Pulitzer II, editor and publisher of the St. Louis Post-Dis- 
patch from 1912 until his death in 1955, began the most active period of 
his influence over the paper's news and editorial content on the eve of 
the second World War. To be sure, he had not been a figurehead pro- 
prietor before that time. However, Oliver K. Bovard, the paper's ex- 
traordinarily capable managing editor for thirty years, resigned in 
August 1938, providing a natural opportunity for Pulitzer to take fuller 
charge, if he chose. He did. He had become much more active in direct- 
ing the editorial page after 1929, when its long-time editor, George S. 
Johns, who the first Joseph Pulitzer had hired, stepped down.^ 

Yet the facts remained that because others had been largely in 
charge during World War I, and because of the greater scale of the sec- 
ond war, Pulitzer faced a situation that was both complex and new. 
This article traces the movement under Pulitzer's direction of Post-Dis- 
patch policy toward the war in Europe between 1938 and 1945 from one 
of isolation to one of intervention and staunch support of the Allied 
cause. Other than a brief New York World campaign in 1895, which 
helped avert war with England over a disputed Venezuelan boundary ,2 
and the jingoistic example of the New York World during the Spanish- 
American conflict, there was nothing he could draw upon in the experi- 
ence of his father in fashioning the paper's response to the threat and 
then reality of the conflict. 

It should be noted that the second Joseph Pulitzer has not been 
widely recognized as one of the most important American newspaper 
editors of the first half of this century, which he clearly was. The 
main explanations for this are his relatively low-profile administra- 
tive style, which differed from that of his autocratic father, and the 

Daniel W. Pfaff is a professor of journalism at Pennsylvania State University. 

See, generally, James W. Markham, Bavard of the Post-Dispatch, (Baton Rouge, 1954). 
^Don C. Seitz, Joseph Pulitzer: His Life and Letters, (New York, 1924), pp. 201-207. 

144 American Journalism VI (1989): 3 

fact that he assembled and kept highly capable news and editorial 
personel, whose judgments he respected. For their part, his staff mem- 
bers recognized that he alone of the three Pulitzer sons had both talent 
for and deep interest in newspaper journalism and they knew firsthand 
that his love of the work kept him immersed in the the day-to-day 
operation of the Post-Dispatch throughout his forty-three years as 
editor-publisher. Those who served under him, it is fair to say, 
respected his ability as much as did those who had worked for his 
father. They recognized him as the final authority in matters of 
dispute, but knew him as well, as a long-tin\e reporter who became 
Pulitzer's administrative aide described him, as one "who was no 
pantywaist, but was thoughtful and kindly in his manner and listened 
to arguments."-' 

The result of this combination of factors, as Jack Alexander ex- 
pressed it in 1939, was that under the second Joseph Pulitzer the Post- 
Dispatch became one of the few dailies "which have preserved a real 
distinctiveness during an era marked by a trend toward uniformity. In 
any professional ranking of present-day American newspapers. The 
Post-Dispatch must head somewhere up among the first five."* Ac- 
cordingly, Pulitzer's memoranda to his managing and editorial page 
editors typically described the course of his thinking about an issue 
rather than firmly dictating the f)olicy which editors and writers were 
to follow. His usual practice was to react after an article or editorial 
was printed rather than previewing it. As the Second World War de- 
veloped, though, he increasingly established pre-publication policy 
and did some of the editorial writing himself. The record of his 
behavior under the stresses of wartime conditions provides an intimate 
view of how he conceived the responsibilities of his editorship in re- 
sponding to the exigencies of the times. 

Even as the situation in Europe deteriorated in the late 1930s, 
Pulitzer shared the widespread hope that a second war there could be 
averted. However, his editorial page - of which former chief Wash- 
ington Correspondent Charles G. Ross had become editor in 1934 - had 
been skeptical of British Prime Minister Chamberlain's appeasement 
efforts. "I must confess that as much as I despise totalitarianism, I have 
thought from the first that Chamberlain was right in trying for an un- 
derstanding with Italy and Germany and that it ill-becomes us Ameri- 
cans who conceived of and then gave a death blow to the League of Na- 
tions to criticize Chamberlain and his present policy, " Pulitzer wrote 
Ross in March 1938. "As long as England is unprepared and unwilling to 
fight, what on earth can she do but attempt to negotiate as best she 

■^Interview with Richard G. Baumhoff, 12 Aug. 1983, Carmel, Calif. Other conclusions here are 
based upon extensive research for a forthconiing biography of Joseph Pulitzer II. 
*Jack Alexander, "The Last Shall Be First." Saturday Evening Post 14 Jan. 1939: 5. 

Joseph Pulitzer II and the European YJar 1^5 

can?" He wondered whether writer Ferdinand Gottlieb's editorials 
had been "tinged by his particularly violent hatred of Hi tier 7"^ 

He leaned definitely toward isolationism in writing two months 
later "that instead of making faces at and giving lectures to European 
fascists, we should concern ourselves with our own failures to live up to 
the duties imposed on us by the democratic process here in the United 
States." It seemed to him that in Germany "fascism was a natural de- 
velopment resulting from the natural inability of the Germans to govern 
themselves. Why not tell our readers so and tell them that if they 
want to do something to prevent fascism in this country, the place to do 
it is at the polls? Meanwhile, much as I despise fascism, let us not 
overlook the popular support which put Hitler and Mussolini into of- 
fice."^ He was more emphatic by fall, telegramming editorial writer 
Ralph Coghlan that "however much you and 1 may despise Hitler, our 
people are certainly and rightly so not in favor of our going to war to 
help in another remaking of Europe. As I see it, we can only hope that 
the British efforts toward conciliation will at least temporarily be 
successful. "7 

Most of all, he hoped that the United States could remain neutral. 
Two years after opposing Roosevelt's reelection to a second term in 1936, 
Pulitzer drafted an editorial which in effect retracted his earlier 
doubts about the man. He now believed that with FDR committed to 
neutrality, the United States could "escape some of the worst effects of 
the present world madness." The shift in favor of the President was 
"unimportant," he argued, against the greater need for a government 
"that will preserve our liberties and help our people to withstand the 
attacks that have staggered most of the civilized world.... Whenever 
Roosevelt is helping to preserve American democracy... we are pro- 
Roosevelt." He left a small space for a retreat from total isolation by 
noting that the Post-Dispatch should strive to present "a reahstic un- 
derstanding of what is happening" and interpret those events "to the 
end that there may be preserved, as far as possible, the kind of country, 
the kind of civilization, that we all love."® 

Following the declarations of war against Germany by Britain and 
France in September 1939, the paper began carrying a daily war sum- 
mary in addition to separate stories on individual developments. When 
a survey showed that among Post-Dispatch readers, 74 per cent of the 
men and 64 per cent of the women read the war summary, it seemed to 
Pulitzer that the paper should present more of all the news in the sum- 

^Joseph Pulitzer n to Charles G. Ross, 7 March 1938. Papers of Joseph Pulitzer 11, Library of 
Congress, microfilm copy. All subsequent citations of dated correspondence are from this source. 
Joseph Pulitzer II to Ross, 25 May 1938. 
■^Joseph Pulitzer II to Ralph Coghlan, 13 Sept. 1938 
Joseph Pulitzer n to Coghlan, 6 Sept. 1938. 

146 American Journalism VI (1989): 3 

mary form. Armed with the support of four others, including Coghlan, 
who was now in charge of the editorial page, and editorial cartoonist 
Daniel R. Fitzpatrick, Managing Editor Benjamin H. Reese replied to 
Pulitzer that "frankly, I think your plan would cheapen your paper." 
Preparing additional summaries, Reese argued, would require more 
staff at increased cost, consume too much space, and require alternation 
of the conservative tj^ographical display to which readers - Pulitzer 
himself included, Reese pointed out - had grown accustomed.^ Editorial 
writer Irving Dilliard contented that an expansion of war bulletins 
"would throw us right into the machinery of whipping up a war psy- 
chology. The Post-Dispatch would be doing the very thing which cer- 
tain newspapers are criticized in history for having done in the Span- 
ish-American war." He thought the paper had already given the war 
"more attention than it deserves," pointing to the leading editorial of 
the previous day "which was meant to remind our readers that an 
overwhelming number of problems remain to be worked out in the 
United States regardless of war in Europe."^° Pulitzer put the expansion 
of summaries "on ice."" 

Although both Reese and Coghlan remained strongly for neutral- 
ity, Pulitzer gradually moved during 1940 from opposition to indecision 
to a firm belief that the United States must aid the Allied nations. In 
May he suggested that the Washington bureau do an article on the 
President's reliance on the Rev. George Endicott Peabody, headmaster 
of Groton, FDR's prep school. "As I see it, there is something genuinely 
sentimental in Roosevelt's dependence on... 'the Rector,' as Grotties call 
him," he wrote Ross, who had left the editorial page to become 
"Contributing Editor," working out of the Washington bureau. 
"Evidently it is a case of a religious man who believes he can bring 
religious forces to bear to win and end the war."^^ At about the same 
time, however, Reese informed Washington correspondent Marquis W. 
Childs that after consulting Pulitzer, Coghlan, and Washington bureau 
chief Raymond P. Brandt, he had decided not to print an article Childs 
had written about the diminishing British fleet. "We do not want to 
publish anything... that might be construed as propaganda intended to 
push us into war,"^^ he explained. Two days later, Pulitzer told Cogh- 
lan that he did not think even the severing of U. S. Atlantic and Pacific 
trade routes by the Germans and Japanese would justify entering the 
war. However, should the Germans "steam up the St. Lawrence and 
bomb hell out of the Chateau Frontenac Hotel in Quebec, which is just 

benjamin H.Reese to Joseph Pulitzer II, 13 Sept. 1939. 

^^Irving Dilliard to Albert G. Lincoln, Post-Dispatch treasurer, 13 Sept. 1939. 

"Memo, 15 Sept. 1939. 

^^Joseph Pulitzer I to Ross, 18 May 1940. 

^%eese to Marquis W. ChUds, 22 May 1940. 

Joseph Pulitzer II and the European YJar 347 

the distance of a long home run from the American shore" or land in 
Cuba, Nassau, or Bermuda, "I am convinced we would have to resist 
with force."^^ At the same time, he sympathized with listener com- 
plaints that National Broadcasting Company commentator H. V. 
Kaltenbom was encouraging intervention in broadcasts heard over Post- 
Dispatch radio station KSD. "I will not permit a hired hand like 
Kaltenborn to foment war hysteria over our station," he declared, 
adding that the commentator would be dropped if this continued. ^^ 

Events moved swiftly. On June 3, 1940, the War department agreed 
to sell surplus and outdated war materials to Britain; on June 5, the 
Germans moved into France. In a speech at the University of Virginia 
on June 10, Roosevelt shifted U. S. policy from "neutrality" to "non-bel- 
ligerency." Reacting to this - without consulting Pulitzer, who had just 
started his annual month-long salmon fishing vacation on the Res- 
tigouche River in Quebec - Coghlan charged that "President Roosevelt 
all but declared war yesterday" in an angry lead editorial headed "To 
the Brink."^^ Roosevelt had recklessly ignored a number of imjx)rtant 
facts, he asserted. Among these were that there had been no overt acts 
by Germany against the United States; that polls showed public opin- 
ion strongly against entering the war; and that the U. S. Army "is mi- 
croscopic compared with the great legions of Germany, Italy and 
France." He described the European hostilities as the outgrowth of 
"age-old hatreds" in which the United States had no part. It was too 
much to ask this country to "police the world"; it should only be asked 
to keep others "from transporting their wars to this hemisphere." 

Public response to the editorial was enthusiastic, and so - at first - 
was Pulitzer's. "Sympathizing with and helping the Allies by selling 
them war materials is one thing, but burning up the country with belli- 
cose statements that are certain to lead us into war very soon and in an 
utterly unprepared condition is a very different thing," he wrote Cogh- 
lan.^'' He suggested that Reese devote the next editorial title page to 
excerpts from the recent U. S. Senate Naval Committee's report de- 
tailing the country's unpreparedness. Print it in "freak body type," he 
advised, "so that it will catch the eye and be generally read, in other 
words print it as Hearst might print it."^^ 

But within the week, he became more temperate. Because events 
had moved so fast, he wrote Coghlan, he now believed that the United 
States must immediately extend its zone of defense to the Caribbean 
and "as soon as we are prepared to do so," to the entire Western Hemi- 

^^oseph Pulitzer I to Coghlan, 24 May 1940. 

Joseph Pulitzer I to George M. Burbach, 
^^Post-Dispatch, 11 June 1940. 
^^Joseph Pulitzer to Coghlan, 17 June 1940 
^^Joseph Pulitzer I to Reese, 16 June 1940. 

^^Joseph Pulitzer I to George M. Burbach, KSD general manager, 19 June 1940. 

^^Post-Dispatch, 11 June 1940. 

^^Joseph Pulitzer to Coghlan, 17 June 1940. 

148 American Journalism VI (1989): 3 

Sphere. He wanted the editor to understand "that at heart I am not a 
so-called isolationist." Despite the "past sins" of the British and 
French empires, it might now be "America's destiny" to lead a crusade 
"to keep the flame of Democracy burning in the United States and to 
rekindle that flame in England and France" and their possessions "now 
that they have been purified by their ordeal of fire."^^ On the question 
of conscription, he considered it a "patriotic necessity" for the Post- 
Dispatch to vigorously support a general draft. "I for one am convinced 
that a liberal dose of sacrifice, discipline and goose-stepping would be 
good for all of us," he telegraphed from Canada.-^^ This rather striking 
shift of viewpoint in a matter of a few days suggested that Pulitzer's 
commitment to isolation had from the start been considerably weaker 
than that of members of his news and editorial staffs. 

Accordingly, in fashioning news policy, his thinking turned 
increasingly toward subjects which would foster patriotism and loyalty 
to American socio-economic arrangements. To Reese, he suggested inter- 
views with as many as 100 St. Louisans of German, Austrian, or 
Czechoslovakian origin who had recently visited Germany to find out 
whether they were "beginning to think that the Hitler way of life, 
with all its 'efficiency' is probably better for the average or below-av- 
erage income group than the American scheme." He said he had heard 
that some of these people who worked as domestic servants in St. Louis 
"went back to the homeland and came back disgusted, and there are 
doubtless many stories on the other side and a good many in between." 
However, he would publish a story only if the evidence pointed a cer- 
tain way: "If the preponderant view should turn out to be that condi- 
tions in America, bad as they are, are a damn sight better than condi- 
tions in Germany it would, I believe, make an exceedingly interesting 
and useful Sunday story - the kind of story, by the way, that the Sat- 
urday Evening Post might print."^^ 

In the fall, when both were at Bar Harbor, Maine, he called on 
Walter Lippmann to get his off-the-record views on intervention. The 
colunmist told him that he was opposed, but at the same time consid- 
ered it imperative that the United States keep the British Navy 
afloat and from falling into German hands. For that reason he ap- 
proved the recent exchange of fifty aged American destroyers for rights 
to construct naval bases at several British possessions, the beginning of 
the so-called Lend-Lease policy. He was less than candid with Pulitzer 
about this, for he was by this time committed to intervention on 
Britain's behalf and had even helped behind the scenes to arrange the 

^^Joseph Pulitzer II to Coghlan, 22 June 1940. 

^Joseph Pulitzer I to Ferdii\and Gottlieb, 10 and 26 July 1940. 

^^ Joseph Pulitzer 11 to Reese, 29 July 1940. 

Joseph Pulitzer II and the European War 149 

destroyer deal.22"He gambles on the belief that Hitler will do ev- 
erything in his power to keep us out of war,"^^ Pulitzer recorded in a 
memorandum of their talk. Lippmann also told him that the realities 
of the rapidly developing situation meant that Roosevelt had close to 
absolute power in deciding how to deal with the Allies, including the 
power to commit the country to war without a Congressional declara- 
tion. Many years later, Lippmann told his biographer, Ronald Steel, 
that he had found it necessary to influence Pulitzer to "rein in his staff 
in order to keep the Post-Dispatch from demanding a congressional in- 
vestigation which would have revealed the columnist's role in 
escalating U. S. involvement in the war.^^ Although Pulitzer put 
nothing in writing about Lippmann's having asked him to do this, it is 
plausible, given the emerging difference between the publisher and his 
top staff members on isolation versus intervention. 

The day after he saw Lippmann, Pulitzer dictated some "Notes on 
U. S. and War" which began: "Let's get away from the appearance of 
pacifism and holding out the too-confident hope that we can avoid 
war. Let us rather tell the people that they should get ready for war." 
The realities, he continued, "resolved to the question of how long can 
we postpone war and by postponing it get ready for it. ...If we must 
throw the dice with death may it not be, after all, that the Roosevelt 
gamble may in the long run be the best gamble? To accept this thesis one 
must believe, as I do, that although Roosevelt has been dangerously 
impulsive and emotional and irregular in many of his acts and 
utterances, he is not deliberately planning to lend us into war.''^^ 

Coghlan didn't agree and had run an editorial criticizing the de- 
stroyer deal under the headline, "Dictator Roosevelt Commits An Act 
of War."26 Pulitzer politely but firmly asked the editor to stop at- 
tacking Roosevelt: "I hope we can for the present at least cease charg- 
ing the President with jingoism and dictatorship.... Let us make our po- 
sition crystal clear... that we are not blind isolationists, that we are not 
for peace at any price, that we see all too clearly the menace of Hitler 
and Hitlerism and that our one and only objective is WE MUST GET 

Although Coghlan tried to constrain his isolationist beliefs, by 
January 1941, he decided he could compromise no further. He asked for 
a leave of absence without pay or a transfer to another part of the pa- 
per. "I think it is a monumental error for the United States to enter the 

^Ronald Steel, Walter Lippmann and the American Century, (New York, 1980), 384-385. 
^ Memo, 16 September 1940. 

24 Steel 385. 

25 17 Sept. 1940. 
^^Post-Dispatch, 3 Sept. 1940. 

2^Joseph Pulitzer 11 to Coghlan, 20 Sept. 1940. 

150 American Journalism VI (1989): 3 

European war," he told Pulitzer. He believed the country had "a sepa- 
rate destiny" which it would sacrifice by entering the war and that 
Pulitzer's policy required him to soft-pedal or ignore his strong convic- 
tions. "I feel I have been in a strait-jacket and no man can work well in a 
strait-jacket," he explained. "I have felt that I was engaged on two 
fronts, the journalistic front and the front-office front."^* 

Pulitzer did not respond directly in writing. However, his memo- 
randa over the next several weeks indicated that he managed to keep 
Coghlan on the page by becoming more conciliatory toward the editor 
and more reserved than previously in his expressions of support for 
Roosevelt. For example, calling it "purely a suggestion," he thought 
FDR might be reminded editorially that, "You were elected largely on 
your promises not to take us into war, but since election you have said 
little or nothing to confirm your pre-election pledges.... If you think the 
country should go to war or that it inevitably will be drawn into the 
war, has not the country a right to know your opinion?" At the same 
time, though, he stressed "that if we say this it should be so phrased as 
to make it impossible for anyone to say that we are trying to cast a slur 
on the honesty of the President's pre-election promises."^^ 

For the balance of 1941, Pulitzer held to his belief in the in- 
evitability of U. S. involvement. In late May, he drew a rather drastic 
picture in resisting pressure from Coghlan and others on the editorial 
staff to make a firm commitment to isolation. The situation was so 
grave, he contended, that he supported "our present policy of taking 
more and more risks of war" even though that could mean that "much of 
our present so-called 'civilization'" and "our recent conception of capi- 
talism, the profit system and free enterprise" are gone forever. He 
would concede that Germany might win and would admit to readers 
"the hideous possibility and even probability" that this war, like the 
last, would not make the world safe for democracy. It would be neces- 
sary to fight "solely and simply because we think that Hitler is likely, 
sooner or later, to menace our American liberties. Trade is not worth 
fighting for; the American standard of living is not worth fighting for; 
world power is not worth fighting for. American liberty is worth fight- 
ing for."3° 

The memo was to Coghlan, but Reese read it first and objected 
forcefully. He saw no need for the paper to "flop over to intervention," 
shocking readers and giving its evening rival, the St. Louis Star-Times, 
the opportunity to "take full page one advantage of this, probably 
with some... copy on previous jumping beans." Instead, he counseled re- 
straint, arguing that "it will not be long before the administration will 

^^Coghlan to Joseph Pulitzer 11, 18 Jan. 1941. 
^Joseph Pulitzer 11 to Coghlan, 24 Jan. 1941. 
^Joseph Pulitzer 11 to Coghlan, 22 May. 1941. 

Joseph Pulitzer II and the European YJar 151 

lead to the way outlined in your memorandum."^^ Apparently accept- 
ing this, Pulitzer relaxed his pressure on the editorial page. 

Back in the office in late August after two months of treatment for 
tuberculosis at a Colorado sanitarium - during which time Germany 
had invaded Russia - Coghlan, like Reese, argued for letting events 
guide a gradual pro-war shift: "Since the Post-Dispatch has been ac- 
cused of leftist tendencies because of our liberal views, and because we 
are not afraid to attack wrong...! can easily imagine critics saying: 'Oh, 
yes, the Post-Dispatch was against the war until Russia got into it, but 
now it is all in favor of going in and saving the Bolsheviks.' We would 
be accused of following the party line. Such word-of-mouth advertising 
in a Catholic city like St. Louis would not do us any good."^^ Pulitzer 
responded that Coghlan had made a "beautifully reasoned argument.... 
I hasten to say that I do trust you completely to put into execution the 
policy of 'gradualness' which you describe." He said his views in May 
had been "badly expressed and could very easily be misunderstood as 
indicating that I want the paper to do pronto another Mexican jumping 
bean act. I did not have that in mind or if I did I stand corrected." 

What I do deplore is evidence I seem to find time to time.. .of a 
deep.. .distrust of Roosevelt's purpose. Parenthetically, let me say 
that you personally have not written a line of this kind. Although 
I was, I admit, very distrustful of Roosevelt when he pulled his se- 
cret destroyer deal I'm bound to tell you I've gotten over it.. ..I do 
think that the man deserves our confidence and the confidence of 
our country....! must say that I sympathize with FDR deeply when 
he likens himself to Lincoln in the desperate days of the Civil 

Despite the deterioration throughout 1941 of relations between the 
United States and Japan, which had signed a mutual defense pact with 
Germany and Italy in September 1940, Pulitzer and his editors focused 
nearly all of their attention on Europe. Reese had raised the question in 
May of whether Japan would declare war on the United States if the 
Navy, now convoying goods to Britain, began shooting to deter German 
submarine threats to the American ships. He was concerned about how 
the United States could handle "a two-ocean war with a one-ocean 
Navy."^ The attack on Pearl Harbor made that worry a reality. 

Still, the defeat of Hitler remained the primary concern in 1942. A 

^^ Reese to Joseph Pulitzer II, 23 May 1941. 
^^oghlan to Joseph Pulitzer II, 21 Aug. 1941. 
Joseph Pulitzer n to Coghlan, 23 Aug. 1941. 
^eese to Joseph Pulitzer n, 23 May 1941. 

152 American Journalism VI (1989): 3 

few months after the United States entered the war, Pulitzer felt he 
needed a better grasp of events in Europe. He asked the British ambas- 
sador to the United States to recommend an Englishman, preferably a 
graduate of Oxford or Cambridge University, who knew and understood 
the European war theater. He wanted such a man as one of his secre- 
taries. The ambassador suggested A. Mervyn Davies, a 1923 Oxford 
graduate who specialized in history and had served with the British 
air force in the First World War and was currently with the British 
Information Service in New York. Davies was hired and shortly was 
summarizing and then reading to Pulitzer from leading British news- 
papers and periodicals. The publisher's eyesight - like his father's - 
had become so dim that he could not read ordinary print. When it ap- 
peared that Winston Churchill was to be the main architect of British 
war policy, Davies spent an entire day describing Churchill's life and 
career to Pulitzer. On another occasion, he gave the publisher a de- 
tailed description of the Balkan invasion. Pulitzer kept a huge globe in 
his office, mounted in a moveable floor stand. Because Pulitzer could see 
its markings with relative ease, Davies often used it to explain troop 
and ship movements.^ 

From this point forward, there was no question as to how firmly 
Pulitzer stood behind the Allied war effort. This was somewhat dra- 
matically evidenced in a short leading editorial he wrote in early 
March 1942. It was printed in bastard measure and type almost twice 
the usual size: 


To win this war,we must keep production up - And we must keep 
inflation down. This means: Everybody working. No strikes. Every 
machine working 24 hours a day; and it also means: Ceilings on 
profits, prices and wages.^ 

Such a clearcut stance did not, however, eliminate every difference 
between Pulitzer and the editorial page. Another clash developed in 
late September of 1942. Coghlan had run several editorials critical of 
the United States and Britain for not establishing a "second front," the 
purpose of which would be to cause a reallocation of the German forces 
and thus weaken the Nazi advance into the Soviet Union which had 
been underway since June 1941. Pulitzer believed the two countries were 
unprepared to take on this new task and ordered the editorials stopped. 
"I especially object to spreading the suspicion that Roosevelt and 
Churchill are deliberately letting Russia bleed to death in order to 

Interview with Mrs. A. Mervyn Davies (widow), 21 Sept. 1984. 

^Post-Dispatch, 4 March 1942. 

Joseph Pulitzer II and the European War 153 

save Tory capitalism," he explained. "I will not, and positively do not, 
believe it of Roosevelt and Churchill. I really think it is wrong to 
spread the idea."^^ Coghlan pledged to print no more on the subject.^® 
The publisher's judgment did seem to have been correct when, about a 
month after that exchange, the Americans and British did begin a new 
offensive - in North Africa - a campaign which dinninished the Ger- 
man forces by fifteen divisions and 2,000 airplanes.^^ 

At the beginning of 1943, with the Allies' outlook somewhat im- 
proved, Pulitzer decided that the Post-Dispatch should print a 
"symposium" on the question, "What Are We Fighting For?" in order to 
"stimulate and clarify public thinking" about world cooperation after 
the war. Twenty prominent people representing various shades of eco- 
nomic, political, and social concern were asked to contribute articles on 
the question. The focus would be upon "general principles" in the belief 
that "specific blueprints on highly controversial questions such as in- 
dependence for Poland, Finland or India, Japanese immigration or the 
Negro problem might cause disunity. Agreement on general principles is 
important; details can and must come later ."*° 

The twenty articles were published between February 21 and May 
2, 1943, and later made available in booklet form. Both President Roo- 
sevelt and Vice President Henry A. Wallace contributed statements, 
Roosevelt observing that "there is an important job of education to be 
done so that the tragedy of war will not come again."^^ Among the con- 
tributors were George W. Norris, former U. S. Senator from Nebraska; 
Virginius Dabney, editor of the Richmond, Virginia, Times-Dispatch; 
Robert Moses, New York City park commissioner; Harold G. Moulton, 
president of the Brookings Institution; Philip Murray, president of the 
Congress of Industrial Organizations; Wayne L. Morse, a member of the 
National War Labor Board; Robert Minor, Assistant General Secretary 
of the Communist Party in the United States; Mrs. George Gelhorn, St. 
Louis leader of the National League of Women Voters; The Right Rev. 
William Scarlett, episcopal Bishop of Missouri; and James P. 
Whiteside, a "common man" from Missouri, 

Despite their differing perspectives and points of particular em- 
phasis, there was a common thread of agreement about war aims among 
the contributors reflective of the popular consensus on the correctness of 
the Allied cause. The first objective, it was agreed, was to win the war; 
the second to achieve international cooperation and understanding suf- 
ficient to maintain peace. There was little disposition to go lightly 

^^Joseph Pulitzer 11 to Coghlan, 23 Sept. 1942 
^Coghlan to Joseph Pulitzer n, 25 Sept. 194Z 

David A. Shannon, Twentieth Century America, (Chicago, 1963), 486. 
^Outline by Joseph Pulitzer II, 9 Feb. 1943. 
*^'What Are We Fighting For?" Booklet, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 1943. 

154 American journalism VI (1989): 3 

with the Axis powers. "Victory cannot come by appeasement," wrote 
Senator Norris. "It cannot come by a negotiated peace. There must be an 
absolute and unconditional surrender."^ 

After the series started, Edgar Monsanto Queeny, chairman of 
Monsanto Chemical Company with headquarters in St. Louis and a so- 
cial friend of Pulitzer's, complained that he didn't think "the indus- 
trialists' point of view" had been presented. Pulitzer invited him to do 
so. The piece was, predictably, a spirited exposition of "free enter- 
prise." In submitting it, Queeny told Pulitzer: "And we can do all that is 
promised if your old sheet will keep THAT MAN out of the White 

house for the fourth term!"^^ 

That advice was not followed. When the time came, Pulitzer in- 
structed Coghlan to come out for FDR: "In a nutshell - this is not in- 
tended for editorial use - 'with all his faults we love him still.'" He 
thought it would be well after the election, though, to "tell Roosevelt 
that were it not for the war he would not have been re-elected, that 
under ordinary circumstances no one has any use for a fourth term."*^ 

Between March 5 and June 4, 1944, as events continued turning in fa- 
vor of an Allied victory in Europe, the Post-Dispatch took another look 
ahead in a twenty-two-article series by Charles Ross entitled "Men 
and Jobs After the War." Its concern, as the title indicated, was mea- 
sures needed to establish a workable postwar economy. Ross's subjects 
included "The Case for Speed in Reconversion," "For Low Profits on a 
Great Turnover," "Industrial Employment and the Farm Problem," 
"Competition Versus Monopoly," "Effects of Women's New Role in In- 
dustry," and "Views From the Right on Government Regulation." 
Reprints of the series were made available in booklet form. 

Yet another series, written mostly by Pulitzer himself, came out in 
1945. During the final days of the European war, he was among eigh- 
teen American editors and publishers invited by general Dwight D. 
Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces in 
Europe, to visit sites of the Nazi atrocities and of the decisive Allied 
landings. Among his companions were Julius Ochs Adler of the New 
York Times, Ben Hibbs of the Saturday Evening Post, Walter Stone of 
the Scripps-Howard chain, Stanley High of Reader's Digest, John 
Randolph Hearst of Hearst Publications, and Norman Chandler of the 
Los Angeles Times. Their tour included the concentration camps at 
Dachau and Buchenwald just days after their liberation and a confi- 
dential, background interview with Eisenhower at the Supreme Head- 
quarters, Allied Expeditionary Forces at Reims. During the trip, 
Pulitzer kept notes in a stenographer's notebook, written large with a 

^Ibid. 42. 

^ Edgar M. Queeny to Joseph Pulitzer II, 1 April; Joseph Pulitzer II to RC and reply, 2 April 1943. 

Joseph Pulitzer 11 to Coghlan, 16 Sept. and 25 Oct. 1944. 

Joseph Pulitzer II and the European YJar 155 

heavy pencil, so that he could read them. From these, he dictated a 
series of diary-like accounts of the experiences, written in the first- 
person. They were published between April 29 and May 27. 

Pulitzer found the grim evidence at the camps so shocking that it 
was hard to capture in words alone. In London, a cabdriver told him 
that the London Express had put together a photo-exhibit on the 
camps. As soon as Pulitzer returned to the United States after the fif- 
teen-day trip, he urged the release of Army Signal Corps motion pic- 
tures taken at the camps and commissioned a display of twenty-five 
large photo-murals to illustrate the extent of the Nazi atrocities. 
Chief Washington Correspondent Brandt secured AAA-1 priority from 
the federal bureaucracy for the paper on which the life-size prints 
were made. They were displayed for twenty-five days in a recently 
completed but not yet occupied annex to the Post-Dispatch building. 
More than 80,000 persons viewed the exhibit, and an even larger number 
attended the forty-four showings of the Army film in the city's Kiel 
Auditorium. The exhibit then went to Washington, where more than 
88,000 saw it at the Library of Congress, after which it went to Boston, 
Cleveland, New York, and other cities. In most places, newspapers of 
the host cities met or shared the cost of exhibition with the Post- 
Dispatch. The demand for showings was so great that the Post-Dis- 
patch made a duplicate set of murals to tour through its Missouri and 
Illinois circulation area. The Detroit News was so eager for the exhibit 
that it got Post-Dispatch permission to make a third set of prints.^^ 

Pulitzer made three public appearances following the trip. On May 
18, 1945, at the invitation of the Missouri House of Representatives, he 
addressed the Missouri legislature in Jefferson City. Four days later, he 
was one of several who spoke at Carnegie Hall in New York City, 
where the Society for the Prevention of World War III sponsored a 
rally. On May 30, he spoke briefly to open the paper's atrocity mural 
exhibit in St. Louis. At each appearance, his message was blunt and di- 
rect: Those responsible for the atrocities should be speedily tried and, 
if found guilty, shot. His remarks produced these headlines in the New 
York Times: "Urges execution of 1,500,000 Nazis/Pulitzer Tells Rally 
Here That General Staff, Gestapo, SS and Industrialists Should Be 
Shot." He said his figures were only estimated, because "the War De- 
partment for some reason has been reluctant to release information on 
the subject. But I estimate that somewhere between 1,000,000 and 
2,000,000 is a reasonable figure. Possibly 1,500,000 may be the final to- 
tal."*^ Even before his trip, he had urged Coghlan to take "the 
strongest, toughest, most remorseless attitude towards all Germans until 

*^Julius H. Klyman, editor of Post-Dispatch "PICTURES" section, to Joseph Pulitzer II and response, 

^ew York Times, 23 May 1945. 

156 American Joumalism VI (1989): 3 

the day arrives when they have had their German bestiahty educated 
and whipped out of them. Economic opportunity for Germans in our own 
self-interest after the war, yes; but gentle, sentimental consideration in 
the meantime, no." Even earlier, he had said he was convinced that it 
would be necessary to execute large numbers of Germans "and then put 
the German people on parole and keep them on parole for at least one or 
probably two generations."*^ 

Pulitzer was disturbed when only a relative handful of German 
militarists were charged with war crimes. He had understood Eisen- 
hower to say when he met with the editors that he favored the course 
of action Pulitzer had been advocating. "I am still trying to carry out 
the purpose of the assignment that you gave us editors at that time,"*^ 
he wired the general. He asked for Eisenhower's views "on or off the 
record" as to why so few had been indicted, but apparently received no 
answer. He speculated to Brandt that the widely reported belief that 
military officers "regard their opponents as honorable soldiers and not 
as criminals"*^ was the probable explanation. 

In any case, many applauded the publisher's harsh line, including 
a number of St. Louisans of German descent. "One thing that has aston- 
ished me," he wrote in response to a congratulatory letter from Mil- 
waukee Journal editor Lindsay Hoben, "has been the absolutely com- 
plete absence of resentment of our position by what used to be called our 
German-American South side. Indeed, we have had only a very few 
letters of opposition, and they came from screwballs with very fine 
Anglo-Saxon names." There had been "numbers of letters from German 
families, one of the best having come, by way of example, from Adol- 
phus Busch III," president of Anheuser-Busch. "When we find that a 
dog has hydrophobia or a rat has bubonic plague," Pulitzer concluded, 
"we protect society by eliminating them. That in my opinion is what we 
must do with German militarism... Hitler after all was merely a symp- 
tom of an old, old disease. I do hope that the Milwaukee Journal may 
see fit to follow this approach."^" When Gottlieb told Pulitzer that 
some ministers opposed showing the atrocity films, he responded: "If 
some of these conscientious objector pastors try to make a real issue of 
the film, I would crack them over the head without mercy. "^^ 

Gottlieb knew why. Just the day before, on June 4, 1945, Pulitzer had 
dictated a memo to the editorial writer which fairly summarized the 
evolution of his thinking through this war and his conception of geopo- 
litical realities: 

^^Joseph Pulitzer n to Coghlan, 26 Dec. 1944; 17 Aug. 1944. 

Joseph Pulitzer n to Raymond P. Brandt, 16 Nov. 1945, quoting telegram to Eisenhower. 

Joseph Pulitzer II to Lindsay Hoben, 18 June 1945. 
^^Joseph Pulitzer II to Gottlieb, 5 June 1945. 

Joseph Pulitzer II and the European War 157 

Of course, we favor liberty and independence as a principle for all 
people everywhere, BUT - until the Golden Age and Brave New 
World arrive - is it not the ugly fact that liberty can be gained and 
preserved only by force of arms? How did we gain and preserve our 
American independence? Was it not by licking the British in 1778 
and 1812? What will produce and preserve Philippine indepen- 
dence? Is it not the American Navy and Air Force? What degree of 
"independence," if any, can Poland look forward to? In the last 
analysis will not the Russian army settle that question? What 
about independence for the unfortunate Syrians? Sooner or 
later.. .will they not have to look either to British arms, Russian 
arms or French arms for their so-called "independence"? 

This is by no means to say that we should not continue to do our 
damndest to bring about a world peace organization. But are we not 
kidding ourselves when we think that under that peace structure 
"enlightened self-interest" will not continue to be the first motive 
of the Big Four? Are we going to let Russia tell us what kind of gov- 
ernment Columbia or Panama or Mexico should have? I doubt it. I 
don't see how we can get away from "zones of influence" and in the 
last analysis, I cannot escape the conclusion that independence for 
the Puerto Ricans or Newfoundlanders or the Hottentots must de- 
pend on forces somehow, somewhere and that the best we can hope 
for is that the abuse of that force will be restrained by the peace 
organization. How about it?^^ 

Pulitzer had come, in short, from his belief in neutrality and isola- 
tion in 1938 to what seemed to him by 1945 a need to recognize new 
realities in the search for global order. In the main, it appears that his 
reading of events in Europe rather quickly extinguished his hope that 
the United States could stay out of the war. It seems probable that he 
would have been more forcefully for intervention earlier than he was 
had it not been for the resistance of his managing and editorial page 
editors and the general public's support for isolation so clearly shown in 
the response to the editorial "To the Brink." Once beyond that, how- 
ever, Pulitzer led a largely cooperative Post-Dispatch effort to explain 
and support the country's war aims. 

^^Joseph Pulitzer II to Gottlieb, 4 June 1945. 

W. A. Scott and the Atlanta Wor/d 

By Leonard Ray Teel* 

The founding of the Atlanta World in 1928 was the result of one 
man's vision, will, and salesmanship. To bankroll his newspaper, 
William Alexander Scott II marshaled his collegiate debate skills to 
persuade a banker to risk thousands of dollars on an enterprise that 
seemed to have little chance of success - a newspaper owned, managed, 
and controlled by blacks. A short time later, the banker confessed his 
astonishment as he witnessed the little newspaper prosper on 
advertising revenue. W. A. Scott paid back every cent, and within two 
years, the World increased its tempo to twice a week, then three times. 
Meanwhile, Scott flexed his persuasive muscle across the Southeast, 
establishing in 1931 a cooperative S)mdicate of weekly black-owned 
newspapers. As a crowning achievement in 1932, he turned the World 
into a daily. On Monday morning, March 14, 1932, the Atlanta World 
introduced itself as "the only daily newspaper published anywhere in 
the world by Negroes." As a daily it was struggling against great odds. 
Its life expectancy was no more than five years, the longest any black 
daily had survived.^ 

The World succeeded largely because it was founded as a business 
venture, not a political experiment. Although Scott believed the World 
could become an important, independent black voice, he focused his en- 
ergies first upon creating a healthy financial venture. 

W. A. Scott was only 26 years old when he launched the weekly 
and 29 when he started the daily. His remarkable success was based on 
his persuasive salesmanship, honed by his years on the debate team at 
Atlanta's Morehouse College, and on his recognition that black com- 

Leonard Ray Teel is an associate professor of communication at Georgia 
State University. 

In 1989, the World was publishing four days a week, enough to qualify as a daily newspaper. For an 
overview of the black press before 1928, see Alfred McQung Lee, The Daily Newspaper in America: The 
Evolution of a Social Instrument Wew York, 1937), 177. 

^N.A. Scott and the Atlanta World 159 

merce was expanding as Atlanta grew into a regional marketing center. 
He envisioned an ever-widening market for advertising, beginning with 
black businessmen and expanding to capture a share of national corpo- 
rate advertising for his syndicate. Even after 1929, he was able to per- 
suade his bankers that, despite the Depression, he could build a prof- 
itable advertising base - locally and nationally. 

Scott offered the World as a parallel market for white advertisers 
who also used the Atlanta Journal and Atlanta Constitution and the 
Hearst-owned Georgian. The World billed itself as a way to reach At- 
lanta's "90,000 Negroes."^ His advertising strategy called for frequent 
house advertisements that urged blacks to "buy from World advertis- 
ers" because "$1 does double duty." The ad reminded blacks that they 
could purchase standard merchandise from World advertisers, an act 
which "brings back money to Negro pockets."^ 

To broaden his advertising base, Scott created a syndicate across 
the South. It was a brilliant innovation. Using the success of the World 
as a beacon for other black editors, he banded them together in a coop- 
erative Southern syndicate of black-owned newspapers.* With the 
syndicate in place as a market for advertising, Scott could convert the 
World to a daily. 

In the first issue, the World's editors proclaimed the birth in a 
front-page editorial, "Your World Now Daily." The managing editor, 
Frank Marshall Davis, printed his editorial birth announcement be- 
neath four banner headlines for news stories about Lindbergh kidnap 
suspects, black voter registration, the death penalty sought for a black 
man, and a fatal auto accident. In the editorial, Davis declared, 
"When the press of the Atlanta World today turned out the first edi- 
tion of the only daily newspaper published anywhere in the world by 
Negroes, it marked still another epoch in this race's journalistic en- 
deavors. ..the supreme achievement of Negro journalism - a daily 

No one was prouder of the "supreme achievement" than young W. 
A. Scott. At only 29, he was the World's founder, publisher, and editor. 

^[House Advertisement], Adanta World, July 29, 1932, p. 7. 

^[House ad], Atlanta World, July 26, 1932, p.l. 

*rhe Southern Newspaper Syndicate was renamed the Scott Newspaper Syndicate in 1933 after 
non-Southern publishers joined. By 1933 the syndicate's letterhead advertised 50 newspapers, including 
an Indian tribal weekly in Oklahoma, the Okmulgee voice of Nation. Among the 50 were four semi- 
weeklies, the St. Louis World and the Texas World in Highland park, and two owned by Scott, the 
Birmingham World and the Memphis World. The other 46 papers were weeklies, published in Little 
Rock, Asheville, Athens (Ga.), Austin, Brunswick (Ga.), Charlotte, Kingston (N.C.), Wilmington (N.C.), 
Chattanooga, Cindnatti, Qarksdale (Miss.), Qeveland, Columbia (S.C), Columbus (Ohio), Detroit, 
Durham (N.C.), Danville (Va.), Evanston QH.), Forth Worth, Gadsden (Ala.), Hopkinsville (Ky.), 
Hannibal (Mo.), Huntington (W. Va.), Des Moines, Jackson (Tenn.), Jacksonville (Fla.), Lexington (Ky.), 
Reidsville, (N.C.), New Orleans, Shreveport, Miami, Mobile, Montgomery, Nashville, New Bern 
(N.C.), St. Petersburg, Florence (S.C), Richmond (Ky.), Roanoke, Spartanburg (S.C), Frogmore (S.C), 
Tampa, Greensboro (N.C), Tuscaloosa (Ala.), and West Palm Beach. 

^ Frank Marshall Davis, "Your World Now Daily," Atlanta World, March 14, 1932, 1. 

160 American Journalism VI (1989): 3 

a dominant force in Atlanta's black conununity. 

The publishing of a daily newspaper represented the flowering of 
Scott's considerable talent and ambition. Born September 29, 1902, in 
Edwards, Mississippi, the second of nine children, he had learned the 
fundamentals of printing from his mother, Emeline Southall Scott. 
Scott's father, William Alexander Scott Sr., a Christian Church 
minister, had bought a printing shop from a retiring printer who, as 
part of the transaction, taught Mrs. Scott to set type and to print Rev. 
Scott's church's publications. Mrs. Scott, in turn, taught her son. 

At college, Scott developed the other talents that made him a su- 
perb persuader. At Jackson College in Mississippi from 1920 to 1922 and 
at Morehouse College in Atlanta from 1923 to 1925, he studied business 
and mathematics. At Morehouse he found outlets for his competitive 
spirit and physical energy. He worked on the Morehouse yearbook and 
was quarterback of the Morehouse Tigers football team. Along with his 
oldest brother, Aurelius, his constant companion at Morehouse, Scott 
demonstrated intellectual combativeness as a champion debater on the 
Morehouse team. 

Debate sharpened Scott's persuasiveness into a tool for salesman- 
ship. A colleague at the World afterwards recalled the "competitive 
fire" that characterized Scott "whatever the issue: college debating, 
tennis, quarter-backing a college football team, Spanish checkers, 
speeding in high-priced cars, piano-plajang, billiards and /or the art of 
earning fabulous sums of money."^ "He was a continuously active per- 
son," recalls his son, William A. Scott III. "His goal was always to do 
the seemingly impossible."'' 

Scott left Morehouse in 1925 without graduating. He began to earn 
a paycheck as a teacher and dean of boys at Swift College in Knoxville. 
After a year he left that position and went to Birmingham, where he 
worked for several months as a sales representative for the Real Silk 
Hosiery Company and later the Better Brush Company. By 1927 he was 
in Jacksonville, Florida, working as a railway mail clerk on the Jack- 
sonville-to-Miami run. In Jacksonville early in 1927, at the age of 
twenty-four, he started his first independent enterprise, combining his 
skills in sales and his knowledge of printing. With himself as business 
manager and assisted by his brother Aurelius, he published the black 
community's first City Directory of Negro Business.^ 

Scott's timing was propitious. As in other Southern cities, Jack- 
sonville had a sharp increase in population during the 1920s. Blacks in 
large numbers were emigrating from the rural areas to the cities of the 

Ric Roberts, "A PeerlesS Competitor Planned Newspaper War, But He Died at 31, on Battle's Eve," 
Pittsburgh Courier Magazine, October 1, 1955, 2. 
^ Interview with W. A. Scott ID, April 27, 1988. 
® "Obituary of William Alexander Scott," Atlanta World, Feb. 12, 1934, 6. 

VJ.A. Scott and the Atlanta World 161 

South - many of them only stopping off on their way to the cities of the 
North. The new black population in the Southern cities created a 
booming market for goods and services, "and black business districts 
sprang up to help serve this growing population."^ 

Scott's city directory for black businesses and services would be 
paid for by advertising. Although whites had advertised in directories 
for years, Scott was breaking new ground by introducing the concept to 
the black community. It required an articulate salesman to persuade 
merchants and professionals to advertise in the new venture. For vari- 
ous reasons, many black entrepreneurs had never before paid to publish 
an advertisement. A study completed a decade earlier for Atlanta Uni- 
versity had noted "the failure of the average Negro business man to 
make any attempt to advertise his business properly. The average Ne- 
gro business man, especially in small towns, seems to take it for granted 
that everyone knows that he is in business and will consequently come 
around to see him."^° 

In his office at 2002 Louisiana Street, Scott devoted himself to fin- 
ish the project by the spring of 1927. Contracting with a reliable print- 
ing house, he had the directory published by May. On Mother's Day he 
wrote his mother, "I am resting from a grind of about six weeks which I 
went through to get out the Directory which Aurelius told you about 
(Will mail one soon)." The accomplishment cheered him so much that 
he said he was in "better health, happier, and with a better outlook on 
life than ever before."" 

While he and Aurelius were developing this enterprise, Scott was 
living apart from his wife, Lucile. In 1927, she and their two sons, 
William Alexander III, 5, and Robert, 3, stayed at her father's home in 
Shreveport, Mississippi. Separation was to be the pattern for most of 
their married life. William and Lucile had met in high school in Jack- 
son. Her father was also a clergyman, a minister in the Christ Temple 
Holyness [sic] Church. William and Lucile married on June 22, 1922, 
when he was 20 and a sophomore at Jackson College.^^ But he was too 
motivated to settle down in Jackson. Shortly after their first son was 
bom on January 15, 1923, Scott left with Aurelius to enter Morehouse. As 
time allowed, Scott made the trip by car or train to visit his wife and 
son. Their second son was born September 10, 1924. The first child, 
William, was four years old when his father took the family on an 


During the 1920s, economic hard times and the devastation of cotton crops by the boll weevil blight 
spurred a migration from the rural South that was greater than the migration during World War I. John 
EMtmer, Black Georgia in the Progressive Era, 1900-1920 (Urbana, HI, 1977), 210. 

^^ Asa H. Gordon, The Georgia Negro: A History (Ann Arbor, Mich., 1937); rpt. (Spartanburg, B.C., 
1972), 260. 

" W.A. Scott, Jr. mi to Mrs. W.A. Scott [Sr.], May 5, 1927, Scott FamUy Papers, Atlanta DaUy World 
office, Atlanta, Ga. [Cited hereafter as Scott Papers] 
^^ Interview with Lucile Scott, April 29, 1988, Atlanta. 

162 American Journalism VI (1989): 3 

auto trip in Florida. William recalls an outing on the beach at Jack- 

Late in he evening as the tide was coming in, the car got stuck in 
the sand. You know how water comes in and sand sinks. And a young 
white person on the beach got my father's car out of the sand. He 
knew how to do it. Well, I can remember my father, after watching 
him get the car out, he put the car back in the sand and got it out 
himself. That was his way. He said, "If this guy can do it, I can do 
it." And he watched him and he did it. He got it out.^^ 

The success of the Jacksonville Directory demonstrated that Scott 
could make an income from advertising and publishing. He had the 
formula: persuade black entrepreneurs that they could compete for cus- 
tomers and clients - or lose them to white businesses. Often, he had to 
overcome the merchants' tendency to think that blacks would automat- 
ically patronize black businesses. Asa Gorden noted in the 1930s, 

It is held by some that prejudice in the South aids Negro business 
in that it forces colored people to trade more and more among 
themselves. This seems to be only partly true, since it is not univer- 
sally true that we find the successful businesses in the most preju- 
diced places.^* 

In any case, Scott urged black economic solidarity, urging blacks to be 
loyal to merchants who advertised in his black publications. Later, his 
World routinely carried the dictum: "Stores that advertise in the 
World want your trade - Patronize them."^^ 

Within months after the Jacksonville Directory came out, Scott re- 
turned to Atlanta with the intention of publishing a directory of At- 
lanta's black business community. In Atlanta, as in Jacksonville, several 
forces were at work to encourage Scott in his new career. The migration 
from the rural areas had increased the black population, which 
crowded into the segregated neighborhoods. A second propitious trend 
continuing since 1900 was the increase in the number of black industrial 
workers, professionals, and businessmen. A third development impor- 
tant for publishing was the increase in the numbers of blacks who could 
read. One historian of blacks in the South, John Ditmer, concluded that 
Georgia's black schools, while still inadequate, had improved notably 
during the first twenty years of the century "particularly in the cities. 

^^ Interview , W. A. Scott ID, April 27, 1988. 

Gordon, Georgia Negro, 264. 
^^ Atlanta World, Dec. 2, 1931, 8. 

WA. Scott and the Atlanta World 163 

and the illiteracy rate hit a new low."^^ Literacy was even greater 
among Atlanta's blacks because the city had become a major black edu- 
cational center of the Deep South with a black middle class that 
ranked among the nation's largest.^^ 

Finally, Atlanta in the 1920s became a center of opportunity for 
blacks. As "a major city with a somewhat fluid system of race relations 
and older black elite that was gradually losing its power, Atlanta at- 
tracted a number of aspiring young black men seeking careers in the New 

Atlanta was like home to Scott. He was soon in consultation with 
friends, many of them Morehouse College alumni, about his ideas for 
the directory. With the Jacksonville Directory as evidence, he began 
canvassing among black businessmen and professionals. As one contem- 
porary put it, he arrived in Atlanta with only "his hat in his hand and 
a big idea in his head."^^ 

Scott's career soon accelerated. Rather than hire a contract printer, 
he took advantage of an opportunity to set himself up as a printer. On 
learning that the printers who put out the Baptist Review were going 
out of business, Scott arranged to rent their printing office and equip- 
ment. At the same time, to guarantee at least one client, he contracted 
to publish the Review, a publication of the General Missionary Baptist 
Convention of Georgia.^^ For money to go into business, he secured the 
first of many loans from the black-owned Citizens Trust Company .^^ 

He soon learned, probably through the bank officers, that the 
bankrupt Standard Life Insurance Co., then in receivership, owned 
printing equipment which was for scale. He decided to buy the equip- 
ment and become his own publisher. Rather than move the equipment, 
Scott contracted to rent the Standard's Office space, at 210 Auburn Av- 
enue, in the same building with the Citizen's Trust Company. Not only 
did he not have to move the press, he gained a fashionable address on 
"Sweet Auburn" in the heart of Atlanta's established business district. 
There, early in 1928, he was publishing his directory and looking 
around for the next city with enough advertisers to support a directory 
and keep his press turning. 

Augusta's black business community seemed a likely market for 
Scott's next city directory. But before he could leave Atlanta, his 

^" Ditmer, Black Georgia, 210. By 1920 almost one of every four Georgia blacks lived in cities. 

Alton Homsby Jr., "Georgia," in The Black Press in the South, 1865-1979, ed. by Henry Lewis 
Suges (Westport, Conn., 1983), 135. 

John M. Matthews, "Black Newspapermen and the Black Community in Georgia," The Georgia 
Historical Quarterly, 68 (FaU 1984), 365. 


E.N. Davis, "Snow and Rain Fail to Deter Crowd from Paying Last Respects to World's Publisher; 

Hundreds Throng Wheat Street Church Sunday Despite Bad Weather," AtlanU World, Feb. 12, 1934, 6. 


164 American Journalism VI (1989): 3 

friends persuaded him to stay. Among his circle of business associates 
was an Atlanta executive with the Afro-American Insurance Company, 
W. C. Kelly. Kelly, who eventually became the Atlanta World's 
circulation manager, recalled the day in 1928 when Scott "came to my 
office and told me that he was going to Augusta to publish an annual. I 
told him that it would be a good idea to stay in Atlanta and print a 
weekly paper. I thought no more about it until that Friday when W. A. 
came into my office with the first copy of the Atlanta Worldl"^^ 

A few influential blacks tried to dissuade Scott from starting a 
newspaper. Among them was Dr. D. D. Crawford, executive secretary of 
the General Missionary Baptist Convention of Georgia, whose Review 
Scott was printing. Scott, accompanied by a younger brother, Cornelius 
A. Scott, visited Crawford. "[They] told me of their plans. I told them 
frankly, 'You'll fail.' I told Milton the same thing."^^ 

L.D. Milton was the most important voice of discouragement. He 
was Scott's banker at the Citizens Trust Company. He had been a pro- 
fessor at Morehouse, where he met Scott. Although he trusted Scott's 
talent, he remained pessimistic about the prospects of a weekly news- 
paper for blacks. In 1934, at Scott's funeral, Milton recalled, "I fought 
him, I warned him, I coaxed him. We were friends. He is the one who 
gives me the courage to tell my students that it can be done. Don't be 
afraid. Try it." Over a period of five years, Milton revealed, "the 
Citizens [Trust Bank] has loaned W. A. Scott thousands of dollars on 
nothing other than his mere word. There he lies in death, indebted to 
us not one red cent!"^* 

In warning Scott, Milton was concerned about the lack of lucrative, 
national advertising. The failure of black newspapers was common- 
place, and the lack of high-income advertising was frequently cited as 
the main cause. The Swedish sociologist Gunnar Myrdal referred to this 
"paucity of advertising" which "makes the economy of a Negro news- 
paper precarious. "25 Until World War II, the difficulty in securing na- 
tional advertising thwarted the development of black newspapers. 
Black scholars noted that half or more of the advertising in the black 
press touted "hair straighteners, skin bleachers, patent medicines and 
the like."2^ Forewarned, Scott's ready answer was his proven track 
record in selling advertising. 

In 1928 as before, Scott's timing was fortunate. Atlanta's only black 
weekly newspaper, the Independent, was in decline and presented lit- 


24 Ibid. 

Gunnar Myrdal, An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modem Democracy (New York, 
1944), 922. 

2^ Jessie Parkhurst Guzman, ed., N^o Year Book, 1941-46 (Tuskegee, Ala., 1947), 390. 

VJ.A. Scott and the Atlanta World 165 

tie competition. Its editor, Benjamin Jefferson Davis, had founded the 
paper in 1903 and made it a partisan champion of the rights of black 
people. But Davis was as much a volatile politician as a journalist, and 
his paper became a vehicle for his political views. In the 1920s, he be- 
came entangled in Republican party politics, challenging state Repub- 
lican leadership, and in 1928 served as a national Republican commit- 
teeman. That was the pinnacle of his political career. In 1929 he was 
deposed, presumably because his factional infighting had created too 
many enemies. Davis' "brand of personal, partisan journalism was 
doomed," concludes one historian of the black press.^^The Independent 
suffered from his preoccupation with politics. "His loss of the post of 
national committeeman was followed by the eclipse of the Republican 
Party nationally after the elections of 1932. The Independent failed in 
1933, an indication that its very existence depended on the party."^® 

In 1928, Scott was well aware of the Independent's problems and of 
the opportunity those difficulties presented. Ric Roberts, whose career 
in the black press would soon begin at the World, recalled the day in 
1928 when Scott came into Yates and Milton, the drug store with the 
most popular soda fountain on Auburn Avenue. "I thought he was a pe- 
culiar sort of fellow. He seemed to be brooding all the a man 
contemplating some impending and serious event. This particular 
afternoon he wore a sn\ile and I was completely awed." As Roberts re- 

He walked to me and spoke enthusiastically. 

"Say, Ric, I'm going to print a newspaper. Ben Davis' Independent 
seems on the downgrade. The time is ripe for a paper in this town." 

I told him I thought it was an idea, but wanted to know from 
what source the money would come. 

"I don't need a lot of money. It will be a healthier way to start. I 
won't waste money. I'll use just enough to get going and then I'll 
work and work and work. See? Now you make me up some headings 
and things and I'll pay you just as soon as possible." 

...In two weeks the World was in full swing.^^ 

Scott understood the lessons to be learned from the Independent's 
decline and he resolved that his weekly would not be primarily a po- 
litical journal. Scott would steer away from a preoccupation with poli- 
tics and especially avoid partisan leanings. "He was nonpartisan," his 
son William explained. "He said the quickest way to hurt a publica- 

^ Matthews, "Black Newspapermen," 365, 371, 379. 

^ Ibid., 379. 

^ Ric Roberts, "W.A. Scott - The Man," Atlanta World, Feb. 11, 1934, 6. 

166 American Journalism VI (1989): 3 

tion was to become partisan."^ By comparison with the Independent, 
Georgia historian John Matthews notes, the World "was quite circum- 
spect in tone and the Scott family far less visible and politically 
partisan. "^^ In declining to affiliate with a party, Scott deviated from 
the norm in the lower South. As historian Henry Lewis Suggs notes, the 
black press since Reconstruction generally supported the Republican 
party .^2 

In distancing his newspaper from political partisanship, Scott did 
not intend to dilute his influence on politics. In his own mind, he may 
have thought that a nonpartisan stance might increase his influence on 
matters of importance to his race. In years to come, his paper would join 
the crusade against police brutality, lynchings, and capital punish- 
ment. Yet the V/orld 's political outlook, while forceful on black issues, 
did not feature Scott as a dominant political leader. The voice of 
protest was attributed to the newspaper rather than Scott. 

Yet he did not intend the World as a vehicle primarily for protest. 
As a businessman whose first interest was in building the World, Scott 
was sensitive to his market. He anticipated what the readers would 
want - evenhanded coverage of the black community, not overloaded 
with news of political protest. Four years after Scott launched the 
weekly, his managing editor reminded readers that the newspaper 
"has attempted to give all the news worthwhile and serve the best in- 
terests of the community in a sane and sensible manner."^ 

In planning the weekly newspaper, Scott had a number of models to 
study. In the century since the beginnings of the black press with Free- 
dom 's Journal in 1827, several generations of black weeklies had ap- 
peared, some surviving for decades. Since 1900, some had thrived be- 
cause, in addition to championing civil rights for blacks, they offered a 
variety of coverage of black life, much of which the dominant white 
press overlooked - news, features, society and religious news, enter- 
tainment, and sports. By the 1920s, some of the pace-setting black 
weeklies were the Chicago Defender, founded in 1905, the Pittsburgh 
Courier, begun in 1910, and the Norfolk Journal and Guide, also started 
in 1910.34 

^ Interview, W.A. Scott m. May 9, 1988. 

3^ Matthews, "Black Newspapermen," 370, 380. 

3^ Suggs, Black Press, 4. 

^ Davis, "Your World Now Daily," 1. 

The black press took many of its cues from the dominant white press. This was true of the 
handling of news and sports. The Defender, fotmded and published by Robert S. Abbott, and the 
Courier, developed by Robert S. Vann, offered a sensational treatment of news, including a steady 
stream of crime stories. In cases when white press coverage was unsatisfactory, the black press often 
published its own version, "race-angled" for its ownreaders, as in the coverage of race riots, and crimes 
by whites against blacks. Both pap>ers published editorials on behalf of their readers. See Roland E. 
Wolseley, The Black Press, U.S.A. (Ames, Iowa, 1971), 36, 38, 49. Both newspapers also devoted 
considerable space to news of black society, culture, and fashion, through which they appealed "to the 
awakened imagination of Negroes in urban communities [and] provides a romantic escape for Negro 

WA. Scott and the Atlanta VJorld 167 

In Atlanta, Scott had his own priorities for content, including news 
about religious, social, and educational activities. Having grown up in 
the shadow of his father's ministry, he understood the cohesive role of 
the church in the life of the black community. Weekly publication of 
church news would give the newspaper respectability and readers. In 
carrying out this policy Scott became known as a believer in the 
"strength, importance and necessity for a strong church group."^ Simi- 
larly, his insistence on reporting the black community's club events, so- 
cial news and college notices - which the dominant white press ignored 
- secured another core of readers and at the same time mirrored the so- 
cial mobility of blacks. 

In any consideration of content, Scott understood that the World 
would find its niche if it supplied black readers with what was missing 
from the white press. In this sense, it would be typical of other black 
newspapers in the United States, most of which were published as 
"second papers" for most blacks, who also read the white newspapers in 
their communities. Myrdal cited this trend in the 1940s when he con- 
cluded, "The Negro papers, therefore, largely supplement the ordinary 
papers with Negro news and opinions."^ 

All considerations, however, depended upon Scott's projections for 
significant, high-income advertising. The Morehouse College histo- 
rian, Alton Hornsby, notes that the World was "founded primarily as a 
business venture."^'' With his experience in sales, Scott wanted to revo- 
lutionize the traditional financial base of the black press. As scholars 
have observed, the black publications' high attrition rate was largely 
because revenue depended more on circulation than on advertising.^ In 
Scott's publishing scheme, the advertising revenue would be a far 
greater proportion of the income from the beginning. As it happened, 
advertising paid most of the bills and permitted expansion. Scott 
avoided the plight of typically undercapitalized black-owned news- 
papers which died young or limped along with only subsistence income 
from small, local advertisers. 

For a model to emulate, he had the weekly Savannah Tribune, 
started in 1875 and still viable in the 1920s. The Tribune survived its 
early years by a combination of advertisements in the black community 
and a persistent "appeal for continued support."'^^ In time, the Tribune 
diversified its advertisements. In the beginning, it relied on grocery 
stores, liquor stores, boot and shoe makers, bars, and restaurants, most in 

city-dwellers." See E. Franklin Frazier, Black Bourgeoisie (New York, 957), 146. 

Tiles Show W.A. Scott as Friend of Churches," Atlanta World, February 1932, n.p. 
^ Myrdal, Dilemma, 915. 
^ Hornsby, "Georgia," 131. 
^ Ibid., 120; Wolseley, Black Press, 39. 
^ Hornsby, "Georgia," 120. 

168 American Journalism VI (1 989): 3 

the black community. Within two decades, the Tribune had expanded 
to advertise carpet and furniture stores, and black colleges and 
universities. It also accepted advertisements for miracle medicines such 
as '"cure-all pills,' which were guaranteed to cure opium and morphine 
habits in 10 to 20 days" or the reader paid nothing.^ Other ads typical 
of the black press publicized hair straighteners, skin color potions, 
magic symbols, and sex books.'*^ 

Scott's initial advertisers included a number of businesses in the 
black community - new accounts, in addition to many he had earlier 
persuaded to advertise in the directory of black businesses. His strategy 
included an appeal by the World to black residents to support black 
businesses. "Buy From World Advertisers," Scott's front-page ad de- 
clared. This, the ad explained, made each dollar do "double duty" - 
the purchaser would receive "standard merchandise" and by doing 
business in the black community "brings back money to Negro pockets."^ 
The World 's clients in the black community included its banker, the 
black-owned Citizens Trust Bank, which had most of the front of the 
building at 210 Auburn Avenue where the World set up shop in the rear. 
Others were Hollo way's jewelry store at 178 Auburn Avenue, the real- 
tors of Cunningham, Alexander and Callaway, a funeral home, and a 

To stimulate interest in advertising, Scott followed the lead of suc- 
cessful big-city newspapers in sponsoring community promotions and of- 
fering free design services to potential advertisers. A typical promotion 
was "Better Home Week," advertised with a front-page banner across 
eight columns, promising "free prizes by the World and local mer- 
chants."*^ Toward Christmas, in-house ads coaxed potential clients, 
telling them that the World advertising staff was "equipped to supply 
advertisers with sparkling new seasonal illustrations covering every 
line of business. Layout and copy suggestions, too, for the advertiser 
who wants distinctive displays.. ..No extra charge for this service."** 

Scott also sold ads to Atlanta's white merchants, who were al- 
ready profiting from black patronage. Here his strategy was to adver- 
tise the World as the only vehicle for reaching Atlanta's "90,000 Ne- 
groes."*^ Such language helped counter the belief generally held by 
white advertisers that advertising in black newspapers was a wasteful 
duplication because most blacks also read white publications.*^ These 



*^ Wolseley, Black Press, 39. 

*2 Adanta World, July 26, 1932, 1. 

*^Ibid., Dec. 1,1931,1. 

** Ibid., Dec. 11, 1931, 7. 

*5 Ibid., July 29, 1932, 7. 

Mary Alice Sentman and Patrick S. Washburn, "How [the] Excess Profits Tax Brought Ads to Black 
Newspaper[s] in World War II, Journalism Quarterly 64 (1987): 770. 

YJ.A. Scott and the Atlanta World 169 

white advertisers included the A&P supermarket. Rich's downtown 
department store, automobile dealerships, clothiers, and furniture 

In addition, the World soon gained a share of national advertising, 
partly because of the appeal of its syndicate. Its success in gaining na- 
tional revenues went counter to the trend for black newspapers in the 
1930s. Before the 1940s, researchers note, the black press as a whole 
had been unable to attract much national advertising.^^ Nonetheless, 
the national advertising agents, W.B. Ziff in Chicago and New York, 
achieved some success in obtaining national advertisements. As the 
World grew, it hired the Ziff firm as its agents.^* In his first years, 
Scott secured accounts with the Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Company, 
Sears, Kinney's shoes, Kraft Foods, and the Seaboard Railroad, as well 
as with national liquor distillers and cosmetics firms. Another steady 
account was Vaseline, then used for keeping hair in place and moisten- 
ing chapped lips. 

Such success had been a long time in the making. On August 3, 1928, 
when the first issue of the weekly Atlanta World came off the old in- 
surance company press, the paper consisted of four pages and cost five 
cents. The copy which Scott proudly carried to the insurance office of 
W.C. Kelly was well received by the black business community, which 
tended to be forgiving of the small initial circulation - not yet 2,000 - 
and the imperfect printing and edi ting .^^ "There it was all right," 
Kelly recalled the first issue of the weekly. "Some of the lines were 
upside down, but the Atlanta World had started. "^° 

Scott was succeeding with his strategy of basing the publishing 
venture on advertising revenue rather than on circulation, but the 
World was as yet only a limited and qualified success. Energetic and 
expansionist, Scott envisioned multiplying the newspaper's frequency, 
circulation, and appeal to the black middle class, thus increasing both 
the base charge for advertising and the number and quality of national 
advertisers. The expansion plans met resistance at the Citizens Trust 
Company, where Milton and Scott had become friends, but not the kind 
of friends, Milton later recalled, "who pat you on the back and tell you 
that you are the greatest man in the world. We seldom agreed on any- 
thing much of the time, but we did agree on principles."^^ 

*' Sentman and Washbum, "Excess Profits Tax," 773. Sentman and Washburn note that the World 
War II Excess Profits Tax and subsequent tax rulings permitting "generous" advertising deductions 
from the tax, encourage companies to spend "excess profits" on advertising in the black press rather 
than surrender the excess profits to the IRS. "Given this incentive," Sentman and Washbum observe, 
"the black press, formerly considered inconsequential or a duplication by many national advertisers, 
became an attractive supplementary advertising vehicle." 

^ Interview with W. A. Scott III, May 9, 1988. 

*^ Interview with W.A.Scott HI, April 27, 1988. 
Davis, "Snow and Rain," 6. 



170 American Journalism VI(1989): 3 

In less than five years, with continued financing laced with warn- 
ings from Milton at the Citizens Trust Company, Scott carried out the 
expansion completely. He might have acted even more swiftly but for 
the stock market crash in 1929 and the subsequent restraint in the busi- 
ness community. Still, by 1930, he had survived with a strong enough 
base to publish the World twice a week, which required more employ- 
ees. He then increased the base for national advertising by establishing 
two other semi-weeklies, the Birmingham World and the Memphis 

One of Scott's most ingenious schemes was the building of the 
syndicate of black-owned newspapers. Certain that national advertis- 
ers would respond favorably to a regional audience, Scott started work- 
ing on a plan to link black-owned newspapers across the South, a 
combination of weeklies and semi-weeklies. To this end he spent much 
of 1930 traveling and persuading local black businessmen and publishers 
to sign printing contracts with the World. He drove his car as far west 
as Arkansas and Texas, as far north as Virginia. His son William spec- 
ulates that in establishing the syndicate Scott was led on by the in- 
stinct of "dead reckoning" and "came up and matured at the time that 
Lindbergh flew to Paris. He didn't know he was dead on course, but he 
knew it was in that direction and he just focused on that direction. It's 
dead reckoning - it's inexplicable ability to go from one point to another 
without absolute mechanical capability to get to that point, other than 
you're just doing it."^^ 

On January 1, 1931, Scott launched his Southern Newspaper Syndi- 
cate. It was the first such independent group of publishers of black 
newspapers. Created as a cooperative venture to build Scott's advertis- 
ing base, the syndicate claimed a circulation - and coverage area - 
equivalent to the total of all syndicate members. Geographically, the 
coverage at first was limited to nine Southern states from North Car- 
olina to Arkansas.^^ But Scott, focused on potential as usual, believed 
that success would attract other publishers beyond the South. 

Under the printing agreements, Scott and the syndicate members 
benefitted mutually and separately. For some publishers, the syndicate 
offered the only means to sustain a weekly newspaper. Central to the 
syndicate was the agreement for sharing advertising revenue. The 
World would keep all income from national advertising contained in its 
national pages, which were inserted in all the local newspapers. The 
local newspapers would keep all revenue from local advertising, and 
revenue from local circulation sales. 

52 Interview, W.A. Scott III, April 27, 1988. 


W.A. Scott to Mrs. Ludle [sic] Scott, April 26, 193Z Scott Papers. The syndicate member states in 

April 1932 included North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, 

Tennessee, Arkansas, and Louisiana. 

VIA. Scott and the Atlanta World 1 71 

The syndicate enabled owners to publish a local weekly or semi- 
weekly paper by mailing local news and advertising to Atlanta on the 
trains, thus cutting enormously the cost of production. By agreement, the 
World did all the printing of member newspapers and shipped the pa- 
pers efficiently and inexpensively by scheduled trains.^^ The local 
newspapers all contained the national edition of the World, inserted. 
In Atlanta, the increasing printing business required the World to hire 
more employees and linotype machines and to operate around-the- 

Another cooperative aspect was the pooling of news stories among 
all the member papers. As Scott had envisioned, the success of the ven- 
ture brought in more members in other Southern states and some outside 
the South in Ohio, Iowa, and Oklahoma. In early 1933, he would 
change the name to the Scott Newspaper Syndicate, Inc. By November 
1933 there would be forty-nine members, including Scott's three World 

With the growth of the syndicate in 1931, Scott turned to his vision 
of a daily that would establish his credibility among newspaper pub- 
lishers. In April 1931, he took the next step and converted all three 
Worlds into three-times-a-week newspapers. That summer he im- 
proved the quality of the Atlanta paper by introducing the Gravure 
Weekly, which his stationery proclaimed as the "Only Negro Ro- 
togravure Sheet." After eleven months of stabilizing the production of 
the thrice-weekly World, Scott was ready to unveil his daily. He did 
that in two stages, ushering in the six-day daily on March 14, 1932, 
and, six weeks later, adding the Saturday paper. 

The front page of Scott's first daily issue was typical of his news 
coverage. All of the stories involved blacks, locally or nationally, and 
concerned politics, crime, criminal justice, and middle-class leaders 
prominent in religious, education, and social circles. On the newspaper's 
logo, between Atlanta and World, an eagle spread its wings behind the 
world's two hemispheres, beneath which was printed: "Dixie's Stan- 
dard Race Journal."^^ Later on, Scott would substitute for that regional 
promotion one with global pride: "Only Negro Daily Newspaper in the 
World" and replace the eagle with a black face. Although the news- 
paper's promotional headlines often referred to itself as the Daily 
World, the word Daily was not part of its logo until years later. 

In the first issue, the main political story reported that more than 
2,000 blacks had registered to vote in an election to recall the Atlanta 
mayor, James L. Key. "That most of the Race voters of Atlanta were 
backing Mayor Key in his fight to retain his office was disclosed Mon- 

Interview with C.A. Scott, editor and general manager, brother of W.A. Scott 11, Jan. 15, 1985; 
interviews with W.A. Scott HI, son of W.A. Scott II, Jan 15, 1985, and April 27, 1988. 
^ Atlanta World, March 14, 1932, 1. 

372 American Journalism VI (1989): 3 

day following a survey made by World reporters of registered voters."^^ 
The objectivity of the "survey" was questionable. Directly beneath 
that story, the World both instructed voters to register immediately 
and told them how to vote - "Vote 'Against' the recall of Mayor Key 
and not 'For'. Read ballot carefully before marking."^'' 

Stories about crime and criminal justice were routine in the World 
as in other newspapers, black or white. A sensational national crime 
story reporting that Negroes were no longer suspected in the kidnapping 
of Charles A. Lindbergh's infant son was advertised with a banner 
headline atop the newspaper's logo. That story out of New York City 
and attributed to Scott's S.N.S. (Southern Newspaper Syndicate) Press 
Service reflected the newspaper's proclaimed stance for racial justice: 

Clues involving Negroes in the now famous and baffling Lind- 
bergh kidnapping case have so far been found to be groundless. 

And yet these same clues have brought into suspicion nearly a 
dozen Negroes of Pennsylvania, New York and Missouri.^ 

One of the banner headlines noted an imminent criminal trial in which 
the state might ask for the death penalty for both a white and a black 

The front page also carried stories and obituaries about noted black 
citizens. At one of Nashville's black universities, Fisk, the 
administration had given an honorary doctor of music degree to the 
black tenor Roland Hayes. In Atlanta at the Bethel A.M.E. Church, 
next door to the World offices, nine Ancient, Free, and Accepted Masons 
orated for five minutes each in tribute to their late Grand Master, Dr. 
H.R. Butler Sr., who had died that week. Typical of most newspapers, 
the World balanced the front page with a "brite" under the headline, 
"Corpse Rises So Mourners Scram. "^ 

The editorial page reflected the newspaper's stance as a voice of 
protest for criminal justice and civil rights. In its editorials, the World 
resembled the typical black newspaper, which Myrdal classified as "a 
fighting press" which is "far more than a mere expression of the Negro 
protest. By expressing the protest, the press also magnifies it, acting 
like a huge sounding board. "^^ 

On March 14, 1932, the first daily editorial criticized the state and 

^^ '7,000 Register for Vote on Key; Sentiment Here Is Favorable to Mayor/' Atlanta World, March 
14, 193Z 1. 

^ "Voter's Instructions in Recall Election," Atlanta World, March 14, 1932, 1. 


° "Negro Ques Prove False in Lindy Case; Many Ques Involve Negroes; Radio Message Sent in 
Philly to Pick Up 3 and Baby," Atlanta World, March 14, 1932, 1. 



^^ Myrdal, Dilemma, 908, 911. 

W./4. Scott and the Atlanta World 1 73 

the region for "legal lynching" - for sentencing a disproportionate num- 
bers of blacks to the electric chair. The editors noted that unequal ad- 
ministration of justice could 

foster the cause of Communism....What people can respect a system 
of government which kills Negroes for stealing a half a dollar yet 
frees a white who has feloniously assaulted a black man helpless 
in jail? 

Not only do such atrocities in the name of law and order create a 
disrespect and foment bitterness among those who suffer, but they 
widen the breach between the races by impressing many whites 
with the cheapness of Negro life and indicate killings by individ- 
uals may be sanctioned if they are to take the state as a criterion. 

When the South realizes that legal lynchings cure no crime, a 
large percentage of the battle for interracial understanding will 
have been won.^^ 

Sometimes the World blended its fighting stance with its promo- 
tional instincts. Later in 1932, the editors launched a grassroots cam- 
paign to raise money for the Supreme Court defense of the nine black 
youths convicted in 1931 in the Scottsboro case. In an editorial headed 
"Nine Lives for Ten Cents," it noted with hyperbole. 

Just ten cents from every one of the 90,000 Negroes in Atlanta 
alone would bring in 9,000 [for] the defense fund. 

Are the lives of nine boys of our race - some of whom have rela- 
tives in Atlanta - worth a dime to you? 

If not, then you do not belong within the circle of freed men and 
are fit only for the segregation, discrimination and legal injustice 
heaped upon the race. And, in that case, the whites have every 
right to call the Negro a black beast from the jungle.^ 

Appeals for support were typical of the VJorld. In that first issue in 
March 1932, the second editorial, "Your World Now Daily," continued 
from page one, asked for community support for the newspaper itself. It 
made Scott's publication a point of pride for the black race and worthy 
of support. Praising Scott's achievement at "just 29," managing editor 
Frank Marshall Davis, noted. 

All he had was the will to succeed and a generous supply of com- 
mon sense. Today you see the result of this combination - the most 
stupendous journalistic achievement yet known to Negroes. From his 

^2 "Georgia's Rival," Atlanta World, March 14, 1932, 4. 
^ 'Nine Lives for Ten Cents," Atlanta WbrW, July 5, 1932, 6. 

174 American Journalism VI (1989): 3 

active brain emanated the ideas and ideals firmly embedded in the 
World today. He is a type of whom there are too few in the race, 
for on men like these who can build institutions does the economic 
welfare of the race rest.^* 

While protest was distinctly different in the black press, society 
news was much like that in white newspapers. Myrdal noted that 
black society pages are "certainly no more exaggerated than the gossip 
pages of the small-town American newspaper." Yet he noted a tendency 
for blacks to 

stress "society" because whites deny them social prestige. They 
have to create prestige and distinctions of prestige among them- 
selves, and there is an element of the caste protest in demonstrating 
that they have done it. But apart from this, Negroes, in their iso- 
lated and cramped world, enjoy reading among themselves in 
pleasant situations just like other small-town Americans.^ 

In the first daily issue of the World, society news started on page three 
and concluded on page eight. The notices reported recent meetings of 
such clubs as the Ladies Industrious Sewing Club, the Friendship Social 
Club, the Jolly 12 Social Club, the Silent 16 Club, and the Happy Syn- 
copators. The reporter for the Twentieth Century Social Club, Miss 
Pauline Grier, wrote about dinner, dancing, and card playing, attended 
by two visitors from the Nine Below Zero Club.^ 

The pattern of competition for the recognition and respect of the 
white business community was evident at the World. The newspaper 
met the requirements of the Audit Bureau of Circulation and was ad- 
mitted to membership in February 1934. It advertised the fact with a 
banner headline on the front page. In a story explaining that the ABC's 
circulation figures were the basis of advertising rates, the writer stated 
that, "All three white Atlanta dailies are members of the organiza- 
tion...." That story also noted that the daily World's circulation, then 
about 3,000, was "almost entirely carrier delivered to the homes of At- 
lanta's large colored population." Further, the paper noted that its 
circulation was "bona fide" because it "was obtained purely on the 
merit of the product," not by giveaways or special offers.^^ 

With the survival and apparent success of the World, Scott's pres- 
tige and potential rose. Along Auburn Avenue, there were few prece- 

^ Davis, "Your World," 8. 
^ Myrdal, Dilemma, 919. 

^ "Qubs," Atlanta World, March 14, 1932, 8. 


"Daily World Admitted to ABC Membership; 'World' Now Is A.B.C. Member; Another Step 
Forward Is Made By Daily World In New Affiliation; Circulation Bona Fide," Atlanta World, Feb. 8, 
1934, 1. 

W.A. Scott and the Atlanta World 1 75 

dents by which to compare his success, or his potential. The giant of 
Atlanta's black business community had been Alonzo Hemdon, who 
died in 1926 at the age of sixty-eight. Born a slave in rural Georgia, 
Herndon was only seven years old when the Civil War ended and he 
left home and trekked toward Atlanta. He learned the barbering trade, 
eventually opened an elite downtown barbershop catering to Atlanta's 
white middle class, and through investments in real estate and the At- 
lanta Life Insurance Company, which he founded, became the city's 
first black millionaire. Hemdon's legacy of accomplishment was a 
model that inspired young blacks such as Scott.^ Like Herndon, Scott 
was beginning to invest in real estate around Auburn Avenue, and near 
Jacksonville, Florida. Despite the Depression, everything seemed to be 
going his way. 

Then, one night in January 1934, Scott was ambushed and shot out- 
side his home. It was the most shocking story the World had carried. 
The newspaper building at 210 Auburn Avenue was always open. Scott's 
sister, Ruth, then sixteen and just starting work on the switchboard, re- 
members stunned readers coming to the office. "The next day," she re- 
called, "it was shocking."^^ For two weeks, the World devoted the ifront 
page to the shooting and the aftermath. It reported Scott's condition in 
the hospital, his death eight days after the shooting, and his funeral. 
It announced that Scott had chosen his brother Cornelius as general 
manager. It covered the police investigation. 

Scott had been able to help the police. When he was shot, he did 
not lose consciousness. As the World reported, he walked and crawled 
to a nearby home. After emergency surgery, doctors credited his sur- 
vival to extraordinary physical strength and stamina. He had been 
shot from behind, and one .45 caliber bullet had entered at the hip and 
exited near the navel, perforating his intestines.^° On the day that the 
World announced its membership in the Audit Bureau of Circulation, 
Scott died of peritonitis, which set in the third day after the shoot- 

On his deathbed, Scott reportedly named a suspect. His brother 
Cornelius said that Scott "wouldn't tell us until the end who he 
thought shot him." Finally, Scott told Cornelius that the assailant 
was probably George Maddox, the brother of the woman Scott had 

^ Leonard Ray Teel, "A Former Slave Who Made Millions," Georgia Trend, II (January 1987), 134- 

^ Interview, Ruth Scott Simmons, April 29, 1988. 


'" 'W.A. Scott Shot in Back; World Publisher Wounded By Unknown Man As He Leaves Garage 

Tuesday Night; Had Money In Valise," Atlanta World, Jan. 31, 1934. 

"^^ "W.A. Scott, Daily World Founder, Succumbs After Valiant Fight; Bullet Wound is Fatal to 
Youthful Publisher; Death Ends Brilliant Career; W.A. Scott, Founder of Atlanta Daily World and SNS, 
Succumbs," Atlanta World, Feb. 8, 1934, 1; Cliff McKay, "George Maddox Exonerated; Scott's Offer 
$200 Reward; Freed After Nine Hour Inquest; Verdict Reads W.A. Scott Met 'Death at Hands of Parties 
Unknown'; Inquest is Crowded," AtlanU WorW, Feb. 11, 1934, 1. 

176 American journalism VI (1989): 3 

married only three months earlier. The brother had been visiting from 
Chicago on the day of the shooting/^ 

The suspicion seemed plausible. The family of the bride, Agnes 
Maddox, was reportedly distraught that she had married a man who 
had been married three times before. There were rumors that Scott had 
not been divorced properly from his third wife. 

The confusion concerning his three previous marriages was clarified 
at the inquest. Scott's first wife, Lucile, the mother of his two sons, tes- 
tified that she and Scott had agreed upon a divorce in 1929, so he could 
wed a young South Carolina woman named Mildred Jones. The Scott- 
Jones marriage failed in two months. In 1931, Scott wed Ella Ramsey of 
Atlanta. Given Scott's stature in the community, his third marriage 
attracted more attention and gossip than he felt comfortable with. "So 
much interest has been directed to my recent marriage," he said in a 
letter to his first wife, who worked at the Birmingham World while 
their two sons lived in Atlanta.'^ Evidence at the murder inquest indi- 
cated that one reason Scott had married Miss Ramsey was to have 
someone care for his sons. She testified Scott arranged in a prenuptial 
agreement to pay her $17 a week to care for the boys. Their marriage 
lasted eighteen months, at which time he asked her to go to Reno to get 
a divorce, shortly before his fourth marriage.^^ 

Compared with his first three wives, Agnes Maddox was socially 
more established and educationally more his match. She was a college 
graduate and had been a college librarian.^^ Scott may have antici- 
pated further commotion about his fourth marriage because he wed 
Miss Maddox secretly on October 21, 1933, in Carters ville, northwest of 
Atlanta, and revealed the secret to his mother only a day before he and 
his bride left in December for a honeymoon in Cuba.''^ 

The murder inquest continued for nine hours, the longest in Atlanta 
in twenty years. Among the twenty witnesses, Scott's fourth wife spoke 
in defense of her father and brother. She said her father became recon- 
ciled to the marriage and welcomed them on their return from Cuba, 
after Scott had shown him all three divorce decrees. She said her 
brother congratulated her and Scott at breakfast on the morning before 
the shooting. Her father testified that he had settled his disagree- 
ment with Scott after seeing the divorce decrees. Three neighbors sup- 
ported the brother's contention that he was visiting in their home at 
10:30 p.m., the time Scott was shot.^ Maddox was exonerated, and the 

^ Interview with Comelitis A. Scott, April 28, 1988. 

^ W.A. Scott to Lucile [sic] Scott, April 26, 1932, in Scott Family Papers. 

"George Maddox Exonerated," 5. 
^ Ibid., 1,5. 
^^ Ibid., 5. 

YiA. Scott and the Atlanta World 177 

Scott family offered a $200 reward for information about the killer. 

Scott's death was an occasion of general mourning. Expressions of 
sympathy came from across the nation, particularly from the South. 
Clearly, Scott had had a strong influence on colleagues, associates, and 
the body of World readers. Many wrote testaments to his greatness as 
an innovator and an inspiring leader. An Atlanta pastor, the Rev. J.A. 
Martin, wrote, "Beginning without any money or capital of any kind, 
Mr. Scott did what all of our young Negroes must do in other ways - 
create places for self and others to stand and work. He set the example 
for a needy people."''^ 

The funeral was held on Sunday, February 11, the day after a 
snowstorm that stopped the streetcars. Hundreds were stopped at the 
door of Wheat Street Baptist Church because the Church soon filled 
with 2,000 mourners.^ 

Those who came to the pulpit to share their remembrances sounded 
one theme: Scott had become one of the greatest leaders of his genera- 
tion. His banker, L.D. Milton, praised his contribution to the black 
business community. Putting Scott's career in the perspective of the 
black man's struggle in segregated society, Milton said. 

It was difficult for W.A. Scott to live. It is difficult for any young 
Negro to live in this day and age. The young Negro is fighting in 
the dark all of the time. The people of his own age do not believe in 
him. The white man has been saying so long that it couldn't be done 
that he doesn't believe it, while the Negro has been told so long 
that it couldn't be done until he believes it. To break down the bar- 
riers is the problem of every young Negro.^ 

At the World, the staff, which had grown to fifty full-time em- 
ployees, did not miss an issue during the crisis. Cornelius Scott had 
proved himself a capable manager during the absences of his brother, 
who in 1933 had become involved with the Scott Newspaper Syndi- 
cate, with real estate transactions, and with his fourth marriage. In a 
front-page editorial, the World announced that the change in leader- 
ship would result in no change in policy, that it was pledged to the 
"same ideals which have carried the only Negro daily and Sunday 
newspaper in the world to success.. .catering to the interests of the entire 
racial group. "^^ 

The World survives today, well past its heyday of the 1930s and 
1940s. Its persistence, even as a four-days-a-week paper, is remarkable. 

^ J.A. Martin, Tounder Praised by Rev. Martin," Atlanta World, Feb. 10, 1934, 1. 

Davis, "Snow and Rain," 1. 

80 Ibid. 

8^ "EditoriaL No Change in Policy," Atlanta World, Feb. 11, 1934, 1. 

178 American ]ourmlism VI (1989): 3 

considering the odds it overcame. Of the hundreds of black newspapers 
begun during the era 1917-1934, only thirty-three survived into the 
mid-1 960s.®^ The World stands today as a monument to W.A. Scott II 
and to his family.*^ 

During the generation of its flourishing, when it could rely on the 
railroads for cheap and efficient movement of bundles of newspapers, 
the World was more than a successful commercial endeavor. As the only 
black-owned daily newspaper in the United States for more than a 
generation, it was a beacon to young black journalists. During the 1930s 
in particular, the World offered black journalists a special opportunity 
to edit and write for a daily newspaper managed and controlled by 
blacks. Beyond that, there was the thrill of knowing that the World 
cast its influence beyond the city - a lighthouse beaming to its own syn- 
dicate of 50 black-owned newspapers throughout the syndicate, circu- 
lating its national edition west to Iowa and north to Ohio.®* 

^ Theodore G. Vincent, ed., Voices of a Black Nation: Political Journalism in the Harlem 
Renaissance (San Francisco: Ramparts Press Inc., 1973), 28. 


Cornelius Scott, eighty-one, is still the publisher, assisted by, among others, his daughter, Portia 

Scott; his sister, Ruth Scott Simmons; and his nephew, W.A. Scott, III, the surviving son of founder W.A. 


In the years from 1932-1956, the World newsroom employed a succession of talented college 

graduates who went on to prominent lifelong careers in the black press, including Frank Marshall 

Davis, Ric Roberts, Robert M. Ratcliff, Robert E. Johnson, and Lerone Bennett. 

Historiographical Essay 

The Civil War Press: Promoter of 
Unity or Neutral Reporter? 

By Thomas Andrew Hughes 

The Civil War is one of the most studied periods of American his- 
tory, and understandably so. It was fought entirely in American terri- 
tory, more Americans died in that war than in any other, and it was the 
only American war in which other Americans were the enemy. For 
these and other reasons, American historians continue to be especially 
fascinated by the Civil War. 

This fascination is shared by a number of historians who have 
dealt with the role of journalism during the war. Most of their studies 
have focused on one or both of two major issues: military censorship of 
newspapers and press performance during the war. The way historians 
deal with these issues is usually dependent on what they consider to be 
the proper function of the press during wartime in general and during 
the Civil War in particular. Should the press direct its efforts toward 
unifying its readers in support of the war effort? Or should the press 
simply report on the war as a detached non-participant, striving al- 
ways to tell the truth, without considering whether news reports re- 
veal military secrets to the enemy? Generally, historians who believed 
the primary duty of the press was to support the war effort accepted 
censorship as necessary for military security, while those who believed 
the press should remain neutral condemned censorship as a repressive 
and unwarranted violation of the First Amendment. 

Most historical treatments of the Civil War press can be divided 
into five schools of interpretation: the Contemporary school, the De- 
velopmental school, the Consensus school, the Southern Nationalist 
school, and the New Left or Radical school. The Contemporary school 
spanned from soon after the war ended until around 1913. Most Contem- 
porary works were written by Northern reporters who had travelled 
with the Union army and wrote newspaper accounts of battles. Their 
works usually sought to justify their own actions and the actions of the 

250 American Journalism VI (1989): 3 

North in general while placing the blame for causing the war on the 
South. Most Union generals, then, were depicted favorably. However, 
generals who attempted to ban reporters from their camps or to control 
what they could and could not write, especially William T. Sherman, 
were singled out for special derision. Contemporary writers were usu- 
ally proud of their own exploits and those of their colleagues, and most 
believed the Northern press performed admirably during the war. 

A second group of historians, comprised of newspapermen who be- 
gan their journalistic careers after the war had ended, began publishing 
evaluations of the Civil War press around 1914. Developmental writers 
were primarily interested in how the war led to modern journalistic 
practices and how well the Northern press performed as a profession 
during the war. When writing about censorship, they viewed it as part 
of a conspiracy to elin\inate or at least weaken reporters' First Amend- 
ment rights. It did not and could not, however, prevent the Con- 
federates from discovering Union army secrets, nor would stricter 
censorship have shortened the war. Therefore, censorship should not 
have been practiced because of its ineffectiveness and because it led to 
peacetime repression of press freedom. When evaluating the perfor- 
mance of the Northern press, some Developmental historians were 
critical of reporters' partisan attitudes during the war, but most be- 
lieved that they had performed well under difficult conditions. 

The Southern Nationalist and Consensus schools both began to 
emerge during the 1930s. The Consensus school is best understood as a 
reaction to the Progressive interpretation of American history, al- 
though Progressive historians have devoted little attention to the 
Civil War press. The Progressive school arose in the early 1900s as a 
part of the Progressive reform movement. Progressive historians were 
primarily concerned with explaining the causes and negative results of 
the war. The war was actually a class conflict between Northern labor 
and Southern aristocracy. Progressive writers believed, which led to 
America's industrialization and dehumanizing domination by abusive 

In reaction to the Progressive school. Consensus historians refuted 
the idea of the Civil War as a class conflict and ignored negative ef- 
fects of the industrialization the war made possible. Rather, they em- 
phasized that the war's outcome led to both the modernization of 
America and to a sense of national unity. Though they believed neither 
the North nor the South was solely to blame for causing the war. Con- 
sensus writers usually dealt only with the Northern press because mod- 
ern American journalism nationwide was patterned after it. They ar- 
gued that most Northern newspapers accepted the need for military 
security and conscientiously tried to determine what information they 
should not have published. Newspajjers which printed sensitive mili- 
tary information, however, seriously damaged the national cause. Fur- 

The CivU War Press 181 

thermore, newspaper criticism of the army and of the Lincoln adminis- 
tration embarrassed some generals into attacking before they had 
originally intended and undermined public confidence in the man- 
agement of the war. Thus Consensus historians usually concluded that 
governmental or military control of the press would have shortened the 
Civil War, and that in future wars the United States should institute 
an effective system of press censorship. 

As the Progressive school began to be challenged by the Consensus 
school during the 1930s, a number of Southern historians began reacting 
defensively to the negative portrayals of the South's role in the war 
which had dominated the writing of American history. They tried to 
shift blame for causing the war to the North while proclaiming the 
South's innocence. When writing about the Civil War press. Southern 
Nationalist historians attacked the reputations of prominent Northern 
journalists who had been depicted favorably by most other American 
historians. They also praised the unity of the Southern press, as evi- 
dent by its voluntary suppression of sensitive material, as a sign of the 
South's moral superiority. 

The most recent school to deal with Civil War journalism grew from 
a group of historians in Europe and America who began attacking the 
established order and its views on the past, including Progressive and 
Consensus history, during the 1960s. New Left or Radical historians, as 
they came to be called, criticized Progressive historians for failing to 
actively work for the ideals they advocated. The New Left was even 
more critical of Consensus history, which they believed was written on 
behalf of existing power structures and perpetuated the myths which 
they believed needed to be destroyed in the interest of perfect justice. 
While the New Left historians borrowed heavily from Marxist 
historical theory, they rejected the strict economic determinism of 
Marxist history in order to celebrate the virtues of individualism. 

New Left historians viewed the Civil War as a failure to create 
the new society which they believed should have resulted from the 
war. When writing about the role of the press during the war. New Left 
historians, although small in number, were militantly critical of the 
the tendency of war reporting on both sides to be biased and inaccurate. 
They were equally critical of censorship during the war, and believed 
that more often than not censorship was used to prevent the expression 
of unpopular opinions rather than to prevent the disclosure of military 

The Contemporary School 

Most of the works on Civil War journalism written during the first 
four decades after the war were by Northern reporters who had served 
as correspondents during the war. Their books were usually personal 

182 American journalism VI (1989): 3 

reminiscences which attempted to justify their own actions, the actions 
of the Northern press in its conflicts with the Union army, and the 
Northern cause in general. They viewed the war as being caused by a 
Southern conspiracy to further the spread of slavery no matter what 
the consequences to the nation. The North, on the other hand, was sim- 
ply defending itself and the Constitution against unprovoked aggres- 

Union troops, then, were usually portrayed as courageous and to- 
tally devoted to the war effort, even after such terrible defeats as they 
suffered in the battle of Fredericksburg. Most Union generals were de- 
picted as noble, statesman-like heroes leading the fight for truth and 
liberty. This did not hold true for General William T. Sherman, how- 
ever, who fought vigorously against the press throughout the war. He 
frequently banned reporters from his camps, and even tried to have one 
reporter executed after first having him court-martialled. It is not sur- 
prising, then, that most reporters believed for the duration of the war 
an early newspaper account that stated Sherman was insane. 

The efforts of Sherman and other Union generals to control the press 
aroused harsh criticism from most Contemporary historians. They be- 
lieved that the military had no right to prohibit reporters from 
travelling with the army or to censor their dispatches. Such efforts 
were not intended to prevent the publication of military secrets, as the 
generals claimed, but were really meant to spare generals the embar- 
rassment of legitimate criticism before the public. While admitting 
that some reporters had indeed acted with gross irresponsibility. Con- 
temporary writers maintained that the entire profession had been un- 
fairly judged on the basis of only a few transgressions. Most reporters, 
they argued, were conscientious men who had served both their profes- 
sion and their country well under extremely trying conditions. 

The first book to comment on Civil War journalism was Albert D. 
Richardson's The Secret Service: The Field, The Dungeon, and the Es- 
cape (1865), which was sent to press during the last few months of the 
war. Richardson's views were no doubt shaped by the fact that he was 
held for nearly two years before escaping from the Confederate prison 
camp at Salisbury, North Carolina, struggling 300 miles through snow- 
bound mountains to Union-held Knoxville, Tennessee. Setting the tone 
for later books by other Northern correspondents, he praised the North 
while harshly criticizing the South. Some of his criticisms were noth- 
ing more than general insults directed at Southern women, with sub- 
sections of the book titled "Challenge from a Southern Woman," "Rebel 
Girl with Sharp Tongue," and the "Bloodthirstiness of Rebel Women." 

Yet his devotion to the Northern cause was exceeded by his belief 
that the Union army had no right to exclude reporters from the army. 
When General Halleck did just that, Richardson decried the action as 
a shallow subterfuge to hide the general's fear of having his conduct 

The CivU War Press 183 

described to the country in anything other than official reports. He be- 
lieved the general's action represented "a grave issue between the 
Military Power and the rights of the Press and the People."^ 

Noting that many Union generals and some of the general public 
held war correspondents in low esteem, Richardson argued that they 
were being judged unfairly because of the irresponsible actions of just a 
few reporters. According to him, two accounts of the battle of Pea Ridge, 
Arkansas, (one of which was praised by the London Times as the best 
battle account written during the war) by reporters who had not ac- 
tually witnessed the battle were written "as a Bohemian freak," and 
were the only accounts fabricated by reputable journalists during the 
war. To prevent further such transgressions, he wrote, there should be a 
law authorizing reporters to accompany troops in the field which 
would hold them responsible for not publishing anything which could 
aid the enemy. 

Richardson also foreshadowed later works by other correspondents 
with his evaluation of General Ambrose Burnside's role in the Union 
defeat at Fredericksburg. Although Richardson was not present at the 
battle, he spoke at length with Burnside a few days afterward. He was 
impressed with how the general accepted full responsibility for the 
loss of more than ten thousand men. Burnside was, he wrote, "great in 
his earnestness, his moral courage, and perfect integrity."^ When or- 
dered, the general flung his army upon the Rebels, and the result was 
defeat. Yet according to Richardson, that policy was the Union army's 
salvation. Though every soldier knew the battle was a bloody mistake, 
their spirit was not broken and they would have gone cheerfully into 
battle again the following week. Most other Contemporary accounts of 
the battle followed Richardson's example. 

A much more critical evaluation of war correspondence, however, 
appeared only a few months later. In a series of three articles pub- 
lished in The Nation, beginning on July 20, 1865, former war correspon- 
dent Henry Villard traced the qualitative rise and fall of army 
reporting during the course of the war. Born in Germany as Ferdinand 
Heinrich Gustav Hilgard and educated at the University of Munich 
and the University of Wiirzburg before coming to America, he edited a 
German-language newspaper in Wisconsin while teaching himself how 
to write in English. After Americanizing his name, Villard became one 
of the most respected correspondents during the war, writing for both 
the New York Herald and the New York Tribune. 
Villard argued that the quality of corresjxjndence declined as the war 
progressed. He noted, for example, that some of the first accounts of the 

Albert D. Richardson, Secret Service; the Field, the Dungeon and the Escape (Hartford, Conn. 
American, 1865), 258. 
2/Wd., 306. 

184 American Journalism VI (1989): 3 

Bull Run campaign were quite good, and reports by the better correspon- 
dents steadily improved through 1862 and 1863. However, even then 
certain shortcomings were apparent that grew more glaring over the 
course of the war - incompleteness of information, inaccuracy of state- 
ment, and a resort to fiction to make stories more interesting. By the end 
of 1863, the decline was well under way. "From that time to the fall of 
the curtain in the grand national drama," Villard wrote, "a gradual 
depreciation in the value of army correspondence must have been no- 
ticed by every habitual reader of the daily papers."^ This deprecia- 
tion was caused by the succession of incompetent reporters into positions 
vacated by capable correspondents who were no longer able to with- 
stand the extremely harsh rigors of the profession. Villard concluded 
that, overall, army correspondence had contributed a positive gain to 
journalism, as evidenced by the several former army correspondents 
who went on to hold important editorial positions at most of the lead- 
ing newspapers in the country. 

More representative of the Contemporary school were Villard's 
memoirs, published in 1904. This two-volume work takes a realistic 
look at Civil War journalism, although Villard painted his own per- 
formance and the righteousness of the North's cause in an unquestion- 
ingly favorable light. Perhaps the most interesting feature of the 
memoirs is Villard's descriptions of his dealings with major journalistic 
figures of the day. He wrote disdainfully of New York Herald editor 
James Gordon Bennett's "shameful record as a journalist," and of the 
"sneaking sympathy of his paper for the Rebellion, and its vile abuse 
of the Republicans for their antislavery sentiments."* In another dra- 
matic episode he explained how in the battle of Fredericksburg, in or- 
der to prevent his Boston Journal colleague Charles Carleton Coffin 
from beating him to press with a battle account, he defied an interdict 
from General Burnside prohibiting reporters from travelling north 
without a special permit from his headquarters. In light of Burnside's 
attempt to control the press, it is hardly surprising that Villard 
blamed him for the Union army's defeat at Fredericksburg. 

Coffin wrote his own account of Civil War correspondence, entitled 
Four Years of Fighting (1866). His treatment of the war was not nearly 
as detached as Villard's, nor was he as concerned with the performance 
of journalism as a profession. Instead, his book was a record of personal 
observations primarily concerned with justifying the actions and cause 
of the North. He interpreted the war as a mighty contest in which 
right triumphed over wrong, which resulted in the human race moving 
on to a higher civilization. He also condemned the South in no uncer- 

^enry Villard, "Anny Correspondence: Its History," The Nation, l(July 27, 1865), 115. 
^Henry Villard, Memoirs of Henry Villard: Journalist and Financier, 1835-1900, Vol. 1 (Boston: 
Houghton-Mifflin, 1904), 161. 

The CivU War Press 185 

tain terms, writing that "the Rebellion was an attempt to suppress 
Truth and Justice by tyranny."^ 

Understandably, then, his interpretation of the battle at Freder- 
icksburg was quite different from Villard's. What Villard viewed as 
an "appalling disaster" Coffin saw as only "disheartening to the 
army." The Union army lost the battle only because some of the officers 
failed to support Burnside's plans wholeheartedly. Coffin wrote. 
Though repulsed, the soldiers felt they were not beaten and had no 
thought of giving up the fight. Coffin did not mention his being 
"scooped" by Villard, either. 

One contemporary evaluation of Civil War journalism stands out 
because its author served both as managing editor of one of the most 
important newspapers of the time and then as Assistant Secretary of 
War in the Union government. Charles A. Dana had worked closely 
with Horace Greeley at the New York Tribune for fifteen years before 
Greeley asked him to resign in April 1862 because Greeley favored 
greater efforts to achieve peace while Dana supported a continuation of 
the war until the South's rebellion had been completely squelched. 
Lincoln's Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton offered Dana a job in the 
war department soon after, and promoted him to Assistant Secretary in 
1863. Dana was present at what has become an often cited example of 
tense relations between the Northern press and the Union army, when 
General Meade paraded a correspondent wearing a sign reading 
"Libeller of the Press" before the troops and expelled him from camp 
because he had published a report that Meade advocated retreat after 
the Battle of the Wilderness. 

Directly contradicting negative evaluations of army correspondence 
by Villard and later historians, Dana wrote in Recollections of the 
Civil War (1898) that the above example of tense army-press relations 
was an exception rather than the rule. He argued it was not often that 
correspondents got into trouble with the army, because as a rule they 
were discreet. Yet this observation seems inconsistent with Dana's ac- 
counts of General Sherman's attitudes towards reporters. After notify- 
ing the general of an accurate report of his upcoming movements pub- 
lished in the Indianapolis Journal, Dana wrote, Sherman responded 
with two "characteristic" dispatches. The first read, "Dispatch of 9th 
read. Can't you send to Indianapolis and catch that fool and have him 
sent to me to work on the forts?"^ In the second, Sherman ordered that 
when newspapers publish information "too near the truth," Dana 
should attempt to counteract its effect by publishing contradictory re- 
ports of the same information calculated to mislead the Confederates. 

Charles Carleton Coffin, Four Years of Fighting: A Volume of Personal Observation with the Army 
and Namf (Boston: Ticknor & Fields, 1866; reprint, Amo Press, 1970), 557. 

^Charles A. Dana, Recollections of the Ciml War (New York: Appleton, 1898), 216-217. 

186 American Jourtudism VI (1989): 3 

In accordance with Shernnan's first request, Dana ordered a Union gen- 
eral in Indianapolis to determine who alerted the Journal to Sherman's 
movements and to arrest him. However, the person or persons responsi- 
ble were never found. 

The Developmental School 

By the second decade of the twentieth century, some historians who 
had not worked as war correspondents began to provide more detached 
evaluations of press performance during the Civil War. A number of 
professional journalists who were also amateur historians tried to ex- 
plain how the war had led to a revolution in journalism in the North, 
which established the modern standards of professional journalistic 
practice to which they had been indoctrinated. The war marked the 
end of editorially-based journalism, they believed, and established 
unbiased news accounts as the primary function of newspapers. Even 
more important, it established the right to report as an essential ele- 
ment of the democratic process. 

Developmental historians were also especially interested in how 
well the Northern press performed when evaluated against modern 
standards of journalism. Some believed that, even allowing for the 
problems of military censorship and dangerous battle conditions which 
war correspondents faced, most war reporting was of poor quality. Oth- 
ers believed that, on the contrary, most reporters performed sur- 
prisingly well despite these obstacles. Most agreed, however, that the 
quality of reporting did improve during the war. 

Naturally, then. Developmental historians viewed military cen- 
sorship as a threat to proper press performance. Some argued that cen- 
sorship was simply unacceptable in a democracy, as the national cause 
was best served by a public well informed with truthful and accurate 
accounts. Others criticized censorship on more practical grounds, writ- 
ing that attempts at censorship were futile as reporters always found 
ways around them. In fact, they argued, censorship actually damaged 
the war effort by confusing the Northern population while failing to 
prevent the Confederate army from learning Union military secrets. 
Furthermore, most concluded, none of the available evidence indicates 
that stricter censorship would have shortened the war. 

One of the first Developmental interpretations of Civil War jour- 
nalism was Frederick L. Bullard's Famous War Correspondents (1914), a 
collection of biographical sketches of representative war reporters from 
1790 until the Spanish- American War in the late 1890s. Bullard be- 
lieved that the most important duty of the press during wartime was to 
tell the truth. Publicity does the most to promote peace, he wrote, and 
military censorship is detrimental to humanity. Furthermore, attempts 

The CivU. YJar Press 187 

at censorship were ineffective because in time competent reporters al- 
ways discover ways to tell what they saw. 

The War of Secession, as Bullard called it, was extremely impor- 
tant in the development of war correspondence. No system of covering a 
war of such geographic magnitude existed at the war's beginning, but 
papers began organizing for the collection of war news upon an extensive 
scale "the instant the conflict began." Each important city had at least 
one newspaper with a correspondent in the field, and some journals in 
larger cities supported several war reporters. Yet these efforts were 
small compared to those of the three large New York dailies - the 
Herald, the Tribune, and the Times. These papers, led by Bennett's 
Herald, spent prodigious sums of money to establish and support their 
war departments. 

Bullard, like Villard, observed that few correspondents could long 
endure the rigors of war reporting. Yet he was much more favorable to 
the profession overall. While admitting that some reporters were irre- 
sponsible adventurers prone to fabrication, he maintained that "far the 
greater number were as loyal and serious in their work as were the sol- 
diers who fought the battles the reporters described."^ 

Arriving at a similar conclusion was Havilah Babcock's "The Press 
and the Civil War" (1929). Since no previous war of any magnitude had 
been covered as thoroughly, Babcock wrote, the Civil War contributed 
notably to the development of military correspondence. It also marked 
the end of "scurrilously personal journalism" as the newspaper institu- 
tion became more important than individual editors. Newspapers be- 
came accustomed to spending huge sums of money to gather and present 
the news first, setting the precedent of breaking stories as soon after 
they occur as possible. In addition, the demand for a continuous chroni- 
cle of the war established the Sunday paper as a regular feature of the 
more important metropolitan dailies. 

Babcock evaluated the effect of the war on journalistic devel- 
opment in both North and South. The war was unquestionably better 
reported in the North, but Southern papers were much more effective in 
keeping military secrets out of the news and thus did a better job of 
promoting the interests of their section. While the war stimulated 
journalistic development in the North, it stifled development in the 
South through the scarcity of materials and labor and through the con- 
stant danger of suspension or control by the Union army as it conquered 
Southern cities. "The effect of the Civil War upon the journalistic de- 
velopment of the South," he wrote, "unlike its effect upon that of the 
North, was almost uniformly discouraging."® 

Frederick L. Bullard, Famous War Correspondents (New York: Beekman Publishers, 1974 reprint 
from the 1914 edition), 379. 

havilah Babcock, "The Press and the Civil War," Journalism Quarterly 6 (1929): 5. 

188 American Journalism VI (1989): 3 

One of the most influential Developmental interpretations of Civil 
War journalism is found in Frank Luther Mott's classic textbook Ameri- 
can Journalism, the first edition of which was published in 1941. This 
work served as the starting point for most historical study on the 
American press undertaken during the following forty years. Mott 
viewed the past as the story of how journalism reached its modern state 
and thus was primarily concerned with documenting the progress of 
journalism and its practices. This assumption is evident in the book's 
chapters on Civil War journalism. No war before or since was as thor- 
oughly covered by eyewitness correspondents, Mott wrote. Yet news was 
sometimes late because telegraph facilities were not always available, 
forcing reporters to travel great distances through enemy territory on 
horseback or even on foot to get their stories to press. Although 
newswriting was more direct than it had been immediately preceding 
the war, he wrote, modem news-story form had not yet been developed. 
Mott also criticized military censorship, arguing that it led some 
correspondents to curry favor from the generals they covered. Such re- 
porters "thus became press agents for their generals and built up popu- 
lar and even political reputations. Such promotion encouraged jealous 
rivalries and improper ambitions."^ 

Louis M. Starr argued similarly in Bohemian Brigade: Civil War 
Newsmen in Action (1954) that much Northern reporting was hack- 
neyed and deficient, whether judged by modern standards or according 
to the prevailing view of the time. He explained that this was the re- 
sult of the news revolution bursting upon journalism before conceptions of 
accuracy and objectivity were completely formulated and because the 
work paid too poorly to attract many able men. Unlike Villard, how- 
ever, Starr believed the quality of reporting improved during the course 
of the war. What was most important to Starr, though, was that re- 
porters contributed to the development of journalism by satisfying the 
public's desire for news. This they accomplished by reporting the war 
so incessantly that it became an inescapable reality, thus helping news 
gain preeminence over editorials, and by establishing the right to re- 
port as essential to democracy. This right had to be fought for, as the 
First Amendment guaranteed only the right to print, not the right to 
report. "Against natural obstacles," Starr wrote, "against one another, 
against the many-sided obduracy of public officials, they have gradu- 
ally established a quasi-legal right which is indispensable to a people 
who must be informed in order to govern themselves."^° 

The most ambitious and thoroughly documented Developmental 
interpretation was The North Reports the Civil War by J. Cutler An- 

%rank Luther Mott, American Journalism, A History: 1690-1960 (New York: Macmillan, 1%2), 338. 
^^Louis M. Starr, Bohemian Brigfide: Civil War Newsmen in Action (New York: Knopf, 1954), 40. 

The Civil War Press 189 

drews (1955). He agreed with Mott that no other great war had been as 
thoroughly covered by eyewitness reporters. Although much of their 
reporting was full of errors, he wrote, most of the inaccuracies were not 
intentional but resulted from the haste and confusion involved in news- 
gathering after a battle. Even the intentionally dishonest practices of 
some reporters were more the fault of their managing editors' low ethi- 
cal standards than of the reporters themselves. Such editors were more 
likely to censure a reporter for being "scooped" by one of his colleagues 
than for including material of questionable truth in his accounts. 

Andrews was more critical of the publication of sensitive military 
intelligence than were most other Developmental historians, writing 
that "the leakage of such information through the press was well-nigh 
scandalous."" This does not mean, however, that he necessarily be- 
lieved there should have been greater control of the Northern press 
during the war. Censorship was at times overly severe, he wrote, as 
those who administered it often interdicted wholesome criticism of the 
general execution of the war effort. However, censorship was most often 
utterly ineffectual, managing at best only to delay rather than to pro- 
hibit the public from learning of Union army defeats. Andrews con- 
cluded that although the profession was tarnished by irresponsible 
editors and overzealous reporters, though it faced erratic censorship 
and temperamental generals, the Northern press performed well during 
the war. 

He followed this work with the most extensively researched 
treatment of the Southern press. The South Rqjorts the Civil War 
(1970). The war brought about many of the same changes in Confederate 
newspaper practice, Andrews wrote, that had occurred in the North. 
Among these was an increasing emphasis on news over editorial opinion 
and the use of special correspondents. However, wartime scarcities of 
materials and the loss of a large number of employees drafted into 
military service greatly limited the effectiveness of the Southern 
press. Yet in spite of these difficulties, the war stimulated greater 
public interest in news in the South than had ever been known before. 

This greater interest in news did not necessarily lead to good i/^ 
reporting, however. Confederate battle accounts at their worst were 
extremely partisan, used an inflated style of writing, and downplayed 
Southern defeats while greatly exaggerating victories. On the other 
hand, Andrews wrote. Confederate war reporting at its best was 
comparable to the best work by Northern correspondents. The better 
Southern reporters were acceptably accurate, grasped the larger sig- 
nificance of the events that they observed, and were willing to rec- 
ognize and admit defeat at times. He concluded that the Southern press 

J. Cutler Andrews, The North Reports the Civil War O'ittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 


390 American Joumalism VI (1989): 3 

did its best to provide full coverage of the military and political events 
of the war, and performed remarkably well considering the great 
difficulties it faced. 

Though he was critical of censorship in general, Andrews was less 
critical of voluntary censorship in the Confederate press than were 
other Developmental historians. Such restraint did impose a severe 
strain on the spirit of news enterprise, he wrote, but it was the in- 
evitable consequence of an environment in which true freedom of the 
press had never been possible. Andrews also pointed out what many 
other historians had either ignored or failed to recognize: that the 
Southern press generally opposed attempts to broaden official powers 
of censorship. Furthermore, at least one paper, the Knoxville Whig, 
was shut down six months after the war began by Confederate authori- 
ties, who destroyed its press and types. Some other anti-secessionist 
papers in the South, Andrews wrote, might also have been suppressed 
had not public pressure forced them to change their editorial policies, 
had not changes in management been brought about, or had not lack of 
support forced them out of business soon after the war began. 

Joseph J. Mathews was more critical of the partisan nature of Civil 
War journalism. He wrote in Rqjorting the Wars (1957) that as the war 
progressed, the distinction between war news and general news became 
meaningless. Political biases permeated every consideration; editors 
gave favorable coverage to pet generals and their strategies while 
blasting uncooperative military leaders, and some generals were par- 
tial to particular journalists. This resulted in numerous instances of rep- 
rehensible conduct by correspondents, who "reflected the prevailing 
low code of journalistic ethics. "^^ Yet this was not entirely their fault, 
as reporters' accounts were usually governed by the biases of their em- 

The enduring concern over censorship was the focus for one of the 
best researched and well-written of recent Developmental inter- 
pretations, John F. Marszalek's Sherman's Other War: The General and 
the Civil War Press (1981). Marszalek contended that the fundamental 
question of the press during war is still what it was during the Civil 
War: whether or not the government should impose restrictions upon 
the press, and if so, to what extent. Because this issue has not been con- 
clusively resolved by the Supreme Court or by the U.S. Congress, he 
wrote, powerful generals such as Sherman can and have imposed their 
own controls on the press as they saw fit. Therefore, "this nation of 

^Joseph J. Mathews, Reporting the Wars (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1957), 84. 

The Civil War Press 191 

laws still depends on the whims of man in the crucial area of First 
Amendment rights in war."^^ 

Marszalek explained the battles between Sherman and the press as 
personal conflicts rather than as a constitutional debate. Thus they 
were indicative of the historical tendency of press control in wartime to 
be an ad hoc rather than a constitutional reaction to immediate circum- 

Sherman's fears were misguided, Marszalek wrote, because what- 
ever Union military intelligence reached the Confederates in Northern 
newspapers was usually so buried under details that it was hard to find 
and, therefore, of only limited value. Furthermore, stricter censorship 
would only have silenced essential criticism but would not have mea- 
surably shortened the war. "Sherman's battles with reporters," he 
wrote, "shows that grave danger exists to freedom of the press any time 
such a powerful public figure is able to put his anti-press ideas into 
practice."^* He concluded, therefore, that these battles were obvious 
manifestations of a recurring movement toward repression in past wars 
and a warning of what will probably happen in future conflicts. 

The Southern Nationalist School 

By the 1930s, some Southern historians had become defensive in re- 
action to the vast body of Civil War literature which was critical of 
the South, and began to re-evaluate relations between North and South 
before and during the war in order to vindicate their section. The result 
was a loosely defined and generally romantic movement which at- 
tempted to portray the agrarian Southern way of life as superior to the 
urbanized and industrialized lifestyle of the North. When writing 
about the war. Southern Nationalist historians usually exonerated the 
South while blaming the North for causing the war. They charged that 
the North considered itself the nation and destroyed the sectional bal- 
ance of power by insisting on its own dominance. The cause of the war 
was not slavery, they argued, but the North's intent to destroy the su- 
perior Southern way of life. 

When writing about Civil War journalism. Southern Nationalist 
historians accused prominent Northern editors of fanning the flames of 
aggressive hatred in the North against the South. Therefore, they at- 
tempted to refute prevailing views about the role of the Northern press 
in the war because they believed these views were accepted uncriti- 
cally from self-serving accounts written by Northern journalists. They 
also ridiculed newspapers edited by occupjang Union troops in defeated 
Southern towns. 

John F. Marszalek, Sherman's Other War: The General and the Civil War Press (Memphis: 
Memphis State University Press, 1981), 17. 
'^*Ibid, 212. 

392 American Journalism VI (1989): 3 

Southern Nationalist treatments of the Confederate press, how- 
ever, tended toward heroic depictions of Confederate editors and of the 
few known Confederate correspondents. They praised the voluntary 
censorship exercised by Southern newspapers, which resulted in far 
fewer breaches of nulitary security than suffered by the Union army in 
the pages of Northern papers. This demonstrated that Southern papers 
more successfully served the interests of their section, they argued, im- 
plying that the publication of Union military secrets in Northern pa- 
pers was indicative of the North's disunity and inherent moral weak- 
ness. Such views continued to appear as recently as 1969, when Hodding 
Carter wrote, "Whatever else may be said of the Southern press, the 
newspapers of the South have certainly demonstrated closer identifi- 
cation with the aspirations and turmoil and tragedy of their region 
than have those of any other part of the United States."^^ 

One of the first Southern Nationalist interpretations of Civil War 
journalism was Lester J. Cappon's "The Yankee Press in Virginia, 1861- 
1865" (1935). Cappon ridiculed newspapers edited by Union personnel in 
defeated Virginia towns and cities. For instance, a single-issue paper 
entitled The Connecticut Fifth (produced by the Fifth Regiment of 
Connecticut Volunteers after their arrival in Winchester) "insulted the 
Confederate flag" although the "Yankees claimed to have maintained 
good order" in the city. Cappon wrote similarly of The New Regime, 
published by Major General Benjamin F. Butler in Norfolk, referring to 
it as "Butler's mouthpiece." The New Regime "lacked the comradery so 
characteristic of the cruder Yankee news-sheets" and was a business 
affair calculated to further the policies of the Union government.^^ 

While Cappon attempted to discredit the North with his criti- 
cisms of occupation editors from the Union army, Richard Barksdale 
Harwell (1941) attempted to cast a favorable light on the South's role 
in the war by praising the books and magazines published in Atlanta 
during the war.^^ He noted that the necessity to publish newspapers, 
government documents and business records in the South was widely ac- 
knowledged. However, he challenged arguments that the publication 
of books to be read for pleasure was not necessary. Histories of the war, 
biographies of Southern leaders, and especially fiction were very im- 
portant in maintaining Confederate morale. Thus Harwell tried to de- 
stroy stereotypes of the Civil War South as culturally inferior to or less 
literary than the North. 

^^Hodding Carter, Their Words Were Bullets: The Southern Press in War, Reconstruction, and 
Peace (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1969), 1. 

^^Lester J. Cappon, 'The Yankee Press in Virginia, 1861-1865," William and Mary Quarterly 15 
Oanuary 1935): 85. 

^^ Richard B. HarweU, "Atlanta Publications of the Civil War," Atlanta Historical Bulletin 6 Quly 
1941): 165-200. 

The Ova War Press 193 

David M. Potter, on the other hand, minced no words in his 
condemnation of Northern Republican leaders. For instance, he wrote in 
Horace Greeley and Peaceable Secession (1941) that William H. Se- 
ward in the months preceding the war gave incessant expression to a 
"somewhat mystical conviction that the |X)rtentuous and explicit acts 
of the South were evidences of a passing frenzy which would subside of 
itself."^'' Meanwhile Abraham Lincoln retreated into an impenetrable 
silence. Lesser Republicans, including New York Tribune editor Horace 
Greeley, were "generally either blustering or vacillating, and, in either 
case, unrealistic" throughout the winter of 1860-1861. 

Potter set out to destroy the predominant historical assumption 
which identified Greeley with peaceable separation. Although one 
well-known Greeley editorial said "we insist on letting them go in 
peace," Potter wrote, historians have ignored that expediency 
prompted Greeley to pretend to offer a separation which he did not ex- 
pect the South to accept. Nor did historians recognize that the phrase 
and others like it were surrounded by conditions, reservations, and am- 
biguities which nullified its apparent meaning. Thus by concealing the 
fact that the nation had to choose between compromise and war until it 
was too late to prevent war, Greeley was at least partially to blame for 
causing the war. 

The Southern Nationalist interpretation continues to apf)ear occa- 
sionally, and in some cases has seemed to grow more bitter with the 
passage of time. One such example is William Stanley Hoole's 
Vizetelly Covers the Confederacy (1957). A warmly favorable biogra- 
phy of Illustrated London News correspondent Frank Vizetelly, who 
according to Hoole was the only special correspondent to cover the Con- 
federate army, it also lashes out at the North nearly a century after 
the war ended. Hoole prefaced the book with memories of his father, 
bom in 1860, who knew "the pain and the suffering and the bellyaching 
hunger that lay in Sherman's unholy swath across the South."^® 

The Consensus School 

The Consensus School is best understood as a reaction to the 
perspective which dominated the study of American history for about 
thirty years of the first half of the twentieth century: the Progressive 
school. The Progressive school of American history first developed 
during the domestic reform movement around 1900 and was concerned 
primarily with social problems resulting from an unfair distribution of 
wealth and power in American society. Progressive historians believed 

^^David M. Potter, "Horace Greeley and Peaceable Secession," ]oumal of Southern History 7 (1941): 

'^W. Stanley Hoole, Vizetelly Covers the Confederacy (Tuscaloosa, Ala.: Confederate Publishing 
Co., 1957), 11. 

194 American Journalism VI (1989): 3 

that the Civil War was actually a class conflict in which the industri- 
alists, laborers, and farmers of the North destroyed the Southern 
planting aristocracy and elin\inated its influence in national govern- 
ment. Yet Progressive historians usually condemned the war for leading 
American society to domination by ruthless capitalists concerned only 
for their own profit. As a result, reform was needed to achieve a fairer 
distribution of wealth and power. 

In response to the Progressive perspective. Consensus historians ar- 
gued that the Civil War was not a social war which led to an immoral 
domination of society by capitalists but rather a blessing in disguise 
that led to a modern and united America. The war was really an irre- 
pressible conflict that grew out of sectional differences on issues of na- 
tional policy, not the fagade of a deeply rooted class conflict. There- 
fore, neither side was necessarily to blame for causing the war, al- 
though the South was clearly in the wrong for refusing to give up slav- 
ery and for seceding from the union. 

Because of their attitude toward the South, Consensus historians 
usually wrote about the Northern press. They believed that most 
Northern newspapers agreed on the necessity for military security and 
sincerely attempted to avoid printing any information which could 
possibly aid the enemy. However, they were critical of newspapers 
which published reports about the locations and movement plans of 
Union troops. In so doing, these papers seriously damaged the national 

While most historians who dealt with press censorship during the 
Civil War condemned it as an unwarranted and misguided act of 
repression. Consensus historians believed that there should have been 
stricter governmental control over what Northern newspapers could 
print. They argued that press censorship had been ineffective only be- 
cause it was so randomly enforced, inflicting more damage to the 
Northern cause than if there had been no censorship at all. Therefore, 
stricter and more consistent censorship would have made the war effort 
more effective and might have shortened the war. The ultimate lesson 
to be learned from the role of newspapers during the war, then, is that 
in future wars the United States should control the press adequately 
enough to assure that it does not damage the national war effort. The 
national good. Consensus historians argue, is more vital than the prac- 
tices of one institution. 

Although the Consensus interpretation did not begin to acquire a 
sizable following until the 1930s, James G. Randall's "The Newspaper 
Problem in Its Bearing Upon Military Secrecy During the Civil War" 
(1918) is clearly consistent with the Consensus perspective.^^ Randall 

^ Randall's interpretations are usually classified with what Gerald Grob and George Athan Billias 
called the "Revisionist" school of Qvil War History, which seems to be at odds with the Consensus per- 

The Civil War Press 195 

was critical of Northern newspapers for obstructing the war effort. 
They seriously harmed the national cause, he wrote, by frequently re- 
vealing military information and undermining public confidence in 
management of the war. Governmental intervention in the press, how- 
ever, was relatively slight and, in any case, was much less effective 
than public opinion and the actions of private citizens. Editors sus- 
pected of disloyalty were threatened, sometimes run out of town, and 
newspaper offices were frequently attacked by mobs. As Randall wrote, 
"It may be said that the government did far less than the enthusiastic 
Union men of the time would have wished in the way of controlling the 
press."^^ As a result, there was no real suppression of opinion during the 

Similarly, Adolph O. Goldsmith wrote in "Reporting the Civil 
War: Union Army Press Relations" (1956) that most Northern newspa- 
pers recognized the necessity for military security and made conscien- 
tious efforts to judge what should be omitted from news reports. There- 
fore, restrictions on handling of war news were generally very loose, but 
unnecessarily tight in some specific cases. This haphazardness of con- 
trols inflicted more damage on the war effort than if there had been no 
controls at all. Goldsmith wrote, while systematic and conscientious 
handling of news censorship might have shortened the war. Also, 
uninformed newspaper criticism of Lincoln's war strategies prodded 
some generals into striking before they were ready and did not con- 
tribute to an effective prosecution of the war. He concluded that in 
modem warfare rigid control of all news is essential to military success. 

As Lincoln's most prominent critic, then. New York Tribune editor 
Horace Greeley was singled out by Consensus historians for special de- 
rision. James H. Trietsch, for instance, wrote in The Printer and the 
Prince (1955) that although Greeley was motivated by a fundamen- 
tally patriotic feeling, he was flighty and inconsistent. For example, 
immediately after the war Greeley declared himself not for antago- 
nism in peace but for lenient treatment of the South to encourage frater- 
nal unity, apparently not realizing that his attacks on Lincoln's cau- 
tious military policies during the war had fanned the hatred which 
the North felt toward the South. Greeley would now have to abandon 
such campaigns, Trietsch wrote, in favor of a sober appeal for amnesty 
and for a genuine resumption of national citizenship. Trietsch concluded 
that only after Lincoln's death did Greeley realize how wise the pres- 
ident had been, and how his own misguided efforts had undermined 

spective. According to their definition of the Revisionist school, no possible good can result from war 
and the Civil War in particular was an avoidable conflict. See Gerald Grob and George Athan Billias, 
Inteq>retations of American History: Patterns and Perspectives, Vol. 1 (New York: The Free Press, 
1967), 426-427. 

James G. Randall, "The Newspaper Problem in Its Bearing upon Military Secrecy During the Civil 
War," American Historical Review 23 (January 1918): 332. 

296 American Journalism VI (1989): 3 

what he now recognized as the common goals toward which each of 
them had worked. 

The New Left School 

In the 1960s, a group of historians in Europe and America began at- 
tacking the established order and its views on the past, including Pro- 
gressive and Consensus history. New Left, or Radical, historians, as 
they came to be called, criticized Progressive historians for failing to 
actively work for the ideals they advocated. The Progressive aim of 
measured social reform was too cautious for the New Left, who wanted 
to transform history into a "conscisousness-raising activity" on behalf 
of a social revolution.^^ The New Left was even more critical of 
Consensus history, which it believed was written on behalf of existing 
power structures and perpetuated the myths which needed to be de- 
stroyed in the interest of perfect justice. While New Left historians 
borrowed heavily from Marxist historical theory, they rejected the 
strict economic determinism of Marxist history in order to celebrate the 
virtues of individualism. The social revolution and resulting new order 
which they wanted was to be brought about by individual actions in 
the interest of individuals.^^ 

New Left historians viewed the Civil War as a failure to create 
the new society which they believed should have resulted from the 
war. When writing about the role of the press during the war. New Left 
historians - who, it should be pointed out, form only a miniscule group - 
argued that the war was detrimental to journalistic standards. They 
believed that rather than serving as loyal propaganda sheets for their 
governments, newspapers should have printed the truth during the war 
no matter what the consequences to the war effort. Thus they were 
critical of the tendency of war reporting on both sides to be biased and 

New Left historians were equally critical of censorship during the 
war. They believed that more often than not censorship was used to 
prevent the expression of unpopular opinions rather than to prevent the 
disclosure of military secrets. Therefore, it posed a threat to democracy 
by creating attitudes which would lead to peacetime repression. They 
refuted arguments, however, that censorship was primarily responsible 
for the poor quality of Civil War reporting. Problems were more the re- 
sult of reporters' partisan attitudes than of either censorship or the 
hazardous conditions under which reporters had to work. 

See Emst Breisach, Historiography; Ancient, Medieval, & Modern (Chicago: University of 
Chicago Press, 1983), 392-393. 

■^Phillip Knightley, The First Casualty; From the Crimea to Vietnam: The War Correspondent as 
Hero, Propagandist, and Myth Maker (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1975), 25. 

The Civil War Press 197 

In their final analyses. New Left historians usually concluded that 
Civil War reporters damaged the public's understanding of the causes 
and effects of war with warped accounts of reality. If they had re- 
ported the truth instead, the war might have been prevented or at 
least shortened. 

The New Left interpretation as applied to Civil War journalism is 
best embodied by Phillip Knightley's The First Casualty; From the 
Crimea to Vietnam: The War Correspondent as Hero, Propagandist, 
and Myth Maker (1975). Knightley, who is employed by the Times of 
London, believed that most reporters from both sides performed poorly. 
He wrote that the majority of Northern correspondents were ignorant, 
dishonest, and unethical. As a result, their reports were frequently in- 
accurate, often fabricated, partisan, and inflammatory. Yet much of the 
blame for this lay not with the reporters themselves, but with the un- 
reasonable demands of their editors. Getting "scoops" came to count 
more than accuracy or balance; therefore reporters were more likely to 
be fired for sending no news at all than for inventing accounts of battles 
they had not seen. Editors expected and received superhuman efforts 
from their correspondents in the field, yet most reporters were always 
short of money and had great trouble getting reimbursed for justifiable 
expenses. Even Henry Villard, one of the most respected Civil War cor- 
respondents, was knocked to the floor by his editor at the New York 
Tribune after presenting an expense account. 

Nor could the blame rest entirely with the Northern press. Early 
attempts at censorship by the Union government succeeded only in cre- 
ating chaos within the Northern population, as demonstrated by an in- 
cident in which all the New York newspapers carried stories of a 
"glorious victory" that was actually a "scandalous defeat" (the battle 
of Bull Run). Censorship was never effective because of confusion over 
who was to enforce it, and inevitably, the original intention to suppress 
only information valuable to the enemy became the desire to also sup- 
press material critical of the North. 

Knightley was even more critical of the Southern press for its 
deviations from the truth. At the beginning of the war, he wrote, the 
Southern press was partisan, |X)litical, and thirty years behind the 
times. It made little attempt to separate news from editorial opinion; 
thus fair and objective reporting was almost unknown. In fact, most 
Confederate reporters believed that loyalty to the South came before 
any professional requirements of truth and objectivity, as evident in re- 
ports on battles which never actually happened. This made it impossi- 
ble for the Confederate press to produce an accurate record of the war's 
progress. "Cowed by censorship," Knightley wrote, "determined to 
maintain morale, and poorly served by the majority of its correspon- 
dents, the Confederate press lent itself to the government's propaganda 
line much more readily than did the Northern press."^^ 

198 American Journalism VI (1989): 3 

He concluded, therefore, that the Civil War was one of the poorer 
periods in the progress of war correspondence, despite the sweeping 
changes it brought in journalistic techniques. However, it did establish 
war correspondence as a respected specialization within the profession 
of journalism. Yet Knightley considered this no great accomplishn\ent, 
sarcastically remarking "all that was needed now were bigger and bet- 
ter wars."2* 


Most historians who have studied Civil War journalism agree that 
the war led to a revolution in journalistic practices which for the first 
time established news, rather than editorial opinion, as the primary 
purpose of newspapers. What they disagree about is whether press 
censorship during the war should not have occurred at all or should 
have been utilized more extensively, and whether the press performed 
admirably or poorly. While this study identified five schools of inter- 
pretation from which historians have approached these questions, all 
have their limitations. The Contemporary and Southern Nationalist 
perspectives were marred because of their sectional partisanship. 
Likewise, the Developmental, Consensus, and New Left perspectives 
have their own biases, too. 

Although this study's examination of these schools of interpreta- 
tion may make it seem that the study of Civil War journalism has en- 
joyed a good deal of variety, in actuality the field has been dominated 
by the Developmental perspective. This is probably because most writ- 
ers who have dealt with Civil War journalism were college professors 
who first worked as professional journalists themselves, and therefore 
had little notion that the history of journalism could be anything other 
than the story of the origins and progress of journalistic practices. As a 
result, much of their work provides little useful insights into history 
and is of little interest to non-journalists. The Consensus work on 
American history reached its peak during the secure and prosperous 
decade of the 1950s and declined in popularity in the face of massive 
social unrest during the late 1960s. Journalism historians, on the other 
hand, were slow to pick up on the Consensus approach, and it still may 
offer possibilities for fruitful study in this field. As for the New Left 
perspective, its similarity to Marxist historical theory will likely 
prevent it from gathering a large following among American historians 
because of what Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky call the Ameri- 
can "national religion of anti-Communism."^ Something should be said, 
also, of James Carey's Cultural approach even though no studies have 



^ The Political Eamomy of the Mass Media (New York: Pantheon, 1988), 2. 

The CivU War Press 199 

applied it to Civil War journalism. Although the idea has been a pop- 
ular one for purposes of discussion in studies of other topics, adherents of 
the interpretation have been hampered by two major problems: (1) re- 
liance on secondary rather than primary sources and (2) subordination 
of facts to theory. Unless these problems are solved, there is little 
prospect that Cultural historians will produce any credible explana- 
tions of Civil War journalism. 

Yet, many aspects of the topic need study. There have been some 
investigations, for example, of what role the press may have had in 
causing the war; yet, research still is needed. Eric Foner argued that 
"the same institutions which created mass participation in politics 
[including journalism] also made possible the emergence of the sectional 
agitator - the radical. North and South,"^^ Prior to the 1830s, national 
poltical parties that created alliances between elites in each section of 
the country and consciously suppressed disruptive sectional issues pre- 
vented the development of sectional ideology as the organizing princi- 
ple of poltical combat. Therefore, the role of journalism, if any, in cre- 
ating and propelling both the abolitionist assault in the 1830s and the 
southern defense of slavery spurred by it needs to be examined. 

Civil War journalism, after more than a century of historical 
investigation, remains a topic offering great possibility to historians. 

Eric Foner, Politics and Ideology in the Age of CivU War (New York: Oxford University Press, 
1980), 31. 

: BOOK = 


David Linton and Ray Boston, editors. The Newspaper Press in Britain. 
London and New York: Mansell Publishing Co., 1987. 361 pp. Appen- 
dices and Index. Cloth. $45.00. 

There has been an urgent need for a compilation of works dealing 
with the British newspaper press which would cover the three decades 
1959-1960, the years of publication of Warren C. Price's the Literature 
of Journalism: An Annotated Bibliography. But this ambitious effort by 
Linton and Boston is not only an attempt to fill the thirty-year biblio- 
graphical gap, but to cover what Price did not include or was unable to 
include in his pioneering work. The concept of the project emanated 
from Linton's vast knowledge of British journalism and his experience 
editing Benn's Press Directory, and was launched during 1983 with the 
assistance of the knowledgeable Gordon Phillips, the former archivist 
of The Times of London. Because Phillips, assuming responsibilities at 
the History of Advertising Trust, had to leave the project, Ray Boston 
(formerly associated with the Centre for Journalism, University of 
Wales in Cardiff) was recruited as a replacement. 

The bibliographical guide comprises over 2,600 annotated items 
covering almost every facet of the British press. Here we have techni- 
cal works, periodical articles, unpublished theses, catalogues, press 
guides, anniversary issues, novels, biographies, autobiographies, and 
reminiscences of journalists, editors, and proprietors, and, of course, 
newspaper histories. Only the constraints of the publisher have pre- 
vented Linton and his collaborator from including more material. But 
compensating for what they had to omit or delete are two appendices 
offering (1) a chronology of the development of the British press and 
(2) a list of the papers of many journalists, editors, and press lords and 
surviving (or known) archives of newspapers. 

No project of such ambitions and wide coverage can be flawless. In 
this guide, the flaws are primarily those of organization, selectivity, 
omissions, and mistakes. For example, although alphabetical ar- 
rangement of items is useful, listings by subject would in some respects be 
more helpful in the utilization of this work. In the realms of selectiv- 
ity, some of the items chosen are far less important than what was not 
listed on certain topics. A very serious shortcoming is the omission of 

Book Reviews 201 

some highly significant books and periodical articles on journalists, 
editors, and press proprietors involved in the Chartist movement 
which have been published during the past two decades. The first two 
volumes of the Biographical Dictionary of Modern British Radicals 
since 1770, which contains biographical essays on at least two dozen 
Radicals who were journalists or editors of the Radical and non-Radi- 
cal daily and weekly press media, are also missing. Similarly, in the 
Appendix offering the list and location of the papers of prominent fig- 
ures in British journalism, there is an important omission of the Alfred 
Milner collection in the Bodleian Library and an incomplete entry on 
Sir Edward Tyas Cook. 

But these are really cavils which do not diminish the value of this 
guide as a most useful bibliographical reference for all concerned with 
British newspaper history. It is a job well done. 

J.O. Baylen Georgia State University (retired) 

Andrew Kreig. Spiked: How Chain Management Corrupted America's 
Oldest Newspaper. 2nd edition. Old Sayebrook, Conn.: Peregrine Press, 
1988. $9.95. 

This is not a subtle academic book that pussyfoots around tough 
conclusions with ambiguous generalities. The second edition of Andrew 
Kreig's Spiked, first published in 1987, is a hard-hitting expose of the 
bad things that happen when a so-called "good" group buys out a news- 
paper that has been around for years and alters journalistic goals by fo- 
cusing on profits and prizes. 

Kreig, who worked for the Courant before leaving to go into free- 
lancing and law school, makes four major charges: irresponsible chain 
power; near-monopoly market dominance; individual wrongdoing; and 
lack of oversight by the institutions of journalism, including top corpo- 
rate management, ombudsmen, and journalism reviews themselves. 
Spiked is less important for its limited history than it is as a modern 
case history. It focuses attention where the real moral and ethical cor- 
ruption of the American press most rightly lies: in the hands of the 
owners and managers who have the greatest opportunity and responsi- 
bility for reform. 

Kreig's book provides dozens of examples of what took place after 
the Courant was purchased for $105.6 million in 1979 and invaded by a 
group of new managers, including Lou Grant-model Mark Murphy and 
his West Coast "Beach Boys," and editor-publisher Michael Davies, 
"the Kansas City Chief." Although Kreig does not claim that all the 
evils he describes can be blamed on the new chain ownership, he argues 
passionately that the pattern is persuasive. He supports the thesis of 

202 American fourmlism VI (1989): 3 

Ben Bagdikian and other critics such as Robert Picard who warn that 
press concentration and monopoly may provide just as serious a threat to 
the flow of information as government. Kreig brings those generalities 
down to specifics. 

Through more than 400 interviews and extensive research, Kreig 
raises questions about the managerial and journalistic skills of outside 
managers who design coverage and news for prizes. He also describes 
various unethical operations, including sexual pressure on the staff, 
fraudulent applications for journalism prizes, and cover-ups. The title 
of the book refers to the spiking of a major series of articles showing 
how insurance companies fought compensation for occupational acci- 
dents. Hartford, the home city of the Courant, is also the insurance 
capital of America. 

As might be expected, the book has been attacked by the Times 
group, which refused to publish a lengthy letter-to-the-editor re- 
sponding to the attack. One addition to the second edition is an 
"Afterword" in which Kreig describes petty things that Courant execu- 
tives did to intimidate him. 

The book has received negative or lukewarm responses from publi- 
cations such as the Columbia Journalism Review and Journal of Mass 
Media Ethics for its "intemperate tone," and what appears to be "petty 
grudges and personal dislikes of editors." Such criticism focusing on the 
small trees of a rapidly changing journalistic landscape misses the 
main message of this book and the aggressive spirit of criticism that 
lives in the books by George Seldes, A.J. Liebling, Gay Talese, and oth- 
ers. One of the best summaries of the book comes from the Journal In- 
quirer, a smaller newspaper in the Cour ant's circulation area which 
argued that the Courant's response to Spiked confirmed the book's 
premise that "the power of a monopoly newspaper-group newspaper 
requires scrutiny, and that under the ownership by the Times-Mirror 
group, the CoMrfln^-Connecticutt's...only statewide newspaper - has not 
kept its great power under ethical control." 

Alf Pratte Brigham Young University 

Joseph C. Goulden. Fit to Print: A.M. Rosenthal and His Times. Se- 
caucus, N.J.: Lyle Stuart Inc., 1988. 486 pp. $21.95. 

A.M. Rosenthal's forty-year career at the New York Times made 
him the most powerful editor in American print journalism in the years 
after World War II. During those four decades American journalism in 
general, and the New York Times in particular, were transformed. 
Rosenthal's role in this transformation, and the use and abuse of the 
power he wielded, are important subjects for journalism historians. 

Book Reviews 203 

This critical study was based on more than 300 interviews with 
Rosenthal associates, on the Turner Catledge Papers at Mississippi 
State University, and on some twenty hours of interviews with Rosen- 
thal himself. Despite all the anecdotal information, however, this bi- 
ography provides little insight into Rosenthal's career for two reasons- 
First, Goulden overstates the man's influence in determining changes in 
Times policy as opposed to executing them. Second, the author is pri- 
marily interested in p)ortraying ad infinitum Rosenthal's notorious be- 
havior in his relations with subordinates and in his personal affairs. 
Goulden's work is an example of what Joyce Carol Oates has called 
"pathography": biography that focuses on the seamy side of the sub- 
ject's character and that makes an evaluation of the public persona's 
career as a secondary concern. 

At the outset Goulden suggests that Rosenthal helped "save" the 
Times in the 1970s and notes his role in moving the newspaper politi- 
cally to the right. Nonetheless Goulden himself provides evidence 
demonstrating the preeminent role of publisher Arthur Ochs "Punch" 
Sulzberger Jr. in 1976 in establishing special daily sections to attract 
affluent readers and advertisers, a development Rosenthal originally 
resisted. That same year it was Sulzberger who removed his cousin John 
Oakes as editor of the editorial page in order to reorient the Times in a 
more pro-business and conservative direction. Rosenthal's authority as 
executive editor was a testament to his success as an empire-builder; 
here too it was management policy to centralize editorial control by 
making the Sunday Times and especially the Washington bureau less 
autonomous. Finally, in 1986 Sulzberger denied Rosenthal's request that 
the mandatory retirement age be waived to pemnit him to remain exec- 
utive editor. Sulzberger, not Rosenthal, was in charge. 

Rosenthal's anti-communism and conservatism are well-known. 
Although many of the Rosenthal critics cited by Goulden are polit- 
ically left-of-center, the author's own views seem to be to the right of 
Rosenthal's. He praises Rosenthal for ending an era when the Times 
was "a veritable playpen of the left." He nonetheless criticizes Rosen- 
thal for being insufficiently hard-line. 

Goulden does pay tribute to Rosenthal's considerable gifts as a re- 
porter, but argues that his character made him a tyrannical editor. He 
provides countless descriptions of Rosenthal's pettiness, temper 
tantrums, and arbitrary actions. The widely known ostracizing of 
Richard Severo was only the tip of the iceberg. Rosenthal's tenure as 
editor may have led to the departure of some of the Times ' most tal- 
ented reporters. 

However, in Goulden's tabloid treatment of Rosenthal, his scan- 
dalous behavior overshadows his impact as editor. Goulden devotes a 
great deal of attention to Rosenthal's drinking, the failure of his mar- 
riage, his lengthy affair with Katherine Balfour, and his remarriage 

204 American Jourmlism VI (1989): 3 

to Shirley Lord. 

Goulden's book falls short on all levels-psychological, political, 
and historical. Despite all the personal details, it does not provide a 
deep psychological portrait. Goulden's crude political approach makes 
him ill-equipped to deal with such questions as Rosenthal's relation- 
ship to neo-conservatism. Finally, the author fails to compare his sub- 
ject to other legendary editors like Carr Van Anda and Turner Catledge, 
and to situate Rosenthal's tenure in the larger context of the history of 
the Times. 

Ralph Engelman Long Island University 

Paul Heyer. Communications and History: Theories of Media, Knowl- 
edge, and Civilization. New York: Greenwood Press, 1988. 197 pp. 
Cloth. $37.95. 

The history of civilization is the history of communications. It's a 
bold, provocative thesis, one to which Harold A. Innis devoted his 
scholarship and life. In works such as Empire and Communications and 
The Bias of Communication, the Canadian economic historian strove to 
capture the relationship between civilization and the technology of 

Paul Heyer, associate professor of communication at Canada's Si- 
mon Eraser University, works in the Innis tradition. His book, number 
ten in the series Contributions to the Study of Mass Media and Commu- 
nications, traces three centuries of inquiry into the role of communica- 
tions (information technology) in civilization, inquiry brought to 
greatest fulfillment thus far in the work of Innis. 

Heyer's plan, he admits, is "pedestrian." He divides the book into 
three parts: the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In 
each, he meanders through decades and disciplines, stopping to con- 
sider those who consider the import of communications. He reviews 
Rousseau's thoughts on language and writing, Edward Tylor's research 
of communication within anthropology, Lewis Mumford's writings on 
technology and human development, and other writers as obscure as 
Lord Monboddo of Scotland and as unobscure as Marshall McLuhan. The 
insights are good, legitimate. Heyer's intellectual breadth is unques- 

But the task of selecting and assessing 300 years of thought about 
connmunications requires precise purpose and point of view. Without 
compass or map, indeed, without destination or direction, the historian 
is doomed to intellectural vagrancy. Heyer not only lacks direction; he 
appears to be untrue to his purpose. In an introduction, he claims his 
purpose is to map an "unacknowledged tradition," challenging what he 

Book Reviews 205 

sees as a conventional assumption that the study of communications is 
rooted in the twentieth century. Yet that assumption is hardly conven- 
tional. And in his final pages he admits the "unacknowledged tradi- 
tion" is presumptuous and perhaps "an attention-getting device." 
Stripped of this device then, the book is left without purpose, without 
drive, without inquiry. It quickly becomes an interesting but arbitrary 
intellectural exercise. What governed Heyer's selections? What led to 
exclusions? Nothing, it appears, but fancy. 

Examples: The American sociologist Robert Park is placed nicely in 
the context of nineteenth-century German sociology, which Park stud- 
ied. But, without explanation, Heyer gives less than a line to Park's 
compatriots in the Chicago school. Then, overlooking many modem 
students of communications, he devotes a chapter to Michael Focault, a 
writer who evidenced interest in myriad topics but precious little in 
communications. Heyer calls the inclusion "unusual," but it is undue, ar- 
bitrary. The reader soon sees the author is merely infatuated with dis- 
course theory; the self-indulgence is exercised at the expense of the 

So, predictably, Heyer ends up where he started: Innis. He says In- 
nis is "the cartographer" who provides " a definitive blueprint for the 
study of communications/history." What remains unclear is the map- 
ping that Heyer intends to provide. Does he expend all this scholar- 
ship merely to show that, yes, other people, in other times, have 
thought communications may be important? 

Much work remains for those who wish to prove and improve the 
mettle of Innis' work; Heyer does recognize the challenge. But the un- 
explored savannah of technology, power, media, and civilization is 
vast and far reaching. Historians who set out without direction quickly 
become lost. Passion without purpose, insight without inquiry, will not 
go far. 

JackLule University of Tulsa 

Janice Winship. Inside Women's Magazines. New York: Unwin Hyman, 
1987. 181 pp. Paper. $15.95. 

Feminist scholars have recently been paying increasing attention to 
p>opular culture forms directed to women, especially non-feminists. For 
example, Janice Radway's studies of romance novels and Mary Ellen 
Brown's work on soap operas not only describe these forms but also tease 
out the ways in which they afford their audience pleasure. Janice 
Winship's study of contemporary British women's magazines aims to do 
much the same, although her descriptions are disorganized and super- 
ficial. Furthermore, her guesses about the pleasure are not persuasive- 

206 American Journalism VI (1989): 3 

partly because, having assumed (wrongly I believe) that her own expe- 
riences are typical, she derives her explanations of the joys of maga- 
zine reading entirely from her personal and somewhat quirky responses. 

A long-time, if critical, fan of women's magazines, Winship did re- 
search on them as an undergraduate, and began, but never completed, a 
doctoral dissertation on them at the Centre for Contemporary Cultural 
Studies at Birmingham, England. Her task was perhaps made more 
difficult by two factors: one, her acknowledged sense of being a "closet" 
feminist reader of a cultural form that seems to repudiate feminist 
politics and styles, and two, her interest in producing an explanation 
true to the Marxist and cultural studies vocabulary of Birmingham 
University but still a "good read" for nonacademics. 

The centerpiece of the book is a trio of case studies on three very 
different magazines-Woman's Own, Cosmopolitan, and Spare Rib. 
Woman's Own, published weekly for married British homemakers 
since 1932, exemplifies a peculiarly British institution, although Win- 
ship could have said more about the significance of its references to na- 
tional unity and to the royal family. In 1972, eight years after Helen 
Gurley Brown took over the editorship of Hearst's Cosmopolitan, the 
British counterpart began offering itself as the magazine for sophisti- 
cated, working, young, "liberated" women, especially sexually liber- 
ated ones. Somewhat more valuable is the discussion of Spare Rib, de- 
scribed as providing "a heavy textured pudding, dingy in colour, and 
somewhat hard work on the jaws" (p. 123), rather than the sugary icing 
of commercial women's magazines. 

Winship points out that in emphasizing what the individual can 
do for herself, advertising, fiction, editorials, and even the "agony 
aunties" advice columnists all ignore the lessons of history, ignore so- 
cial relations, and ignore the gender, economic, and class barriers to in- 
dividual achievement. 

The book's historical material is superficial. One chapter, a 
highly abbreviated romp through the history of British women's rnag- 
azines, is based on Cynthia White's extremely useful and com- 
prehensive Women's Magazines 1693-1968. Another, on "selling and 
buying," a post-war history of commercial publishing companies in- 
venting and discarding strategies for selling women's magazines, is 
overwritten and unclear. 

linda Steiner Governor's State University 

Charles Whited. Knight: Publisher in the Tumultuous Century. New 
York: Dutton, 1988. 405 pp. Index. Cloth. $21.95. 

Jack Knight was among the last of a vanished tribe of publishers 

Book Reviews 207 

whose readers knew who they were, and held them personally and in- 
dividually responsible for what their newspapers did, or failed to do. 
Even had he wanted to - and he did not - Knight's 2,000-odd weekly 
columns would have prevented him from blending into the corporate 
woodwork he fashioned during the long tumult between the 1920s and 
the 1980s. 

For that reason alone, the Akron Beacon Journal heir's life and ca- 
reer are well worth studying. Charles Whited, author of a daily col- 
umn in Knight-Ridder Corp.'s Miami Herald since the 1960s, has suc- 
ceeded in constructing a generally admiring but far from sycophantic 
biography. Though not a professional historian, he uses speeches in the 
Knight Collection at the University of Akron Archives, memoirs of 
Knight colleagues, and timely interviews of elderly former staffers 
(sometimes just prior to their deaths) to etch a compelling portrait in 
personal as well as professional dimensions. Whited had access to 
Knight himself before the publisher died in 1981. 

His Knight is a product of his times but a cut above them, resiisting 
Babbitry, Republican orthodoxy, and Old Guard fantasies of individ- 
ual self-sufficiency in print while indulging himself socially in casino 
gambling, amateur golf tourneys, and bridge games at the homes of fel- 
low tycoons - acutely sensitive to threats to editorial freedom from 
criminal thugs, Latin dictators, and organized labor, but slow to recog- 
nize dangers to other, broader civil liberties posed by Joseph McCarthy 
and Richard Nixon. Whited is particularly convincing in re-creating 
the sometimes bizarre scenes of purchase negotiations and the vivid 
atmospherics of the cities on the make in which several early Knight 
newspaper acquisitions took place: the stench of Akron tire plants, the 
fury and the grime of Detroit, the raw milk in the diets of Miamians. 

Whited's Knight backs down for no one, challenging everyone's 
views but leaving subordinates alone to do their jobs. He selects coldly 
effective, tough operatives, intimidates children, dismisses his young 
grandson's views, and appears to strike even his own brother as 
"ornery." But his character seems a response to his father's remoteness, 
the successive deaths of his three wives, and of his eldest son in World 
War II combat, and the murder by stabbing of the grandson. 

Whited makes some historical errors - such as claiming that 
Alexander Hamilton defended John Peter Zenger - but the writing is so 
lucid, the anecdotes so pointed, that one wishes a comparable volume 
as readable, as critical, as germane as this were available to every 
reader of a newspaper served up by a publisher whose name he does not 

David L. Anderson University of Northern Colorado 

208 American Journalism VI (1 989): 3 

Marvin Olasky. The Press and Abortion, 1838-1988. Hillsdale, NJ.: 
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1988. 200 pp. Notes. Index. Cloth. 

In Prodigal Press: The Anti-Christian Bias of the American News 
Media, Marvin Olasky took the press to task for one-sided coverage of 
matters important to conservative Christians, including abortion. In 
The Press and Abortion, he not only criticizes but also chronicles news- 
paper coverage of this sensitive issue over a long period of time. A jour- 
nalism professor at the University of Texas, he gives fair warning of 
his point of view in the introduction, explaining that he will use the 
term "unborn child" in preference to "fetus" and dedicating the book to 
his parents, who, he writes, did not leave him unborn. 

The book could hardly have been published at a more opportune 
time, as the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments urging reconsideration 
of its landmark abortion decision. Roe v. Wade, and it tells a fascinat- 
ing story that reaches back to the 1830s and the first newspaper adver- 
tisements for Madame Res tell' s Female Monthly Regulating Pills, pur- 
ported to cure "all cases of suppression, irregularity, or stoppage of the 
menses, however obdurate, or from whatever causes produced." Olasky 
suggests that such ads might have made the difference between press 
profit and subsistence. Of the New York papers, only the National Po- 
lice Gazette refused ads and exposed the abortionists. 

Olasky admits that his history is dominated by references to New 
York-based newspapers, partly because of their availability. He also 
maintains that the New York newspapers have set the trends in 
successive stages of the abortion wars, as they advertised the services 
and products of abortionists from the 1830s through the 1860s, cam- 
paigned for anti-abortion legislation during the 1870s, published little 
on the topic during the early years of the twentieth century, and then 
began to promote the legitimization and eventual legalization of abor- 
tion. Olasky' s careful analysis of coverage by the New York Times 
makes a good case in point. 

The book includes forty-two pages of notes - hundreds of citations of 
newspaper stories from across the country. Still, the reader must wonder 
to what extent they accurately represent the nation's press. The book 
mentions no systematic content analysis. It also lacks a bibliography. 

For recent years, Olasky cites stories containing false figures and 
misleading emphases. He sees the press as the willing agent of the pro- 
abortionists and suggests that, while the press helps to set public agen- 
das, it is also evident that wielders of ideas and power set agendas for 
the press, which responds as frequently as it initiates. 

Sherilyn Cox Bennion Humboldt State University 

Book Reviews 209 

Mitchell Stephens. A History of News: From the Drum to the Satellite. 
New York: Viking, 1988. 401 pp. Index. Cloth. $24.95. 

Too frequently journalism history has failed to offer a broad syn- 
thesis of time and space in studies that could be enlightened by such 
perspective. Like Robert Desmond in his multi-volume study of news 
reporting, Stephens pushes his subject across national boundaries and 
far back into time. Stephens, who previously wrote Broadcast News 
(1980) and co-authored Writing and Reporting the News (1986), em- 
ploys his understanding of the nature of news to pursue the question: 
when we read or watch the news, "what else might we be seeing?" (p. 
9) In this study, which is based on many primary and secondary sources, 
he provides some interesting answers to that question. 

Stephens contributes to the history of news in a number of ways. He 
provides scope for the subject by examining the various forms news has 
taken over time. Spoken news, early and later types of printed news, 
and the electronic news media all fall within his purview. While in- 
quiring into the "more enduring qualities of news" (p. 7), he is able to set 
aside a number of glib assumptions associated with the modem news 
media. His inquiry shows that many of the commonly considered at- 
tributes of news today are, in fact, quite old. The author brings a sur- 
prising unity to this vast and diverse subject by underscoring the 
"constancies over the centuries" of the gathering and presenting of news. 
Beneath that overarching theme of the book, he examines the many 
forms news has taken throughout history. In terms of what that inquiry 
covers, the author has much to say that is engaging and noteworthy. 
The same can be said for his handling other particular topics in the 
study ranging from speculation about man's obsession with news and the 
"human wireless telegraphy" of the South African Zulus to the ob- 
jectivity of modem news. 

Yet the book is frustrating in some other aspects. In part, this is due 
to its arrangement. It repeatedly jumps about from place to place and 
from the present to a variety of pasts. Although Stephens warns us that 
this leapfrogging will occur, it can become disconcerting. The volume 
also suffers from a lack of a strong contextual framework for the various 
times and places covered. Moreover, the treatment accorded a number of 
topics in the book fails to satisfy one's expectations. In his examination 
of "News and Revolution," for example, Stephens scarcely mentions the 
Russian Revolution of 1917 and overlooks others, even major ones that 
rocked Western Europe in the nineteenth century. Nor does he address 
the subject of news and revolutionary movements in the Europe of a cen- 
tury ago when no self-respecting revolutionary group was without news 
publications. Moreover, his discussion of "News Management and Ma- 
nipulation," while interesting, is disappointing. He hardly considers 
those masters of news manipulation who have either dominated or 

210 American Journalism VI (1989): 3 

served governments in both democratic and totalitarian twentieth-cen- 
tury Western states. In fact, a number of topics one might expect to be 
given serious attention in this study receive only scant attention. Some 
are absent. 

The problem is one of selection of material to include in this study, 
and that is a matter crucial to any work of history. Soundness of argu- 
ment, cohesiveness of subject, and narrative flow all depend on selec- 
tion. In this case, however, one is left to wonder why certain segments of 
history were included but not others. It remains a question, for example, 
why ancient India was slighted. The Roman Empire and various peri- 
ods of traditional China all receive well-justified treatment that takes 
us back to the late centuries B.C. and the first millenium A.D., but India 
remains a void in the account. Yet between 200 B.C. and 300 A.D. India 
experienced a wave of invasions and a great expansion of trade. 
Following that, the Empire of the Imperial Gupta emerged and lasted 
until 550 A.D., a time during which the sub-continent experienced one of 
its "golden" ages. The author, however, chose only to compare the Ro- 
man Empire to China, saying that "in size, power and longevity" the 
ancient Chinese Empire was Rome's "one rival." (p. 68) At least fuller 
explanation is needed, and at best a more comprehensive comparative 
framework would help. The problem continues throughout the study. 
Consider the case of the Middle Ages. In this instance we find a good 
deal included on the Renaissance and post-Renaissance periods but lit- 
tle about the eleventh to the thirteenth centuries. Yet historians 
recognize the achievement of those centuries as one of the peaks of 
Western Civilization; and some, like Dietrich Gerhard, claim it was 
the formative period when the West developed its common culture. 
What role did the news have then? That question should be addressed 
in a history emphasizing "the seminal, but not definitive, journalistic 
activities of the English and the French, of Europeans in general...." (p. 

Any work of this scope will evoke criticism because of the many ex- 
pectations and preferences that readers will have about so large a sub- 
ject. Nevertheless, this is a major and, despite its serious flaws, a 
meritorious study because it helps to modify present-minded percep- 
tions of the news media. Ultimately, it is the scope of the study, with 
all the problems it entails, that remains its distinguishing feature. In 
recent years Akira Iriye, Bernard Bailyn, John Hope Franklin, 
William H. McNeill, and other historians have called attention to the 
international potential of many historical subjects and to the wider vi- 
sion that approach to history can afford. A History of News helps to 
internationalize a subject deserving of that perspective. 

James D. Startt Valparaiso University 

Book Reviews 211 

Harold A. Williams. The Baltimore Sun, 1837-1987. Baltimore: The 
Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987. 418 pp. Cloth. $29.50. 

The Baltimore Sun is the sole survivor of the major penny papers of 
the 1830s. So near Washington, the Sun and its offspring, the Evening 
Sun of H.L. Mencken, have played a role not unlike that of off-Broad- 
way theater. From the beginning, the publishers played to a distinct 
audience in Baltimore, but kept one eye on the capital and reached to- 
ward the national and international arenas. 

The Sun's first distinction, at the age of sixteen weeks, derived from 
its orientation toward Washington. Amid the Panic of 1837, the Sun 
scooped six Baltimore papers in publishing President Martin Van Bu- 
ren's message to Congress. Inspired by James Gordon Bennett's news- 
gathering innovations at the New York Herald, the Sun's founder, 
Arunah S. Abell, had rushed the message from the capitol by courier 
and train in two hours, shattering the customary 24-hour lag. 

Harold A. Williams' book is an institutional history, commissioned 
by the Sunpapers for their 150th anniversary. It is a useful documentary 
of the Baltimore media in the context of the city of Baltimore, and of 
the people who worked there. Williams himself is a former Sunday 
editor whose labors at the Sun lasted 41 years. His book blends past in- 
stitutional histories (four staff members, including Mencken, labored on 
the 100th anniversary history published by Knopf in 1937), his own in- 
terviews with veteran staffers, boardroom minutes, Sunpapers on 
microfilm, published memoirs, and secondary sources. 

Williams underscores the contributions of numerous Sunpaper men 
and women. Some were luminaries, such as Mencken, who cast his spell 
beginning in 1906, when he joined as Sunday editor. Although Williams 
relies mainly on Mencken's autobiographical works and on William 
Manchester's biography (1950), a few Meckenania are unearthed from 
oral history and microfilm. On February 10, 1938, during Mencken's 
three-month stint as editor, the Evening Sun editorial page published 
his anti-Roosevelt "Page of Dots" - a million dots representing federal 
"jobholders" multiplying at the rate of "one hundred an hour" (pp. 232- 

Baltimore provided a jump start for careers in "Broadway" journal- 
ism at the New York Times. Turner Catledge (1927-29) got his break 
when he was sent to the Sun's Washington bureau to replace a veteran 
who had "let his drinking get the better of him." Russell Baker (1947- 
53) started as a police reporter and eventually reached the Sun's Lon- 
don bureau, where he covered Queen Elizabeth's coronation. 

Some prominent names merely passed through. In 1907, Mark Twain 
toured the new building, causing the no-smoking rule to be suspended. 
Cigar in hand, he commented, "I even believe I could write something 
good in here myself." Edmund Wilson was recruited by Mencken in the 

212 American Journalism VI (1 989): 3 

1920s to write opinion pieces. William Manchester started reporting for 
the Evening Sun in 1947 as a way to write his biography of Mencken. 

Perhaps the book's rarest contributions are the anecdotes about 
lesser known yet important figures. Charles Grasty's vision and fi- 
nancial manipulations created the Evening Sun in 1910. Paul Patterson 
realigned the Sun so it could thrive in the 1930s and 1940s, winning nine 
Pulitzers. Philip Potter, the Washington investigative reporter, 
helped bring on the censure of Senator Joseph McCarthy. 

One obvious problem with this genre of history - commissioned by 
an institution for its own commemoration - is the inherent bias. 
Williams assures the reader that present publisher Reg Murphy gave 
him "a free hand." Yet Williams divulges no corporate secrets. The role 
Murphy played in 1986 selling the Sunpapers to the Times Mirror Corp. 
is veiled. Williams defers to official minutes of meetings at the Sun, 
whereas the $600 million deal was hammered out elsewhere, then an- 
nounced at the Sun when Murphy interrupted a meeting with an abrupt 
announcement: "It is the end of one dream, the beginning of another" 
(pp. 365-66). 

Most of Williams' stories credit the Sunpapers and their owners, 
heirs of founder Arunah Abell (1806-88). The businessmen and news 
managers guided an 1830s penny paper into the modern era, attracted 
outstanding reporting and editing talents, and established a reputation 
for national and international news coverage with only an occasional 
error. On April 15, 1912, the Evening Sun ran the banner headline, "All 
Titanic Passengers Are Safe." When editors learned that 1,517 of the 
2,000 had perished, they blamed wire-service reports (p. 146). 

Another characteristic of institutional histories is the obligation to 
name as many people as possible. While the narrative suffers, it is a 
benefit to scholars of the era; the names of the least known reporters 
and board members are rescued. 

Leonard Ted Georgia State University 

Gita Siegman, editor. World of Winners: A Current and Historical Perspective 
on Awards and Their Winners. Detroit: Gale Research, Inc., 1989. 993 pp. 

This list of 75,000 winners of awards includes more than 12,000 winners of 
mass media awards such as the Pulitzer Prizes, Oscars, and Emmys. 

Sam G. Riley, editor. American Magazine Journalists, 1850-1900. Detroit: Gale 
Research Inc., 1989. 402 pp. $98.00. 

This volume, containing biographies of fifty editors and publishers, is the 
second in a three-volume encyclopedic series and is part of Gales' continuing 
Dictionary of Literary Biography. 

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American Journalism Historians Association 

President: Margaret Blanchard, North Carolina 

Vice-President: Maurine Beasley, Maryland 

Secretary: Don Avery, Southern Mississippi 

Editor, American Journalism: Wm. David Sloan, Alabama 

Board of Directors: 

Perry Ashley, South Carolina Roy Atwood, Idaho 

Sharon Bass, Kansas Barbara Cloud, Nevada-Las Vegas 

Lester Carson, Florida Alf Pratte, Brigham Young 

Nancy Roberts, Minnesota Leonard Teel, Georgia State 

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American Journalism 
College of Conununication 
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University of Alabama 
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Non-Profit Organization 
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Permit No. 16 




^^ 2 8 2005 

FALL 1989 

Published by the American Joumahsm Historians Association 


FALL 1989 



The Moscow 

Transatlantic Vistas 

American Journalism 

Images of the 

Edgar Snow 

Media, Myths, and 


The Press and the 
Origins of the Cold War 

Wake Up America! 

Papers for the Millions 

On and Off the Air 



• Magazine Publishing and Popular 

Science after World War II 
Scientific American and Science Illustrated Battle 
to Produce a New Popular Scientific Magazine. 
Bruce V. Lewenstein 218 

Reconstruction Journalism: 

The Hays-Hawley Letter 

A Report on Political Conditions in the South 

Touches Off a Nationwide Controversy. 

William Warren Rogers, }r. 235 

Historiographical Essay 

The Revolutionary Press: 

Source of Unity or Division? 

What Role Did the Newspaper Press Play 

in the Colonies' Fight for Independence? 

Carol Sue Humphrey 245 


John Pauly 



Pamela Brown 


Gary Whitby 

Central Missouri State 


Edward Nickerson 



Sharon M.W. Bass 


Alf Pratte 

Brigham Young 


Barbara Buckley 



Wm. David Sloan 


Gary Whitby 

Central Missouri State 



Margaret Blanchard 

North Carolina 


Maurine Beasley 



Don Avery 

Southern Mississippi 


Perry Ashley 

South Carolina 

Roy At wood 


Sharon M.W. Bass 


Lester Carson 


Barbara Qoud 

Nevada-Las Vegas 

Alf Pratte 

Brigham Young 

Nancy Roberts 


Richard Scheidenhelm 


Leonard Teel 

Georgia State 


American Journalism publishes 
articles, research notes, book 
reviews, and correspondence 
dealing -with the history of 
journalism. Such contribu- 
tions may focus on social, 
economic, intellectual, politi- 
cal, or legal issues. American 
Journalism also welcomes ar- 
ticles that treat the history of 
commiinication in general; 
the history of broadcasting, 
advertising, and public rela- 
tions; the history of media 
outside the United States; and 
theoretical issues in the litera- 
ture or methods of media his- 

SUBMISSIONS. All articles, 
research notes, and corre- 
spondence should be sent to 
Professor John Pauly, Editor, 
American Journalism, Faculty 
of Communication, Univer- 
sity of Tulsa, 600 S. College 
Avenue, Tulsa, Oklahoma 
74104. Authors should send 
four copies of manuscripts 
submitted for publication as 
articles. American Journalism 
foUows the style require- 
ments of The Chicago Manual 
of Style. The maximum length 
for most manuscripts is 25 
pages, not including notes 
and tables. 

All submissions are blind 
refereed by three readers, and 
the review process typically 
takes about three months. 
Manuscripts will be returned 
only if the author has includ- 
ed a self-addressed stamped 

Research notes are typically 
much shorter manuscripts, 3- 
6 pages maximum, without 
formal documentation. Such 
notes, which are not blind 
refereed, may include reports 
of research in progress, dis- 
cussions of methodology, an- 
notations on new archival 
sources, commentaries on is- 
sues in journalism history, or 
suggestions for future re- 
search. Authors who v^sh to 
contribute research notes are 

invited to query the editor. 

Anyone who wishes to re- 
view books for American 
Journalism, or to propose a 
book for review, should con- 
tact Professor Nancy Roberts, 
Book Review Editor, American 
Journalism, School of Journal- 
ism and Mass Communica- 
tion, University of Minnesota, 
Minneapolis, Minnesota 

American Journalism is pro- 
duced on a Macintosh com- 
puter, using Microsoft Word 
and Pagemaker software. 
Authors of manuscripts ac- 
cepted for publication are en- 
couraged, but not required, to 
submit their work on DOS- 
based or Macintosh disks. 

tion on advertising rates and 
placements is available from 
Professor Alf Pratte, Adver- 
tising Manager, American 
Journalism, Department of 
Communications, Brigham 
Young University, Provo, 
Utah 84602. 

Journalism (ISSN 0882-1127) 
is published quarterly by the 
American Journalism Histori- 
ans Association, at the Uni- 
versity of Tulsa. Subscrip- 
tions to American Journalism 
cost $15 a year, $10 for stu- 
dents, and include a one-year 
membership in AJHA. Sub- 
scriptions mailed outside the 
United States cost $20 for sur- 
face mail, $25 for air mail. 
For further information, 
please contact the Editor. 

COPYRIGHT. ©American 
Joiarnalism Historians Asso- 
ciation, 1989. Articles in 
American Journalism may be 
photocopied for fair use in 
teaching, research, criticism, 
and news reporting, in accor- 
dance with Sections 107 and 
108 of the U.S. Copyright 
Law. For all other purposes, 
users must obtain permission 
from the Editor. 

REFEREES. Thanks to the 
following editorial board 
members, who have recently 
read manuscripts for 
American Journalism. 

Don Avery 

Southern Mississippi 

Douglas Birkhead 


Roy Blackwood 

Bemidji State 

Pamela Brown 

Rider College 

Edward Caudill 


E. Culpepper Clark 


Thomas Connery 

College of St. Thomas 

Ted Conover 


Irving Goldman 


Arthur Kaul 

Southern Mississippi 

Charles Marler 

Abilene Christian 

Joseph McKerns 

Ohio State 

Michael Murray 

Missouri-St. Louis 

David Nord 


Thomas Schwartz 

Ohio State 

Michael Sherer 


Zoe Smith 


Harold Stensaas 

Mankato State 

Mitchell Stephens 

New York 

Steve Sumner 

Thomas Volek 


Phyllis Zagano 



THE EDITOR'S CHAIR has often been thought a 
respite from the world, a place for quiet reflection on 
the affairs of the day. Ensconced between its leather 
wings, snug in a panelled office overlooking a gar- 
den, the editor spins a web of words and waits for the 
world to come to him. 

What a quaint and affecting nineteenth-century 
dream that is! Anyone who has sat in an editor's chair 
recently knows better. The editor sits atop a precari- 
ous perch, in an unlikely position of uncertain au- 
thority, an inviting target for catcalls, caterwauls, and 
catastrophe. I sit down now with some trepidation, 
but with a renewed appreciation for how well David 
Sloan has filled that chair these last five years. He has 
given American Journalism stature, credibility, and 
rigor. Our organization's gratitude and respect seem 
small recompense indeed for all his hard work and 

My thanks go out as well to Jim Startt and Nick 
Nickerson, who recently stepped down after serving 
so well (and so long, it must seem to them) as associ- 
ate editor and book review editor. A full introduction 
to the new cast and crew will have to wait till the 
winter issue. 

American Journalism has taken this occasion to re- 
vamp its look. Sharon Bass imagined a more elegant 
design years ago, but until recently the journal could 
not technologically accomplish it. Now Sharon and 
her assistant, Bess Frimodig, have given the journal a 
literate yet conversational feel. Their design opens 
American Journalism to many more voices, but contin- 
ues to honor our organization's sense of tradition. 

Most of the revisions appear in this issue, but other 
surprises, I hope, still await the reader. 

- J.P. 




How Magazine Publishers 

Tried to Capitalize on the Public's Interest 

in Science and Technology 

Bruce V. Lewenstein 

Bruce Lewenstein 
is an assistant 
professor at Cor- 
nell University, 
with appointnients 
in the Department 
of Communication 
and in the Pro- 
gram on the His- 
tory and Philoso- 
phy of Science 
and Technology. 
His research cov- 
ers the history of 
public communi- 
cation of science 
in the mid-to-late 
twentieth century. 
He is currently co- 
directing a Na- 
tional Science 
sored "Cold Fu- 
sion Archive," 
which contains 
mass media, elec- 
tronic network, 
manuscript, and 
interview data. 

NEAR THE END OF WORLD WAR II, an informal coalition of 
scientists, educators, and others in America's intellectual com- 
munity issued a call for more "popular science." Citing the 
scientific and technological products of the war — including jet 
engines, penicillin, radar, synthetic rubber, and, of course, the 
atom bomb — these self-appointed spokesmen for "the public" 
declared that there was a "demand" for more information about 
science, a demand for more public understanding of science. 
Over the next twenty years, several groups in society responded 
to this demand, including scientific organizations, science writ- 
ers, and government agencies.^ 

The first to respond were commercial magazine publishers. 
Indeed, by early 1945 at least two publishers had started popular 
science projects. Both were driven, in part, by an ideological 
commitment to science as the source of hope and authority in the 
new postwar world. Constrained by commercial pressures, 
however, both put most of their efforts into identifying and 
serving an appropriate "public" for popular science. The stories 
of these two publishing projects. Science Illustrated and the new 
Scientific American, reveal this interplay of intellectual and eco- 
nomic constraints in publishing projects intended to serve broad 
social goals. 

At the same time, the stories shed light on the state of Ameri- 
can magazine publishing in the years after World War II. Those 
were years of increasing specialization in publishing, and the 
story of Science Illustrated and Scientific American illustrates how 
mid-century magazine publishers tried to meet the new eco- 
nomic challenges that confronted them. 

1. Much of the supporting material for this paper appears in my dissertation, 
"'Public Understanding of Science' in the United States, 1945-1965" (Ph.D. 
diss.. University of Pennsylvania, 1987). For the issue of "demand," see 25-78. 


Early in 1 945 the New York technical trade publisher James H. 
McGraw, Jr., decided to create a new magazine in the "mechani- 
cal" field. It would "break with tradition and enter the field with 
a book as modern as tomorrow, all the way from editorial 
content to art treatment and printing."^ McGraw-Hill was then 
one of the world's largest publishers of trade magazines for 
carefully defined industrial audiences. McGraw, son of the 
firm's founder, believed that this corporate expertise could be a 
successful base for the company's first venture into consumer 
publishing — that is, producing magazines for the "general 

Yet initial descriptions of the new magazine, produced by 
Willis Brown, a former Popular Mechanics general manager hired 
by McGraw to run the new project, did not differ significantly 
from the existing "mechanical" magazines such as Popular Sci- 
ence and Popular Mechanics. More than two-thirds of the space 
would be devoted to columns about new products, television, 
automobiles, and home crafts. Whatever space remained might 
be used for "virtually any subject which is pictorial [and] of 
interest to hundreds of thousands of men."^ 

Although a team of McGraw-Hill executives enthusiastically 
took up the plans, the McGraw-Hill board of directors did not 
agree to support the project. The company's records do not 
explain why the board rejected McGraw's proposal, but it was 
probably because the economic rationale for the project was not 
clear. The new magazine would require an operating budget of 
nearly a quarter of a million dollars a year, and the magazine's 
backers needed to show that it would be profitable before it 
could proceed.'* 

At the same time, unknown to the McGraw-Hill team, a new- 
comer to publishing was also thinking about a science-oriented 
magazine. Gerard Piel, an Andover- and Harvard-trained jour- 
nalist, had been science editor of Life magazine since 1939. He 
had been tutored at Harvard by one of the founders of the 

2. Willis Brown, "New Publication in the Mechanical Field/' n.d., Science 
Illustrated files, McGraw-Hill Corporate Resource Center, New York, especially 
1, 7-8, 10-11, 14; and WiUis S. Brown, letter to author, 15 June 1986 (Willis S. 
Brown, the son of Willis Brown, also worked for McGraw-Hill). For a hagi- 
ographic study of McGraw-Hill, see Roger BurUngame, Endless Frontiers: The 
Story of McGraw-Hill (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1959). 

3. Brown, "New Publication," 12-13. For an introduction to the structure of 
magazine publishing, see Theodore Peterson, Magazines in the Twentieth Cen- 
tury, 2d ed. (Urbana, III: University of Illinois Press, 1964); James L. C. Ford, 
Magazines for the Millions: The Story of Specialized Publications (Carbondale, 111.: 
Southern Illinois University Press, 1969); and Roland E. Wolseley, Understand- 
ing Magazines, 2d ed. (Ames, la.: Iowa State University Press, 1969). 

4. Howard Ehrlich et al. to James H. McGraw, Jr., 30 March 1945, Science 
Illustrated files; and Ehrlich, "Report and Recommendations re: McGraw-Hill 
Entry into the Science Field of Publishing," 31 October 1945, Science Illustratea 


AJ/Fall 1989 

• • • • • 

Some articles Piel 
ran while science 
editor at Life: 

Diseases Are 

Diagnosed by 

Crystallized Blood 


Design Model 

Rockets Hoping 

for Transatlantic 


New Rubber-like 

Plastic Binder 

Makes Safety 

Glass That Bends 

Camera Stops 

37-mm. Shell 

in Flight 

Army Engineers 

Design Blackout 


Fire: Its Basic 

Principles and 


Electricity and Life 

Dutch Elm Disease 

sociology of science, and he had a deep appreciation of how 
science fit into the complex web of hun-ian activity. During the 
1940s, as Piel developed his working relationships with scien- 
tists, he observed two things: scientists of all disciplines were 
intensely interested in the stories he prepared for Life; and 
nowhere could he find a place to read about the developments 
of science in a wide range of fields. He began to mull over the 
idea of publishing a magazine to fill this need.^ 

In late 1944, determined to play an active role in setting 
science policy in the postwar era, Piel took a position with 
industrialist Henry Kaiser, who had extensive government 
contacts. Just before Piel left his old job, fellow Life editor Dennis 
Flanagan commented, "What this country needs is a good 
magazine about science." Piel quickly suggested that they team 
up. They arranged for Flanagan to take over Piel's position as 
science editor at Life, to give him more exposure to a field with 
which he had only a passing acquaintance.^ 

Piel left Life in January 1945. For the next year, as he worked 
for Kaiser, he and Hanagan continued to discuss their plans. 
They met weekly with another friend, Donald H. Miller, Jr. 
Miller provided the business background that neither Piel nor 
Hanagan had.^ 

Meanwhile, the McGraw-Hill executives were continuing 
their efforts to create a new magazine, despite the board of 
directors' refusal to commit the company to the project. In April 
1945 McGraw spent $37,500 in personal funds to buy a magazine 
named Science Illustrated. He hired an editorial troika, each of 
whom could reasonably expect to be "the" editor. Each of the 
three editors brought a different perspective to the magazine, 
presaging a conflict of goals that would plague the magazine's 
first years. Harley Magee championed the mechanical, applied- 
technology perspective of Popular Mechanics. Gerald Wendt, a 
prominent chemical researcher who had devoted himself to 
popularizing science and had served as science and education 
director of the 1939 New York World's Fair, passionately be- 
lieved in the need to explain basic research to the public. Dexter 
Masters, a founding editor of Consumer Reports, supported ef- 

5. Gerard Piel, oral history, 23 September 1986, American Philosophical Society, 
Philadelphia, 14-19, 21ff.; HiOier Krieghbaiam, "American Newspaper Report- 
ing of Science News," Kansas State College Bulletin 25 (1941): 1-73; Dennis 
Flanagan, "Gerard Piel: President- Elect of the AAAS," Science, 27 July 1985, 
385-87; Dennis Flanagan, oral history, 26 February 1986, Columbia University 
Oral History Research Office, New York; "Gerard Piel of Scientific American: The 
Story of a 'Remarkable Venture,'" Printer's Ink, 10 October 1958, 57-60; and Piel, 
letter to author, 27 July 1987. 

6. Piel, oral history, 3-9, 14-15, 22-29; Flanagan, oral history, 1-2, 49; "Gerard 
Piel of Scientific American," 57-59; and David Hollinger, 'The Defense of 
Democracy and Robert K. Merton's Formulation of the Scientific Ethos," 
Knowledge and Society 4 (1983): 1-15. 

7. Piel, oral history, 29-32. 



forts to control science and harness it directly to social needs.^ 
McGraw came to see the new magazine more and more as 
devoted to science, not technical gadgets. The audience ranged 
from "Vermont farm boys" whose military work made them 
"more interested in the measurement of microseconds than in 
milking," to business and industrial executives "brought face- 
to-face with the challenge and opportunities of new materials, 
methods, [and] equipment developed by science." Ultimately, 
McGraw cited a pool of twenty-six million potential subscribers, 
from which he hoped to draw one million.' 

Despite his own enthusiasm, however, McGraw could find 
no advertisers. By the late summer of 1945 his investment in 
Science Illustrated seemed to be a poor one. 


The war was coming to a close, but the commercial publish- 
ers had not yet found the formula that would let them serve the 
need they perceived for a popular science magazine. "Then in 
August 1945 came an accident that completely upset all calcula- 
tions — the Atomic Bomb," a management consultant later re- 
ported. "It blasted the importance of science into the minds of 
the general public. It suddenly developed a new and sure 
audience of advertisers and readers."'" 

When returns from an October 1945 promotional mailing for 
Science Illustrated reached a 9 percent return rate (more than 
quadruple the expected number of orders), McGraw once again 
proposed that McGraw-Hill publish a popular science maga- 
zine. But this time he offered to sell to the company his personal 
entry in the field. Science Illustrated}'^ 

An outside consultant, J. K. Lasser, evaluated the proposal for 
the McGraw-Hill board and enthusiastically recommended it. 
In doing so, he expressed a moral commitment to science held by 
much of the business community. The new magazine, said 
Lasser (frequently parroting McGraw's own words), would 
"describe the peacetime horizons of scientific progress in the 
public's own terms": 

8. Ehrlich to McGraw, 30 March 1946; Russell F. Anderson, letter to author, 14 
March 1986 (Anderson was a McGraw-Hill news executive who contributed 
international news to Science Illustrated); Burlingame, Endless Frontiers, 372-73; 
Edward L. Hutchings, taped interview, 11 September 1986, Pasadena, Calif. 
(Hutchings was hired by Masters to be managing editor of Science Illustrated); 
Proctor Mellquist, interview, 21 July 1986, Los Altos Hills, Calif. (Mellquist 
succeeded Hutchings as managing editor of Science Illustrated); J. K. Lasser Co. 
to McGraw-Hill Publishing Co., 20 October 1945, Science Illustrated files (here- 
after cited as Lasser Report), 16; Hanagan, oral history, 13-15; Willis S. Brown, 
letters to author, 15 June and 11 July 1986; and Gerald Wendt, "Impact," Science 
Illustrated 1 (April 1946): 10. 

9. Lasser Report, 4-5, 11. 

10. Lasser Report, 7. Unless otherwise noted, all italicized words in quotes were 
emphasized in the original. 

11. Ehrlich, "Report and Recommendations," 31 October 1945, 10. 

"Too many 
people,' Piel has 
remarked, 'are 
clamoring about 
the need to hu- 
manize the 
scientist... .There is 
more humanity in 
their systems, a 
more intense and 
real awareness of 
life than in most 
non-scientists. To 
me, the more ur- 
gent need is to 
teach the human- 
ists science.'" 
- Printers' Ink , 
10 October 1958. 

222 AJ/Fall 1989 

In virtually every move an individual makes these days 
is reflected the work and products of our science, and 
yet nowhere could the individual — the average citi- 
zen — find in his own terms a reporting or an interpret- 
ing of what the scientists are doing, what they are 
beginning which will soon be affecting our lives.^^ 
The magazine would "bridge the gap between the scientific 
world and the average citizen." 

More than any other event, the dropping of the atomic bomb 
created the potential audience for a magazine about science, 
Lasser said. He titled one section of his report, "FREAK ACCI- 
MCGRAW." He noted. 

The publication is a strange child of fortune. It now has 
an assured potential circulation of well over a million 
people — all based upon a stroke of good fortune — the 
apparent proof that it can capture the new science- 
minded readership, which was greatly stimulated dur- 
ing the war years but became readers actually only with the 
announcement of the Atomic Bomb.^^ 
Neither Lasser's report nor McGraw's plans addressed in 
detail the advertising side of the publishing equation. They did 
not explore how a magazine designed to appeal to as broad a 
cross section of the country as possible would appeal to adver- 
tisers with technical products (who, according to their own 
plans, were the most likely advertisers in a technically oriented 
magazine). That did not seem to matter. They perceived an 
editorial logic and a clear social need for a project of this sort, 
both sufficiently strong to propel the proposal without an elabo- 
rate financial plan. 

Within ten days of Lasser's report, McGraw-Hill purchased 
Science Illustrated, paying McGraw $140,000 plus 15 percent of all 
profits above $50,000 for twenty-five years. It scheduled "the first 
issue for April 1946.^^ 

Over the next six months. Brown's folly in hiring three editors 
became apparent. Magee scheduled how-to articles and features 
on "gee-whiz" science. Masters, who had served as an editor at 
MIT's Radiation Laboratory during World War II, pushed for 
articles on basic science and important social issues. Wendt, 
though he supported Masters's instincts, proved to be an aloof, 
uninvolved editor, valuable more for his contacts in the scientific 
community than his skills at editorial management.^^ 

12. Lasser Report, 1-2. 

13. Lasser Report, 8. Lasser is surely one of the few to consider the bomb "good 

14. "The [McGraw-Hill] Bulletin," special edition, November 1945, Science 
Illustrated files; and Ehrlich, "Report and Recommendations," 10. 

15. Wendt, 'Impact," 10; Rae Goodell, The Visible Scientists (Boston: Little 



Initially, at least, the Masters- Wendt camp won. Articles in 
the first few issues dealt with topics such as the National Science 
Foundation, cancer, atomic energy, and geology — all "serious" 
science, all topics welcome to the scientific community. The 
magazine appealed to the intellectuals as well, who expressed 
the hope that it would address itself to "the social lag between 
invention and employment of invention." With Masters seen as 
its leader (lauded for his knowledge of "humane concepts"). 
Science Illustrated might become a "big magazine... carrying weight 
in human affairs."^^ 

The magazine had a strong start, selling nearly 150,000 copies 
of its first issue on the newsstands. But then the McGraw-Hill 
staff, unskilled in producing and selling consumer magazines, 
blundered. Their newsstand distribution and subscription ful- 
fillment systems were quickly overwhelmed. Perhaps more 
damaging, the editors blundered with their first few cover 
designs. The first three covers were montages, difficult to 
distinguish from one another. According to analyses made later 
by McGraw-Hill executives, consumers glancing at the second 
and third issues on the newsstand and in mailboxes thought that 
they had already read the magazine.^'' 

These problems proved disastrous. Sales plummeted, adver- 
tisers turned away, and the magazine started on a road of 
difficulty that it never left. In early May the company instituted 
a few quick fixes, which did halt the embarrassing slide in 
circulation. But the fixes also pushed the magazine away from 
the dedication to science and serious journalism that Masters 
and Wendt advocated. It went instead toward the "gee- whiz" 
and "mechanical" approach McGraw and Magee preferred .^^ 

The cover revealed the dramatic changes. To recover news- 
stand circulation, the fourth (July 1946) issue featured a scantily 
clad, buxom young lady reclining provocatively on the beach, to 
illustrate a story on ultraviolet radiation and suntans. The 
following issue was even more blatant, displaying a second 
bathing beauty atop a bright red motor scooter — an illustration 
tied only to a three-sentence new-product announcement near 
the back of the magazine. Though these photos undoubtedly 

Brown, 1977), 63-64; Hanagan, oral history, 13-15; Hutchings interview; 
Mellquist interview; Russell Anderson, telephone interview, 24 February 1986, 
Essex, Conn.; and Ehrlich to McGraw, 30 March 1945, 3. 

16. David A. Munro, "Magazine Ferment," New Republic, 15 April 1946, 
500-502; Mellquist interview. In an argument contrary to my own, historian 
Matthew Whalen has suggested that Science Illustrated may be a crucial instance 
of the conjunction between popular science and popular scientism, which 
suggests an appeal to a less-than-intellectual audience. See Whalen, "Science, 
the Public, and American Culture: A Preface to the Study of Popular Science," 
Journal of American Culture 4 (1981): 14-26, esp. 20, 25. 

17. G. J. Seamen to Don Roy, 16 October 1946, Science Illustrated files; Anderson, 
letter to author, 14 March 1986; and Hutchings interview. 

18. McGraw-Hill Executive Order No. 307, 7 May 1946, Science Illustrated files; 
and Hutchings interview. 

publishers know, 
of course, that the 
big money isn't in 
the girlie books. 
As a niatter of fact, 
the really big 
money seems to 
be only in the 
tracks magazines. 
Magazines in our 
nrwralistic culture 
have to have a 
good purpose. 
That's what makes 
ministers' sons 
like Luce or Wal- 
lace good at edit- 
ing magazines." 
- David Munro, 


AJ /Fall 1989 

Article titles from 
the April 1946 is- 
sue oi Science Il- 

The Atom Bomb 

Scientists of the 

Cancer: Science 
Will Win the War 

Man Against 
the Cold 

Rats: Deadly Poi- 
sons for a Pest 

Long Step For- 
ward: GE Makes 

Autos: What's 

Happening with 

1947 Models 


New Glues Hold 


drew in some readers, they also alienated many of the more 
intellectual readers and advertisers.^^ 

Meanwhile, Piel, Flanagan, and Miller had been working on 
their plans. Piel had left the Kaiser payroll in the spring of 1946 
to spend full time searching for startup capital. Then he and his 
colleagues had learned about Science Illustrated and had decided 
to give up their plans. It was clear to them that a company with 
McGraw-Hill's financial and editorial resources would over- 
whelm them. They agreed to meet once more to reconsider their 

At their next meeting, after Science Illustrated' s first issue had 
appeared, they toasted Science Illustrated with glee. Looking at 
the new magazine, they decided that McGraw-Fiill would not 
only fail to reach the technical audience to which they thought 
popular science ought to be directed, but that Science Illustrated 
would be hampered by its "gee whiz" approach to science. They 
took bets about which issue of Science Illustrated would carry on 
its cover a picture of a woman in a bathing suit — a bet later won 
by the partner who picked number four. Piel returned to his 
fund-raising with gusto.^" 

Piel and Flanagan were especially interested in technical 
readers, in the scientists they had discovered reading the science 
section of Life. The goal of their new magazine would be 
to serve the need of the scientist, the engineer, the 
doctor, the educator and the intelligent layman for 
information concerning the progress of science, engi- 
neering, and medicine in all their branches and in their 
application at the social and economic level to the lives 
of all men.-^^ 
Despite their own training as journalists for a mass-circula- 
tion magazine (Life was then one of the largest magazines in the 
country), they perceived their new venture as a magazine for a 
particular, limited audience. Unlike the founders of Science 
Illustrated, they had no illusions about their ability to capture the 
imagination of huge numbers of readers who had only periph- 
eral interest or background in science. Their definition of popu- 
lar science had a specific audience in mind — the nation's scien- 
tific and technological leadership. 

But, in a crucial step, they recognized that "the common de- 

19. Forty years later, recalling the inddent, a number of different publishers 
commented derisively on the "swimsuit" cover. Gercird Piel, interview, 5 May 
1986, New York; Anderson interview, 24 February 1986; Hutchings interview; 
and Mellquist interview. 

20. Piel, oral history, 40; Ranagan, oral history, 12-15. 

21. "Proposal for a Monthly Science Magazine" [1946], Scientific American, Inc., 
corporate archives. New York (hereafter cited as Scientific American archives), 
file cabinet 2, "Summary 1946" folder, 1. References to the Scientific American 
archives are based on a finding aid maintained by Scientific American staffer 
Lorraine Terlecki; 1 would like to thank Gerard Piel for allowing me to examine 
the archives and Mrs. Terlecki for providing access to the records 



nominator of this audience is the interested layman: the scien- 
tific professional who is a layman in departments outside his 
own." Piel and Flanagan had made the essential distinction 
between a mass public and a more limited audience. To call a 
limited audience a public is certainly an appropriate and com- 
mon use of the term; the partners' success was in understanding 
that "a" public was not the same as "the" public.^^ 

Support from the scientific community reaffirmed the part- 
ners' sense that a magazine of popular science would have its 
base within the scientific community. In 1946 more than sixty 
well-known scientists responded to a call for support. Many 
compared the proposed new magazine to the Scientific Monthly 
and American Scientist, both magazines published for the mem- 
bers of particular organizations.^^ 

The partners planned to sell subscriptions to scientists, engi- 
neers, professional workers, and business owners and execu- 
tives. The magazine would appeal to these readers because 
"we'll add a new dimension to industry," the partners wrote. 
"Through industry, in the enormous scope of its operations, 
science has become the very fabric of modern life and material 
basis of our culture."^'* 

By defining the audience as one with professional interest in 
science, Piel and Flanagan did two things. They committed 
themselves to an editorial policy that had to be acceptable to the 
scientific community, and they defined an audience that would 
appeal to the industrial advertisers they hoped to attract. Given 
the financial structure of magazine publishing, that appeal was 
important to their ultimate success. 

Piel and Flanagan were not alone in their perception of a spe- 
cialized audience. After World War II the market for subscrip- 
tion-based specialized magazines boomed. Because successful 
consumer magazines such as Time, Life, and Reader's Digest had 
extremely large audiences, these general-interest media had to 
cover such broad topics that they could no longer concentrate on 
any particular subject. New magazines met this need; between 
1943 and 1963, special-interest magazine circulation more than 
tripled. Piel and Flanagan provide a specific example of how 
these specialized publications came to be.^^ 

22. "An Announcement to Our Readers," Scientific American 177 (December 
1947): 244. 

23. Book of letters, 1947, Scientific American archives, file cabinet 2. 

24. Unlabeled notes, n.d.. Scientific American archives, file cabinet 2, blue 
"editorial" folder; "Introduction to The Sciences" [1947], Scientific American 
archives, file cabinet 2, "Announces the Forthcoming Publication" folder, 2, 5; 
"Proposal for a Monthly Science Magazine" [1946]; and "The Sciences: A Pro- 
spectus in the Form of a Dialogue" [1947], Scientific American archives, file 
cabinet 2, "Announces the Forthcoming Publication" file. The source of the 
audience figures is, unfortunately, not clear. Thus they cannot be compared 
easily with the figures used by McGrawf-Hill for Science Illustrated, which were 
also of unknown provenance. 

25. Peterson, 363-401, esp. 401. 

magazines begun 
since 1945: 


U.S. News and 

World Report 


TV Guide 

Motor Trend 


Higti Fidelity 




American Heritage 

Sports Illustrated 

National Review 

Bon Appetit 



and Garden 


Modern Maturity 

Guns and Ammo 


226 AJ/Fall 1989 

By the spring of 1947, the plans for the magazine launch were 
well-advanced. But the partners could not raise enough funds. 
The new magazine, which they were calling The Sciences, faced 
a great deal of competition for money, for "the woods were thick 
with new magazine ideas then." Once again the partners won- 
dered what to do.^^ 


About this time McGraw invited Piel to lunch. In the year 
since its opening debacle. Science Illustrated had gone through a 
series of editorial staffs, without success. More disheartening, 
the advertisers whose support was crucial were losing interest in 
the magazine. McGraw thought that Piel, rather than starting his 
own magazine, might better work to save Science Illustrated?'' 
But Piel realized that McGraw's populist vision for Science 
Illustrated did not match his own technocratic goals. McGraw 
wanted a magazine that would appeal to a mass consumer 
audience. Piel and his colleagues were trying to appeal to a select 
group already committed to science. Thanking McGraw for the 
meal, Piel turned down the offer.^^ 

Over the next two and a half years, McGraw-Hill tried a series 
of staff changes, magazine redesigns, and new editorial ap- 
proaches to regain momentum. Most of these changes aimed at 
making Science Illustrated less "highbrow," to meet criticisms 
that the magazine was too far removed from its readers.^^ Unlike 
Piel and his colleagues, McGraw-Hill executives had little back- 
ground in science. Perhaps because of their experience in tech- 
nical publishing, McGraw-Hill staffers saw science as a product, 
not as an intellectual subject. Thus they accepted the relatively 
naive argument that science could always be described in terms 
of its ultimate benefits to society .^° 

At the end of 1946, McGraw-Hill appointed one of its most 
senior executives, Paul Montgomery, as publisher of the maga- 
zine. Montgomery, who continued as publisher of the com- 
pany's flagship Business Week, named McGraw-Hill circulation 
executive Shelton Fisher as his "deputy" in circulation and 

26. 'Introduction to The Sciences" [1947]; "Gerard Piel of Scientific American," 
59-60; Munro, "Magazine Ferment"; Bradley Dewey to Bernard Baruch, 9 Jvtne 
1947, Scientific American archives, file cabinet 2, "Finance" folder; "Scientific 
American — A Case of Qicking," Tide, 5 September 1952; and Warren Weaver, 
"Understanding Science," 12 October 1948, Rockefeller Foimdation archives, 
RGl.l, ser. 200F, box 175, folder 2124, Rockefeller Archive Center, North 
Tarrytown, N.Y. 

27. J. K. Lasser to Henry G. Lord, 18 October 1946; Tom Maloney, "A Report on 
Science Illustrated: 1946. Results and Prospects for 1947," n.d.; and Seamen to 
Roy, 16 October 1946, 3, all in Science Illustrated files. Mellquist interview. 

28. Piel, oral history, 40-42. 

29. Shelton Fisher to Eugene Duffield, 24 November 1946, Science Illustrated 
files, 5. 

30. Fisher to Duffield, 24 November 1946; Hutchings interview; and Mellqiaist 



editorial matters. Fisher quickly put his stamp on the organ- 
ization. Science Illustrated became even more picture-oriented, 
more tied to presenting the direct links between science, technol- 
ogy, and everyday life. These changes did not sit well with those 
on the staff who preferred to define science as "basic" or "funda- 
mental" research, and many left.^^ 

By 1949 McGraw-Hill had invested $4.5 million in Science Il- 
lustrated. The magazine had reached a circulation of about 
500,000, only half its original goal. Even if it continued to 
improve its numbers — more circulation and sales, fewer news- 
stand returns — it could not hope to recover its investment. In 
addition, international tensions were making the business 
community conservative about financial risks; and tensions 
within the McGraw family were restricting the ability of James 
H. McGraw, Jr., to act decisively. Within a year he would be 
forced out of the company .^^ 

On 15 June 1949 McGraw-Hill announced to the staff that 
Science Illustrated would fold. In the public announcement two 
days later, McGraw-Hill blamed high printing costs and insuf- 
ficient advertising income. The problem, Montgomery said, was 
that although the publishers thought they could provide "a clear 
picture of their audience, it was difficult for advertisers to define 
that audience in terms of a market for specified products." 
Unfortunately, "not all publications which are genuinely inter- 
esting to specific kinds of readers can be made financially 
attractive to specific kinds of advertisers."^^ Science Illustrated 
had failed to demonstrate the existence of a market for informa- 
tion about science, within the economic constraints imposed by 
a mass-circulation magazine. At the same time, the scientific 
community had shown its unease with a publication not de- 
voted to treating science as a search for basic or pure knowledge. 

Barry Cominoner 
on his tenure with 
Science Illus- 
trated: 'The nriaga- 
zine started out to 
do a serious job 
along the lines 
later made suc- 
cessful by Scien- 
tific Aiverican. I 
joined the staff on 
that basis and was 
one of a group on 
it that struggled, 
with the McGraw- 
Hill management 
to keep on that 
path. [I] spent 
many anguished 
months in this 

- Rae Goodell, 
Visible Scienists. 


To Piel and his partners, the "abrupt demise" of Science Illus- 
trated provided new opportunities. Shortly after McGraw's 
meeting with Piel, the partners had purchased the moribund. 

31. Paul Montgomery to Science Illustrated staff, 13 December 1946, Science 
Illustrated files; Goodell, Visible Scientists, 63-64; and Mellquist interview. One 
of those who left was Barry Commoner, who became a famous biologist and 
popialarizer himself. 

32. Shelton Fisher, oral history, 23 April 1956, 10, McGraw-Hill Corporate 
Resource Center, New York (the Columbia University Oral History Research 
Office, which prepared the interview, also holds a copy); Mellquist interview; 
Brown, letter to author, 15 June 1986; Russell Anderson, letter to author, 14 
March 1986; and Anderson interview, 24 February 1986. 

33. "Science Illustrated to Board," penciled note, n.d.; untitled memo, 8 June 1949, 
H. G. Strong to Eugene S. Duffield, 21 June 1949; untitled press release, 17 Jime 
1949; and Paul Montgomery to advertisers, mimeographed memorandum, 17 
June 1949, all in Science Illustrated files. Wall Street Journal, 18 June 1949, 8; Time, 
27 June 1949, 45; Newsweek, 27 June 1949, 62. I have been told that the sounds of 



'The highest aim 
of the new Scien- 
tific American will 
be to present sci- 
entific knowledge 
totheend that sci- 
ence shall occupy 
the same place in 
the mind of every 
thinking citizen 
that it occupies as 
an integral part of 
our modem civili- 
- "An Announce- 
ment to Our 
March 1948. 

103-year-old Scientific American, which had survived the war 
only by possessing a paper allotment that allowed it to print ads 
that advertising agencies could not fit elsewhere. The partners 
calculated that buying an existing publication cut capital needs 
by nearly half, since the existing magazine's name recognition 
and circulation of forty thousand would relieve the new venture 
of many start-up costs.^* Although one advisor warned Piel that 
he was miscalculating, the investors agreed to the revised plans. 
On 27 April 1948 the partners released the first complete issue 
of their new magazine.^^ 

The partners thought the core of readers inherited from the 
old Scientific American would make it easy to reach an audience 
of 100,000, well above the number needed to be profitable. To 
locate new subscribers, they solicited scientists, university pro- 
fessors. United Nations staff, and other leaders of the modern 
world. Although these people represented the technological 
and scientific leadership Piel and his partners presumed would 
be attracted to the new magazine, initial direct-mail promotion 
returns did not bear out their enthusiasm.^^ 

Successful promotion became even more crucial when it 
turned out that the supposed "core" of forty thousand old 
Scientific American readers did not exist. Nearly 60 percent of the 
subscribers turned out to be bars, restaurants, barber shops, and 
other locations that had received their subscriptions from maga- 
zine subscription salesmen in trade for meals or haircuts. An- 
other 25 percent of the circulation came from newsstand sales, an 
unreliable source of readers for a magazine changing formats 
and seeking a limited audience. About 10 percent came from li- 
braries, which were important in the long run but did not 
provide the kind of audience advertisers wanted to see. Piel later 

Science lUustrated's failure "still echo through the haUs of McGraw-Hill." The 
company has never ventured again into the general consumer magazine 
publishing business. 

34. Hov^ard Meyerhoff to Gerard Piel, 30 June 1949, Catherine Borras papers 
(hereafter cited as Borras Papers), box 9, "TheSdentific American Inc., 1 949-1955" 
folder, American Association for the Advancement of Science archives, Wash- 
ington, D.C.; Flanagan, oral history, 10-11; Piel, oral history, 33; and "Forecast: 
Scientific American under Management of The Sciences, Inc." [1947], Scientific 
American archives, file cabinet 2. 

35. Excerpt from Warren Weaver diary, 3 September 1947, Rockefeller Founda- 
tion archives, RGl.l, ser. 200F, box 175, folder 2124; Piel, oral history, 33-34; and 
Piel to Stearns Morse, 5 September 1947, Scientific American archives, file cabinet 
2, "Qippings" file; and sheet labeled "April 27th, 3:30 p.m.," and Gerard Piel to 
William Betinck-Smith, 30 June 1948, both in Scientific American archives, 
circulation department files. 

36. Hanagan to Mrs. Otto Laporte, 14 April 1948, Scientific American archives, 
Dennis Flanagan files. Rush Elliott to Gerard Piel, 1 1 February 1 949; Piel to Rush 
Elliott, 23 February 1949; Helen Wood Landowska to Elsie Phillips, 2 September 
1948; Piel to Norman A. Schuele, Jr., 9 September 1948; and Pete Irwin to Piel, 
Donald H. Miller, Jr., and C. L. Stong, 16 March 1949, all in Scientific American 
archives, circulation department files. 



estimated that only about one thousand people actually pur- 
chased and read the old magazine.'''' 

In one particularly cruel irony, Piel discovered that the Scien- 
tific American name actually decreased response to direct-mail 
promotion. The old magazine had acquired such a bad reputa- 
tion that he had to suppress the name to get acceptable response 
rates. Not until the end of 1949, after having built circulation 
with promotional mailings to 3.5 million potential readers and 
published nearly two years of new editorial product, did his 
circulation consultants advise him "that the new Scientific Ameri- 
can has proven itself.... We're ready now for a logo letter."^^ 

Turning from circulation to advertising, Piel drew more 
sharply his image of a particular public. He appealed to adver- 
tisers looking for readers who "by virtue of their special line of 
interest. ..occupy the strategic positions and carry the critical 
responsibilities in our nation's day-to-day work and progress." 
Unlike Science Illustrated, which considered its audience to be 
one of consumers. Scientific American knew that its audience 
would be industrial, technocratic individuals who read the 
magazine for professional gain in addition to personal enjoy- 

On his first day at Scientific American as its new owner, Piel 
had opened a letter from Bell Laboratories canceling its advertis- 
ing contract — the last contract for regular advertising the maga- 
zine held. When Piel told Bell of the new owners' plans, the 
company renewed its contract. That act symbolized the success 
of Piel's strategy, for industrial advertising grew quickly during 
the first few years. In August 1950 Piel reported to his sharehold- 
ers that the magazine had carried a total of 133 pages of adver- 
tisements in its second year, and projected 250 pages in the third 
year. Bell Laboratories, he was proud to report, was one of the 
largest advertisers.^" 

Although the profit in magazine publishing came from ad- 
vertisements, the logic of publishing required a good editorial 
product. Without it, readers would not buy the magazine. And 
without readers, advertisers would not place advertisements. 
With Piel out raising money and finding advertisers, Flanagan 

37. Gerard Piel to staff, 30 March 1 948, and Piel to Pete Irwdn, Donald H. Miller, 
Jr., C. L. Stong, and Jerome Feldman, 28 February 1949, both in Scientific 
American archives, circulation department files; Advertising Age, 5 May 1958, 8; 
and Piel, oral history, 1986. 

38. Piel, oral history, 1986, 39; and Pete Irwin to Donald H. Miller, Jr., 22 August 

1949, Scientific American archives, circulation department files. 

39. Tide, 27 February 1948, 40; and "Gerard Piel of Scientific American," 60. 

40. Flanagan, oral history, 51; Piel, oral history, 41-47; "A Case of Clicking"; 
Gerard Piel to 'The Stockholders of The Sciences, Incorporated," 15 June 1949 
(hereafter cited as Piel to Stockholders), Borras Papers, box 9, "Scientific Ameri- 
can, Inc., 1949-1955" folder; Piel to shareholders and partners, draft, August 

1950, Scientific American archives, circulation department files; and Piel to 
Warren Weaver, 12 November 1948, Rockefeller Foundation archives, RGl.l, 
ser. 200F, box 175, folder 2124. 

"Mr. Piel, who 
feels a close kin- 
ship with Ttie New 
Yorker ('our pub- 
lishing economics 
are the sanne,' he 
said) also main- 
tained that [Scien- 
tific American], 
because of its 
high-level content, 
attracts the 
'cream' of the sci- 
entists, 'the 
people who make 
the basic deci- 
sions about manu- 
facturing before 
anything is even 
bought. " 

- Advertising Age, 
5 May 1958. 


AJ/Fall 1989 

"The new Scien- 
tific American will 
find a unique 
place among U.S. 
magazines. It will 
serve as a univer- 
sal medium for 
among men in the 
sciences, and be- 
tween them and 
the public that is 
best equipped to 
understand their 
work and pur- 
- "An Announce- 
ment to Our 
April 1948. 

concentrated on producing the magazine, aided by former Time 
science editor Leon Svirsky. Although early plans called for 
scientists to advise a large staff of writers, financial constraints 
forced the magazine to accept manuscripts from scientists, whose 
work editors would then rewrite into the appropriate style.*^ 
Flanagan insisted that "the three main divisions" of science — 
physical, biological, and social — be reported in each issue. In 
addition, the magazine regularly included articles on engineer- 
ing and medicine, by intellectual design but also for economic 
reasons, because a substantial minority of its readers (about 40 
percent) came from those fields.*^ Flanagan interpreted "sci- 
ence" widely, publishing stories on cybernetics, the H-bomb, the 
economic relations of science, the National Science Foundation, 
and the history of science (in addition to more traditional science 
topics such as particle physics, the biology of aging, and the 
relationship between temperature and life). The magazine was, 
in essence, a monument to the vision of science as savior of the 
world .*^ 

The focus on science dramatized Flanagan and Piel's social 
goals, '^e believe," they had written in a prospectus, "that 
without such information [about science], modern man has only 
the haziest idea of how to act in behalf of his own happiness and 
welfare, or that of his own family and community." This belief 
indicated the ideology prevailing in Piel and Flanagan's vision 
of the magazine. Like so many others interested in popular 
science, they felt an almost missionary zeal to demonstrate the 
value of science for addressing the problems of the day.*^ 

The magazine's focus on technical issues appealed to profes- 
sional, technocratic readers. Within months after its launch the 
new Scientific American had become a fixture in the scientific 
community, reporting its achievements and reflecting its values. 

41. Piel interview, 5 May 1986; "Introduction to The Sciences" [1947], 6; Flanagan, 
oral history, 11-12; "An Announcement to Our Readers," Scientific American 177 
(December 1947): 244; "An Announcement to Our Readers (11)," Scientific 
American 177 (January 1948): 3; "An Announcement to CXir Readers," Scientific 
American \77 (February 1948): 51; "An Announcement to Our Readers," Scien- 
tific American \T7 (March 1948): 99; and "An Announcement to Our Readers," 
Scientific American 177 (April 1948): 147. For an introduction to the seemingly 
tautological logic of magazine publishing, see Peterson, Magazines in the Twen- 
tieth Century. 

42. Solicitation brochure with Kroch's bookstore, spring 1950, Scientific Ameri- 
can archives, circulation department files; Norma G.Behr to Mary Mulligan et 
al., 11 May 1953, Scientific American archives, circulation department files, box 
1, book la; renewal letter, January 1958, Scientific American archives, circulation 
department files, box 1, book 4a; "Editorial Planning for the Scientific American," 
n.d.. Scientific American archives, Dennis Ranagan files; Hanagan, oral history, 
17, 37; and "Introduction to The Sciences" [1947], 6. 

43. Piel's intellectual beliefs can be followed in his two collections of essays: 
Science in the Cause of Man (New York: Knopf, 1961) and The Acceleration of 
History (New York: Knopf, 1972). Flanagan's ideas appear in his recent book 
Flanagan's Version (New York: Knopf, 1988). 

44. "The Sciences: A Prospectus in the Form of a Dialogue" [1947]. 



Piel and Flanagan had written in one prospectus that "we 
certainly have a point of view. It is that we are for science. With 
the men of science, we agree that human want is technologically 
obsolete." The scientific community eagerly supported them. 
One scientist called the new Scientific American "an extraordinar- 
ily good journal, too good to survive I almost fear."*^ 

Despite all this optimism and success, the magazine's first 
two years did not go smoothly. The original $450,000 in capital 
had quickly disappeared in start-up costs. Another $300,000 also 
went quickly. Signs of success began to appear in 1949. By mid- 
year the renewal rates — the percentage of current subscribers 
who renewed their subscriptions — had gone above 50 percent 
and seemed to be climbing. Development of the editorial prod- 
uct and advertising sales were also going well.^ But the partners 
determined that they still needed an additional $300,000 to reach 
profitable levels of circulation.*'' In the spring of 1949, one 
advisor suggested that Piel take his appeal to the American 
Association for the Advancement of Science. The association's 
initial reaction was favorable, though hesitant. One board 
member argued that, "it would be a severe loss for American 
science if Scientific American would not continue. It is the type of 
magazine which all of us have been wishing for and I think it is 
fulfilling a most important role in science education." But others 
worried that the project was too big for the AAAS."*^ 

Throughout the negotiations, Piel reiterated his conviction 
that the magazine was essentially a means of supporting the sci- 
entific community. Joining the Scientific American to the AA AS, 
he said, "will increase the weight and influence of the [scientific 
community] in the public affairs of the nation." He was willing 

45. "The Sciences: A Prospectus in the Form of a Dialogue" [1947]; "Scientific 
American Features," n.d., Scientific American archives, circulation department 
files, box 3, book lb; Karl Lark-Horovitz to Howard Meyerhoff, 2 May 1949, 
Borras Papers, "Scientific American Inc., 1949-1955" folder; Karl K. Darrow to 
George VV. Gray, 30 November 1948, George W. Gray Papers, Columbia 
University, New York, box 140, "Capitalization and Style" folder; and Warren 
Weaver, "The Program in the Natural Sciences," March 1950, Rockefeller 
Foundation Archives, RG3.1, ser. 915, box 2, folder 14. For other indications of 
support from the scientific community, see Gray to Weaver, 20 June 1956, Gray 
Papers, box 140, "Science Writing" folder; and Weaver diary, 30 December 1949. 
Quote is from Lark-Horovitz to Meyerhoff, 2 May 1949. 

46. "Renewal Rates, Direct to Publisher," 15 November 1949, Scientific American 
Archives, circulation department files. 

47. "Scientific American" prospectus. May 1949, Scientific American archives, file 
cabinet 2; Piel to stockholders, 15 June 1949; Piel to Howard Meyerhoff, 2 May 
1949, Borras Papers, box 9, "Scientific American Inc., 1949-1955" folder; and 
Weaver diary, 8 April 1949. 

48. Paul E. Klopsteg to Howard Meyerhoff, 19 April 1949; Karl Lark-Horovitz 
to Meyerhoff, 2 May 1949; and Roger Adams to Meyerhoff, 23 May 1949, all in 
Borras Papers, box 9, "Scientific American Inc., 1949-1955" folder. I am grateful 
to Dr. Dael Wolf le. University of Washington, who served as executive secretary 
of the AAAS from 1953 to 1970 and shared with me drafts of his memoirs. 
Renewing a Scientific Society (Washington, D.C.; American Association for the 
Advancement of Science, 1989). 

"Mr. Piel said he 
was on the right 
tracl( when he re- 
ceived an angry 
letter from an old 
have ruined the 
finest shop and 
hobby magazine in 
the world. Gone 
- Advertising Age, 


AJ/Fall 1989 

Article titles from 
April 1948 issue of 
Scientific Ameri- 


Bearer of Light 

and Life 

What to Look for 

Manufacturing Ad- 
vances in Wartinfie 

The Settlement 
of Canada's 

Progress in the 

Heat Treatment 

of Steel 

to give up ownership of the project in return for the opportunity 
to advance the status, position, and capabihties of the scientific 
community. His major concern, he said, was to fill "an important 
need for a magazine of the sciences." Even his investors, he 
claimed, "shared our editorial objectives and regarded the pros- 
pect of profit as a secondary consideration."*' 

In mid-June McGraw-Hill suddenly announced that it was 
folding Science Illustrated. The administrative secretary of the 
AA AS, Howard Meyerhof f , wrote to Piel that the "abrupt demise" 
of Science Illustrated "keenly interested" the AAAS executive 
committee. "To put my question in the vernacular, what's in it 
for you?"^° In a long letter to Meyerhoff, Piel detailed his 
certainty that both "the immediate and long term prospects of 
SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN are positively and substantially en- 
hanced by the failure of Science Illustrated." He attributed its 
business failure to "totally false" editorial premises, artificially 
inflated circulation, and failure to convince advertisers that it 
provided a valuable audience. Piel especially believed that the 
failure of Science Illustrated proved his contention that the audi- 
ence for popular science was within the scientific community. 
Science Illustrated's editorial content, he wrote, 

presenting science as a side show of gadgetry and wiz- 
ardry — offended and lost at the outset the interest of the 
very people who can be expected to support a magazine 
of science; i.e., the [technical] people now numbered in 
the subscription list of SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN .^^ 
On purely business grounds, Piel also expected to gain from the 
death of Science Illustrated, by gaining access to its subscribers 
and advertisers.^^ 

Ultimately the AAAS rejected Piel's offer because it feared 
that the project was too big for the association to manage. 
Despite the disappointment, Piel and his colleagues found a 
silver lining. Buoyed by the respectability given to Scientific 
American by its negotiations with the AAAS, Piel managed to 
find new investors among the industrialists and financial lead- 
ers who had provided most of his earlier capital.^^ 

Piel's disdain for Science Illustrated, expressed so forcefully to 

49. Piel to Meyerhoff, 2 May 1949. For some of the Scientific American's investors, 
of course, the major issue was a tax write-off; see Piel, oral history, 31-32, 51-54; 
Weaver diary, 15 March 1949; and Weaver, "Understanding Science," 12 
October 1948. 

50. Howard Meyerhoff to Gerard Piel, 30 June 1949, Borras Papers, box 9, 
"Scientific American Inc., 1949-1955" folder. 

51. Gerard Piel to Howard Meyerhoff, 1 July 1949, Borras Papers, box 9, 
"Scientific American Inc., 1949-1955" folder. 

52. Piel to Meyerhoff, 1 July 1949, Borras Papers. 

53. Howard Meyerhoff to Gerard Piel, 15 July 1949, Borras Papers, box 9, 
"Scientific American Inc., 1949-1955" folder; Moulton to Meyerhoff, 2 Decem- 
ber 1949; Piel, oral history, 38; and Piel to stockholders, 15 June 1949. Finances 
did not immediately improve. At the end of 1949, Piel and Flanagan told 
Weaver that they were still on "pretty small rations," but they were confident 



the AAAS, led him to underestimate the number of its readers 
who might become Scientific American subscribers. He expected 
to pick up only ten to twenty thousand new readers from the 
500,000 names. In fact, he got more than fifty thousand. In 
January 1950 Scientific American announced that it would hence- 
forth guarantee a circulation of 100,000 — the magic number that 
allowed profitable operations and gave credibility and stability 
within the publishing and advertising communities. From then 
on Piel and his colleagues never looked back.^* 


The story of Science Illustrated and Scientific American is an 
ironic one. McGraw-Hill, world-renowned as a publisher of 
narrowly focused, specialized publications, had failed in its 
attempt to publish a mass-circulation, general-interest maga- 
zine. But Piel and Flanagan, trained at Life, one of the world's 
most widely circulated magazines, had successfully created a 
magazine directed to a specialized audience. 

In part, the story of the commercial publishers is a simple 
economic lesson. Science Illustrated made serious business mis- 
takes, while Scientific American managed the entrepreneurial 
process better. The times were good ones for specialized maga- 
zines, and the success of Scientific American is just one case study 
in the history of a particular trend in media history. 

But the commercial publishers' story is also revealing for 
what it says about larger cultural issues. The magazines' expe- 
rience establishes the limits in the postwar years of the public 
"demand" for science. In the democratic, capitalist system, the 
demand for popular science was not sufficient to support an 
editorial product aimed at wide audiences. The new Scientific 
American, by adapting the rhetoric of popular science to a limited 
"public," had demonstrated the context in which the drive for 
public understanding of science could most easily survive. In so 
doing it showed how a magazine could survive by constructing 
an audience out of groups as yet unorganized in society. The 
technocratic elite to whom Scientific American appealed already 
existed, but had not yet found a common voice. The new 
Scientific American provided an occasion for the new technocratic 
elite to express itself, both on the editorial pages and through 

Thus the story of Scientific American and Science Illustrated is 
not simply one of media history. It also demonstrates the con- 
nections of the media to the intellectual and social trends of the 
society that the media serve. Science and technology were seen 
as important components of the postwar world; and we should 

that the Scientific American would financially succeed. Weaver diary, 10 
November 1949. 

54. Piel to Meyerhoff, 1 July 1949; Piel, oral history, 40^2; Flanagan, oral 
history; Piel interview, 5 May 1986; and Adweek, February 1982, M.R. 74. 

Article titles from 
May 1948 issue of 
Scientific Ameri- 

The Future 
of the Amazon 

The Man-Apes 
of South Africa 


The Dust-Cloud 

The Luminescence 
of Living Things 

Davisson and 

234 AJ/Fall 1989 

not be surprised that a new, carefully managed (in the business 
sense) magazine devoted to that topic survived . But it seems less 
coincidental that the successful magazine was also the one that 
confidently expressed the same commitment to science and 
technocratic control that drove much public policy in the post- 
war years. The magazine that survived was the one that ex- 
pressed the ideology of the day, in terms with which an emerg- 
ing technocratic elite could wholeheartedly agree.* 

* I would like to thank the many actors in the historical story who graciously 
gave me access to their papers, time, and recollections. Specific debts are 
indicated in the notes. 




A Sensational Letter to the Hartford Courant 
Ignites a National Controversy 

William Warren Rogers, Jr. 

"AS FOR THE MALEDICTIONS WHICH the democratic lead- 
ers and party press deem proper to bestow upon me," Charles 
Hays informed his congressional colleagues, "I shall endure 
them in silence and peace, and trust to that spirit of justice which 
sooner or later must come to vindicate my record." Standing 
before the Congress on 26 February 1875, the representative 
from Alabama hoped to close a controversy involving himself 
and Joseph R. Hawley, the editor of the Hartford Daily Courant. 
The national press that Hays spoke of had recently seized on and 
magnified a public letter he had written to Hawley. The result, 
the Hays-Hawley letter, as it became known, attracted national 

Charles Hays was born into an aristocratic Black Belt Ala- 
bama family in 1834. That region, deriving its name from the 
fertile soil and high concentration of slaves, stretched west from 
the capital of Montgomery through the central part of the state. 
Hays, a planter, was working over one hundred slaves on his 
extensive cotton plantation lands when the Civil War began. He 
opposed secession but, once the war began, served the Confed- 
eracy and was eventually promoted to the rank of major. Believ- 
ing that extending civil and political rights to the freedmen was 
correct. Hays resisted Southern political orthodoxy and joined 
the Republican party after the war. In 1869 he was elected to the 
first of four terms from the heavily black Fourth Congressional 

1. Cong. Rec, 43d Cong., 2d sess.. Vol. 3, 1853. 

2. William Warren Rogers, "'Politics is Mighty Uncertain': Charles Hays Goes 
to Congress," Alabama Review 30 (July 1977): 164-65; Biographical Directory of the 
American Congress, 1774-1971 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 
1971), 1160. The Fourth Congressional District was composed of Autauga, 
Baker, Bibb, Choctaw, Fayette, Greene, Hale, Marengo, Perry, Pickens, Sanford, 
Shelby, Sumter, and Tuscaloosa counties. For Reconstruction in Alabama, see 

William W. Rogers, 
Jr., is a visiting 
professor at the 
University of Ala- 
bama in the 
Department of 


AJ /Fall 1989 

"I am anxious that 
the true condition 
of affairs in the 
State of Alabama 
should be Icnown 
as soon as pos- 
sible to the people 
of the whole coun- 
try, in order that 
theyr may begin to 
realize the fact 
that the spirit of 
rebellion against 
the laws and Gov- 
ernment of the 
United States, to 
extinguish which 
so many brave 
and gallant men 
laid down their 
lives, still exists in 
the hearts of many 

- Excerpts from 

Charles Hays's 


Joseph Hawley was also a member of Congress. Bom in 1826 
in North Carolina, Hawley had left the South as a young man. 
He eventually settled in Connecticut and began to make a 
national reputation as an editor. Hawley became editor of the 
Hartford Evening Press in 1857 (the paper merged with the 
Hartford Courant in 1867). Politics also attracted him. He joined 
the Free Soil party, then the Republican party, and was a self- 
described "radical abolitionist from my earliest days." Hawley 
became Brevet Brigadier General in the Union Army before the 
Civil War ended and served as governor of Connecticut in 
1866-67. He began the first of three congressional terms in 1872.^ 

In Alabama and throughout the South, "Radical Reconstruc- 
tion" had evoked passionate opposition. Taking issue with 
President Andrew Johnson, a majority of Congressional Repub- 
licans had by 1867 committed themselves to guaranteeing the 
freedmen basic citizenship rights. Northern Democrats, and 
certainly their Southern counterparts, strongly resisted granting 
equal status to the ex-slaves. Although various issues divided 
Republicans and Democrats during Reconstruction, the ques- 
tion of race was most fundamental. Reconstruction- related 
issues dominated editorial comment and the printed accounts of 
the national newspaper press. Objectivity quickly yielded to 
partisan considerations among journalists. 

The circumstances of the 1874 mid-term elections made for 
the collaboration between Hays and Hawley. As became appar- 
ent, violence would characterize the contest in the Reconstruc- 
tion South. Political violence during Reconstruction was com- 
mon. Members of the Ku Klux Klan and various nightriding 
orders had shot, beaten, and hanged Republicans in the name of 
white supremacy since Congressional or "Radical" Reconstruc- 
tion got underway in 1867-68. The Klan had died out, but a small 
minority of whites formed political societies (the most common 
being the White League) in 1874 and revived the terrorism. 
Against this backdrop, the Hays-Hawley letter was set.^ 

Congressman Hays's bailiwick, the Fourth District, offered a 
grim microcosm of the degenerating conditions. In August 1874 
in Sumter County, two leading Republicans were shot and 
killed. The assassinations of Walter P. Billings, a white, and 
Thomas L. Ivey, a black, were obviously politically related. Both 

The Scalawag in Alabama Politics, 1865-1 881 (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama 
Press, 1977). 

3. Cong. Rec, 43d Cong., 2d sess.. Vol. 3, 1853; Biographical Directory of the 
American Congress, 1890-91; John BardMcNulty, Older Than the Nation: The Story 
of the Hartford Courant (Storington, Conn.: Pequot Press, 1964), 88. 

4. William Gillette, Retreat from Reconstruction, 1869-1879 (Baton Rouge: Lou- 
isiana State University Press, 1979), 225-30; George C. Rable, But There Was No 
Peace: The Role of Violence in the Politics of Reconstruction (Athens: University of 
Georgia Press, 1984), 114-18, 131-32. For a general overview of Reconstruction, 
see Eric Foner, Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution 1863-1877 (New 
York: Harper and Row, 1988). 



men had previously been warned about their outspoken efforts 
to build up the Republican party. Republicans also faced perse- 
cution elsewhere in the state. Alarmed by the escalating trouble. 
Hays and several state Republicans travelled to Washington in 
early September and met with President Ulysses S. Grant. The 
Republican president became convinced that the situation was 
critical and authorized the use of troops for election day.^ 

While in Washington Hays also talked with Joseph Hawley. 
The editor-congressman overheard Hays privately discussing 
the political violence directed at Alabama Republicans. He 
listened to Hays's rendition with empathy and indignation. 
Maintaining that such conditions begged to be exposed and 
rectified, Hawley asked the Alabamian to put his comments in 
writing and permit their publication in the Hartford Courant. 
Hays consented without hesitation. Hawley followed up the 
next day, 7 September, with a formal written request. Referring 
to the previous evening and what he described as Hays's "infor- 
mal narration of late occurences," Hawley asked the congress- 
man for "the substance of what you have told me."^ 

Hays began his task at once. Drawing upon newspapers, 
telegraphic dispatches, correspondence, and his general knowl- 
edge, the congressman constructed a grisly scenario. Although 
he could have recited a backlog of crimes. Hays confined his 
observations to the recent past and generally to the Fourth 
District. Hawley read and approved the narrative, and after 
forwarding the lengthy letter to the Courant, went hunting. 

The shocking expose was spread across the front page of the 
Courant on 15 September. A devastating picture of Fourth 
District conditions began with a survey of Sumter County. The 
congressman summarized the shootings of Walter Billings and 
Thomas Ivey. In Hays's estimation, vigilantees killed Billings 
because he was a "Yankee" and a "republican." He referred 
readers to Billing's widow for further details of the "revolting 
murder." Ivey was likewise executed for being a "meddlesome" 
Republican. Without imparting any blame (but the implication 
was clear). Hays also mentioned the recent murders of five 
Sumter County freedmen in one night. He attributed the car- 
nage in Sumter generally to "a murderous band of Democrats." 
Affairs were not dramatically improved in Hale County, a 
heavily black-populated Fourth District county. Two pistol- 
carrying whites had recently warned a visiting Republican 
speaker there not to return. In Perry County, also a party 
stronghold, a prominent Republican had been mobbed. Repub- 
licans in Choctaw and Marengo, two other counties that he 

5. House Select Committee, Affairs in Alabama, 43d Cong., 2d sess., H. Rpt. 262, 
George Williams, 1218, 1225 (hereafter cited as Affairs in Alabama); William 
Warren Rogers and Ruth Pruitt, Stephen S. Renfroe, Alabama's Outlaw 
Sheriff (Tallahassee, Ha.: Sentry Press, 1972), 45-51. 

6. Hartford Courant, 15 September 1874. 


"The bare recital 
of proven facts 
shall be my only 
appeal. That will 
cause the heart to 
shudder, the 
cheek to blanch, 
and the mind to 
wonder how such 
dastardly out- 
rages, such unpro- 
voked murders, 
and such fiend- 
like conduct can 
be tolerated for an 

- Hays's letter. 


AJ/Fall 1989 

"When discovered 
[Capt. Billings] 
ana his horse 
were both lying 
dead in the public 
road, his body 
pierced with bucl(- 
shot, and that of 
his horse riddled 
with bullets." 
- Hays's letter. 

represented, lived constantly with danger. Acting on a rumor 
that freedmen were preparing to wage race war, Choctaw whites 
had killed ten and wounded thirteen blacks. In Marengo County, 
William Lipscomb, a white man, was found shot to death in the 
road. Hays let his Northern readers draw their own conclusions 
concerning the death of the "earnest Republican." 

Unrest prevailed throughout the Fourth District, but mis- 
treatment of Republicans was worse in Pickens County. "This is 
a county in West Alabama," Hays wrote frankly, "where the 
white men publicly boast that no white man ever cast a repub- 
lican vote and lived through the year." Hays described Pickens 
as a bastion of white supremacy where a group of whites had 
lynched four blacks in mid- August. That same week a raft bear- 
ing the decomposing bodies of two freedmen and one white man 
was discovered floating down the nearby Tombigbee River. The 
Caucasian was a German and obviously a Republican. Attached 
to the corpse was a sign with the inscription, "This is the way we 
treat Dutch niggers." Around the necks of the black men were 
placards reading, "To Mobile with the compliments of Pickens 
County." The letter, carrying over from the Courant's front page 
(and including accounts that Hays lifted verbatim f ron\ newspa- 
pers) was about five thousand words in length. Hays's charges 
would be widely read. The Courant, one of the oldest newspa- 
pers in the country, claimed the second largest circulation in 
New England.^ 

Accounts of Democrat-inspired "outrages" were standard 
fare in large daily Republican newspapers, especially in the 
North and Midwest. The picture that emerged of the South was 
of a dark, unreconstructed landscape full of hate and intoler- 
ance. As party spokesman. Democratic editors argued that 
Republicans manufactured the reports for self-serving reasons. 
They claimed that opposition editors used fictitious charges of 
unrest to justify continued federal interference. Democratic 
journalists either denied the crimes, disputed their political 
nature, or maintained that Republicans had actually instigated 
the violence. Little could be established definitively. As the 
Boston Globe rationalized, "there is undoubtedly considerable 
difficulty in deciding how much to believe or disbelieve in 
regard to the conditions of things in the South."^ 

The imprimatur of a congressman lent a legitimacy that other 
so-called "outrage" accounts from the South lacked. Given 
Hays's background, Hawley felt that readers would believe the 

7. Hartford Courant, 15 September 1874; McNulty, Older Than The Nation, 90. 

8. Boston Daily Globe, 13 October 1874. A study of the newspaper press during 
Reconstruction is long overdue. For some mention see Rable, But There Was No 
Peace, 77, 87, 119; and Richard H. Abbot, The Republican Party and the South, 
1855-1877: The First Southern Strategy (Chapel HiU: University of North Carolina 
Press, 1986), 92-3. 



charges. The Courant's editor described Hays to readers as one 
of Alabama's largest slaveholders before the war and an ex- 
Confederate, and concluded that his remarks were "testimony 
from the highest source."' 

Neither Hays nor Hawley could have predicted the uproari- 
ous reaction. The "Hays-Hawley letter" created a furor among 
America's highly partisan newspapers, drawing comment from 
major dailies in every section of the nation. If not "copied 
through the country,"^" as the Indianapolis Sentinel insisted, or 
"read from a hundred stumps, like the Declaration of Independ- 
ence,"" as a Cincinnati Commercial journalist remarked, the letter 
was spread far from the climes of Hawley's Connecticut. 
Commenting that "the entire nation stood aghast," the New York 
Tribune reasoned that "one of the vexed questions of the day" 
concerns "whether Alabama is really under a rule of terror."^^ 

The Democratic press questioned Hays's motives, veracity, 
and character. The judgment of the New York Sun was extremely 
negative. Its editor, the noted Charles A. Dana, presided over the 
nominally Democratic paper. Perhaps Hays knew about "the 
long and short staple of his cotton bolls," the Sun allowed, but, 
"there his faculty, if he has any, begins and ends." The paper 
charged (truthfully enough) that Hays cut a slight figure in the 
House. If a "sudden providence" vacated his seat, no one would 
realize his absence but his landlady and the sergeant at arms.^^ 
In St. Louis the Post-Dispatch wondered why a paper should 
bother to publish the correspondence of a Southern Republican 
"at war with his people, his race, and his color."^* Farther West, 
in keeping with the spirit of partisan journalism, the San Fran- 
cisco Examiner condemned the "startling letter" as political hyper- 

The Hays-Hawley letter attracted an equally hostile reception 
in the Democratic Southern press, including the Atlanta 
Constitution, Nashville Union and American, Richmond Dispatch, 
and Charleston News and Courier. Typical was the estimation of 
the Louisville Courier-Journal. Reacting to the latest outrage ac- 
count, the Courier-Journal lamented that accounts like Hays's 
were "seized upon, exaggerated, tortured, twisted and garbled 
by Radical leaders and newspapers into evidence of an existing 

9. Hartford Courant, 15 September 1874. 

10. Indianapolis Sentinel quoted in Mobile Daily Register, 9 October 1874. 

11. Cincinnati Commercial, 1 October 1874. 

12. New York Tribune, 7 and 12 October 1874. For comment see St. Louis Post- 
Dispatch, 22 September 1874; Nashville Union and American, 1 October 1874; 
Charleston News and Courier, 23 October 1874; Memphis Daily Avalanche, 1 
October 1874; and New York Times, 24 October 1874. 

13. New York Sun, 28 September 1874. On Charles Dana see Frank M. O'Brien, 
The Story of the Sun (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1908), 148-50, 187, 

14. St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 22 September 1874. 

15. San Francisco Examiner, 12 October 1874. 

"When the friends 
of Ivey took 
charge of his body 
twenty odd bullet 
holes were found 
in it; his jaws 
were cut open and 
his tongue pulled 
out by its roots." 
- Hays's letter. 


AJ /Fall 1989 

"The four men... 
charged with the 
killing of Simon 
Edwards, were 
discharged from 
custody on Thurs- 
day evening.... 
These four men 
...are said to be 
among our most 
respectable citi- 
zens, and it is to 
be regretted that 
honest white men 
should be put to 
so much trouble 
and expense upon 
the affidavit of an 
ignorant negro." 
- Hays's citation 
of story from the 
Meridian Star 

rebellion." By publicizing Hays's narrative, the Courier-Journal 
felt. Republican editors were merely perpetuating the myth of 
Southern defiance.^^ 

Only a few Southern Republican newspapers existed, but 
several Northern party editors rushed to Hays's defense. The 
Cincinnati Gazette published the letter in its entirety. Noting the 
Alabama situation, the Gazette recommended Hays's comments 
to the "reader who desires accurate information respecting the 
condition of affairs in the South."^^ The Washington New National 
Era featured the letter on its first page and decried the "frightful 
outrages and midnight murders" of "the rebels of Alabama."^^ 
Accepting the congressman's allegations at face value, the Bos- 
ton Globe made the point that a Democratic press could not refute 
the testimony of a Southerner who had owned slaves and fought 
for the Confederacy. 

The editor of the New York Tribune took a special interest in the 
controversy. Whi telaw Reid had recently assumed control of the 
influential daily. After standing in temporarily while Horace 
Greeley ran for president in 1872, Reid had assumed control of 
the Tribune following Greeley's death shortly after the election. 
Reid considered himself a Republican, although he objected to 
the Grant administration. He particularly opposed the contin- 
ued interference of the federal government in the South. Having 
made a much publicized Southern tour in 1865-66, Reid contin- 
ued to be interested in the former Confederacy. In early October 
the paper announced that it had sent a reporter to Alabama to 
investigate Hays's allegations. 

Zebulon L. White, the Tribune's chief Washington correspon- 
dent, had headed south in late September. Instructed to visit and 
report from centers of Republican-Democratic strife, he was 
attracted to Alabama by Hays's revelations. The journalist 
carried a copy of the Hays-Ha wley letter with him. In Montgom- 
ery, the capital, and a city of some thirteen thousand citizens. 
White passed the first week of October there interviewing promi- 
nent Democrats and a few Republicans. Despite contradicting 
accounts, he chose to accept the Democratic version of events. A 
systematic refutation of Hays's position, under the bold caption, 
"The Slandered State," appeared on the front page of the Trib- 
une's 12 October issue. White also revealed his plans to visit the 
scene of the "most excitement" — Sumter County.^' 

At Livingston, the county seat, the correspondent made in- 
quiries for several days. As in Montgomery, White gave cre- 
dence to the Democratic position. He generally discounted the 

16. Louisville Courier-Journal, 8 October 1874; Atlanta Constitution, 17 October 
1874; Nashville Union and American, 16 October 1874; Richmond Dispatch, 14 
October 1874; Charleston News and Courier, 23 October 1874. 

17. Cincinnati Daily Gazette, 18 September 1874. 

18. Washington New National Era, 27 August, 24 September, anci 8 October 1874. 

19. "Affairs in Alabama," Zebulon White, 1080-91; Boston Globe, 16 September 



violence Hays had described. Admitting that Walter Billings 
and Thonnas Ivey might have been killed because they were 
outspoken Republicans, White nevertheless insisted, in a series 
of stories printed in the Tribune, that most Sumter County whites 
condemned the murders. Peace prevailed. White claimed. The 
newspaperman exonerated almost everyone except Hays, whom 
he charged with blatantly misrepresenting events in Sumter 
County. Having made his case. White dropped plans to visit the 
other counties Hays had featured .^° 

As the protracted story received national attention, Hawley 
himself was inevitably criticized. Called on to repudiate Hays, 
the Courant's editor refused. Even so, the paper printed state- 
ments from Fourth District citizens that contradicted the con- 
gressman. Deftly using semantics, the Courant reasoned that 
Hays was "misinformed" or "in one or two instances conveyed 
the wrong impression."^^ No retraction of his basic assertion was 
made. Hawley wrote Charles Dana at the Sun a week after the 
letter appeared. He defended Hays and asked why the Sun had 
criticized the congressman without printing his letter or the 
Courant's description of him. Hawley hoped that a fellow editor 
could appreciate that he "wanted the readers of the Courant to 
hear one report from somebody on whom they could put their 
fingers."^^ A commitment to informing the public, the most 
basic journalistic prerequisite, compelled Hawley to offer Hays 
a forum. An understanding of the power of the printed word 
caused the angry congressman to accept the invitation. 

Hawley soon received a note from Stephen A. Hubbard, the 
Courant's managing editor. Hubbard mentioned the possibility 
of some errors in the congressman's presentation and added, "If 
Hays has overstated anything, I am sorry; there has evidently 
been enough persecution there to establish a good case without 
alluding to acts of violence not well authenticated." Hubbard 
also informed Hawley that many Alabama newspapers were 
"pitching in . . . quite severely" on the letter.^^ 

Alabama's overwhelmingly Democratic press had attacked 
Hays without mercy. Refuting the allegations became a ritual 
among party editors. As unofficial spokesman for the state 
Democratic party, the Montgomery Advertiser had begun the 

1874; New York Tribune, 12 October 1874. On Whitelaw Reid, see Harry W .Baehr, 
Jr., The New York Tribune Since the Civil YJar (New York: Dodd, Mead & 
Company, 1936), 109, 112-22, 132, 146-49; and Reid's own After the War: A Tour 
of Southern States 1865-1866 (Cincinnati: Moore, Wilstach & Baldwin, 1866). 

20. New York Tribune, 15 and 17 October 1874; Affairs in Alabama," Zebulon 
White, 1082-91. 

21. Hartford Courant quoted in Livingston (Alabama) Journal, 9 October 1874; 
Indianapolis Sentinel quoted in Montgomery Advertiser, 6 October 1874; St. Louis 
Post-Dispatch, 22 September 1874. 

22. Joseph Hawley to Charles Dana, 20 September 1874, Joseph R. Hawley 
Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 

23. Stephen Hubbard to Joseph Hawley, 29 September 1874, Hawley Papers. 

picture of a coffin.) 
The invisible nion- 
arch rules in 
Sumter, and 
watches the 
doings of his 
people from a little 
star above you. 
All 'niggers,' white 
and black, will 
take warning from 
the fate of Billings 
and Ivey. They 
were killed by un- 
known hands, 
which will never 
be known. Those 
hands will destroy 

- Hays's tran- 
scription of a 
Sumter County 


AJ/Fall 1989 

"Born, educated, 
and living all my 
life in the South, I 
thought I knew the 
feelings, and the 
passions of our 
people....l believed 
that they would 
forget the animosi- 
ties and antipa- 
thies engendered 
by the war, and go 
faithfully to work 
to build up the 
shattered pillars of 
that Union which 
they had so fmit- 
lessly endeavored 
to destroy." 

- Hays's letter. 

process in a lengthy rebuttal soon after the letter appeared. The 
Advertiser concluded that Hays "had mistaken the Northern 
public for a herd of blinking-idiots."^* Fourth District editors 
subjected Hays to unequivocal and relentless condemnation. 
Epithets were employed, evidence to the contrary amassed, af- 
fidavits sworn to, and one presumed victim even resurrected 
from the grave. The case of William Lipscomb became a favorite 
source of comment for Hays's critics. Hays had erroneously 
charged that this "earnest Republican" had been shot to death in 
Marengo County. Lipscomb authored a widely published dis- 
claimer; he was introduced to at least one audience; and the 
editor of the Marengo New Journal facetiously marveled at his re- 
turn "from the land of the ghosts."'^^ 

Hays described Pickens County in the worst light to the 
nation. His was a dark picture: blacks remained virtual slaves, 
few voted, and any Republican who dared speak "would be shot 
down like a mad dog." In the county seat of Carrollton, editors 
of the West Alabamian composed a reply. The paper categorically 
denied that Republicans (black or white) were mistreated and 
challenged the congressman for specifics. The West Alabamian 
mocked Hays by running his lurid description of Pickens on its 
editorial masthead through election day.*^ 

The debate was one-sided. By 1874 most Republican state 
newspapers, never on a solid financial basis, had been discontin- 
ued. One exception was the Montgomery Alabama State Journal. 
Yet even that normally outspoken paper remained strangely 
silent throughout the controversy. 

Despite the extreme criticism, Joseph Hawley remained con- 
vinced that he had acted correctly. As a Republican, Hawley felt 
that conditions in Alabama should be made public. The morally 
upright former abolitionist did not doubt the truthfulness of the 
accusations. As an edi tor he recognized the opportunity to score 
a journalistic coup. At the height of the furor he defended Hays 
as an "honest man" to Charles Dana. He was not convinced 
otherwise by the Richard Harding Davis style of reporting of 
Zebulon White at the Tribune. Hawley assured Dana that Hays 
possessed integrity, mentioning his honorable war record and 
the high regard black constituents held for the congressman. 

24. Montgomery Advertiser, 22 September 1874. For accounts of the extreme 
opposition to Congressional Reconstruction see Allen W. Trelease, White Terror: 
The Ku Klux Klan Conspiracy and Southern Reconstruction (New York: Harper and 
Row, 1971), xi-xlviii;Foner,Reconsfruc<io7i, 41 2-59. Astudyof journalism in the 
Fourth Congressional District during Reconstruction is Nancy Ann Sindon, 
"The Career of Ryland Randolph, A Study in Reconstruction Journalism," 
(M.A. thesis, Rorida State University, 1965). 

25. Marengo News Journal, 26 September 1874; for comment seeGreensboro 
Alabama Beacon, 26 September and 3 October 1874; Marion Commonwealth, 24 
September 1874. 

26. Carrollton West Alabamian, 30 September 1874. 



Hawley understood the world of slanted /sensationalized jour- 
nalism. Partisan Reconstruction journalists might profess objec- 
tivity but they rarely practiced it.^'' 

Democratic criticism had no measurable impact on the elec- 
tion in the Fourth District. The freedmen provided Hays a 
comfortable margin of victory. But the controversy did not end. 
Admitting before Congress after the election that "as to some 
minor facts I was misled," Hays insisted on the general validity 
of his case. He had reason to do so. The widespread violence that 
characterized the mid-term 1874 elections in the South was 
played out with brutal finality in Alabama's Fourth Congres- 
sional District. Nowhere were conditions worse than in Sumter 
County. Despite Tribune reporter White's findings, martial law 
could have been declared with justification during the months 
prior to the election. Both Walter Billings and Thomas Ivey were 
killed because of their close Republican associations. John 
Stokes, the Republican warned against speaking again in Hale 
County, revealed that his midnight visitors threatened to "swing 
[him] to a limb" and kill Hays "damn quick." Also, as Hays 
insisted, a lynch mob of Pickens County citizens had hanged 
four freedmen.^^ 

Despite his steadfastness. Hays can also be faulted. The letter 
was framed in haste. Hawley' s request and the congressman's 
reply were dated the same day. Hays had promised "to narrate 
no rumors, to color no atrocity . . . but simply to give you well 
authenticated facts." Yet, without sufficient corroboration. Hays 
gave credence to some events that never took place and pre- 
sented others out of context.''" 

What was certain was that the national press had briefly lifted 
the obscure congressman from the Alabama outback to promi- 
nence. Soon after Hays returned to his anonymous congres- 
sional role, and in 1877 he retired from politics. By then, with the 
election of Rutherford B. Hayes as president in 1876 and the 
removal of the last troops from the South, Reconstruction was 
over. Hawley continued to be chief proprietor and edit the 
Courant until 1881. Leaving the journalism trade in that year (he 
had never actually written many editorials), Hawley began a 
long tenure in the Senate.^^ 

The Hays-Hawley letter had attracted the attention of the 

27. Joseph Hawley to Charles Dana, 20 September 1874, Hawley Papers. 

28. Cong. Rec, 43d Cong., 2d sess.. Vol. 3, 1851. 

29. Affairs in Alabama, John Stokes, 1069-70; Carrollton West Alabamian, 30 Sep- 
tember 1874; William Warren Rogers and Robert David Ward, Jack Turner and 
Racism in Post-Civil War Alabama (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University 
Press, 1973), 24-45. 

30. Hartford Courant, 15 September 1874; Montgomery Advertiser, 22 September 
1874; Marengo News Journal, 16 September 1874; Greensboro Alabama Beacon, 26 
September and 3 October 1874. 

31. McNulty, Older Than the Nation, 97; Biographical Directory of the American 
Congress, 1890-91. 

"The agents of the 
Southern Associ- 
ated Press alone 
furnish news to 
your papers....Our 
views, speeches, 
piatfornis, writ- 
ings, and actions 
generally are 
garbled and mis- 
sent to deceive the 
Reople of the 
orth, and con- 
vince them that 
the South is being 
plundered by ad- 
venturers; that 
corruption and in- 
famy stalk forth 
with monstrous in- 
iquity in all our 
public places, and 
that every man 
who dares to raise 
his voice for the 
principles of Re- 
publicanism is a 
felon, and unwor- 
thy to walk the 
earth on which he 

- Hays's letter. 


AJ/Fall 1989 

"When I remember 
that all through 
the sombre 
scenes of war, in 
the midst of adver- 
sity and tribula- 
tion, [my slaves] 
stood faithful to 
me and mine, it 
makes my very 
heart bleed to see 
them writhe and 
suffer in the enjoy- 
ment (!) of that 
boon which was 
intended to bring 
happiness and 
comfort. I am 
powerless to help 
them, but as long 
as life lasts let me 
appeal to my 
Northern friends 
to stand by and 
protect these able 
sons of the South, 
who have never 
sung a song un- 
less it was one 
dedicated to 'lib- 
erty and to Un- 

- Hays's letter. 

national press for entirely different reasons. Once the story 
broke, both Democrats and Republicans attempted to gain po- 
litical capital. It was unusual that opposing party editors pointed 
to and quoted from the same source for vindication. Republican 
editors offered Hays's testimony as incontrovertible proof of 
Southern recalcitrance. Hays's narrative — graphic and brutal — 
confirmed the widespread hostility to Republicanism in the 
South. Democratic journalists argued that the congressman had 
exaggerated and lied. The Hays-Hawley letter clearly illus- 
trated how Republicans misrepresented the Southern situation. 
The "outrage mill," a term pejoratively used to describe printed 
Republican accounts of Democratic violence, had never been in 
better working order. 

In a larger context, the war of words pointed to the continued 
central role of American newspapers and editors in national 
politics. A tradition of proselytizing and involvement dated at 
least from the establishment of the Philadelphia National Gazette 
by Phillip Freneau in 1791. The age of Andrew Jackson and the 
attending party battles provided another watershed for the 
partisan press. The unprecedented volatility of Reconstruction 
allowed less objectivity than ever. Unstated but obvious bias 
was standard editorial policy among both Democrats and Re- 
publicans. Slanting straight news stories was common. Viewed 
in this light, the episode was symptomatic of Reconstruction 
journalism. As with other negative descriptions of the South, on 
one side Republican editors did not hesitate to print as fact 
Hays's charges. On the other side Democrats blindly refused to 
admit any validity to the situation Hays described. The Hays- 
Hawley letter's publication, dissemination, and national recep- 
tion offered a classic example of partisan journalism during an 
era of extreme political bitterness. 

Historiographical Essay 




Press Historians Rewrite the Story 
of the American Revolution 

Carol Sue Humphrey 

dependence a central event in the history of the United States. It 
not only produced a new nation but also played an important 
role in the development of a unified American populace. Histo- 
rians have long given much consideration to the factors which 
produced the American Revolution, and they have always given 
ample credit for the success of the revolt to the press for its efforts 
during the conflict. One of the earliest historians of the Ameri- 
can Revolution, David Ramsay, affirmed that "in establishing 
American independence, the pen and the press had a merit equal 
to that of the sword. "^ Yet, although historians have agreed on 
the importance of the press in the move toward independence, 
they have disagreed on the type of role that American printers 
played in the war with Great Britain. Over the years, studies 
have credited the eighteenth-century journalists with every- 
thing from providing part of the building blocks for American 
democracy to establishing the beginnings of professional jour- 
nalism in the United States; from fueling a class conflict between 
those in and out of power to serving as a reflector of the growing 
unity that existed in America long before the first shots at 
Lexington and Concord. 

The debate persists even today, as historians continue to 
disagree about the role the press played in the revolt from Great 
Britain. In 1 980 the American Antiquarian Society published The 
Press and the American Revolution, a collection of essays that 
reflects the continuing disagreements over the role of the press 
in the American Revolution. All of the essays in this work 
emphasize the growth and development of the press during the 
Revolution, but they do so from several perspectives. 

Several essays adopted the Progressive interpretation, stress- 

1. David Ramsay, The History of the American Revolution (Philadelphia, 1789), 

Carol S. Humphrey 
is an assistant 
professor of his- 
tory at Oklahonia 
Baptist University. 
She received her 
Ph.D. in history at 
the University of 
North Carolina. 
She has published 
several articles on 
the Revolutionary- 
era press and is 
currently working 
on a book on the 
role of the Revolu- 
tionary press in 
New England. 


AJ/Fall 1989 

"The observations 
on personalities 
and politics that 
were normally es- 
chewed in the 
London press 
were entirely be- 
yond the control 
of government in 
America, and the 
'London letters' 
consequently form 
a freer and more 
explicit commen- 
tary on events in 
London than the 
reporting in the 
English press." 
- Paul Langford, 
"British Corre- 

ing the conflicts the war produced. Janice Potter and Robert M. 
Calhoon found that some loyaUst printers thought that "the 
most substantive threat to their freedom emanated not from 
Britain but from the patriot congresses, committees, and mobs in 
their midst." Paul Langford's study of British correspondence in 
the colonial press concluded that reports in the colonial press 
concerning British attitudes toward America only served to 
worsen misunderstandings and divisions between the colonies 
and the mother country. Both Robert M. Weir and Stephen 
Botein questioned the motives of the printers in supporting the 
patriot cause. Weir, in studying the Southern newspaper press, 
found the printers to be "the voice of the local political establish- 
ment" who could not afford to antagonize their major support- 
ers. Botein stressed that printers began to adopt a more partisan 
stance when it became clear that their traditional neutral posi- 
tion was no longer economically feasible.^ 

All of these essays emphasized the divisiveness and change- 
producing aspects of the Revolution, but other essays in the 
collection reflected the Consensus view that the press served to 
reflect the basic unity that existed in the colonies at the time of the 
Revolution. Willi Paul Adams, in studying the German-lan- 
guage press, found that it carried a primarily political function 
instead of the religious emphasis as had been previously thought 
by historians. According to Adams, 

The German-language press, like its English-language 
counterpart, made possible rational discussion on ques- 
tions of statecraft and social betterment beyond the lim- 
ited circles of the elite, among a population too spread 
out and too large to assemble in one's city marketplace. 
Further, it helped create a "new forum" of public opin- 
ion essential for the growth of a shared sense of legiti- 
macy. Finally, like the English-language press, the Ger- 
man-language press was an integrating force, essential 
to the process of nation-building.^ 
The German-language press "helped the German-speaking 
minority to feel part of and to function in a larger national 
whole." The press played a unifying role that helped the 
revolution succeed. 

The American Antiquarian Society publication is not the first 

2. Stephen Botein, "Printers and the American Revolution," in The Press and the 
American Revolution, ed. Bernard Bailyn and John B. Hench (Worcester, Mass.: 
American Antiquarian Society, 1980), 11-58; Robert M. Weir, "The Role of the 
Newspaper Press in the Southern Colonies on the Eve of the Revolution: An 
Interpretation," in Bailyn and Hench, 99-150; Paul Langford, "British Corre- 
spondence in the Colonial Press, 1763-1775: A Study in Anglo- American Mis- 
understanding Before the American Revolution," in Bailyn and Hench, 273-314; 
and Janice Potter and Robert M. Calhoon, "The Character and Coherence of the 
Loyalist Press," in Bailyn and Hench, 229-272. 

3. Willi Paul Adams, "The Colonial German-Language Press and the American 
Revolution," in Bailyn and Hench, 151-228. 



in which scholars have disagreed about the American Revolu- 
tionary press. Historians have argued about the role of newspa- 
pers in the American Revolution ever since the war began in 
1775. Much ink and paper have been spent in this effort, but no 
resolution has been reached in the debate. The importance of the 
press in the Revolution is assured, but the role it played is far 
from clear. 

Scholars of the Revolutionary press have not usually classi- 
fied themselves as part of a particular group; but because of ho w 
they perceive American history, they tend to fall into several 
groups that have changed over the years. In general, there are 
five different views of the role of the media during the Revolu- 
tionary War. The Nationalist/Romantic schools dominated 
prior to the Civil War. The Developmental school, which came 
to prominence after the Civil War, has proved the most perva- 
sive and continues to be the most dominant interpretation. The 
Progressive school appeared in the early twentieth century, but 
has remained influential since that time. The Consensus and 
Cultural schools appeared following the Second World War. 
Obviously, these groups overlap, but each has certain character- 
istics that differentiate it from the others. 

During the first half of the nineteenth century, historians 
emphasized the patriotism of printers in their efforts to help 
America establish its republican system as a model for the world. 
The American colonies had an important role to play in making 
the world a better place to live through the spread of democracy 
and freedom, and the press had served well in helping to bring 
about the break with the mother country. 

Much of the history written by these historians discussed the 
"great men" of revolutionary journalism. The emphasis was on 
the importance of individuals in creating an American press that 
kept the people informed on the issues involved in the conflict 
with Britain. The historians of this school knew most of the 
people they wrote about, and some had experienced the Revo- 
lution personally. They believed strongly in the role of the 
printers in producing the Revolution. 

The stress on "great men" is most clearly seen in the work of 
Isaiah Thomas and Joseph Buckingham, who tried to preserve 
the records of journalistic efforts during the American Revolu- 
tion. Both of these historians placed particular importance in 
their efforts on the Boston Gazette and its publishers, especially 
Benjamin Edes. Thomas was himself a printer of note during the 
Revolution, but in his The History of Printing in America, he 
credited Edes and the Gazette as being "instrumental" in the 
move toward independence.'* Thomas's book was the first major 

4. Isaiah Thomas, The History of Printing in America (Worcester, Mass.: Isaiah 
Thomas, jr., 1810; reprint, Barre, Mass.: Imprir\t Society, 1970), 1:139. 

"H it is true that 
the political lan- 
guage and thought 
of pre-Revolution- 
ary America were 
often curiously un- 
revealing, highly 
sensitive perhaps 
to the shared con- 
cerns of local 
elKes but not to 
the issues that 
made for divisions 
among both pow- 
erful and common 
people, the trade 
strategies of print- 
ers may have been 
partially respon- 

- Stephen Botein, 

"Printers and the 




AJ/Fall 1989 

"The early part of 
the history of the 
United States, is 
not, like that of 
most other na- 
tions, blended 
with fable. Many 
of the first Euro- 
pean settlers of 
this country were 
men of letters; 
they made records 
of events as they 
passed, and they, 
from the first, 
adopted effectual 
methods to trans- 
mit the knowledge 
of them to their 
- Isaiah Thomas, 
History of 

history of American journalism and still offers useful insights to 
modem historians of the era. It is essential reading for anyone 
studying the role of newspapers during the Revolutionary era. 

Buckingham also credited Edes and his supporters with an 
important role in America's fight for independence. His Speci- 
mens of Newspaper Literature praised the Gazette's writers as a 
patriotic group that produced many pieces that urged the colo- 
nials to stand up to the British. "C3ne united spirit of hostility 
pervaded their minds, and each seemed strengthened and in- 
vigorated by contact with another."^ 

As a group the Nationalist/Romantic historians perceived 
only good in the efforts of the Revolutionary press. They 
continually emphasized the importance of the newspapers in 
bringing on the revolt and praised the printers for their loyalty 
and patriotism. 


Following the Civil War, the first generation of professionally 
trained historians began to produce studies of American history. 
These writers, influenced by an increasing emphasis on the 
validity of science and its techniques, underscored the organic 
development of the United States and its institutions. Most 
historians of American journalism continued to be working jour- 
nalists (as Thomas and Buckingham had been), but they were 
influenced by the changes in the newspaper field. They increas- 
ingly stressed the professional development of the press, under- 
scoring the origin of the press and its progress toward "proper" 
practices, such as an emphasis on news and timeliness. Most of 
these authors emphasized journalistic "firsts" and, as a result, 
often dealt with individual newspapers and publishers rather 
than the industry as a whole. This interpretation became the 
most popular among historians of the press and has remained 
strong for over a hundred years. 

Prominent among the advocates of this interpretation were 
several authors who produced important surveys of the history 
of American journalism. This group included such historians as 
Frederic Hudson, James Melvin Lee, Willard Grosvenor Bleyer, 
and Robert W. Jones. All of them emphasized the impact of the 
Revolutionary war in the development of the American press 
from a trade into a profession and the influential role the press 
played in the Revolution itself. According to Bleyer, the colonial 
weeklies "played their part in developing a feeling of solidarity 
among the colonists in the struggle against the mother country" 
and "the protracted struggle between the colonies and the 
mother country from 1765 to 1783 demonstrated the value of the 
press as a means of influencing public opinion." Jones con- 
cluded that "the position of the newspaper publisher was now 

5. Joseph T. Buckingham, Specimens of Newspaper Literature (Boston: C. C. Little 
and]. Brown, 1850), 1:192. 



one of greater importance because of the prestige resulting from 
the success of the Revolutionary War." All of these authors 
emphasized specific papers and people and the changes that 
occurred during the Revolution.^ 

Probably the most important author in the Developmental 
school was Frank Luther Mott, the author of one of the dominant 
survey histories of American journalism written during the 
twentieth century. In many ways, Mott's efforts constituted the 
height of the dominance of the Developmental school. In his 
studies of the American Revolution, he emphasized the growing 
influence of the press because the colonial newspapers provided 
increasing coverage of American political affairs as the conflict 
with Great Britain became more intense. Particularly important 
in this development were the efforts of the press during the 
Stamp Act crisis. Because of the victory in 1765, colonial leaders 
"respected this new power." Mott concluded that "by the end of 
the war journalism had made a distinct gain in prestige." He also 
stressed the importance of how news was acquired during the 
Revolution. In an important article in 1944, he traced the spread 
of the news of the battles at Lexington and Concord through the 
pages of the colonial newspapers. Mott's work emphasized the 
growing importance of the media as the colonials successfully 
broke away from the mother country.'' 

Many other historians have adopted the Developmental 
interpretation of the role of the press in the American Revolu- 
tion. The result has been a plethora of studies by authors such as 
Albert Carlos Bates and Rollo G. Silver that emphasize the 
growth of American journalism primarily through the recital of 
the careers of individual people and the records of individual 
papers. CM. Thomas studied the press of the Revolutionary era 
through reviewing the careers of three New York printers: John 
Holt, James Rivington, and Hugh Gaine. He concluded that 
most American printers in the 1 760s and 1 770s were good at their 
jobs, but only those who supported the patriot cause have been 
remembered. Capable printers such as Rivington and Gaine 
"chose the side that lost and were lost with it" even though they 
too played an important part in the growth of the American 
press in the eighteenth century.^ 

6. Frederic Hudson, Journalism in the United States, from 1690 to 1872 ffvTew York: 
Harper, 1873), 102; James Melvin Lee, History of American Journalism (Boston: 
Houghton Mifflin Company, 1923), 82-99; Willard Grosvenor Bleyer, Main 
Currents in the History of American Journalism (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Com- 
pany, 1927), 76-99; and Robert W. Jones, Journalism in the United States (New 
York: E. P. Dutton & Company, 1947), 119^8. 

7. Frank Luther Mott, American Journalism: A History, 1690-1960, 3d ed. (New 
York: MacMillan, 1962), 107; and "The Newspaper Coverage of Lexington and 
Concord," New England Quarterly 16 (December 1944): 489-505. 

8. Albert Carlos Bates, "Fighting the Revolution with Printer's Ink in Connecti- 
cut: The Official Printing of that Colony From Lexington to the Declaration," 
Papers of the New Haven Colony Historical Society 9 (1918): 129-60; Rollo G. Silver, 
"Government Printing in Massachusetts, 1751-1801," Studies in Bibliography 16 

"From [the Stamp 
Act] forward, the 
press was recog- 
nized as a strong 
arm of the Patriot 
movement. Of the 
three great media 
of propaganda in 
the Revolution- 
the omnipresent 
pamphlet, the ser- 
mons of the politi- 
cal clergy, and the 
newspaper-it was 
the last which 
made the greatest 

- Frank L. H/lott, 




AJ /Fall 1989 

"We Americans 
have a lot of ro- 
mantic notions 
about many of our 
being encmsted 
with a heavier ro- 
mantic overlay 
than the press. 
Thus we have lion- 
ized such early 
printers and edi- 
tors as Benjamin 
Harris, a bigot and 
a scoundrel, and 
John Peter 
Zenger, a dim and 
not very compe- 
tent fellow." 
- John Harrison, 
"The War of 

The Developmental outlook has also produced studies of 
specific roles which the press generally plays, particularly of the 
development of the editorial function. Jim A. Hart emphasized 
the growing use of opinion in the press during the American 
Revolution. Opinions normally appeared in the form of letters 
and essays from contributors, but Hart concluded that "the first 
strains of the editorial. ..appeared occasionally." In a similar 
vein, John M. Harrison concluded that revolutionary newspaper 
contributors constituted "the first editorial writers in the Ameri- 
can press, establishing one of the primary functions of newspa- 
pers as they were to develop in the United States."^ 

Journalism historians who accept the Developmental inter- 
pretation have often emphasized the growing business acumen 
and professionalism of the Revolutionary printers and the re- 
sulting improvements that developed during the war. Because 
of this interest, these historians have appreciated printers' ef- 
forts to be good newspapermen and businessmen first and 
Patriots or Tories second. Both Alfred McClung Lee, in a study 
of Dunlap and Claypoole of Philadelphia, and Sidney I. Pomer- 
antz, in a study of the patriot press of New York and New Jersey, 
concluded that the revolutionary printers were good business- 
men who tried to operate their establishment in the best manner 
possible. Pomerantz also praised the men he studied for helping 
the revolutionary cause "while observing canons of journalistic 
conduct all too often forgotten in wartime." In a study of James 
Rivington, Robert M. Ours lamented that Rivington has not 
been remembered for his contributions to American journalism: 
Rivington's direct legacy to American journalism was 
virtually nil — largely because of his reputation as a Tory 
liar. That was unfortunate, because his newspaper was 
one of the better ones in the colonies in the early months 
of its existence. Rivington had an excellent pattern to 
offer journalists in his policies regarding impartiality 
and freedom of the press. The evidence is strong that he 
tried to adhere to his announced policies. That he failed 
in the long run was largely the result of wartime pres- 
sures and polarization.^" 

(1963): 161-200; Rollo G. Silver, "Aprons Instead of Uniforms: The Practice of 
Printing, 1776-1787," Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society 87 (1977): 
111-94; and C. M. Thomas, "The Publication of Newspapers During the 
American Revolution," Joumalism Quarterly 9 (1932): 358-73. 

9. Jim A. Hart, The Developing Views on the News: Editorial Syndrome, 1500-1800 
(Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1970), 130-67; and John M. 
Harrison, "The War of Words: The Role of Our First Editorial Writers in Making 
a Revolution," in Newsletters to Newspapers: Eighteenth-Century Journalism, ed. 
Donovan H. Bond and W. Reynolds McLeod,(Morgantown: School of Journal- 
ism, West Virginia University, 1977), 207-218. 

10. Alfred McClung Lee, "Dunlap and Claypoole: Printers and News Mer- 
chants of the Revolution," Journalism Quarterly 11 (1934): 160-178; Sidney 1. 
Pomerantz, "The Patriot Newspaper and the American Revolution," in The Era 
of the American Revolution, ed. R. B. Morris, (New York: Columbia University 



As a group, the Developmental historians have continued to 
emphasize the growth of American journalism during the 
American Revolution, placing particular emphasis on the in- 
creasing professionalism among eighteenth-century printers. 
The American Revolution provided the impetus for colonial 
printers to become more aware of the potential of their produc- 
tions, particularly their weekly newspapers. The Developmen- 
tal writers emphasize this growing awareness. They consider 
the conflict with Great Britain to have been essential in the 
press's move from being primarily a souce of information to also 
serving as an influence on public opinion, a move that was 
necessary if American journalism was to develop into the pow- 
erful instrument that it became in the nineteenth century. 


After 1900 historians posited a new interpretation of Ameri- 
can, and likewise journalism, history. In an era concerned with 
inequities and the lack of unity in American society, the Progres- 
sive historians emphasized the presence of conflict from the 
initial settlement of the colonies down to the present. Most of the 
conflicts occurred between different classes or sections in 
America, but the Revolutionary era represented a period of both 
internal and external troubles. Divisions existed between groups 
within the colonies and between the colonies and the mother 
country as well. In this environment, the press played an 
important role in carrying out a crusade for change. In pushing 
for alterations in the relationship between the colonies and Great 
Britain, the press often helped to accentuate the differences and 
thus helped to make the divisions worse. 

One of the most important historians to expound the Progres- 
sive view of the press was Arthur M. Schlesinger, Sr. In research 
that spanned several decades, he stressed the growing power of 
the press during the 1760s, particularly during the Stamp Act 
crisis. The press changed greatly during the Revolution, but it 
also helped produce changes as well. Throughout the crises of 
the 1760s and 1770s, the patriot press "fearlessly and loudly 
championed the American cause, never yielding ground as did 
some of the politicians." According to Schlesinger's Prelude to 
Independence: The Newspaper War on Great Britain, 1764-1776, 
"the patriot journalists sought to activate popular resentment 
while keeping several paces ahead of it." Thus, the Revolution- 
ary printers sought to use the unhappiness of the colonials to 
widen the divisions and increase the conflicts that existed with 
the mother country. From Schlesinger's perspective, the news- 
papers served to stir up the common people to support the 
desires of some of the colonial leadership to break away from 
Great Britain. The Revolutionary newspapers proved essential 

Press, 1939), 305-31; and Robert M. Ours, "James Rivington: Another View- 
point," in Bond and McLeod, 219-34. 

were discovering 
and using the lev- 
ers of propaganda 
and opinion for- 
niation. In the 
process, they fo- 
cused attention on 
the need for some 
kinds of assur- 
ances that editors 
would be able to 
express their opin- 
ions freely and 
unpopular these 
opinions might 
- John Harrison, 
"The War of 


AJ/Fall 1989 

• • • • • 

"Propaganda was 
thus indispen- 
sable to those who 
first promoted re- 
sistance to spe- 
cific British acts 
and ultimately 
urged revolution. 
...The evidences of 
a conscious, sys- 
tematic effort on 
the part of certain 
colonial leaders to 
gain public sup- 
port for their ideas 
are unmistakable." 
- Philip Davidson, 
Propaganda and 
the American 

in creating the colonial discontent that led to revolt. Without the 
press the Revolution would probably not have occurred." 

Other historians have gone beyond Schlesinger's conclusions 
in emphasizing printers' conscious use of propaganda, or pieces 
designed to mislead or deceive, to produce changes unsought by 
the majority of Americans. In Propaganda in the American Revo- 
lution, 1763-1783, Philip Davidson stated that the use of propa- 
ganda by the patriots indicated clearly that the revolt from Great 
Britain was not a move supported by the majority of colonials, 
for "had the Revolution been the work of a majority, united on 
methods and objects, in sure control of the movement through- 
out, there would have been little necessity for propaganda." 
Davidson concluded that colonial leaders who desired to be in 
control of their own affairs made good use of the American press 
to emphasize the differences between the colonies and the 
mother country. The result was independence.^^ 

Davidson believed that patriot leaders were successful in 
their propaganda efforts, but other Progressive historians reached 
different conclusions. Carl Berger's Broadsides and Bayonets: The 
Propaganda War of the American Revolution said that, while propa- 
ganda in the press was important, it did not play a more decisive 
role in converting the neutrals than did patriot military victories. 
In several studies of the press, Ralph A. Brown concluded that 
printers tried to make use of their newspapers to further the 
cause of the side they supported, but Brown downplayed the 
impact of these efforts. The Tory press tried, but failed, to 
convince people that "the rebels were cruel and heartless" and 
that rebel leaders "were treacherous and self-seeking." In a 
study of the New Hampshire press. Brown concluded that the 
only indication of the effects of Whig newspaper propaganda 
was the importance of printers in the years after the war. Brown's 
work indicated that patriot leaders wanted to accentuate the 
divisions between the colonies and Great Britain, and Tory 
leaders to emphasize the conflicts between different groups of 
colonials, but neither group had much success in its efforts.^^ 

Another important Progressive interpretation appeared in 
Edwin Emery's The Press and America: An Interpretative History of 
Journalism. Now in its sixth edition, this widely-used survey text 
emphasizes the internal conflicts of the American Revolution. 

11. Arthur M. Schlesinger, "Colonial Newspapers and the Stamp Act," New 
England Quarterly 8 (1 935): 63-83; and Prelude to Independence: The Newspaper War 
on Great Britain, 1764-1776 (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1958). 

12. Philip Davidson, Propaganda in the American Revolution, 1763-1783 (Chapel 
Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1941). 

13. Carl Berger, Broadsides and Bayonets: The Propaganda War of the American 
Revolution (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1961); Ralph A. 
Brown, "New Hampshire Editors Win the War," New England Quarterly 12 
(1939): 35-51; Ralph A. Brown, "The Pennsylvania Ledger: Tory News Sheet," 
Pennsylvania History 9 (1942): 161-75; and Ralph A. Brown, "The Newport 
Gazette, Tory News Sheet," Rhode Island History 13 (1954): 97-108. 



The war was a "class struggle" in which "printers, publishers, 
and editors were important influences in preparing the public 
for revolution and in maintaining the fighting spirit during the 
War of Independence."^* 

With a growing interest in the role of economics in history, 
more recent Progressive historians have questioned the motives 
for the actions of Revolutionary printers. Several have con- 
cluded that most pressmen supported the patriot cause for 
reasons of economic survival rather than any strong ideological 
commitment. Robert D. Harlan, in studying David Hall, stated 
that, while Hall's support of the colonials proved to be genuine, 
he began moving in that direction in order to keep his newspa- 
per alive. Alfred L. Lorenz'sbiography of Hugh Gaine described 
the printer as "essentially an apolitical man" who "pursued a 
course dictated by ambition and expediency." According to 
Lorenz, Gaine "had no strong political beliefs for which he was 
willing to risk his life or his fortune." Dwight L. Teeter con- 
cluded that John Dunlap's guiding principle was a desire to be 
successful financially, a goal that he accomplished. The fact that 
the desire to survive influenced decisions is reflected in areas 
other than politics, according to William F. Steirer. In a study of 
Philadelphia printers and their stands on social issues, Steirer 
stressed that "prudence and caution, not bravery and idealism, 
dominated the behavior of those newspapermen — indeed, they 
acted like the small businessmen protecting their investments 
that they in truth were."^^ 

In recent years, historians have continued to expound the 
Progressive view of the role of the press in the American Revo- 
lution, with its emphasis on propaganda and conflict. Robert A. 
Rutland stressed both internal and external divisions, stating 
that "printers in Boston had to be vigilant, not of the king's 
attorney but of their own elected representatives." After an 
uneasy alliance, the printers supported the revolt and helped 
push public opinion toward independence. Studies of Margaret 
Draper by Susan Henry and of Clementina Rind by Norma 
Schneider found that both these female printers used their 
newspapers in the propaganda war after the Boston Tea Party in 
1773. According to Charles Cutler, Connecticut editors "tended 
to serve one side or the other with a zeal that seemed to blind 
them to an alternate viewpoint." He stated that "social pressure 
won willing or unwilling converts to the Patriot cause" and that 

14. Michael and Edwin Emery, The Press and America: An Interpretative History 
of Journalism, 6th ed., (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1988), 45-68. 

15. Robert D. Harlan, "David Hall and the Stamp Act," Papers of the Bibliographi- 
cal Society of America 61 (1967): 13-37; Alfred L. Lorenz, Hugh Gaine: A Colonial 
Printer-Editor's Odyssey to Loyalism (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University 
Press, 1972); Dwight L. Teeter, "John Dunlap: The Political Economy of a 
Printer's Success," Journalism Quarterly 52 (1975): 3-8, 55; William F. Steirer, 
Jr.,"A Study in Prudence: Philadelphia's 'Revolutionary' Journalists," Journal- 
ism History 3 (1976): 16-19. 

"How then did the 
American colonies 
find themselves at 
war with the 
homeland in 1775? 
Perhaps it can be 
explained that the 
war was as much 
a class struggle-a 
domestic rebel- 
lion, even-as it 
was a struggle for 
political separa- 

- Michael and 

Edwin Emery, 

The Press and 




• • • • • 

"The first work of 
newspapers in the 
Revolution was 
not the planning of 
a new society but 
rather the expo- 
sure of injustice in 
the old." 

- Thonias 


The Power 

of the Press. 


the press "incited Connecticut citizens against British rule." 
Wilham F. Steirer, in a study of the Philadelphia press, found 
that "much of the impetus for the printers' directing the thinking 
and actions of readers (or at least trying to) initially came from 
non-journalists." Thomas C. Leonard found that Revolutionary 
newspapers emphasized "the exposure of injustice" in British- 
American society.^^ 

From the Progressive standpoint, the Revolution produced 
and accentuated the divisions that already existed in colonial 
society, whether they were internal conflicts between groups of 
Americans or strains in colonial relations with Great Britain. The 
result was a war which broke ties with the mother country and 
restructured internal relationships in the young United States. 


Following World War II, American historians began to chal- 
lenge the Progressive interpretation. In the face of growing 
world conflict, Americans searched for and found much that 
they had in common, both in the past and in the present. The 
Consensus interpretation of American history downplayed the 
existence of conflict and emphasized the unifying elements that 
existed.^'' Bernard Bailyn, the major proponent of this new 
outlook, stressed the common ideology held by most Americans 
prior to the American Revolution. Because the colonials agreed 
on basic issues such as the type of government they wanted, the 
real revolution was actually over before the war started. In many 
ways, the revolt from Great Britain was a conservative move 
because the colonials sought to preserve rights and privileges 
they had assumed many years before.^^ The Revolution repre- 
sented the fulfillment of already-accepted ideas rather than 
growing divisiveness in American society. 

In journalism history the Consensus interpretation produced 
an emphasis on the role of the press as a support for the 
government and a reflection of the ideas and attitudes of the 
general populace. The media aimed at solving the colonial 
problems in a feasible manner. The printers worked hard to 
maintain both their principles and their business in the face of 

16. Robert A. Rutland, The Newsmongers: Journalism in the Life of the Nation, 
1690-1972 (New York: The Dial Press, 1973), 26-49; Norma Schneider, "Qe- 
mentina Rind: 'Editor, Daughter, Mother, Wife,'" Journalism History 1 (1974): 
137-40; Susan Henry, "Margaret Draper, Colonial Printer Who Challenged the 
Patriots," Journalism History 1 (1974): 141-44; Charles L. Cutler, Connecticut's^ 
Revolutionary Press (Chester, Conn.: Pequot Press, 1975); William F. Steirer, 
"Riding 'Everyman's Hobby Horse': Journalists in Philadelphia, 1764-1794," in 
Bond and McLeod, 263-75; and Thomas C. Leonard, The Power of the Press: The 
Birth of American Political Reporting (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986), 

17. This group of historians sometimes is called the Neo-Conservative school, 
for its emphasis on the Revolution as basically a conservative movement. 

18. Bernard Bailyn, ed.. Pamphlets of the American Revolution, 1750-1776 (Cam- 
bridge: Harvard University Press, 1965). 



many obstacles. In doing so they made lasting contributions to 
the growth of American journalism. 

Consensus historians vigorously criticized the Progressive 
interpretation for its emphasis on class struggle and division. 
Maurice Cullen, in "Middle-Class Democracy and the Press in 
Colonial America," concluded that the Revolution, far from 
being a class struggle, actually constituted a fight to establish 
democracy in America. In a study of the Stamp Act, Francis G. 
Walett admitted the importance of the press in bringing on the 
colonial rebellion, but stressed the unifying efforts of the press 
over the divisiveness produced by the revolt. Bill F. Chamber- 
lin's study of post-war Connecticut, "Freedom of Expression in 
Eighteenth-Century Connecticut: Unanswered Questions," suc- 
cinctly summed up the outlook of the Consensus historians: 
"For the most part, the rulers and the ruled shared common 
interests in order and commercial growth." During the Revolu- 
tion, the result was a united effort to throw off the British yoke.^^ 

The Consensus outlook has not always been strongly sup- 
ported by historians of the Revolutionary-era press, primarily 
because of the press's attempts to influence the public's actions 
during the war. However, the Consensus historians emphasize 
the existence of a unity of ideas prior to the war, which means 
that the newspapers of the War of Independence merely re- 
flected opinions already commonly held rather than trying to 
change the attitudes of the uncommitted. 

One final historical interpretation has also appeared since 
World War II. Represented primarily by the work of Sidney 
Kobre, the Cultural interpretation stresses the interrelation of 
the media and the societal/cultural environment. The major 
concern is the impact of the media on society, and vice versa. In 
studying the press of the eighteenth century, Kobre looked at 
social and economic growth in the colonies as it encouraged the 
growth of the press. He examined the expansion of areas of 
settlement, the population, and the economy and how this 
growth affected newspapers. He concluded that th e press "was 
the only agen cy of a nat inn^l -chara^^t^r w hich cnu]c^ ar t as a 
channel of news and persuasion." Furthermore, "the press 
helped develop 'a consciousness of kind,' an emotional, intellec- 
tual and economic sympathy for distant colonies. The many 
newspapers aided in unifying the thirteen separate colonies into 
one nation and in promoting the social solidarity required for a 
war of revolt."^" Kobre stressed the changes in society partially 

19. Maurice R. Cullen, "Middle-aass Democracy and the Press in Colonial 
America," Journalism Quarterly 46 (1969): 531-35; Francis G. Walett, 'The Impact 
of the Stamp Act on the Colonial Press," in Bond and McLeod, 157-70; and Bill 
F. Chamberlin, "Freedom of Expression in Eighteenth-Century Connecticut: 
Unanswered Questions," in Bond and McLeod, 247-62. 

20. Sidney Kobre, "The Revolutionary Colonial Press — A Sodal Interpreta- 

"Study of the pam- 
phlets confirmed 
my rather old- 
fashioned view 
that the American 
Revolution was 
above all else an 
tutional stnjggle 
and not primarily a 
controversy be- 
tween social 
groups under- 
taken to force 
changes in the or- 
ganization of soci- 
- Bernard Bailyn, 
Pamphlets of the 

256 AJ/Fall 1989 

produced by the press that were necessary for the creation of a 
new nation. 


Historians of American journalism clearly have not agreed 
about the role of the press in the American Revolution. There are 
many possibilities for further study that should prove enlighten- 
ing. Not enough studies have followed Kobre's lead in empha- 
sizing the interrelation between the societal and environmental 
context and the media. More comparisons between Revolution- 
ary newspapers and the press of other eras in American history 
should prove useful. Was the Revolutionary press similar to 
other wartime journalistic efforts in the United States? This 
question has not been adequately answered . Also, the bicenten- 
nial of the French Revolution has produced several studies on 
the French press.^^ With new work being done in this area, it 
seems obvious that comparisons of the French and American 
revolutionary presses are in order. Very few efforts have been 
undertaken to compare the eighteenth-century American press 
with those of other countries or other revolutions. Such studies 
would broaden our understanding of revolutionary media in 

Finally, one of the major problems in the historiography of the 
American Revolutionary press has been the failure of all scholars 
who study this area to work together. There are historians of the 
American Revolution who study the role of journalism and 
historians of journalism who study the American Revolution. 
These two groups need to combine their efforts in an attempt to 
ask the same questions of the evidence and use the techniques 
and tools of both to provide a more comprehensive picture of the 
Revolutionary-era press. Perhaps then we will discover that 
parts of all the interpretations are true, for the press served to 
publicize the ideas of republicanism and to emphasize the 
divisions with Britain while stressing the unity of the colonials 
in their efforts to establish their independence. Out of all these 
efforts came a more professional newspaper, which found grow- 
ing power and prestige in its unique position as a dependable 
source of information and a possible influence on public opin- 
ion. No matter how or why this happened, the press wars of the 
American Revolution proved to be essential in producing this 
change among American journalists. 

tion," Journalism Quarterly 20 (1943): 193-204; and Development of American 
Journalism (Dubuque, Iowa: W. C. Brown Company, 1969), 53-100. 
21. Of particular importance is Revolution in Print, ed. Robert Darn ton and 
Daniel Roche (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989), published in con- 
junction with the New York Public Library exhibition of the same name. 


By Whitman Bassow. 
• William Morrow and Co. 
•1988, 352 pp. 
•$18.95, Cloth 

1950s and 1960s were 
haunted by the threat of 
Soviet leader Nikita 
Khrushchev: "We will 
bury you!" The words 
helped nurture a climate 
of hate and suspicion be- 
tween the two nations that 
still lingers. But Bassow, 
in this engrossing account 
of the role of American 
correspondents in Mos- 
cow, labels the quote a 
misinterpretation by the 
reporters of a "common 
Russian expression mean- 
ing, 'We will survive you. 
We will be present at your 
funeral.'" The incident is a 
good example of how 
news from Moscow was 
shaped by the preparation 
of correspondents and 
their reporting strategies. 
That Khrushchev quote 
was the victim of reporters 
who spoke little Russian 
and of their system for de- 
veloping an "agreed text" 
of quotes before filing sto- 
ries. The agreed text in- 
sured that all news outlets 
received the same misin- 
terpretation of 
Khrushchev's words. 

The anecdote is one of 
hundreds in the book that 

help to illuminate the chal- 
lenges and frustrations 
that have marked this par- 
ticular journalistic assign- 
ment since the Soviets al- 
lowed United States news 
organizations to enter in 
1921. Bassow has col- 
lected the memories of 
those correspondents and 
their families to place the 
Moscow assignment 
"within the framework of 
Soviet history and the rela- 
tionship between the re- 
porters and the society 
about which they were 
writing." This he does 
well, mainly utilizing in- 
formation obtained during 
extensive interviews with 
seventy-six former and 
current correspondents 
and his own five years as a 
Moscow correspondent. 

Bassow begins with a de- 
tailed discussion of the ex- 
cellent coverage of the 
1917 revolution by John 
Reed, who, like so many 
reporters after him, spoke 
no Russian. When the Bol- 
sheviks barred foreign re- 
porters for being "anti-So- 
viet," the press gathered in 
distant Riga, where their 
information about Russia 
came mainly from de- 
posed politicians, former 
tsarist government and 
military representatives, 
and other unreliable 
sources. As a result the 
world received a very 
skewed version of events 
in Russia. Widespread 
famine opened the doors 
for the press in 1921; as a 
condition of United States 

assistance, the Soviets 
were required to allow the 
press to travel freely 
through Russia to report 
on distribution of the sup- 
plies. This freedom to 
travel ended with the relief 
effort and reporters mainly 
confined to Moscow, mak- 
ing it difficult to write 
fully about this vast na- 

Other limitations also 
shaped the reporting. 
Technologically the corre- 
spondents were isolated 
from their news organiza- 
tions by tapped telephones 
and limited and slow ca- 
bling facilities. Meeting 
deadlines back home was 
usually impossible. In ad- 
dition, there was the con- 
tinuing stress of dealing 
with both formal and in- 
formal censorship. The 
creation in 1946 of Glavlit, 
a strict censorship body, 
forced journalists to devise 
codes and strategies for 
getting information out. 
They often decided that a 
story wasn't worth the 
possible ramifications, in- 
cluding expulsion, which 
was the fate of some, in- 
cluding Bassow. 

There is a wealth of in- 
formation in Bassow' s 
well-written chronicle of 
the Moscow assignment. 
He offers insight into the 
role of women correspon- 
dents and the lives of cor- 
respondents' family mem- 
bers, the special problems 
of correspondents with 
Russian wives, the "sym- 
biotic relationship" be- 


A] /Fall 1989 

tween the press and Rus- 
sian dissidents, dealings 
with the American em- 
bassy and with editors 
back home, and the impact 
on journalists of the Hel- 
sinki Accords in 1975 and, 
later, ghsnost. Basso w's 
concluding chapter pro- 
vides a thoughtful analysis 
of the accomplishments 
and failures of the Ameri- 
can media in covering the 
USSR. He is critical of the 
way in which Moscow cor- 
respondents have tradi- 
tionally been selected and 
provides his own criteria 
for such a choice. 

Though lacking in foot- 
notes. The Moscow Corre- 
spondents is a fascinating 
and rich addition to jour- 
nalism historiography. 

...Pamela A. Brown 
Rider College 

IN EUROPE, 1900-1940. 

By Morrell Heald. 

• Kent State University Press 
•1988, 300 pp. 

• $24, Cloth 

THIS BOOK undertakes to 
describe the work of a 
large group of American 
reporters who tried to tell 
their readers back home 
what was happening dur- 
ing an extraordinary era. 
From 1900 to 1940, Europe 
went through the elegant, 
ordered, and optimistic 
Belle Epocjue, plunged into 
what former correspon- 
dent Ernest Hemingway 
called "the most colossal 

murderous mismanaged 
butchery that has ever 
taken place on earth," re- 
covered shakily during the 
twenties, then slid into the 
darkening years of dicta- 
torships and aggressions 
ending in World War II. 

As Morrell Heald makes 
clear, the men and women 
who tried to "cover" this 
vast, complex, and often 
confusing beat were also 
laboring under the handi- 
cap of having very little 
tradition of foreign corre- 
spondence to sustain 
them. The Atlantic cable 
had been laid in 1870, but 
American newspapers, 
with few exceptions, relied 
on foreign nationals for 
most European news until 
near the turn of the cen- 
tury. Additionally, as 
Heald shows through 
ample citations, the 
Americans abroad some- 
times had to deal with edi- 
tors at home who had little 
sympathy for what they 
were trying to do and less 
understanding of the con- 
ditions under which they 
were trying to do it. Many 
newspapers pushed their 
reporters to send plentiful 
stories about the doings of 
home town people visiting 
in Europe — what the cor- 
respondents resentfully 
called "tourist bureau" 
work. At the same time, 
as Edward Price Bell, who 
established the London 
bureau for the Chicago 
Daily News, put it in 1905, 
"our instructions come to 
ERY DAY." This means, 
he concluded, "SEND BIG 
though sometimes "Eu- 

rope is newsless." To keep 
sending "stuff," Bell sent 
feature stories about Euro- 
pean life, only to be met 
with complaints from his 
managing editor, Charles 
Dennis, that his stories 
were "wandering too far 
away from the news." 
Some publishers, suspi- 
cious of foreigners in gen- 
eral, were afraid their cor- 
respondents would lose 
their Americanism: Col. 
Robert R. McCormick, 
xenophobic publisher of 
the Chicago Tribune, kept 
transferring his reporters 
from country to country, 
apparently to keep them 
from "going native." 

In order to render his 
subject manageable, Heald 
limits his book to foreign 
correspondence from Eu- 
rope, excluding Russia. 
Further, he concentrates 
particularly on the report- 
ers for the Chicago Daily 
News, which for many 
years operated the best 
overseas news service. 
(Heald was able to exam- 
ine in depth the records of 
the transactions between 
the Chicago home office 
and its overseas staff, a 
valuable asset.) He di- 
vides his correspondents 
into two groups, the first 
being the ones who began 
reporting from Europe 
around the turn of the cen- 
tury. This contingent, all 
from the Chicago Daily 
News, was led by Bell, and 
included Paul Scott 
Mowrer and Raymond 
Swing — later to become 
known to millions of radio 
listeners in 1939 through 
his calm and grandfatherly 
voice giving the latest war 
news from Europe. The 

Book Reviews 


section on the experiences 
and problems of this first 
group is satisfying, with 
one exception — the treat- 
ment of the reporting of 
World War I. 

Here Heald omits the vi- 
tally important reporting 
done when the Germans 
invaded neutral Belgium 
in order to carry out their 
plan for attack on France. 
As Barbara Tuchman put 
it in The Guns of August, 
"A remarkable group of 
masters of vivid writing 
. . . Richard Harding 
Davis for a syndicate of 
papers. Will Irwin for Col- 
lier's, Irwin Cobb for the 
Saturday Evening Post, 
Harry Hansen for the Chi- 
cago Daily News, John T. 
McCutcheon for the Chi- 
cago Tribune, and others" 
reported to the world on 
"the smoke of burning vil- 
lages . . .the mayors and 
burgomasters shot as hos- 
tages." Those reports 
were responsible for shift- 
ing American opinion 
against Germany, and thus 
probably influenced the 
course of the war. Yet 
Harry Hansen, even 
though he wrote for the 
Chicago Group, is not 
even mentioned, nor are 
McCutcheon, Cobb, or 
Irwin, and Davis's ex- 
tremely important role in 
the reporting from Bel- 
gium gets one sentence. 
Heald does give a good 
account of how various of 
the early correspondents 
were later co-opted into 
being cheerleaders for the 
French and British while 
the United States was still 
neutral, mainly because 
they had become emotion- 
al partisans for the Allies. 

Heald's task is more 
complex as he focuses on 
the second wave of corre- 
spondents, those of the 
1920s and 1930s. They in- 
clude such stars as 
Dorothy Thompson, 
Negley Farson, Herbert L. 
Matthews, whose career 
for the New York Times ex- 
tended past the Castro 
revolution in Cuba, John 
Gunther, Edgar Ansel 
Mowrer (Paul Mowrer's 
younger brother), William 
L. Shirer, Louis Lochner, 
who had a long and emo- 
tionally wracking stay as 
the Associated Press's Ber- 
lin bureau head through 
the rise of Hitler, Vincent 
Sheean, and Leland Stowe. 
The book is rich with de- 
tailed descriptions of the 
experiences of these and 
other reporters, of their 
struggles with the home 
office, their compromises, 
defeats, adventures, and 
occasional victories in re- 
porting from totalitarian 
countries, and their deep- 
ening understanding of 
what was at stake. As a 
way of pointing out the 
negatives, Heald devotes 
much space to George 
Seldes, who finally quit 
foreign correspondence af- 
ter his stories were repeat- 
edly distorted or sup- 
pressed by the Chicago 
Tribune. Seldes's trench- 
ant criticism of the superfi- 
ciality of much reporting is 
important. And despite 
the focus on newspaper 
correspondents, Heald 
takes time to note the be- 
ginning of the era of great 
radio reporting, when 
Shirer broadcast from Vi- 
enna on Hitler's 1938 take- 
over of Austria in a 

roundup organized for 
CBS by Edward R. 

The danger for an ambi- 
tious, broad-scale book 
like Transatlantic Vistas is 
that it will become diffuse 
and dominated by a duti- 
ful recitation of a great 
many different narratives. 
The more conscientious 
and scholarly the writer, 
the greater the danger. 
Heald is both conscien- 
tious and scholarly, but he 
saves his book by the qual- 
ity of its introductory pas- 
sages and by thoughtful 
and penetrating general 
discussion in the last two 
chapters. The most inter- 
esting part here is his ex- 
amination of the reaction 
of the correspondents to 
their own country. Noting 
that the correspondents 
were challenged to explain 
the United States to curi- 
ous Europeans, he writes 
that "in attempting to do 
so they were forced to con- 
solidate and codify many 
of the attitudes and im- 
pressions about home that 
they had brought with 
them." It is interesting 
that many of the reporters' 
views of their home coun- 
try in the 1920s — sharply 
critical of its materialism 
and indifference to other 
countries — echo criticism 
made of America of the 
1980s. And it is also inter- 
esting that almost all the 
correspondents liked the 
America of the 1930s much 
better, feeling it a more 
humane place despite the 
Depression. One cannot 
come away from this 
thoughtful book without 
discovering, as do so 
many travelers, that the 


AJ/Fall 1989 

way to learn about Amer- 
ica is to go somewhere 

...Edward A. Nickerson 
University of Delaware 


By Wm. David Sloan. 

• Greenwood Press 
•1989,359 pp. 

• $49.95, Cloth 

University of Alabama 
and until recently editor of 
American Journalism, Sloan 
has undertaken to fill a 
long-standing gap in the 
study of journalism his- 
tory. He has compiled a 
comprehensive annotated 
bibliography of works per- 
taining to United States 
journalism history from 
colonial to contemporary 
times. Some 2,600 sepa- 
rate entries provide infor- 
mation on dissertations, 
articles, monographs, 
books and reference mate- 
rials published between 
1810 and 1988. 

Sloan makes no claim 
that the bibliography is 
exhaustive, although he 
states that the "most im- 
portant articles and 
books" are included. The 
entries cover articles in 
more than one hundred 
journals, most of which are 
scholarly publications, al- 
though a few semi-popu- 
lar magazines, particularly 
Media History Digest, are 
included. Sloan gives the 
purpose of the book as pri- 
marily to assist the "seri- 

ous historian" in biblio- 
graphical searches. The 
book should be of special 
value to graduate stu- 

In the introduction Sloan 
characterizes seven ap- 
proaches to the writing of 
journalism history: Na- 
tionalist, Romantic, Devel- 
opmental, Progressive, 
Consensus, Cultural, and 
Libertarian. He explains 
each school briefly: the 
Nationalist represented 
the work of nineteenth- 
century elites, who viewed 
the press as a primary fac- 
tor in American leader- 
ship; the Romantic, which 
shared the Nationalist ori- 
entation, produced mid- 
nineteenth century biogra- 
phies extolling the virtues 
of individual editors; the 
Developmental, an ap- 
proach beginning with the 
work of Frederic Hudson 
in 1873, stressed the his- 
tory of journalism as the 
story of professional evo- 
lution in newsgathering 
and presentation; the Pro- 
gressive, stemming from 
the early 1900s, saw the 
press as an ally of the 
masses of common people 
against powerful business 
interests; the Consensus, 
an interpretation that 
emerged after World War 
II, held that the media 
ought to work with the 
government and estab- 
lished interests rather than 
stimulate conflicts within 
society; the Cultural, 
founded in the sociological 
work of Robert E. Park in 
the 1920s, drew attention 
to the social forces affect- 
ing the direction of jour- 
nalism; the Libertarian, a 
strain dominating works 

in both the nineteenth and 
twentieth centuries, as- 
sumed that freedom of the 
press is the central issue in 
the history of American 

Acknowledging that 
these seven historical 
interpretations frequently 
overlap, Sloan contends 
that keeping them in mind 
will help readers recognize 
the historiographical con- 
text of the works listed in 
the bibliography. The in- 
troduction ends with his 
list of "the most funda- 
mental issues addressed 
by historians on the vari- 
ous chapters in American 
journalism history." 

The entries are divided 
into sixteen chapters: Gen- 
eral History of Journalism, 
1690-Present; the Colonial 
Press, 1690-1765; the 
Revolutionary Press, 
1765-83; the Party Press, 
1783-1833; Freedom of the 
Press, 1690-1800; the 
Penny Press, 1833-60; the 
Antebellum and Civil War 
Press, 1820-65; the Press of 
the Industrial Age, 
1865-83; the Age of New 
Journalism, 1883-1900; 
Frontier and Regional 
Journalism, 1800-1900; the 
Emergence of Modern 
Journalism, 1900-1945; the 
Press and the Age of Re- 
form, 1900-1917; the Me- 
dia and National Crises, 
1917^5; Broadcasting, 
1920-Present; the Contem- 
porary Media, 1945-Pres- 
ent; Research Guides and 
Reference Works. 

One can only applaud 
Sloan for engaging in the 
task of annotating such a 
vast array of works. Un- 
fortunately, some typo- 
graphical mistakes mar the 

Book Reviews 


book. Also, the annota- 
tions seem uneven. Some 
entries are not annotated 
at all, while others are 
given critical evaluations. 
In many cases Sloan 
quotes from the work itself 
to explain its approach or 
theme. The volume refers 
to only a few works pub- 
lished in 1988; it might 
have been clearer for the 
reader if the book's scope 
had specifically ended 
with the year 1987. 

Overall this is a useful, 
stimulating volume that 
pulls together a diverse 
collection of materials. It 
should enrich the teaching 
and writing of journalism 
history. One may not nec- 
essarily agree with Sloan's 
selections for the bibliogra- 
phy or his evaluations of 
certain works, but one can 
be grateful to him for pro- 
ducing a provocative piece 
of scholarship that shows 
the continuing vitality of 
the journalism history 
field. This book should be 
in all university libraries. 

...Maurine Beasley 
University of Maryland 


By Brian McNair. 
• Routledge 
•1988, 288 pp. 
•$13.95, Paper 

the result of a Ph.D. disser- 
tation in sociology at the 
University of Glasgow, is 
concerned with "the way 
in which the idea of the 

Soviet threat, and the 
many issues relating to it, 
have been reported by the 
British television news." 
Based on extensive inter- 
views with British and So- 
viet journalists, the work 
also offers a perceptive 
view of the Soviet news 
media with emphasis on 
the accession to power of 
Mikhail Gorbachev and its 
effect on Anglo-American 
"media coverage" of the 
Soviet Union. McNair 
concentrates on television 
because it is (as in the 
United States) "the most 
important news medium 
in Britain today [which] 
claims for itself the status 
of an objective and impar- 
tial information source." 
What he endeavors to de- 
termine is whether televi- 
sion news coverage of the 
East-West debate in Britain 
has really been "neutral, 
balanced, and impartial." 
Since "images of the Soviet 
Union on British television 
are at the heart of the 
book," McNair has sought 
to discern what constraints 
on news reporting of the 
USSR could not be attrib- 
uted to subjective factors 
affecting the journalists, 
but which might explain 
some of the apparent fea- 
tures of coverage. The 
categories of "coverage" 
which concern him are 
(1) the defense debate, (2) 
the peace movement, and 
(3) the dialogue between 
the superpowers on arms 

What are the conclu- 
sions of this analysis of the 
British television news 
media? McNair quite con- 
vincingly demonstrates 
that the television news 

has not communicated a 
completely valid account 
of the defense and disar- 
mament debate, but only a 
scenario in which certain 
fixed points of view are 
disseminated. In other 
words, the television news 
media persist in present- 
ing "stereotyped images of 
the USSR" that reflect a 
"conservative" frame of 
reference and therefore is 
neither neutral nor impar- 
tial. Indeed, despite 
Gorbachev's glasnost in 
public relations, the British 
(and American?) media 
report the Soviet view- 
point as less truthful and 
credible than Western 
news sources. McNair 
cites several examples to 
qualify his assertions, but 
also declares that "If the 
Soviet viewpoint has 
tended to be underrepre- 
sented" in the West, it is 
also because of the notori- 
ous and often self-defeat- 
ing Soviet constraints im- 
posed on routine news- 
gathering by Western jour- 
nalists and the govern- 
ment's negative news 
management (so apparent 
in the Korean Airlines cri- 
sis). However, since the 
advent of Gorbachev, the 
Soviet government has 
developed and used news 
management that almost 
rivals its American 
counterpart, and this de- 
velopment, asserts 
McNair, has softened "the 
rhetoric in the superpower 
dialogue." Nevertheless, 
McNair fears that "for tele- 
vision news and the West- 
ern media in general, skill- 
ful news management and 
glasnost on the Soviet side 
will not entirely cancel the 


AJ/Fall 1989 

effect of 'bias.'" It will only 
provide those in the West- 
ern media who seek to 
achieve a more objective 
view of Soviet- Western is- 
sues with better raw mate- 
rial to do their job prop- 

McNair's study is a 
good read, augmented by 
explanatory endnotes, a 
good selective bibliogra- 
phy, and a useful index. 

...J.O. Baylen, Emeritus 
Eastbourne, England 


By John Maxwell Hamilton. 

• Indiana University Press 
•1988,352 pp. 

• $25, Cloth 

could use another Edgar 
Snow. Three times during 
his half -century career, 
when China was walled 
off from most reporters. 
Snow achieved journalistic 
coups that gave the larger 
world some sense of the 
historic forces shaping that 
country. It seems appro- 
priate that John Maxwell 
Hamilton's rich biography 
appears just as a new 
wave of tumult makes un- 
derstanding of the Chinese 
once more a priority. One 
wonders what Snow 
would do with the story 
and is convinced by 
Hamilton's portrayal that 
Snow would report these 
newest developments with 
courage, resourcefulness, 
and a unique understand- 
ing of Chinese culture and 

In 1936, eight years after 
arriving in China on a 
Midwestern youth's search 
for adventure. Snow be- 
came the first Western re- 
porter in nearly a decade 
to meet the Chinese Com- 
munists. Slipping through 
a Nationalist blockade to 
reach the caves of Yenan, 
Snow spent four months 
with Chou En-lai and Mao 
Tse-tung and emerged to 
write Red Star Over China, 
called by one reviewer, 
"the greatest single feat 
performed by a journalist 
in our century." For the 
first time, there was a de- 
scription of the Commu- 
nists not as a group of ban- 
dits, but as a disciplined 
movement with a chance 
of success. The book re- 
mains a key source, even 
within China, about the 
movement's early days. 

Snow's reporting ranged 
widely, including the So- 
viet Union during and af- 
ter World War II, Gandhi's 
India, and Vietnam, but 
China was always his fo- 
cus. In 1960, with the Red 
Star ascendant over a 
closed society. Snow 
battled both United States 
and Chinese bureaucracy 
to visit again. He was the 
first American reporter to 
interview Mao since 1949, 
and the last American 
journalist in China before 
the Cultural Revolution. 

In 1970, Snow was the 
first American reporter to 
return after the revolution. 
In a remarkable gesture, 
he was invited to stand 
next to Mao on the balcony 
of Tiananmen Gate, re- 
viewing thousands of 
troops marching by in 
celebration of the twenty- 

first anniversary of the 
People's Republic. 

"You have made China 
practically a monopoly," 
Harrison Salisbury of the 
New York Times told Snow. 
The monopoly was under- 
valued. Americans tend to 
look at the rest of the 
world, particularly the 
non-capitalist world, 
through an astigmatic lens. 
Snow battled editors, re- 
viewers and communist- 
hunters to report what he 
had found, not what they 
wanted him to find. 

The great strength of Ha- 
milton's biography is that 
he is writing not just about 
Snow, but also about the 
biases built into much for- 
eign correspondence, 
about the American lack of 
interest in the rest of the 
world, and about the anti- 
Communist hysteria that 
damaged careers and the 
free flow of information in 
this country. 

Although Snow saw 
himself as a bridge be- 
tween China and the rest 
of the world, and, unlike 
many reporters, was able 
to view Chinese develop- 
ments from a Chinese per- 
spective, he was also care- 
ful as a reporter, hard- 
headed in his questions, 
and true to his own con- 
clusions, no matter 
whether they were popu- 
lar or lucrative. "What- 
ever his sympathies," Ha- 
milton concludes, "Snow 
was above all a journalist." 
That is fine praise, and 
Hamilton's book should 
help win Snow the greater 
attention he deserves. 

A final note: Edgar 
Snow took a journalism 
history course at the Uni- 

Book Reviews 


versity of Missouri, and he 
got a D. Apparently he 
was better at making jour- 
nalism history than at 
studying it. 

...Judith A. Serrin 
Columbia University 


Edited with an introduction by 
James W. Carey. 
• Sage 

•1988,270 pp. 
•$16.95, Paper 

arose from man's attempt 
"to defend himself against 
the superior powers of na- 
ture." Life is hard, Freud 
knew, and man's self-re- 
gard calls for consolation. 
Culture robs life of its ter- 
ror and gives life context, 
structure, and meaning. 

Once, then, culture was 
consolation. But not now. 

People now seek protec- 
tion from — or at least 
understanding of — cul- 
ture. As it provides a con- 
text that offers order and 
meaning for people, cul- 
ture also limits meaning 
and secures order and be- 
comes the context in which 
some people are fulfilled 
and others are denied. 
How does this happen and 

These are large ques- 
tions. But Media, Myths, 
and Narratives: Television 
and the Press, volume 15 of 
the Sage Annual Reviews 
of Communication Re- 
search, attempts to con- 

front them. The book is a 
collection of twelve essays 
by some top writers in 
communication. It is ed- 
ited and introduced by 
James W. Carey, dean of 
the College of Communi- 
cations at the University of 
Illinois and a man who has 
done much to establish 
cultural studies as an area 
of research. 

Divided into three parts 
— Overviews, Television, 
and the Press — Carey's 
book offers studies of 
United States popular cul- 
ture from the perspective 
of broad concepts used in 
their broadest sense: 
myth, ritual, narrative, 

Carey has certainly as- 
sembled a stellar cast. 
Michael Schudson studies 
the autobiographies of 
Lincoln Steffens and 
Harrison Salisbury for in- 
sights into news reporting 
as a vocation. Tamar 
Liebes and Elihu Katz dis- 
cuss viewer understanding 
of "Dallas." Horace 
Newcomb argues for the 
multiple meanings of tele- 
vision programs. Roger 
Silverstone continues his 
comparisons of television 
and myth. John Pauly 
studies Rupert Murdoch 
as outsider and "other" 
figure for the American 
press. David Eason re- 
views newspaper discus- 
sions of Janet Cooke to 
consider boundaries of the 
permissible in journalism. 
And there are still others. 

What could possibly tie 
all this together? Nothing. 

Carey does not even try 
and that is just as well. Af- 
ter a one-paragraph ac- 
knowledgment that "the 

distinctiveness of individ- 
ual voices is greater than 
the thematic unities 
among the essays," Carey 
launches into his own 
thoughtful, almost mourn- 
ful, contemplation of the 
possibility and temerity of 
studying culture. 

His voice has grown sad 
over the years. Gone are 
the confident, cheerful 
rhythms that marked "A 
Cultural Approach to 
Communication," the bold 
1975 essay that used 
Dewey to conceive com- 
munication as transmis- 
sion and ritual, pro- 
pounded its own defini- 
tion of communication, 
and offered the hope that 
cultural studies might pro- 
vide "a model of and for 
communication of some 
restorative value in 
reshaping our common 

In 1988 Carey's voice is 
measured, seasoned. His 
tone is almost weary, with 
the resonance of a veteran 
ballplayer who has seen it 
all, maybe seen too much. 
"We have discovered, in 
short, our powers to make 
art, and the discovery has 
alienated rather than com- 
forted us," he writes. "We 
have discovered culture, to 
use Ernst Cassirer's apt 
phrase, as 'the place of the 
mind in nature' and the 
discovery has its tragic 
side, our separation from 
what the Germans more 
elegantly called the 

But Carey is nowhere 
near ready to hang up his 
spikes. Troubled by those 
who would reduce culture 
to ideology, haunted by 
the still-kicking corpses of 


A] /Fall 1989 

functionalism and effects, 
distracted by the decades- 
long echoes of the mass 
culture debate, Carey still 
has the guts to turn in- 
ward and question what 
once was his assumption: 
the possibility of studying 

He asks: How are we to 
take culture seriously? 
Working within the con- 
fines of culture, how do 
we study culture? Using 
the language of culture, 
how do we talk about cul- 

His answer is two-fold. 
He suggests that culture 
can be studied "from an 
anthropological side," 
which acknowledges an 
overarching unity to hu- 
man life: the quest to give 
meaning to reality. Here 
myth, ritual, narrative, and 
story become keys that can 
be applied to all cultures, 
uniting our own struggle 
for meaning with those of 
other times and other 
places. But Carey is too 
much an historian to leave 
culture to the anthropolo- 
gists. He says studies of 
culture must also be situ- 
ated and specific, ground- 
ed in a particular time and 

We find in this book then 
that Carey has remained 
remarkably focused. Four- 
teen years ago he wrote: 
"We create, express, and 
convey our knowledge of 
and attitudes toward real- 
ity through the construc- 
tion of a variety of symbol 
systems: art, science, jour- 
nalism, religion, common 
sense, mythology. How 
do we do this? What are 
the differences between 
these forms?" 

What has changed in 
fourteen years is that 
Carey perhaps realizes 
more acutely, more reflex- 
ively, that his questions 
speak to the magic of sym- 
bols, of culture, of people, 
of answers, of questions, 
of self-consciousness: We 
are privileged and 
doomed to use words to 
speak of words. 

The essays in Media, 
Myths, and Narratives are 
marked by the same 
awareness. They share, if 
nothing else, recognition 
of the privilege and prob- 
lem of studying culture. 
Yet they raise their ques- 
tions nonetheless. The an- 
swers are not forthcoming. 
But the voices are strong, 
the topics are engaging, 
and the words are part of 
an earnest effort to under- 
stand our culture and our- 

University of Tulsa 


By Howard Good. 

• The Scarecrow Press 
•1989, 195 pp. 

• $25, Cloth 

IN KING KONG intrepid 
filmmaker and self-pro- 
moter Carl Denham in- 
vites the press to meet his 
latest attraction, the eighth 
wonder of the world, a 
ten-ton gorilla with a yen 
for lovely Fay Wray. As 
the gentlemen of the press 
madly begin snapping 
photos, flash bulbs pop- 

ping like hail on a tin roof, 
Kong, perhaps more 
knowledgeable about the 
ways of the press than 
might be expected of a re- 
cent emigre, goes ape, 
straining against his 
chains, enraged because he 
thinks the press is attack- 
ing Fay. As chromium 
steel links begin snapping, 
one journalist casually re- 
marks, "Ah, let him howl. 
These are swell pictures." 

That scene pretty much 
sums up the way Holly- 
wood movies saw journal- 
ists in the 1930s. Long be- 
fore Timothy Crouse 
popularized the phrase 
"pack journalism," the 
movies depicted reporters 
as a rowdy, irresponsible 
herd who would permit 
nothing, not even a ten-ton 
gorilla or the truth, to 
stand in the way of a good 
story. And in thirties 
movies the truth and a 
good story were often dia- 
metrically opposed. 
Above all, however, many 
of these films suggested 
that being a journalist was 
basically fun. 

But as Howard Good's 
book indicates, contempo- 
rary movies are apt to 
present a darker, more 
critical view of the press. 
Journalism doesn't seem 
so much fun anymore. It's 
serious business. Good 
examines around twenty- 
five journalism movies 
made since the 1960s and, 
of these, only a handful 
{All the President's Men, 
Under Fire, The Parallax 
View) present journalists in 
a favorable light. (Actu- 
ally, there are more that 
Good misses — Eyewitness 
and Capricorn One — but 

Book Reviews 


not many n^ore.) Far more 
typical are movies like Ab- 
sence of Malice, in which a 
reporter's disregard for 
truth and decency leads to 
the destruction of reputa- 
tions and lives. As Good 
writes, "From the late 
1960s through the mid- 
1980s, Hollywood has 
treated audiences to a pa- 
rade of reckless reporters, 
cynical editors, and 
money-crazed corporate 
executives who crush 
reputations and lives for a 
scoop or a ratings point." 

By and large, writers on 
Hollywood movies have 
concentrated on the more 
highly conventionalized 
genres like the western, 
the gangster film, and the 
screwball comedy and de- 
ferred work on the more 
marginal ones, like the po- 
litical film and the journal- 
ism film. Good's book is 
only the second one on the 
topic, and he rightly notes 
that the first, Alex Barris's 
Stop the Presses! wasn't 
adequate. Good's volume 
is an improvement, but it 
too has its share of prob- 

Good focuses on how 
public attitudes have al- 
tered the movies' depic- 
tion of the press. He also 
examines such related top- 
ics as the nature of the 
genre of the journalism 
film and the way genre 
films "work to reconcile 
the turbulent present with 
traditional beliefs and melt 
it into myth." Defining 
genres is always a tricky 
business, and Good's at- 
tempt at it has some rather 
obvious limitations. He 
breaks down the genre 
structurally into three sub- 

genres or plot types, but 
these exclude a number of 
movies {Citizen Kane, It 
Happened One Night) that 
many of us — and I suspect 
Good — would consider 
journalism movies. In fact, 
because several of Good's 
specimen movies don't fit 
these subgenres either, I 
suspect he really isn't 
working with a structural 
definition of the genre at 
all but rather a tautological 
one: a journalism movie is 
a movie about journalism. 

The shifting definitions, 
though, aren't as bother- 
some as his sailing past 
some interesting ques- 
tions. For instance, it 
might be rewarding to 
consider just what audi- 
ence expectations are 
about this genre. It might 
be interesting to speculate 
about whether less articu- 
lated genres like the jour- 
nalism film are more vul- 
nerable to shifts in public 
attitude than more highly 
articulated genres like the 
western or the slasher 
movie. It might be inter- 
esting to compare the way 
the press is treated in the 
journalism movie with the 
way it is treated in other 
kinds of films. It might be 
interesting to see just how 
one of his specimen mov- 
ies uses traditional beliefs 
to qualify current ideol- 
ogy. While this project is 
occasionally mentioned, 
it's clear that Good is not 
especially interested in the 
genre film's rhetorical 
strategies, but rather, as he 
says, in stories (that is, plot 

To be fair. Good admits 
that his "emphasis is more 
on journalism than on 

film"; he confesses that his 
formal training in film 
consists of one college 
course in which he made a 
D. (His reason should en- 
dear him to film teachers 
everywhere: the films 
were boring.) When Good 
dispenses with musings 
about the genre film and 
tackles issues in journal- 
ism that affected the films, 
he's on much firmer, 
though familiar, ground. I 
can imagine his book 
would be of use to stu- 
dents too young to re- 
member the Vietnam War 
and Watergate and their 
effect on American society. 
For the rest of us, many of 
his summaries of historical 
background and their ap- 
plication to film often 
seem to be stating the ob- 

... Harris Ross 
University of Delaware 

WAR, 1944-47. 

By Louis Liebovich. 

• Praeger 
•1988, 192 pp. 

• $39.95, Cloth 

were selected by the au- 
thor to provide a sam- 
pling, rather than a cross- 
section, of news reporting 
and editorial commentary 
in the pivotal years em- 
braced by this study. Mr. 
Liebovich proposes to 
study the "line of logic fol- 
lowed" by the New York 
Herald-Tribune, San Fran- 


AJ/Fall 1989 

Cisco Chronicle, the Chicago 
Tribune , and Time maga- 

As a sampling in a com- 
pressed format, the book 
provides fascinating read- 
ing, quick quotes and an- 
ecdotal material with a 
good, specific index and 
an abundance of footnoted 
material for those wishing 
to follow up and delve 

The inevitable compare- 
and-contrast approach ac- 
curately reflects a nation, 
and the world, brought to 
the brink of Doomsday by 
the A-bomb, a desire to 
put death and war behind, 
and the clash between the 
two mightiest surviving 
powers at the end of a war 
that had lasted twelve 
years. Midwest American 
xenophobia is paralleled 
by Stalin's mistrust of the 
West, an extension of Rus- 
sian thought for centuries 
and heightened by a 
shared fear of nuclear 

Mr. Lievobich sets out to 
explore the composition of 
news organizations in- 
volved and to offer in- 
sights into the individual 
characteristics of those in- 
stitutions. He also seeks to 
explain their commentary 
on the origins of the Cold 
War. His efforts yield a 
fast-moving, tightly writ- 
ten documentary one 
wishes were more inclu- 
sive. It is concise and 
within narrow parameters 
it succeeds very well. 
There is good background 
for more than the 1944-47 
period cited in the title. 

The author errs in de- 
scribing the first test of an 
atomic device at Trinity 

Site in New Mexico as an 
underground blast. It was 
detonated atop a 100-foot- 
tall tower, as documented 
repeatedly, from Atomic 
Day One, by the AEC, 
William Laurence, Ferenc 
Szasz, and others. 

Other observations are 
more accurate. Mr. 
Liebovich details the dis- 
crepancies among the re- 
porting and editorial page 
staffs of the publications 
used, and notes that con- 
servative publishers had 
an automatic, anti-commu- 
nist viewpoint going into a 
delicate time of global rea- 
lignment and growing, 
mutual suspicions. 

While the study tries to 
answer questions about 
foreign affairs reporting 
and Roosevelt and 
Truman influences over 
journalists during the pe- 
riod, it does not try to es- 
tablish a causal relation- 
ship between foreign pol- 
icy makers' decisions in re- 
sponse to reporting and 
editorials, as Mr. 
Liebovich notes. 

The writer keeps his 
book well within the 
boundaries he sets. Copi- 
ous notes and quotes rees- 
tablish very accurately the 
prevailing mood of the 
time, the shift in American 
view from Russia as war- 
time heroic ally to the fear- 
some Red Menace. The 
Truman Doctrine and 
Marshall Plan come in for 
intense analysis seen 
through the viewpoints of 
the publications chosen. 

Given the author's ana- 
lytical skill, it seems clear a 
broader scope would have 
paid dividends. It's his 
first book; I look forward 

to the next. Fatter, please. 

...Robert H. Lawrence 
University of New Mexico 


By Walton Rawls. 

• Abbeville Press 
•1988, 296 pp. 

• $49.95, Cloth 

THE TITLE FOR this book 
comes from a 1917 poster 
by James Montgomery 
Flagg that shows the sleep- 
ing figure of Columbia. 
Rawls's thesis is that prior 
to and during World War I 
the poster was of vital im- 
portance in communicat- 
ing vital information 
quickly, and excellent re- 
productions of numerous 
World War I posters make 
the book a visual delight. 
In the author's words, the 
purpose of Wake Up 
America! is "not simply to 
collect and illustrate some 
of the best examples [of 
World War I posters] from 
all aspects of the war effort 
but to provide guidance 
into the social, political, 
and historical context in 
which these posters com- 
mendably performed their 
patriotic duty." 

Rawls, who is described 
as a senior editor at a lead- 
ing publishing company, 
has organized the book 
chronologically, beginning 
with events which lead to 
the entry of the United 
States in the European war 
and tracing American in- 
volvement throughout the 
war. Each chapter pres- 

Book Reviews 


ents a capsule history illus- 
trated by colorful posters 
because the author be- 
lieves that the posters can- 
not be understood without 
knowledge of the events 
which prompted their 

Although Wake Up Amer- 
ica! includes a bibliogra- 
phy and an index, it is by 
no means a scholarly 
work. There is some dis- 
cussion of the role of post- 
ers in the war effort, but 
they are primarily treated 
as illustrations, not as ob- 
jects of importance in their 
own right. For the journal- 
ism historian. Wake Up 
America! can provide lush 
reproductions of powerful 
visual images, but sup- 
porting textual informa- 
tion about them and their 
creators must be found 
elsewhere. Those inter- 
ested in investigating this 
might see Posters of the 
First World War, by 
Maurice Rickards, and The 
Poster, by Alain Weill. 

...Lucy Caswell 
Ohio State University 

T0 1914. 

Edited by Joel H. Wiener. 

• Greenwood Press 
•1988,347 pp. 

• $45, Cloth 

aware that journalism in 
Britain, as elsewhere in the 
Western world, underwent 
a transformation in the 
second half of the nine- 

teenth century. A combi- 
nation of technological 
advances, expanding pub- 
lic literacy, and commer- 
cial imperatives brought 
into being an array of 
newspapers and maga- 
zines that sought to 
achieve mass appeal (and 
massive circulations) by 
relying on simplified news 
reports, sensationalism, 
"human interest angles" of 
all kinds, modernized ty- 
pography and layout, pro- 
motional gimmickry such 
as contests and campaigns, 
and a constant search for 
novelty and innovation. 
The emergence of these 
papers, customarily dated 
from about 1880 to about 
1900, is inseparable in Brit- 
ain from the careers of 
men such as Frederick 
Greenwood, W.T. Stead, 
T.P. O'Connor, and Alfred 
Harmsworth, later Lord 
Northcliffe. The term 
"New Journalism," in- 
tended as a pejorative epi- 
thet, is usually attributed 
to Matthew Arnold, who 
gave vent to his thor- 
oughly offended sensibili- 
ties in 1887 when he ac- 
cused the new techniques 
of being "feather-brained," 
misleading, and generally 
corrosive of the nation's 
moral fiber. 

Arnold's attack, which 
was specifically prompted 
by Stead's editorship of 
the Pall Mall Gazette, 
serves as the departure 
point for several of the pa- 
pers in this collection. In 
the absence of any single 
integrated and compre- 
hensive account of the 
New Journalism, it is to 
studies such as these, fo- 
cusing on particular or- 

gans, individuals, and epi- 
sodes, that the most fruit- 
ful recourse is likely to be 
made. All but one were 
originally presented in 
1986 at a conference spon- 
sored in part by the Re- 
search Society for Victo- 
rian Periodicals at the City 
University of New York. 
As might be expected, 
there is some overlapping 
between the papers, and 
some of them are more 
germane to the topic than 
others. A few impinge 
only tangentially on the 
character and develop- 
ment of the New Journal- 
ism, although each is fasci- 
nating in its own right. On 
the other hand, several of 
the papers, especially 
those by Laurel Brake, Joel 
Wiener, Harry Schalk, and 
James D. Startt, attempt 
with a good deal of suc- 
cess to survey the whole 
phenomenon from various 
angles. Most of the re- 
maining studies concen- 
trate on special subjects. 
Greenwood is considered 
by B.I. Diamond; Stead, 
by Ray Boston; the Star 
under O'Connor's leader- 
ship, by John Goodbody; 
and Reginald Britt, that 
eminence grise of late Victo- 
rian and Edwardian poli- 
tics, and his machinations 
with the Pall Mall Gazette, 
by J.O. Baylen. A valuable 
contribution to our under- 
standing of the New Jour- 
nalism outside its London 
epicenter comes from Aled 
Jones through examination 
of its impact on the re- 
gional press in Wales. Pa- 
pers by Rosemary T. 
VanArsdel and Deian 
Hopkin, respectively, offer 
suggestive studies of peri- 


AJ/Fall 1989 

odicals directed specifi- 
cally toward a readership 
of women, something that 
itself was usually consid- 
ered a facet of the New 
Journalism, and of the 
emergence of the left-wing 

Despite the variety of 
their subjects and ap- 
proaches, many of these 
papers are informed by a 
common assumption that 
is the principal point to be 
extracted from the book it- 
self. This is simply that 
the New Journalism was 
not a discontinuity in the 
history of British journal- 
ism, nor was it the diamet- 
ric opposite of good jour- 
nalism that Arnold's casti- 
gation implied. Many of 
its distinctive features, 
whether in content or 
form, had clear antece- 
dents as far back as the 
middle of the century: 
hence the broad chrono- 
logical span of the book's 
subtitle. By the same to- 
ken, the New Journalism 
was clearly the forerunner 
of much that is characteris- 
tic of British journalism 
today, whether one con- 
siders "quality" papers 
such as The Times and the 
Daily Telegraph, whose ori- 
gins antedated that of the 
New Journalism, or 
"popular" organs such as 
the Daily Express, the Eve- 
ning News, and the Sun, 
which are more obviously, 
perhaps, modern extrapo- 
lations of trends given 
momentum a century ago 
by the Pall Mall Gazette, the 
Star, and the Daily Mail. 

Joel Wiener has ar- 
ranged the papers in a 
four-part framework, 
which prevents them from 

falling into a confusing 
hodge-podge, and pro- 
vided a solid, workman- 
like editorial introduction. 
His most valuable contri- 
bution, however, is his 
seventeen-page biblio- 
graphical essay. Almost a 
catalogue raisonne of his- 
torical writing on the New 
Journalism, this should be 
the starting place for any 
student of the subject. 

...John A. Hutcheson,Jr. 
Dalton College 


By David Schoenbrun. 
• E.P. Dutton 
•1989, 256 pp. 
•$18.95, Cloth 

CBS? What could anyone 
possibly add to the litera- 
ture on America's best- 
documented television 

David Schoenbrun, a 
news veteran who joined 
the CBS Network just 
twelve years after its crea- 
tion in 1928, promises to 
go beyond surface symp- 
toms in evaluating the de- 
cline in status of that net- 
work's news operation. 
Generally, he succeeds 
with anecdotes concerning 
life as a Paris bureau chief 
and one of a small group 
of correspondents hand- 
picked by the legendary 
Edward R. Murrow. 

Schoenbrun joined CBS 
from the ranks of the New 
York City school system. 

where he was a high 
school teacher of French 
and Spanish. During his 
lengthy service to CBS, he 
came into contact with 
most of the network's 
leading figures. He dis- 
cusses how both Edward 
R. Murrow and Douglas 
Edwards assisted him in 
the advancement of his ca- 
reer and describes the 
early Murrow-Fred W. 
Friendly partnership. The 
author, who died just be- 
fore the book's publica- 
tion, also details the seri- 
ous issues affecting broad- 
casting in the early days 
including blacklisting and 
government oversight of 
special projects. Many of 
these tales are, of course, 
chestnuts which the in- 
formed reader will recall 
from earlier works, but 
Schoenbrun also offers 
splendid insight into the 
activity of the early foreign 
correspondents — an inter- 
national perspective. 

On and Off the Air is espe- 
cially thorough in its cov- 
erage of the French people 
and the Paris scene of 
Schoenbrun's era. He de- 
scribes, for example, how 
he developed a relation- 
ship with a half-dozen key 
reporters in the French 
capital to monopolize and 
beat opponents to impor- 
tant interviews. On the 
darker side, he offers in- 
sight into coverage of the 
Cold War — violence, ab- 
ductions, riots, and coups. 
Back at home, Schoenbrun 
was selected to cover 
Eisenhower and Kennedy 
and he owns up to indis- 
cretions regarding his per- 
formance on many occa- 
sions in that role, which 

Book Reviews 


makes for interesting read- 

Like so many of the other 
CBS authors, Schoenbrun 
asserts that during the six- 
ties, much of the discre- 
tionary decision-making 
power was removed from 
the province of the net- 
work correspondent. He 
outlines problems he had 
in this regard, concluding: 
'They [management] 
failed to treat us with the 
minimum courtesy and re- 
spect that we needed to 
maintain any standing for 
ourselves in hard-nosed 
Washington society, which 
is always eager to gossip 
and pounce on anyone 
vulnerable." (147) He was 
especially upset by an at- 
tempt by the "CBS Eve- 
ning News" staff to 
preempt a talk with the 
French ambassador, an in- 
terview Schoenbrun had 
organized for a Sunday 
public affairs program he 
had been hosting. This 
was, according to the au- 
thor, part of an overall at- 
tempt by CBS manage- 
ment to control content 
and remove autonomy, 
thus reducing the risk of 
controversy of the type 
generated by Edward R. 
Murrow. Offered a pro- 
motion in exchange for the 
removal of his public af- 
fairs program, Schoebnrun 
refused and left CBS. 

The concluding sections 
offer insight into the de- 
cline of the network begin- 
ning with Vietnam cover- 
age leading to the resigna- 
tion of Fred Friendly as 
news chief. Overall, the 
author succeeds in his at- 
tempt to offer the why and 
how of the decline of CBS 

News. He is, of course, at 
his best when relating per- 
sonal experiences to over- 
all network performance. 
The story of how business 
interests overtook news 
values at CBS just prior to 
Schoenbrun' s death has 
been told again and again, 
but the perspective offered 
by this seasoned and re- 
spected bureau chief is 
unique and thus worthy of 
review by journalism his- 

...Michael D. Murray 
Univ. of Missouri-St . Louis 



BROWN, Pamela A. 
"George Seldes and the 
Winter Soldier Brigade: 
The Press Criticism of In 
Fact, 1940-1950," 85-102. 

'The Evangelical Origins 
of the Muckrakers," 5-29. 

HUGHES, Thomas A. 
'The Civil War Press: 
Promotor of Unity or 
Neutral Reporter?" (his- 
toriographical essay) 

'The Revolutionary 
Press: Source of Unity or 
Division?" (historiogra- 
phical essay) 245-56. 

"Magazine Publishing 
and Popular Science after 
World War II," 218-34. 

MURRAY, Michael D. 
'The St. Louis Post-Dis- 
patch Campaign Against 
Middle Commercials," 

OLASKY, Marvin. 
"Journalism Historians 
and Religion," (histori- 
ographical essay) 41-53. 

PFAFF, Daniel W. 
"Joseph Pulitzer II and 
the European War, 
1938-1945," 143-57. 


"A Last Hurrah for the 
Frontier Press," 65-84. 

ROGERS, Jr., William W. 
"Reconstruction Journal- 
ism: The Hays-Hawley 
Letter," 235^4. 

SLOAN, Wm. David. 
"'Purse and Pen': Party- 
Press Relationships, 
1789-1816," 103-26. 

TEFL, Leonard Ray. 
"W.A. Scott and the At- 
lanta World," 158-78. 


BASSOW, Whitman. 
The Moscow Correspon- 
dents: Reporting on Russia 
from the Revolution to 
Glasnost. Rev. by Pamela 
A. Brown, 257-58. 

CAREY, James W., ed. 
Media, Myths, and Narra- 
tives: Television and the 
Press. Rev. by Jack Lule, 

DOUGLAS, George H. 

The Early Days of Radio 
Broadcasting. Rev. by 
Donald G. Godfrey, 


GOOD, Howard. 
Outcasts: The Image of 
Journalists in Contempo- 
rary Film. Rev. by Harris 
Ross, 264-65. 

GOULDEN, Joseph C. 
Fit to Print: A.M. Rosen- 
thal and His Times. Rev. 
by Ralph Engelman, 

Edgar Snow. Rev. by 
Judith A. Serrin, 262-63. 

HEALD, Morrell. 

Transatlantic Vistas: 
American Jourrmlism in 
Europe, 1900-1940. Rev. 
by Edward A. Nickerson, 

HEYER, Paul. 
Communications and His- 
tory: Theories of Media, 
Knowledge, and Civiliza- 
tion. Rev. by Jack Lule, 

KREIG, Andrew. 
Spiked: How Chain Man- 
agement Corrupted Amer- 
ica's Oldest Newspaper. 
Rev. by Alf Pratte, 201-2. 

LEMAY, J.A. Leo , ed. 

Benjamin Franklin: Writ- 
ings. Rev. by Carol S. 
Humphrey, 57-58. 

The Press and the Origins 
of the Cold War, 1944-47. 
Rev. by Robert H. Law- 
rence, 265-66. 

LINTON, David, and Ray 
Boston, eds. The Newspa- 
per Press in Britain. Rev. 
byJ.O. Baylen, 200-201. 

MCNAIR, Brian. 
Images of the Enemy. Re- 
porting the New Cold War. 
Rev. byJ.O. Baylen, 

MORRISON, David E., 
and Howard Tumber. 
Journalists at War: The 

Dynamics of News Report- 
ing during the Falkland 
Conflict. Rev. by Alfred 
Cornebise, 133-34. 

OLASKY, Marvin. 
The Press and Abortion, 
1838-1988. Rev. by 
Sherilyr\ Cox Bennion, 

PICARD, Robert G. 

The Ravens of Odin: The 
Press in Nordic Nations. 
Rev. by Nancy Roberts, 


The Making of McPaper: 
The Inside Story of USA 
Today. Rev. by Harris 
Ross, 129-31. 

RAWLS, Walton. 
Wake Up America! World 
War I and the American 
Poster. Rev. by Lucy S. 
Caswell, 266-67. 

SANDERS, Marlene, and 
Marcia Rock. Waiting for 
Prime Time: The Women of 
Television News. Rev. by 
Patricia Bradley, 135-37. 

Putting "Reality" To- 
gether: BBC News. Rev. 
by Patricia Bradley, 


On and Off the Air: An In- 
formal History of CBS 
News. Rev. by Michael 
Murray, 268-69. 

SHORE, Elliot. 
Talkin' Socialism, J .A. 
Wayland and the Role of 
the Press in American 
Radicalism, 1890-1912. 
Rev. by John E. Byrne, 

SLOAN, Wm. David. 

American Journalism His- 
tory: An Annotated Bibli- 
ography. Rev. by 
Maurine Beasley, 260-61 . 

STEPHENS, Mitchell. 
A History of News: From 
the Drum to the Satellite. 
Rev. by James D. Startt, 

SUGGS, Henry Lewis . 
P.B. Young, Newspaper- 
man: Race, Politics and 
journalism in the New 
South, 1910-1962. Rev. 
byJohnDeMott, 134-35. 

WEST, Richard Samuel. 
Satire on Stone: The Politi- 
cal Cartoons of Joseph 
Keppler. Rev. by Lucy S. 
Caswell, 131-33. 

WHITED, Charles. 
Knight: Publisher in the 
Tumultuous Century. 
Rev. by David L. 
Anderson, 206-7. 

WIENER, Joel H., ed. 
Papers for the Millions: The 
New Journalism in Britain, 
1850s to 1914. Rev. by 
John A. Hutcheson, Jr., 

WILLIAMS, Harold A. 
The Baltimore Sun, 
1837-1987. Rev. by 
Leonard Teel, 211-12. 

WINSHIP, Janice. 
Inside Women's Maga- 
zines. Rev. by Linda 
Steiner, 205-6. 



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