Section Menu

Conference Archives

2009 Abstracts

Debra Reddin van Tuyll, Augusta State University, “What Press Freedom Meant in the Confederacy”

Confederate journalists were influenced in their thinking about press freedom by the underpinning political philosophy of their society, country republicanism, and by their constant exposure to slavery. Country republicanism emphasized individual liberties and the responsibility of citizens to protect their liberties. Daily exposure to slavery reinforced the teachings of country republicans, for Southerners had constant reminders of what the cost of lost liberty would be. Consequently, Southern journalists were radically devoted to the cause of press freedom, but they balanced that devotion – most, anyway – with a belief in the need for a responsible press that assisted its country in accomplishing its cherished goal: independence from a despotic, tyrannical government that had lost its constitutional way. This paper explores the full dimensions of these Confederate beliefs and their genesis in the political culture of the 19th century South.

Panel “Knights of the Quill: The Final Chapters”
 
Henry H. Schulte, University of South Carolina, “War Correspondents under Fire”
Most 21st Century reporters have it easy compared to the hardships Confederate correspondents endured during the Civil War. Reporters foraged for their own food and water, provided their own transportation, and worked under fire with recalcitrant generals who were bent on arresting them. 
Debra Reddin van Tuyll, Augusta State University, “Virginia: ‘From a Lady Correspondent’"
Although she has not been identified, Virginia from Norfolk, Virginia, was one of two known female war correspondents for the South. Virginia’s proximity to troops from Alabama and Mobile would have been one reason the editors asked her to continue writing, but her feisty defense of principles may also have resonated with true Southern partisans. 
Pat McNeely, University of South Carolina, “Henry Watterson: A Rebel with Many Causes”
Although Watterson edited four newspapers and wrote prolifically during the Civil War, much of his work was overshadowed by his half-century reign as one of America’s most prominent and powerful journalists at the Louisville Courier-Journal. After his death in 1922, flags flew at half mast during his funeral in Louisville, and the New York Times called him the “dean of American journalists.” 
Joseph V. Trahan, Trahan & Associates, McDonough, Ga., “Henry Hotze: Confederate Propagandist”
When the young struggling Confederate republic was in critical need of European acceptance and, more importantly, recognition in 1861, the skillful persuader chosen to accomplish the goal was Henry Hotze, a brash young newspaper editor from Mobile, Alabama. Using 21st century public relations techniques that he developed on the job, Hotze became the propaganda voice of the Confederacy.

 

Charles Lewis, Minnesota University, “Removing the Winnebago: A Tale of Frontier Journalism”

This work examines how two weekly frontier newspapers in the town of Mankato, Minnesota, covered issues and events related to the Winnebago tribe of American Indians from 1857 through 1863. The newspapers were the Democratic Record and its Republican rival, the Independent. The two publications were in fierce competition economically and politically during one of the bloodiest wars between American Indians and whites — the Dakota Conflict of 1862.

Although the battles and massacres of the Dakota Conflict occurred mostly west of Mankato, crucial moments toward the end of 1862 took place near the town – such as the December 26 hanging of 38 Dakota prisoners in the largest mass execution in U.S. history.

However, of most importance for this study is Mankato’s close proximity to the Winnebago Reservation during the period. This relatively small reservation was controversial from its establishment in 1855 largely because it displaced settlers and blocked further white settlement in the area. This fostered a general loathing of the Winnebago by area whites. Pressure to remove the Winnebago was constant, and although very few Winnebagos took part in the Dakota Conflict, the entire tribe was vilified along with the Dakota and driven from the state with the Dakota in 1863.

The central question explored in this textual analysis is how factors such as economic and political competition between the two frontier weekly newspapers influenced their coverage of the Winnebago, and, in turn, how such coverage fueled the growth of white domination. All available issues of the two Mankato newspapers from 1857 through 1863 were reviewed, and patterns in the content and form of their stories were discerned and evaluated according to a theoretical framework grounded largely in James Carey’s “ritual view of communication” as well as the ideas of British Cultural Studies scholars such as Stuart Hall.

Thomas Robinson, James Madison University, “‘Just before a mighty earthquake’: Muscogee County, Georgia during the Secession Crisis, November 1860-January 1861”

The secession of the Lower South states is a topic that has not garnered much attention in recent years.  Despite evidence to the contrary, the popular opinion is that the Lower South states did not witness the debate over secession that occurred in the Upper South and Border States.  Scholarship over the past twenty years has proven this is not true and this paper furthers that research by looking at Muscogee County, Georgia.  Georgia was the most important state in the Lower South to the secessionists’ cause and the state also witnessed the most intense debate of any Lower South state.  Indicative of this debate are the newspapers of Muscogee County, the fourth largest county in the state in terms of population and featuring the third largest city (Columbus) in the state.  Columbus featured three daily newspapers and one weekly newspaper and these newspapers held varying views on secession.  These varied views highlight the issues that were deemed important as well as encapsulate the rhetoric that was utilized during the 1860 Presidential campaign and the campaign for delegates to Georgia’s January state convention that would choose the course of action the state would take.  Political allegiance, geography, and class issues have all been postulated as reasons for Georgia’s debate and all of these appear in Columbus’ papers.  By using the newspapers of the time, the debate over secession becomes clear and it further proves that the notion of a unified Lower South is far from true. 

Crompton B. Burton, Marietta College, “‘Battles and Leaders’: The Century Magazine’s Series and Memory of the American Civil War”

By summer of 1883, Union and Confederate veterans and the society to which they had returned after the American Civil War were at last emerging from a period during which former soldiers and civilians alike recoiled from almost any significant or sustained commemoration of the conflict. Known to historians as a sort of hibernation, the first decade and a half after Appomattox was characterized by a not unexpected depression in the American mood. As lingering sectional wounds healed, the war eventually came to be viewed in a less negative way and the late nineteenth century witnessed an explosion of reminiscence and remembrance.

Against this backdrop of nostalgia, The Century Magazine launched an innovative journalistic enterprise that produced invaluable narratives contributed by some of the conflict’s most renowned heroes. Battles and Leaders of the Civil War proved wildly popular doubling The Century’s circulation.

Scholars have scrutinized its historical, entrepreneurial and even its conciliatory properties, but relatively little study has been made of the “War Series” as a unique compendium of Civil War memory and the dynamics of the struggle for its control. Contained within its pages are illuminating examples of the cross purposes and rekindled controversies that marked a contentious post-war period in which notable veterans sought to ensure their legacies.

The Century sought submissions free of any partisan agenda but ultimately created a highly visible national forum in which veterans confronted former adversaries, comrades and even prevailing public opinion to argue for vindication or long overdue recognition. Closer examination renders Battles and Leaders significantly more than a valuable historical record or well-intentioned instrument of reconciliation. The series emerges as perhaps the single most useful study of the lines along which survivors of the conflict engaged in a passionate second Civil War over ownership or, at the very least, the stewardship of Union and Confederate memory.

Sybil Davidson, Georgia State University, “Splendid Prospects for Women of the New South: Newspaper Coverage of Four Women’s Colleges that Opened in Georgia from 1878-1891”

In the three decades after the Civil War, public and private efforts greatly expanded higher education opportunities for women in Georgia. Between 1878 and 1891 four women’s colleges opened in the state, including a college for women of color and the first public college for women in Georgia. The two others offered unique opportunities as well. A Baptist women’s seminary in Gainesville charged no tuition and a Presbyterian women’s seminary in Decatur offered easy accessibility to Atlanta.

Educating women was a necessity for the New South to emerge as an industrial competitor with the North. The press gave plentiful as well as overwhelmingly positive coverage of these colleges, especially surrounding the opening of the public women’s college. One journalist in particular, Julia Anna Flisch of Augusta, was instrumental in the push to open the public school. She declared that young women deserved the same opportunity for education as young men. Her rally cry, “Give the girls a chance,” was printed in a dozen Georgia newspapers, and when the cornerstone was laid in 1891 at Georgia's first state women's college, Flisch was the lone woman on the speakers’ platform. Beside her was her editor at the Augusta Chronicle, Patrick Walsh. Indeed, by that time, there were “splendid prospects” for the future of women in Georgia.

Gregory A. Borchard, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, “Abraham Lincoln and Horace Greeley before the War: The Formative Years of their Careers in Politics and the Press”

Adding to contemporary literature commemorating Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday, this paper profiles the development of the relationship in politics and the press between President Lincoln and Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune. It expands upon individual biographies of the men by examining in particular the years they spent developing their careers prior to their shared terms in the Thirtieth Congress in the late 1840s. The paper suggests that the generally compatible goals of Lincoln and Greeley were deeply rooted in the ideals of the Whig Party, namely the American System, as promoted by statesman Henry Clay.

Participation in various Whig campaigns allowed Lincoln and Greeley to combine like-minded conservative beliefs in a social order with a progressive policy that advocated—even before they had resolved to end slavery—free-soil in the West and a government devoted to national infrastructure development. While historians who have studied Lincoln and Greeley have generally focused on issues directly related to the Civil War, this paper provides a profile of their lives commonly neglected. In analyzing their formative years, before their emergence as national figures in politics and the press, the paper suggests the two had established specific objectives before the war, a number of which they developed in the years leading to their shared terms in Congress.

Niels Eichorn, University of Arkansas, “Secession and Neutrality in Great Britain: The Debate in The Times of London between Cassius Clay, Edwin DeLeon, and John L. Motley”

In May 1861, one week after Great Britain officially declared its neutrality, three letters appeared in The Times of London. All three aimed at presenting the causes of secession and why Great Britain should reconsider its neutrality. Despite the prominence of the authors, scholars have paid little attention to this debate. The first letter was by Cassius Clay. Clay’s explanations as to why secession was illegal relied heavily on his experiences in Kentucky. Because of the threatening language of his call for British support, the letter received a cool reception in Great Britain. The second letter by John L. Motley, published three days later, avoided the question of slavery entirely and presented a legal argument against secession. The last and so far ignored letter was by Edwin DeLeon, the future Confederate press agent in Europe. Presenting the Southern case and denouncing Clay, DeLeon used long-held British fears to appeal to his readers. The three letters illustrate the various viewpoints held in the United States on secession. With the three letters, the domestic debate on secession was exported to Europe. Unsatisfied with neutrality, all three made an effort to appeal to British beliefs and concerns in order to win support. However, with British policy established and based on a multitude of reasons, the three authors had little chance to alter the policy of this European power. However, from the examples DeLeon used and what general British interest were, it appears that the Confederacy and DeLeon could take credit for winning the first propaganda battle with the North in Europe.

Mary M. Lamonica, New Mexico State University, “‘The North is to Us Like the Grave’: New York Tribune Reporter Albert D. Richardson’s Confederate Prison Letters”

New York Tribune reporters Albert D. Richardson and Junius Browne’s capture at Vicksburg, subsequent nineteen-month long imprisonment, and escape became one of the sensational stories of the Civil War. Yet, scholarly accounts are few and have relied on the same sources: newspaper accounts, official records from Union and Confederate forces, as well as Browne’s and Richardson’s biographies to unpack their tale. Letters from both men exist, but rarely have been used. The extant correspondence, most of which was written by Richardson, is valuable for its details of Confederate prison life as well as its personal glimpse of the emotional concerns of two Northern war correspondents who became political hostages.

This research examines the letters written by both men while they were moved through seven different prisons. The correspondence provides a picture of two men who viewed themselves as belonging to a profession set apart; men who expected very different treatment based, in large measure, upon their belief that they were doing a job other citizens could not. While the letters reveal both journalists were well aware of their societal roles, the correspondence also reflects the mundane concerns of two men whose imprisonment was beyond their control. Writing to family, friends, and colleagues provided a particularly important outlet for Richardson. The correspondence allowed him to reduce the geographic spaces between himself and his family and colleagues, while sharing his unique experiences while imprisoned.

Like many individuals who wrote home during the war, Richardson’s letters revealed concerns common to the time, including his loneliness, his boredom and anxiety because he could not do his job, his regret at separation from his wife and children, and his fears that he might die before being reunited with loved ones. The letters also reflected the views of a man who sought a sense of normalcy in the midst of abnormal conditions, but who could not and thus needed his brother and sister-in-law’s help, especially after his wife’s death. Many of his letters, therefore, are of a dutiful nature--filled with requests to get his property taxes paid, ensure his salary was sent to his wife (prior to her death), and obtain help with debts. He also attempted to parent from afar, providing advise to ensure his children were healthy, well mannered, and properly educated.

Ian Frederick Finseth, University of North Texas, “Bring Out Your Dead: Improper Burial in American Civil War Literature”

This paper examines the impact of Civil War mortality on the development of late nineteenth-century American popular literature.  During and immediately after the war, the United States could not properly dispose of all the corpses the conflict had produced.  In the following decades, these bodies served as symbolic sites for Americans’ ongoing struggles over national identity and unresolved psychological and philosophical issues. Throughout the period’s literature we find a pattern of representation in which the bodies of the dead remain unburied or impartially buried, or are disinterred, or even return to the world of the living. This phenomenon, I argue, expressed several related features of American experience.  First, it provided a means of exploring the place of the dispossessed in the triumphalist narrative of post-war American progress.  Second, representations of improper burial reflected changing cultural understandings of mortality and the human body.  Third, narratives or images of the revivified dead served as an outlet for grief or psychological trauma that powerfully influenced the evolution of literary realism.  This argument meets a vital need in existing scholarship, which has unduly separated the social history of mortality from popular literature’s role in defining the place of the dead in the cultural imagination.

Jinx Broussard, Louisiana State University “Providing a Voice for Those Who Had None: The Genesis of African-American Foreign Correspondence”

This paper argues that the subjugated status of blacks in America was the genesis of the long and rich tradition African-American foreign correspondence. Frederick Douglass, the fugitive slave who became one of the foremost race leaders during the antebellum period; and Mary Ann Shadd Cary, the first black woman to publish a paper in North America, both fled the United States because they feared for their lives in the mid-1800s.  While abroad, both produced editorial content for publication at home. Both established tenets that came to characterize African-American foreign reporting—providing a voice for those who had none, and helping people see the world in different ways. Douglass and Shadd Cary were to first representatives of the men, women and media organizations whose quest to see for themselves and tell the story extended not only to racial truths globally but also investigated the world and the role people of African descent played in it.

Dwight L. Teeter, Jr., University of Tennessee, Knoxville, “The Anxious Spirit of Gain’: A Neglected Theme in Pre-Civil War Popular Media”

America’s booming prosperity during the 1850s was accompanied by growing concerns, expressed by ministers and critics of  business excesses, that traditional Christian and republican values were being forgotten in the pursuit of wealth.  Booming newspaper circulation and readership was part of the story, as was the great growth of large-circulation magazines after 1850.  Women authors became more and more important in this period, and not only in Godey’s Lady’s Book, which, along with Harper’s, vied for circulation leadership among magazines.  Women novelists, including Harriet Beecher Stowe (Uncle Tom’s Cabin),  Maria Cummins (Wide, Wide, World,  The Lamplighter) produced huge best-sellers, which led  a  jealous Nathaniel Hawthorne to characterize the female authors who far outsold him as “scribbling women.” 

Best-selling male fictioneers  also explored concerns about the nation’s soul with florid best-sellers.  Timothy Shay Arthur  published a series of essays about the poor becoming rich or vice versa (Riches Have Wings, or a Tale of Rich and Poor), plus the most popular of  his books, Ten Nights in a Bar-Room and What I Saw There.   The latter book, widely distributed by the American Temperance Union, became a staple in Sunday-school libraries and was turned into a popular melodrama, widely performed on stages across the union.

Concerns about the prosperity-morality paradox  faded with the onset of the Civil War and with the rising tempo of economic growth and change after the war.   More than 50,000 books have been written about the Civil War, overshadowing some important cultural and social concerns of the pre-war years, including the prosperity-morality paradox.

Ford Risley, Penn State University, “Stirring the Conscience of a Nation: The Tactics and Impact of the Abolitionist Press”

This paper will discuss the vital role that abolitionist newspapers played in opposing slavery and keeping the issue before the American public.

Paulette Kilmer, University of Toledo “Haunted ‘Times?’ Ghosts in New York Times’ Crime Stories from 1851-1901”

In the nineteenth century, the New York Times and other papers published factual accounts of crimes that mentioned spooks.  This essay explores the reasons why specters slipped into news as well as starred in a genre of gothic fiction. Close textual analysis of about 300 news reports revealed three motifs of the ghost archetype:  the apparition who cannot rest, the phantom as illuminator of suicide, and the ghost as a phony. Although The New York Times’ items frequently begin with assertions of the witnesses’ credibility, they usually conclude that natural phenomena, seething malice, or human mischief eventually will explain the ghostly manifestations. The ghost crime stories sometimes repeat gruesome details, but like the popular scary stories for kids of the twenty-first century, are less frightening than the evening news gallery of murder, war, famine, and lethal natural disasters. Perhaps, the ghost motifs in the crime stories between 1851 and 1901 as well as in modern popular culture offered a paranormal agency for restoring conventional morality and order to a technical world out of spiritual balance.

Panel “Press Coverage of Antebellum Resistance Efforts”

In honor of the 150th anniversary of the attack on Harper’s Ferry, this panel examines how journalists covered various resistance efforts leading to the “Irrepressible Conflict,” from the murder of editor Elijah P. Lovejoy to the execution of John Brown and his co-conspirators.

David W. Bulla, Iowa State University, “Press Coverage of Antebellum Resistance Efforts”
The moderator will open the panel with a few anecdotes from Southern coverage of the raid at Harper's Ferry. Southern editors were outraged, but some were in a state of denial. While the Augusta (Georgia) Chronicle & Sentinel called John Brown's raid "reckless, fool-hardy and insane," the Richmond Whig commented that the news was "greatly exaggerated, as such occurrences usually are."
Lee Jolliffe, Drake University, “Ohio Newspapers and the Border Wars of the 1850s”
Ohio newspaper coverage of escaped slave chases through that state shows Ohioans’ deep resentment of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. U.S. Marshalls hired local men to assist in their hunts, and the posses thus acquired were characterized by small Ohio newspapers as "decidedly under the influence of liquor,” “drunken louts,” and “gangs with clubs.” Local churches expelled members who assisted the Marshalls. Small-town sheriffs arrested them. People around the Ohio countryside “mustered” in “large bodies of volunteers” to aid their sheriffs in protecting escaping slaves against the “insolent and lawless” U.S. Marshalls, whom they perceived as invading forces in contravention of Ohio’s “state’s rights.”  A Kentucky lawyer attempting to recover a now-free slave told an Ohio courtroom, “There will be bloody times hereabouts,” while Kentucky papers reported formation of secret societies to recover lost “property” and offered bounties for recaptured escapees. Ohio newspapers spoke of these many incidents as “border wars” and warned these could lead to “civil war,” which indeed they did.
Katherine Pierce, Sam Houston State University, “Antebellum Violence against Journalists”
This paper focuses on the political meaning of violence surrounding public discussion, texts, and their authors as part of the sectional crisis.
Gregory A. Borchard, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, “New York Tribune’s Coverage of John Brown”
This segment of the panel addresses how The New York Tribune's role in the Harper's Ferry raid provides a case study of antebellum press partisanship and reveals Horace Greeley's ties to the abolitionist movement. The panelist published material related to the subject in a 2003 article for American Journalism titled "The New York Tribune at Harper's Ferry: Horace Greeley on Trial." The primary documents used in the study included excerpts from the Tribune, published accounts of court proceedings, and the responses of anti-abolitionist editors and readers.
Brian Gabrial, Concordia University, “The Canadian Press on Harper’s Ferry”
In the spring of 1858, John Brown, while at an anti-slavery convention in Chatham, Canada West, set in motion his Harper's Ferry plans. It is no surprise, then, that to many slave-holding Southerners, Canada was enemy territory. Certainly, John Brown's exploits captured the attention of Canadian newspapers editors, many of whom, like George Brown of Toronto's The Globe, were fervent abolitionists. This research examines Canadian newspaper coverage of events at Harper's Ferry and Charlestown, paying attention to descriptions of John Brown and to anti-slavery sentiments as criticism of the United States.
Lauren Banks, Georgia State University, “The Black Crook: The Controversial First Broadway Musical Dances its Way onto the American Stage, 1866-1867”

In 1866, The Black Crook premiered at Niblo’s Garden and was the first production to combine music, dance, plot, and special effects in one performance.  Without the growth of New York City after the Civil War, the Academy of Music fire, and the assemblage of different art forms, The Black Crook would have not become what some theatre historians consider to be the first musical with its operatic, pantomime, and spectacle influences.  It was the combination of these elements, not the elements in isolation, that created the American musical. The Black Crook spent inordinate amounts of money for its time.  $50,000 was reportedly spent on dancers, sets, costumes, etc. With immodest costumes, a thin plot, and forgettable music, many critics did not understand the musical’s allure.  This production, even with its critics, ran for an unprecedented sixteen months.  It toured the country, and was later revived on Broadway, making over one million dollars in profit.  The popularity of The Black Crook only attests to the power of novelty and spectacle. With fire, flying, and floating, The Black Crook mesmerized audiences with its special effects and set precedence for future Broadway musicals. This paper will examine the events leading to America’s first musical, the elements that made The Black Crook special—plot, dance, music, special effects—as well as the nature of the audience at the time, the spectacle’s appeal, and the impact it had.

Elaine Frantz Parsons, Duquesne University, “‘I Was Glad That I Had, and Had Not Seen the Terrible Klan’: Klan Denial in the Early Reconstruction-Era Republican Press”

Though the Ku-Klux Klan was an expansive social phenomenon that generated both a good deal of physical and textual evidence and a great deal of eyewitness testimony, the idea that the Klan simply did not exist remained surprisingly widespread throughout the Klan’s five-year existence (1867-1872). Nor was Klan denial confined to Democratic newspapers; even major Republican papers regularly expressed quite basic doubts about the evidence that they themselves were publishing about the Klan. My study, largely based on news and editorial pieces about the Klan published in the Stalwart New York Times and the liberal Republican New York Tribune, but also drawing from several lower-circulation Republican papers, analyzes the forms in which Klan denial and Klan skepticism appeared in these Republican papers. Klan skepticism was, in part, an expression of sophistication about the nature of news-gathering and circulation on the part of readers undergoing the transformation from self-consciously partisan to “objective” newspapers. At the same time, expressing skepticism about Klan stories came to mark the reader as a savvy consumer of political information, and, therefore, as an “insider” or as a worthy citizen.   

Mary Harbor Hannah Gordon was the second wife of Confederate General George Washington Gordon. After her husband’s death in 1911, she wrote a manuscript that claimed that her late husband had been the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan and that he had disbanded the organization when it was accused of violence. Her manuscript also lauded the Klan for “restor[ing] white supremacy and sav[ing] the white man’s civilization.” One of the extant copies of the manuscript suggests that it was being prepared for publication, likely in a periodical or a newspaper; however, it was never published.

This paper argues that, while Mrs. Gordon’s manuscript was never published, contains unsubstantiated claims, and was largely plagiarized, it is still useful in understanding the Lost Cause ideology of the post-1915 period.

David W. Bulla and Heather Haley, Iowa State University, “Sensationalism in Civil War Journalism: A Comparison of Northern and Southern Newspapers”

This study examined more than nine hundred articles in seven Northern and seven Southern newspapers near the midpoint of the Civil War to compare the nature of sensational news stories during this war. The study developed five main topics in sensationalistic reporting during the war: (1) crime; (2) accidents; (3) health; (4) weather; and (5) a miscellaneous category arbitrarily called “others.” The main “other” categories included politics, race, and news of the bizarre or grotesque. Sensationalism had become a staple of urban newspapers on the East Coast in the 1830s and 1840s, but the Civil War offered both a fresh opportunity and a challenge to this type of generally local reporting. Sensationalistic news had been championed by James Gordon Bennett of the New York Herald. Bennett thought crime reporting could provide a public service to his readers by letting them know about the transgressions in their neighborhoods. He also believed, as did the police at the time, that crime reporting would serve as a deterrent to crime. Another possible reason for sensationalism in the press was psychological. As mass communication scholar John D. Stevens observed, readers developed a peculiar need for the sensational—a sort of guilty pleasure in the misfortunes of others. In their analysis of the fourteen wartime newspapers, the authors found that Northern papers tended to have a greater volume of sensationalistic news than their Southern counterparts. There also was generally a greater emphasis on crime reporting in the North.

Panel “The Exotica, the Personals, the Duke and the Presidents: Bizarre and Sensational Reporting in 19th Century Newspapers”
Michael Trotti, Ithaca College, “The Many Faces of Execution Sensationalism in the Southern Press”
Based in readings from newspapers in twelve southern states, this paper will evaluate the broad array of ways newspapers chose to publicize public and private legal executions.
 
Pam Epstein, Rutgers University, “Villainous Little Paragraphs: Personal Advertisements in the Nineteenth-Century Press”
A study of funny, strange, poignant and just plain bizarre personal advertisements from nineteenth century newspapers.
 
William E. Huntzicker, St. Cloud State University, “Exotica: Displaying People, Places and Pictures in Pictorial Papers”
The slogan “A picture is worth a thousand words” was the creation of an advertising man in the early 20th century, but it could have been created by Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper and Harper’s Weekly – publications that sought to make illustrations of exotic people and places a routine part of mainstream consumer media. The quality of the pictures, as well as the attractiveness of the content, could contribute to whether an item appeared in the pictorial newspapers of the antebellum era.
 
Wallace B. Eberhard, University of Georgia, "Consuelo, the Duke and the Press: Celebrity and Sensationalism in the Gilded Age"
The arranged marriage of an American tycoon's teenage daughter to the impoverished 9th duke of Marlborough was a titillating feast for the media of the late 19th century.  The press reveled in an excess of sensational celebrity reporting that was gossipy, detailed and cheeky.
 
Jack Breslin, Iona College, “Politics and Private Lives: Examples of 19th Century Sensational Newspaper Coverage of the Presidents”
After introducing the sensationalism theme for the panel, this paper illustrates the trend with examples of sensational reporting of the private lives of selected 19th Century presidents.
Michael Trotti, Ithaca College, "The South's Path to a Sensationalizing Press"

The South's cultural and social development differs from the urban North which has been the site of much of our scholarly work, and that is no less true in the development of the press as in other realms.  Based in a close reading of Virginia's newspapers, this presentation charts the changing nature of sensationalism in the southern press, black and white.

Giovanna Dell’Orto, University of Minnesota, “A New Country, A New Profession: What Images of the World U.S. Readers and Leaders Saw In the Earliest U.S. Foreign Correspondence”

It was in the mid-1800s that foreign news, a staple of colonial and early 19th century U.S. newspapers, changed drastically with the introduction of the first professional corps of foreign correspondents. James Gordon Bennett, editor of the New York Herald—the most successful early proponent of a new kind of journalism that broke away from promoting political parties and went into the business of selling news to the masses—sailed to Europe in 1838 on the return trip of the first Atlantic-crossing steamboat to set up his news “bureaus.” Between then and the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861, which brought another set of dramatic changes to journalism and to the nation at large, Americans were exposed for the first time to foreign correspondence from Europe, the Caribbean, Latin America and a smattering of farther-flung locales. These stories—more so than, and differently from, the “wire” news digests—created enduring images of the world for U.S. readers and leaders in the transforming years that steered the nascent republic in and out of dangerous conflicts, toward vast aggrandizement and finally to the edge of disintegration. The most striking conclusion is that even this early in the evolution of foreign correspondence, the news media provided an essential and unique locus for the negotiation of discourses, corresponding to U.S. foreign policy trends but also providing the germs of alternative paradigms. Most foreign correspondence and policies from the time exist within the constructions of America’s exceptionalism and a dangerous, unsavory world beyond it, but at least a few correspondents found such discourses challenged by their experiences abroad.

Robin Blom, Michigan State University, “Yelling at the Enemy: Cortland Bliss Stebbins’ Effort to Defend the Bingham Administration Against Democratic Criticism”

The political landscape in Michigan changed drastically after the newly formed Republican party won the 1856 state elections. After years of Democratic dominance, suddenly a former party-member, Kinsley S. Bingham was elected as governor. He designated the Lansing State Republican as the party organ to attack the Democratic opposition, especially their allied newspaper editors. Those editorial battles were fierce about several key topics, but foremost the slavery debate. Cortland Bliss Stebbins was hired to counterattack all criticism. As a staunch abolitionist this was considered a straightforward job for the newspaper veteran. He had much experience with attacking and ridiculing other editors to energize his own readers and to scuffle any critique. However, when the state almost went bankrupt, early 1858, the young Republican party became very vulnerable as it had to raise taxes and borrow large sums of money. Bingham and other state leaders lost faith in Stebbins, especially because the editor wanted to promote other social causes rather than solely fighting Democratic criticism. This study shows that in the eight months at the newspaper, Stebbins had fought an extensive battle against his newspaper opponents by blaming the Democrats for providing misrepresentations and by mingling truth and falsehood together. However, indirectly he also condemned his own tactics.

Heidi Owens, Georgia State University, “The Conscientious Objector: Frances Wright’s ‘Course of Popular Lectures,’ 1828-1830”

By most historical accounts, Frances Wright was the first female public orator. She spoke about controversial issues such as education, marriage, birth control, and religion. Her reason for entering the public arena was her concern over the growing religious faction within antebellum America. She lectured to packed houses in cities from Cincinnati, Ohio to New York and Philadelphia. Wherever Wright traveled, the press covered her lecture tours. The press often referred to her as “infamous”, “scandalous”,  “notorious,” or as “the red harlot of infidelity.”             In this paper, I examine Frances Wright’s “Course of Popular Lectures” from 1828-1830. I contend that the newspaper coverage heightened Wright’s popularity and drew mixed audiences to her lectures. Wright’s lectures opened the public arena to women, and she became one of the most radical female orators in history.

Shuhua Dai, Georgia State University, “From Imagination to Consideration: American Trade in China from 1850 to 1859”

This paper investigates American coverage of the beginning of American trade with China from 1850 to 1858. The paper studies the origin of the imbalance of trade between America and China, noting while that America imported tea and tea plants, ginger, salt, fur, iron, and even porcelain tableware for President Franklin Pierce’s White House. China imported far less from America.

Americans’ early efforts to compete with the British in selling opium to the Chinese failed and resulted in conflicts with the British and a change in U.S. trade emphasis toward selling tobacco. While Americans continued to trade with China during the Anglo-French Second Opium War, 1856-1858, they did not join the war.

The paper also considers the acceleration of the U.S.-China trade made possible by the technological development of shipping from sail to steam power.

Generally U.S. newspaper coverage indicates that this period marks a dividing point between Americans’ imagination of China before 1850 and the dawning of awareness of Chinese realities and the growth of American concerns. During this period, stories about China circulated widely in U.S. newspapers in Washington, Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Montpelier, VT, Savannah, Natchez, and Mark Twain’s hometown of Hannibal, MO.

Jocelyn Mitchell, Georgia State University, “Women’s Suffrage in Wyoming in 1869: The Uproar Against Female Jurors”

This paper analyzes the press coverage surrounding the territory of Wyoming’s women’s suffrage clause in 1869, the first region to grant women’s suffrage in America. The women’s suffrage statute allowed women to perform a multitude of civic duties, including the ability to run or achieve public office and required women to serve on jury panels. The press largely believed that women would abandon their domestic duties with their new roles as active political citizens. Women of Wyoming faced accusations by the press that they had achieved very little to improve their lives since their inclusion in the political arena. This paper analyzes the claims made by opponents and proponents regarding female suffrage in the territory of Wyoming.

Tyler Adams, Georgia State University, “The Jeffersonian Press: The Rise of the Republican Newspaper in the Election of 1800”

Throughout American history, the press would play a vital role in the development and expression of political attitudes in the United States, but rarely as much as it did in the electing of Thomas Jefferson to the office of President in 1800. Fully realizing the power of the press over public opinion, the Democratic - Republican Party developed a strong network of newspapers to further their ideals. Jefferson’s victory over then-president John Adams was undoubtedly a result of the Republicans’ understanding and utilization of the press to sway the people of the United States in favor of their candidate, and Adams’ loss was a consequence of the Federalists’ inability to do the same.

Paul Evans III, Georgia State University, “An Image of Greatness: News Media Coverage on the Career of Ira Frederick Aldridge, America’s Greatest Negro Tragedian, 1857 – 1867”

Ira Frederick Aldridge was one of America’s greatest Shakespearean actors. At the time of his death, Ira Aldridge had achieved the respect and admiration of theatre’ aficionados throughout Europe. Aldridge – the descendent of African Royalty – was honored by some of the most respected leaders of his era. At the height of his career, Aldridge displayed the artistry of a seasoned professional, combined with a natural talent, which demanded respect from his seasoned peers while entertaining a delighted audience. Trained by two of Europe’s most seasoned actors of the 19th century, Aldridge made his way from the gates of American slavery to accomplish a college education, breaking of the theatrical color line, mastery of the English language, and challenges from racism. Married twice during his career Aldridge would open a curtain of controversy and pages of unanswered questions that followed him decades after his death.

However during his greatest moments in Shakespearean literature, the American press chose to overlook and/or limit his greatest – in America – by offering little or no press coverage during his life. Many of the best-known newspapers avoided telling the story about Aldridge’s greatness.

Yet, due to slavery and abuse, many blacks America of the 19th century never knew of the African Roscius who would become the greatest black Shakespearean actor in American history.

Lindsey H. Gregory, Georgia State University, “Depictions of Death on the Battlefield: Press Use of Photography During the American Civil War, 1861-1865”

The photographs created during the Civil War were ground-breaking in many ways.  The era spurred technological improvements and it saw the birth of photojournalism.  Historically speaking, this was not the first war to be photographed, that honor lies with the Mexican War in 1846.  But what is groundbreaking, and what this paper attempts to review, is a genre of war views that depicted death on the battlefield.  This particular type of war photography, it has been argued, helped instigate the birth of photojournalism in that photographers like Mathew Brady, Alexander Gardner and Timothy O’Sullivan framed their death scenes in such a way as to create dynamic, well-composed images that would sell well to the papers and the public at large.  From bodies piled together on the fields during burial parties to the ephemeral scenes of celebrated generals, death scenes on the battlefield encapsulated the grim realities of war more than anything else ever could.

©