Erik B. Alexander, University of Tennessee, “‘Fiery and Undaunted Vigor’: The Northern Press and Reconstruction, 1868-1876”
This paper explores the evolution of the northern press during Reconstruction between the years 1868 and 1876, paying particular attention to the change over time in the ways in which partisan Democratic and Republican newspapers addressed federal Reconstruction policies in those years. The paper begins by observing a peculiar trend among northern newspapers during Reconstruction. Between 1868 and 1876, Democratic and Republican newspapers each became more moderate in their political stances on Reconstruction, with both sides merging towards the political center. For example, Democratic newspapers in particular—such as the extremely conservative Pomeroy’s Democrat of New York—gradually softened the extreme racist rhetoric that had characterized the editorials that appeared in Democratic newspapers across the North in the early years of Reconstruction. By 1876, many of the Democratic organs that had previously called for the subjugation and even violent treatment of former slaves in the South, decried and denounced such activities as barbaric and unjust. Republican newspapers, on the other hand, frequently abandoned the radical extremism that had dominated the political rhetorical of early Reconstruction. The paper argues that the course followed by the northern press (and especially the Democratic Party) during Reconstruction was a reflection of the larger course of the political center in those years. As northern interest in Reconstruction waned, so too did the interests of the northern press. For northern Democratic newspapers, that process reflected the general move of the Democratic Party towards the political center between 1865 and 1876.
Patricia Ferrier, University of Southern Indiana, “The President’s Private Life: A New Explanation for ‘The Right to Privacy’”
In 1890, Samuel Warren and Louis Brandeis wrote of the need for privacy from the press for everyone – even people in the public eye. Since 1890, scholars have suggested myriad explanations for what has been called the most often-cited law review article ever written. Those suggestions primarily have focused on press coverage of Warren’s private life. This study, however, suggests the article was a reaction to the 19th-century press coverage of President Grover Cleveland, whose private life was the stuff of headlines even before he moved into the White House.
Using popular newspapers of the day, this study traces press coverage of the first president to marry in the White House and the first president to serve non-consecutive terms in office. This study includes news reports that contradict some of the Cleveland lore and offers another interpretation of the catalyst for a legal remedy for privacy invasion by the press.
At a time when readership was growing and the role of the newspaper was changing, Cleveland’s sexual exploits as a bachelor, his marriage to a woman less than half his age, and speculation about his married life made sensational headlines. This study suggests that the press coverage from 1884 to 1888 also provided the first step in an attempt to protect future presidents and other public officials from similar treatment.
Caitlin Walters, Georgia State University, “Rumors, Lies and Alibis: How Newspapers Sensationalized the Lizzie Borden Murder Case, August 1892- June 1893”
The Lizzie Borden murders, one of the most infamous murder cases from the 1800’s, engulfed the public because of the atrocity of the murders, the suspects and the outcome – no person was ever found guilty of what became known as the crime of the century. This paper adds to the discourse of analytical discussion of the Borden murders and how the press coverage reflected sensationalism in ways that exposed societal flaws of that time.
Crompton Burton, Marietta College, “In Great Deeds, Something Abides. On Great Fields, Something Stays.’ John Badger Bachelder, The Maine Gettysburg Commission and Hallowed Ground”
In the grim aftermath of the battle of Gettysburg, even before the Army of the Potomac was able to bury its dead, a young artist from New Hampshire arrived on the field with a master plan to complete a master work. John Badger Bachelder had been waiting to capture a decisive engagement on canvas and write the battle’s definitive history since the start of the Civil War and did not intend to be denied.
Over the coming weeks, the entrepreneurial painter tirelessly toured the battlefield and quickly published a popular isometric map of all Union and Confederate positions held during the three- day struggle launching a lifelong quest to preserve the story of Gettysburg. However, Bachelder quickly learned he could not and would not monopolize the memorializing of those who gave all for the Union. For the next thirty-one years his vision for remembrance would, by necessity, become a shared one with veterans emotionally invested in the preservation of the hallowed ground.
On the eve of the battle’s sesquicentennial, it seems particularly appropriate to revisit the story of Bachelder and the bond developed with thousands of the battle’s survivors. Together, they entered into a collaborative, yet often contentious commemorative effort that not only founded one of the country’s first military parks, but also accounts for the origins of its extensive system of monumentation. Upon this occasion, the dynamics and interactions of the self-proclaimed historian and such partners as General Charles Hamlin and members of the Maine Gettysburg Commission are worthy of renewed study not just because of what they tell us about the statues that dot the battlefield, but what they reveal of the men dedicated to their creation and the times in which they fought an often bitter second Civil War over the memory of the first.
Joe Marren, Buffalo State College, "The Private Torment of Mark Twain: An Analysis of His Writing While Editor of the Buffalo Express, 1869-1871”
There are trials a person goes through that break a heart and weigh heavily and tragically on the soul. It can be argued that one of the saddest times in Samuel Clemens’ (Mark Twain’s) life occurred in Buffalo. His father-in-law, Elmira coal merchant Jervis Langdon, was diagnosed with stomach cancer in May 1870 and died August 6, 1870, when Twain partly owned/published/edited the Buffalo Express newspaper (August 1869 to January 1871, though Twain permanently left Buffalo in March 1871). His wife, Olivia, went into a state of mourning and depression after her father’s death. Out of that experience she gave birth prematurely to a son (Langdon Clemens, born November 7, 1870) who would later die after the family moved from Buffalo (June 2, 1872). Adding to the misery was the death of one of Livy’s friends who came to Buffalo to try to help ease her back into the daily bustle of the living. (Emma Nye contracted typhoid fever and died in the Twain home on September 29, 1870.)
Obviously, this paper can’t argue that the personal agony Twain experienced in Buffalo sapped the joie de vivre out of him, but it will argue that Twain’s creative juices continued to pump energy to his writing and what he wrote for the Express and Galaxy magazine in that period was just as vibrant as at any time in his career, though Buffalo was a transitional phase in his life. When he left Buffalo in 1871 for Elmira and then Hartford he left newspapering behind and from then on he made his living as a literary figure. Twain had to write while in Buffalo, both because of contracts to write and because of his nature. He had to write as a way to express the agony in his life through his sarcasm and his biting wit. His contribution to the genre of American humor didn’t begin in Buffalo, nor was it refined in Buffalo, but his tinkering with humor in short, realistic newspaper pieces did help him find his voice for the longer books he would go on to write.
Necessarily, this paper relies not so much on a variety of primary sources, but on a single primary source: Twain’s Buffalo Express pieces. Because those pieces are not easily found in library microfilm rooms, this paper relies on a collection of what is believed to be all of Twain’s Buffalo Express columns and other pieces that appeared in the paper or in Galaxy magazine (“Mark Twain at the Buffalo Express,” edited by Joseph B. McCullough and Janice McIntire-Strasburg; DeKalb, Ill: Northern Illinois University Press, 1999). Also, for a contextual understanding of 19th century humor writing, this paper relies on some secondary sources. That means this is a rather non-traditional analytic paper rather than a traditional research piece and perhaps requires a bit of exegesis to clearly see its place in the field of the history of 19th century journalism and free expression.
Wesley Moody, Florida State College at Jacksonville, "General William T. Sherman and Postwar Controversies in the Press”
General William T. Sherman is one of the most controversial figures of the American Civil War. His conflict with the Northern press during the war is famous. The rocky relationship between Sherman and the press did not end when the last shots of the war were fired. There were numerous times during the next half century that Sherman once again came to dominate the nation’s papers. Ironically this rarely had to do with Sherman’s current activities but mostly dealt with refighting the Civil War in the pages of the nation’s newspapers. This paper will exam several of these instances and how they came to negatively affect the general’s reputation.
James B. Jones, Tennessee Historical Commission, “Shoot-Outs and Pseudo Duels in 19th Century Tennessee Journalism”
Mark Twain made humorous allusion to the presence of violence in his essay “Journalism in Tennessee” (ca.1871) as an occupation fraught with violence triggered by editorial slights. His humor notwithstanding, there are numerous examples of violence to add credibility to his wit. Indeed, whether resulting in hot-tempered-outright shootouts in the streets or huffy challenges which may be characterized pseudo-duels, violence punctuated the practice of journalism in the Volunteer State in the ante and post bellum eras of journalistic practice in Tennessee. Such incidents were generally touched off by political comments which offended one the two parties, and while the code duello was seldom resorted to, death and maiming were often the end result. Street killings and pseudo duels were justified as matters personal honor and righteousness which most often demanded drastic violent action sometimes resulting in death.
Scott D. Peterson, University of Maine, “‘A Novelty in Base Ball Literature’: Ella Black and the 1890 Season”
The 1890 baseball season saw journalists from all parts of the country lining up to support the righteous National League or the rebellious Brotherhood. After holding a series of secret meetings, the dissatisfied players formed a league of their own and went head-to-head with the “magnates” in seven of the eight National League cities. The speculation of sporting journalists during the winter months gave way to sensational stories of spring and summer as both leagues competed for the half dollars of baseball fans until the issue was resolved in the late fall.
In the midst of this conflict, Ella Black, a baseball enthusiast from Pittsburgh, became a regular correspondent to the Sporting Life from March to December of 1890. Although she favored the cause of the Players' League, Black tried to be even-handed as she advanced the role of female journalists and attempted to prove that women could "write baseball." My paper will seek to show her development as a journalist through a close analysis of her columns from Sporting Life of 1890, as well as examine how she contributed to the project of other sporting journalists to write the game into American culture.
Patricia G. McNeely, University of South Carolina, and Henry H. Schulte, University of South Carolina, “Mary Boykin Chestnut’s Lost Photograph Collection: Reunited with Her Diary After Being Lost for 80 Years”
In addition to her Pulitzer Prize winning diary, Mary Boykin Chesnut collected more than 200 cart de visites (photographs on visiting cards) of significant historical figures and family members, most of whom she knew and wrote about during the Civil War. Lost and forgotten for 80 years, the collection of 211 recently discovered photographs was donated last year to the Caroliniana Library at the University of South Carolina, where they have been reunited with her diary.
Misty Hope, Georgia State University-graduate student, “Abolition Is Not Just for Slavery: Abolishing Debtors Prison in America by Changing Debt from Criminal to Circumstantial, 1830-1831”
Since colonization of North America by the British, debtors prison was an important part of a working society. The opinion was that a debtor’s inability to pay was a lack of moral uprightness, and thereby they must suffer for their sin in prison until the debt could be secured or until death took the debtor’s life for payment. Critics who were not pleased with the system, which often left creditors without recourse to actually collect their debts, began to utilize the media to change public opinion. Their goal was to change the way a debt could be resolved, continuing to abolish imprisonment for debt in America with the state of New York in 1831. This paper explores the press coverage from 1830-1831 in the movement of the abolition of imprisonment for debt.
Timothy Ross Talbott, Kentucy Historical Society, “Principles Opposed to the Public Peace’: Kentuckians’ Reactions to John Brown’s Raid”
The wake from the Harpers Ferry raid was felt throughout the United States, but it was experienced keenly in the potentially vulnerable Border States. Sporadic events against antislavery advocates had occurred in Kentucky before 1859, but it was the John Brown raid on Harpers Ferry in October of that year that released a flood of fear and reaction in the Bluegrass state.
Abolitionist and anti-slavery proponents in Kentucky were few, but those that spoke out against the institution were steadfast. John G. Fee and his missionaries at the Berea settlement in Madison County, and William S. Bailey, who printed the Free South newspaper in Newport, Kentucky, paid dearly for their dedication to abolitionism. Bailey’s printing office was vandalized on October 28, 1859, while Fee and his disciples were exiled from the state in December.
In the weeks and months following Harpers Ferry, many Kentuckians expressed their outrage in words and deeds. In a speech to the General Assembly in December 1859, Governor Beriah Magoffin expressed Kentucky’s commitment to slavery and called for a reorganization of the militia and tighter controls on free blacks as proactive measures. Another example of Kentucky’s disdain for Brown and his ideas was the simple but symbolic gesture of proudly providing the hemp rope used to hang Brown. And, while a handful of Kentuckians – mostly former residents – supported Brown, or at least his ardor, to the majority of Kentuckians John Brown was a fanatic whose “principles” were “opposed to the public peace.”
Thomas C. Terry, Idaho State University, and Donald L. Shaw, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, “Rebel Yells and Idle Vaporings: The Lost Cause Rises and Dissipates in the Chicago Tribune, Atlanta Constitution, and New York Times, 1860-1914”
Smoke of battle still hovered over the battlefields of the Civil War and the ink on surrender papers was still wet. The South’s economy was shattered, its people sullen and defeated, and Abraham Lincoln belonged to the ages. And from the ashes of its own self-inflicted downfall rose a romantic vision that burnished the brutality and illegitimacy of slavery with an almost religious aura. The entire explanation, justification, and apology, something that might take tens of thousands of words to clarify, was wrapped up in just two words: Lost Cause.
How did this Lost Cause gain traction, especially in the first half century after the Civil War, while many participants were still alive? It is the purpose of this study to examine the first half dozen decades of the cause’s origins through newspaper coverage of the time as the Lost Cause grabbed hold of the imagination of both northerners and southerners and then watched their grip loosen. The study covers 1860-1915, a portion of what some historians define as the Long 19th Century. British historian Eric J. Hobsawm traces the long 19th century from 1789 and the French Revolution to 1914 and the beginning of World War I. Others, notably American historian Peter Stearn, push the start back to 1750, the year many historians date the start of the Industrial Revolution, and includes the American Revolution. Both owe their analysis to historian Fernand Braudel’s concept of a Long 16th Century from Columbus’ discovery of America in 1492 to the English Revolution of 1640.
Debra Reddin van Tuyll, Augusta State University, "‘We Have Spoken for Public Liberty’: The Press, Dissent, and the Failure of Confederate Nationalism”
Historians and others have debated why the South lost the Civil War virtually since Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Courthouse in April 1865. Reasons have ranged from the very practical economic and manpower disparity between the North and the South to the highly theoretical “failure of Confederate nationalism.” None of these studies have looked closely at the role of the press in the outcome of the war, and if, as James W. Carey, Jr., has argued, communications is culture and if, as others have argued, how a country wages war is an expression of its culture, then there can be little doubt that press performance and outcome of the war must have been linked in some manner. This paper explores that link and concludes that the failure of Confederate nationalism was a large—though not the only--factor in the South’s loss of the will to win the war. Further, the paper concludes that the Southern press did not cause the failure of Confederate nationalism, but it did play a role by conveying the fractured nature of Confederate ideology. Newspaper dissent, inaccuracy, even deception each helped erode the Confederate war effort if in no other way than by eroding public confidence in the government. There was no single cause for the failure of Confederate nationalism. The Confederacy fell because it was a flawed system that fractured under the pressure of civil war.
Nancy Roberts, University at Albany, SUNY, "Nineteenth-Century Utopian Journalism in the 'Burned-Over District': The Upstate New York Oneida Community (1848-1880)"
The most long-lived and financially successful of all the 19th-century utopian communal experiments, the Oneida Community (1848-1880) in upstate New York’s “Burned-Over District” was an unorthodox and controversial religious group. Its members, led by John Humphrey Noyes, a preacher and writer, advocated a radical, alternative lifestyle renouncing conventional marriage.
This introductory study aims to fill a gap in the literature by examining the Oneida Community’s use of the press. It summarizes some of the key features of Oneida Community journalism and outlines some fertile areas for future research. Because the Oneidans believed their social and spiritual experiment to be of great significance, they welcomed journalists from the United States and abroad and freely gave them lengthy interviews and information. They also wrote about their experiment in considerable detail in a little two-page daily newspaper they published for the Community, called Daily Journal of Oneida Community and the O.C. Daily. To their local neighbors and to Christian Perfectionists (and others) around the country, they publicized their ideas in an eight-page (usually), weekly newspaper, successively titled the Spiritual Magazine, the Free Church Circular, the Circular (or Oneida Circular), and, finally, the American Socialist.
The Oneidans’ journalism was remarkably committed to serving as a primary tool of persuasion to shape favorable public opinion towards the Community’s unorthodox religious and social practices. The Oneidans had much faith in the power of the press to quiet outsiders’ criticisms. Preliminary research indicates that the Community valued the persuasive power of journalism as much as if not more than that other forms of personal activity such as public speaking and interpersonal communication. This is fairly typical of the alternative/advocacy press in this period, but the Oneida Community’s reliance upon journalistic persuasion is unusually strong and sophisticated. Oneida journalism also emphasized process-centered rather than event-centered news.
Valerie Kasper, Saint Leo University, “The Residue of the First African American Press”
The oral and written history of African Americans has existed since their history began when the first slaves were brought to the shores of the United States. During slavery, African Americans, most of which were illiterate, composed their own history, a history different from that of white society. In the beginning, it was an oral history. However, as time progressed, their history was written. They argued for the humanity of blacks over the system of slavery, which was seen by African Americans as a dehumanizing process for both whites and blacks. Once freed, they fought against racism, discrimination, unfair laws, lynching, and more through narratives, poems, novels, pamphlets, letters, and newspapers. The first African American newspaper, Freedom’s Journal, was published in 1827. Its message was simple: fair treatment and an end to slavery. As time progressed, the message in African American newspapers was continuously modified as black editors and publishers struggled to demonstrate to the white community that black citizens were human and were being treated unfairly, and that this unjust treatment needed to end. Through not only chronology, but through thematic meaning, African Americans have composed a history of their culture within their newspapers to not only fight for their civil rights, but to illustrate and preserve the history of their struggles against white society for equality and fairness. Without the black press, the white press would be the only written history documenting the past. As Hayden White said, histories are composed, and the difference between American history told through white newspapers and that of black newspapers is significant. These histories offer two perspectives of one history in one diverse country. By composing their version of history in their own newspapers, African Americans have produced a written residue that will survive in history. It is this history as seen through the first African American newspaper and the residue it left for the country that this paper will focus on.
Gregory A. Borchard, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, “The Campaign from Candidate to President: Abraham Lincoln and the Press, 1858-1861”
Dr. Borchard has written Abraham Lincoln and Horace Greeley (Southern Illinois University, 2011) and co-authored The Press in the Civil War Era (Peter Lang, 2010). He will contribute to the panel discussion with material from a paper titled “The Campaign from Candidate to President: Abraham Lincoln and the Press, 1858-1861,” providing an overview of Abraham Lincoln’s relationship with the press in the period between his contest with Stephen A. Douglas for the Senate and his election to the presidency. It describes the tensions between Republicans in the Northeast and the Midwest over the endorsements of leading editors for particular candidates. While New York’s Republicans favored William H. Seward, Illinois newspapers—namely, the Chicago Tribune—consistently supported Lincoln. Horace Greeley, who initially upset Lincoln supporters in the Midwest by apparently favoring another term for Douglas in the Senate, regained their alliance by using his position as New York Tribune editor to help secure Lincoln’s nomination over Seward at the 1860 Chicago Convention. Borchard is an associate professor and graduate coordinator in the Hank Greenspun School of Journalism and Media Studies, <email@example.com>.
David W. Bulla, Zayed University, “Censorship During Lincoln’s Administration”
Press censorship in the North during the Civil War was moderate, although considerably higher than in the South. Exact figures are hard to determine, but historian David Herbert Donald put the number at approximately 300 cases. Censorship took on several forms: suppression of newspapers; jailing of journalists; closing of telegraphic lines available to journalists; mob violence against the press, especially the minority Democratic journals; and economic sanctions. Censorship was highest in the Border States, especially Maryland and Missouri, and it was most intense in the early years of the war. Politics usually played a role in censorship, although not always. Three cases provide typical examples of Civil War censorship: 1) the incarceration of Dubuque, Iowa, editor Dennis A. Mahony in 1862; 2) the suppression of the Chicago Times by Major General Ambrose E. Burnside in 1863; and 3) the temporary closing of two New York newspapers in 1864 after a reporting scandal. Dr. Bulla is an associate professor in Zayed University’s College of Communication and Media Sciences, <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Jennifer E. Moore, University of Maine, “President Lincoln’s Solace from the Press: The Soldiers’ Home”
Long before presidents had Camp David as an official retreat from life in Washington, D.C., President Lincoln and his family used a cottage located on the grounds of the Soldiers’ Home, an institution created for injured military personnel. Sometimes called the “summer White House,” the Lincolns used the property for many purposes, including as a place to escape the media. In relative seclusion, nearly three miles from the White House, Lincoln made some of his most decisive decisions about the Civil War at the Soldiers’ Home—away from the watchful eye of the Washington press. This presentation discusses how the news media reported on President Lincoln’s use of the Soldiers’ Home. In a deliberate move to get out of the Washington limelight, how was Lincoln’s residency at the Soldiers’ Home constructed in the press? Furthermore, how did this periodic lack of access to Lincoln contribute to the creation of his public image in the news media? Dr. Moore is an assistant professor in Communication and Journalism at the University of Maine, <email@example.com>.
Debra Reddin van Tuyll, Augusta State University, “Prime Propaganda: How Southern Leaders Used Northern Censorship to Build Confederate Nationalism”
The Confederacy’s leaders faced a multitude of problems as they struggled to establish their new slave republic. Among those problems was justifying the decision to secede from the United States, a move many Southerners opposed even after the Montgomery Convention in February 1861. Another was building a sense of shared values and experiences that would bond citizens together as a nation. Leaders chose to justify secession on grounds that the North had forgotten the true intent of the Constitution: the protection of individual liberties. As Lincoln’s government adopted censorship as a means of silencing the opposition press, Union military and government leaders provided evidence that Confederates could use as prime propaganda messages to demonstrate their new country’s devotion to the traditional American value for individual liberties. This presentation will explain how Confederate journalists and government leaders used Northern censorship as an opportunity to build Confederate nationalism. Dr. van Tuyll is professor in Communications and Professional Writing at Augusta State University, <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Daniel W. Stowell, The Papers of Abraham Lincoln, “Is That You, Mr. Lincoln? Possible Early Political Writings of Abraham Lincoln”
While most scholars acknowledge that Lincoln composed scores—perhaps even hundreds—of anonymous and pseudonymous newspaper articles, they have thus far been unable to identify, with any degree of certainty, Lincoln’s compositions. The Papers of Abraham Lincoln has partnered with the Evaluating Variations in Language Laboratory at Duquesne University to apply a series of innovative authorship attribution tests to determine which documents came from Lincoln’s pen. The initial project is to identify anonymous and pseudonymous letters and editorials, published between 1834 and 1842 in the Sangamo Journal, when Lincoln served in the Illinois General Assembly. The project will apply authorship attribution tests to these texts based on known Lincoln texts from the period and “distractor” texts written by other authors from the same period. A Digital Humanities Start-Up Grant from the National Endowment funds the project for the Humanities. This presentation provides the early results of this ongoing project and describes the challenges the project has faced. It explains how effectively the project has identified previously suspected or unknown Lincoln writings, as well as how the results of these tests will be incorporated into the Papers of Abraham Lincoln to expand the corpus of Lincoln’s early political writings. Dr. Stowell is director and editor of The Papers of Abraham Lincoln in Springfield, Illinois,
William E. Huntzicker, St. Cloud State University, “Settlers, Sioux, and Skirmishes: News Coverage of President Grant and the Indians”
When news reached the nation that George Armstrong Custer’s 7th Cavalry had been defeated by a coalition Sioux, Arapaho and Cheyenne in Montana Territory, many refused to believe it. Supporters of Custer in a rough presidential election year listed President Grant among the scapegoats to blame for Custer’s defeat. The most demonized leaders of the enemy – Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse – received a lot of attention. Strangely, the two Lakota leaders virtually disappeared from news coverage of the president’s public agenda, even as Crazy Horse was murdered in September 1877 after he surrendered and Sitting Bull remained at large during the early months of the administration of President Hayes. Nonetheless, Indian policy remained the subject of heated controversies.
Elliott King, Loyola University Maryland, “Andrew Johnson and the Press”
Andrew Johnson sits atop almost every historian’s’ list of the worst presidents of the United States. A Democratic U.S. senator from Tennessee and a firm supporter of the Union, Johnson had little support in either the North or the South. He is primarily remembered in history as the first president to be impeached and for being drunk at his inauguration as vice president.
While as military governor of Tennessee during the Civil War Johnson championed the idea of voting rights for blacks, in office he vetoed against the renewal of the Freedman’s Bureau, the primary Federal agency for aiding freed slaves, as well as the first civil rights act. He also opposed the passage of the 14th Amendment, which nonetheless was ratified during his term of office.
Historians have rendered their verdict on Andrew Johnson. This paper examines the contemporary assessment of his actions by four newspapers in New York—the New York Tribune and the New York Evening Post, which generally supported Lincoln, and the New York Herald and the New York World, which generally opposed him. The paper focuses on three key episodes—Johnson’s nomination to the vice presidency, his impeachment trial and the passage of the 14th Amendment, which many consider the most important structural change to the Constitution since the Bill of Rights. Although the newspapers examined were primarily published in New York, each had a national reach through weekly publications and newspaper exchanges.
Aaron Scott Crawford, Mississippi State University, “The Grave Importance of the Office”: Ulysses S. Grant, the Supreme Court, and the Legacy of the Civil War”
In 1873, President Ulysses S. Grant became the fifth president to nominate a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. On January 9, 1874, after five unsuccessful attempts to find an acceptable nominee, he nominated Northern Democrat Caleb Cushing. His career as a former congressman, diplomat, brigadier general, justice on the Massachusetts Supreme Court, United States Attorney General, and negotiator during the Alabama claims arbitration made Cushing one of the most qualified Supreme Court nominees until that point in American history. Many Republicans and Democrats celebrated the nomination as a wise and judicious choice. “The nomination of Mr. Cushing will be felt by the country to be so good an [sic] one that the President’s previous mistakes in connection with the Chief Justiceship will be forgotten,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
The American press dissected the Cushing nomination with unprecedented speed, placing it in the context of the Civil War. Within three days of Cushing’s nomination, Republican newspapers led the charge against appointing a man of “secessionist proclivities” to the position of Chief Justice. In spite of widespread support throughout the nation, radical Republicans questioned his long affiliation with the Democratic party and his apparent sympathy with Southern slaveholders. “He was a servile tool of the slavery party, he was not the best sort of patriot in our days of trial,” wrote one editor. California Senator Aaron Sargent found in the records of the War Department a letter Cushing penned to Jefferson Davis in 1861, recommending someone for a position in the Confederate government. Newspapers throughout the nation republished the letter as well as forgeries that cast Cushing in a treasonous light, damaging the seemingly safe nomination of Cushing. By January 15, Grant withdrew the nomination from the United States Senate.
The failed Cushing nomination revealed the changing nature of American politics in the post-Civil War era, the war’s influence on American constitutionalism, and the increasing importance of the Supreme Court. In addition, the press played a fundamental role in influencing the appointment of a Chief Justice. Although the inner workings of the Supreme Court and the duties and influence of the Chief Justice remained mysterious, the press helped define the office in the public mind. Radical Republicans believed that the next Chief Justice would prove essential in protecting the recent Reconstruction amendments and other post-war war legislation. “The entire proceedings of Congress since the war may be called in question,” insisted the San Francisco Daily Bulletin. Eventually President Grant appointed Morrison Waite to the position of Chief Justice; but, the week of Cushing’s nomination clarified and raised numerous important issues surrounding the Supreme Court, the press, and the legacy of the Civil War.
Thomas Coens, University of Tennessee, “Andrew Jackson and the Press”
As a politician and then president Andrew Jackson enjoyed spectacular success. In three strait presidential elections—1824, 1828 and 1832—Jackson captured a plurality of popular votes, and in a fourth he succeeded in installing his hand-picked successor—Martin Van Buren—in the White House. Much, of course, has been written about the transformative effect of Jackson’s popularity on American politics, and about the ways in which Old Hickory—through his use of executive patronage and the veto power—recast forever the office of the presidency. Little attention, however, has been paid to Jackson’s close relationship to the newspaper press and the ways in which that relationship contributed to his remarkable string of political successes.
This paper will examine three episodes in Jackson’s political career, each of which demonstrate a willingness on Jackson’s part—unprecedented, I contend, for a politician of his stature—to rely on newspapers and journalists in crafting and disseminating public appeals, and, as President, in exercising and maintaining power. First of all, in the 1824 and 1828 election campaigns, Jackson on numerous occasions reached out to journalists and newspaper editors and worked with them hand-in-glove in tailoring his public image. His professions to the contrary notwithstanding, archival evidence clearly reveals that Jackson instructed friendly newspaper editors as to what to say about him and on at least one occasion—in 1827—contributed an anonymous essay to a Nashville newspaper praising himself. Secondly, this paper will discuss Jackson’s controversial decision in 1829 to appoint scores of newspaper editors to federal office. Many of Jackson’s supporters, including several Senators, refused to support those nominations on the grounds that appointing editors to office as a reward for political services rendered represented a dangerous precedent. Jackson responded with a vigorous defense of the practice and succeeded in installing a handful of controversial editors in office, where most of them remained throughout his presidency. Lastly, I will examine Jackson’s crucial role in establishing the Washington Globe in 1830, which for the remainder of his presidency served as his unofficial White House organ. Jackson was instrumental in luring Kentucky editor Francis P. Blair to Washington and, through the use of executive patronage and by soliciting subscriptions, he helped Blair get the Globe up and running. Archival evidence, much of it before now unknown to scholars, further documents the extent to which Jackson routinely dictated the content if not the exact text of Globe editorials.
Paulette D. Kilmer, University of Toledo, "Railroaded: Riding Archetypal Phantom Trains from Reality into Legend"
Newspapers and magazines have featured articles about phantom trains since the nineteenth century. The motif of the ethereal express arises out of the archetype of ghostly conveyances: carriages, wagons, ships, boats, and barges. The hazards of working on the railroad provided a fertile ground for the growth of the “phantom train” legend. The way “phantom trains” appear in pop culture today as a game or treasure for ghost hunters differs from their traditional role in the past as omens of future catastrophes, transportation for the dead, or implements for re-enacting dreadful accidents. The shift in how people interpret “phantom trains” over time probably is related to how the media portrays them. Reality TV and the Internet amazingly give these legends more credibility than many publications did from 1870 to 1880.
William S. Cossen, Pennsylvania State University, “The Protestant Image in the Catholic Mind: Maria Monk’s Awful Disclosures and the Catholic Press Response”
This paper examines the controversy surrounding the publication in 1836 of Maria Monk’s Awful Disclosures of the Hotel Dieu Nunnery, a sensational exposé of life in a Montreal convent supposedly written by a former nun. Through an investigation of the response of the Catholic press to the publication of Monk’s book, this study will shed light on the formation of the Protestant image in the Catholic mind, a subject mostly neglected by historians. While previous scholarship on the Maria Monk episode has focused principally on nativistic anti-Catholicism and on the Awful Disclosures’ place in the larger genre of antebellum convent tales, this paper will provide a new interpretation of the controversy surrounding Monk’s book by demonstrating its usefulness for historians seeking to understand how Catholics apprehended their position in the American community, how they used the Awful Disclosures and the press to stake a claim as authentic Americans, and how they inverted anti-Catholicism to suit their needs. This paper argues that, through its response to the Monk episode, the Catholic press effectively redeployed anti-Catholic rhetoric to undermine the claims of Monk and her supporters, ultimately forging a distinctive form of Catholic anti-Protestantism and serving with their sectarian foes as partners, perhaps unwittingly, in a common antebellum project of defining and reasserting patriarchy.
Ford Risley, Penn State University, “Synthesizing Civil War-Era Journalism History”
Scholarship on Civil War-era journalism has enjoyed a renaissance in recent years. Although the new research has contributed enormously to a better understanding of the press and its role in the era, the great majority of the studies have dealt with individual journalists, publications, events, and other narrow subjects, often from the perspective of either the North or South. What is needed now are works that take a broader look at the history of Civil War-era journalism. This paper will examine the reasons why more synthesis is needed and suggest some studies to be done.
Matthew Spears, Indiana State University, “Preserving Antietam in Context”
Unlike the extensive coverage done on the Civil War and its battles, far less attention has been afforded to Civil War era media. This study not only focuses on nineteenth-century media coverage, but more closely hones in on coverage at the Battle of Antietam. Not only was Antietam a huge victory (or more likely a draw) for the struggling Union’s morale, but it provided President Abraham Lincoln the impetus to publish the Emancipation Proclamation and staved off any potential foreign involvement in support of Jefferson Davis’ Confederacy. In a battle that saw an estimated 22,717 casualties take place, Antietam is often overshadowed by the Battle of Gettysburg even though it is responsible for boasting a higher number of one-day casualties than any other day during the war. This research focuses on media coverage of the Battle of Antietam and how it was represented in the North, South, and West. Using “America’s Historical Newspapers” and “19th Century U.S. Newspapers” as the two main databases, newspapers were read and assessed to determine the overall interpretation from each section of the nation. Typically, Northern papers reported Antietam as a resounding win for the Union; Southern newspapers saw the battle as a possible Confederate win or a draw at worst, and Western papers generally only reported the dispatches they received from the battlefield. In summary, the conclusion is that everything needs to be kept in perspective. Newspapers during the Civil War reported battles in a way that was standard at the time, taking legitimate reports they were receiving and putting a positive spin on the war for their readerships, whether Union or Confederate. In examining its media coverage, this study provides a closer look at a significant battle that is too often overlooked.
Devna Thapliyal, Georgia State University, "An Italy of Asiatic Dimensions, the Ireland of the East: Karl Marx’s Newspaper Commentaries on British Rule of India (1853-1859)"
Much has been written about Marx’s work as a philosopher, sociologist and political theorist, but many are still unfamiliar with his career as a journalist. From 1852 to 1862 Marx served as a foreign correspondent for the New York Daily Tribune, an immensely popular American newspaper. Between 1853 and 1859, he wrote numerous commentaries on the issues surrounding the colonization of India by the British. Marx used this opportunity to criticize capitalism and also test his theories about society. Until he stopped covering Indian issues for the paper in 1859, Marx was unabashed in his criticism of the British rule in India and brought his unique dialectical mode of thinking to his readers through his many dispatches.
Stephen A. Banning, Bradley University, “Promoting Professional Journalism Standards in an Age Before Journalism Codes of Ethics: The Nineteenth Century Medical Press”
An interest in professionalizing journalism arose in the nineteenth century eventually evolving into the now well known journalism institutions such as professional associations, university education and codes of ethics. However, little is known about where this interest in professionalizing an occupation which had been known distinctly as a trade came from. This research attempts to help fill this gap by examining nineteenth century documents to reveal professional aspirations for journalism among the widespread medical press editors of the nineteenth century. These editors were often already medical practitioners, and belonging to one profession, perhaps it was natural that they applied professional principles to journalism as well. Medicine was one of the three traditional professions which initiated the burgeoning interest into nineteenth century professionalization of occupations.
From the beginning, the Association of American Medical Editors had characteristics of a professional association including emphasis on raising the status of the field, raising the standards of the field, references to themselves as professionals, emphasis on ethics and an interest in education. Additionally, the members of the association were well schooled in the makings of a profession as most were doctors.
How much influence this association that straddled the established profession of medicine with the press had on journalist’s professional ideation can’t quantified. However, it brought doctors and journalists together in an unprecedented manner.
The Association of American Medical Editors became a vanguard of journalistic professional standards and ethics. Ironically, this stemmed from its early association with the American Medical Association that was one of the first professional associations.
The early interest by medical editors in journalism standards and ethics and the Association of American Medical Editors’ continued focus on standards has not been previously realized. The finding that the American Medical Editors Association did discuss journalism ethics on an almost continuous basis provides a more complete understanding of the historical roots of journalistic ethics in the United States and adds to our understanding of why many nineteenth century journalists were interested in professionalizing after the manner of doctors, lawyers and the clergy.
Anthony R. Fellow, California State University, Fullerton, “‘Stealing Their Pantaloons’: Women Journalists in the Civil War”
In many ways, the coming of the Civil War challenged the ideology of Victorian domesticity that had defined the lives of women in the antebellum era. In the North and in the South, the Civil War forced women into public life in ways they could scarcely have imagined a generation before. In the years before the Civil War, the lives of American women were shaped by a set of ideals that historians call “the Cult of True Womanhood.” As men’s work moved away from the home and into shops, offices and factories, the household became a new kind of place; a private, feminized domestic sphere, a “haven in a heartless world.” “True woman” devoted their lives to creating a clean, comfortable, nurturing home for their husbands and children. During the Civil War, however, American women turned their attention to the world outside the home. Thousands of women in the North and South joined volunteer brigades and signed up to work outside the home—as nurses, spies and teachers. By the end of the war, these experiences had expanded many Americans’ definitions of “true womanhood.” This was especially true for the North where the call for universal emancipation by politicians and some in the press was meant to redeem women as well as man from a servile to an equal condition, as put by William Lloyd Garrison’s Liberator. Some women took this as a sign to compete with the men of the press who cried, “they are stealing our pantaloons.”
Wallace B. Eberhard, University of Georgia, “What the Family History Industry Has to Offer Media Historians”
Eberhard will describe advancements in the field of genealogy research, which is an avocation for some and a profession for others, including an appraisal of their standards and research interests.
William E. Huntzicker, St. Cloud State University, “Media Research in the Old West, the New West, and the New Western History”
He will discuss differences in researching with databases and microfilm, and the risks and benefits of searching in either.
Lee Jolliffe, Drake University, “Dangers of Cherry-Picking Historical Data in the Digital Age: Omissions in Ryan Jordan’s Slavery and the Meetinghouse as a Case in Point”
She will discuss how newly available historical sources can expose research bias, by comparing materials Jordan used with available materials he might have used that challenge his premise.
Leonard Ray Teel, Georgia State University, “Press Coverage of Entertainments in the Post-War Period: Oscar Wilde, Gilbert and Sullivan, and the Chicago Ferris Wheel”
Professor Teel will use this topic as a case study in researching in a digital environment.
Debra Reddin van Tuyll, Augusta State University, “Old School v. New School: The Strengths and Weaknesses of Researching with Electronic and Film Resources”
She will examine the difference between researching with databases and microfilm, and what may be missed in relying on key-word database searches.