Conference Archives

1998 Abstracts

Aleen Ratzlaff, University of Florida, “Illustrated Afro-American Journalism: Political Cartooning in the Indianapolis Freeman, 1888-1893”

This study examines the themes of political cartoons in the Indianapolis Freeman from 1888 to 1893, the years of founder Edward E. Cooper's tenure at the newspaper. The Freeman regularly featured editorial cartoons that provided commentary on political and social issues from the perspective of black Americans.  The newspaper gained prestige as the first illustrated black newspaper and served as a model for other newspapers during the era.


The eight-page weekly publication became a prominent black newspaper during the post-Reconstruction years, a time when blacks in the South as well the North faced disfranchisement, economic hardships, and lynching.  Newspaper circulation extended well beyond Indianapolis to readers who lived in black communities all the way from Michigan, Ohio, and Kansas to Kentucky, Virginia and Mississippi.  The Freeman served as a communication medium that helped shape opinions regarding issues that concerned and affected blacks in the United States. 


Many of the political illustrations published in the Freeman during this period focused on two prominent themes:  a growing disillusionment by blacks with the political process and commentary on issues related to the "Negro Problem." The cartoons in the Freeman provided an avenue through which blacks, ignored and overlooked by the mainstream press, conveyed their viewpoints and the way they experienced life. Visual images provided multiple layers of meaning in which understanding was not limited to words or a specific time or place.  Even after Cooper left the Freeman to publish a newspaper in Washington, D.C., the cartoons drawn by Henry J. Lewis and others continued to appear in the newspaper. These illustrations conveyed relevant messages because they were drawn from a point of view that spoke for and to black Americans.


B. Tripp, “Frederick Jackson Turner Revisited: The Frontier Character of the Nineteenth-Century Black Press”

Historian Frederick Jackson Turner promoted the concept that the American character was shaped by the continuous confrontations Americans had with an ever-changing frontier that moved civilization westward. Each frontier provided a new collection of opportunities, a basis for creating new ideas and new institutions, and an escape from European influences. In this manner, the American character underwent a unique phase of development, the basic effects of the frontier influence being: a doctrine for American democracy and individualism developed under conditions where only the hardy survived; a sense of nationalism from the pioneers’ loyalty to the American government rather than to an individual state; and a social laboratory that resulted in daily experimentation on public activities and social interaction.


However, one of Turner’s oversights was to fail to include the development of the African-American character through experiencing numerous obstacles and hardships. This study examines how the development of black press and its influence in the black community, as well as the creation of a black American intellect, reflects the points of Turner’s thesis. Like Turner’s frontiersmen, blacks were summoned westward not only by the appeal of free land, but also the lure of literal freedom. They were willing to endure any hardship to achieve their goals—developing a sense of dominant individualism, black nationalism, and social interaction and community dependency. During this phase, editors and publishers of the black press tailored their newspapers to address the needs of their black readers.


Catharine Bomhold, University of Alabama, "Government Printing in Frontier Alabama: 1826-1846"

This paper demonstrates a rift between the politicians and the printers of frontier Alabama. While the laws regarding government contracts for printing were clear, often the printers could not fulfill them. Obstacles that the printers faced in completing government printing contracts included drought, war, and human error. While the politicians desired to keep the printers content, they were nonetheless interested in maintaining their own control over awarding the contracts. Although the laws were exacting and repercussions clear, if the printers asked for amendments that would keep them in compliance, they were granted. Even when faced with administrative insolvency the politicians chose not to send the most lucrative printing contracts out to bid. However, the printers were not so eager to get the contracts their desire to get them was played out in their editorial columns. Eventually, as restrictions on the printing became more stringent, and the contracts less lucrative, the printers began to lose interest in obtaining the appointment at all.


Giovanna Dell’Orto, Columbia University; and Hazel Dicken-Garcia, University of Minnesota, “Newspaper Coverage of the Emancipation Proclamation”

This paper reports on preliminary study of coverage of the Emancipation Proclamation with special interest in 1) how journalists treated freedom for hated ideas, such as the Proclamation is presumed to have been for most Southerners, and 2) evidence of any concern about a standard like objective reporting.  Accepting functionalist theory that the press maintains and supports the social system, it was expected that journalists would support the North or South according to their regional affiliations and that this would shape coverage.  It was also expected that journalists would favor limits on press freedom to protect the system to which they adhered.  Thus, objective reporting was not expected, but any discussion of journalistic practices might yield insights about its development as a standard.


All Southern journalists considered here treated the Proclamation as a hated idea and editorially attacked it, regardless partisan preferences. In general, journalists seemed to reject press freedom for opponents.    Coverage followed their tendency to support the larger social system they gave loyalty.  That is, journalists seemed to defend freedom of expression only within the limitations and interests of their respective larger social systems and/or political positions.    New York Times and Richmond Dispatch editors illustrate, for both called press freedom  one of the most essential Constitutional rights—the former to accuse the South of destroying it and the latter to attack Lincoln for trampling on it.  Even  abolitionist editor William Lloyd Garrison, despite having suffered suppression thirty years earlier, asserted that press freedom was all but irrelevant concerning perpetrators of ideas he hated.       


Little evidence was found of a journalistic standard such as objectivity. “Biased” comments that essentially told readers how to view the news often prefaced or followed “straight” news reports.


G. Murray, “The Relationships Among Lincoln, Bennett and Greeley During the Civil War”

This research paper examines the relationships among President Lincoln and two of the most influential newspaper editors during the American Civil War.  The emotional, verbose Horace Greeley, who became friends with Lincoln, and the more distant James Gordon Bennett, who dealt mostly through indirect contact with the President, grew to respect the abilities of President Lincoln.  They supported him when he really needed it, although the support was somewhat irregular, and Greeley was inconsistent.  Both newspapers, Greeley's Tribune and Bennett's Herald, expressed viewpoints that sparked action.


Greeley supplied the President with plenty of advice, which Lincoln had to consider carefully without offending Greeley.  Some historians credit Greeley's editorials, especially the "Prayor of Twenty Million," with bringing about the Emancipation Proclamation.  Lincoln convinced Bennett to soften his pro-Southern stance and to support the Union. 


Lincoln was well aware of the power of the pens of Greeley and Bennett and was grateful for their support.  In their editorials upon Lincoln’s death, the editors reflected that they wished perhaps they had aided him more.  Both editor-publishers realized the greatness of the man after he was gone and regretted Lincoln would not be around to guide the nation through Reconstruction.


John J. Breslin, University of Minnesota, “The Press and the Two Presidents: Martin Van Buren and Calvin Coolidge”

This study compares the press relations of two presidents, Martin Van Buren and Calvin Coolidge.  These two lesser studied presidents were selected because of the differences in the historical periods of their lives, presidencies and press coverage.   Two newspapers were selected for each president, representing opposing political viewpoints on the incumbent – New York Evening Post and Boston Evening Transcript for Van Buren; Boston Globe and The New York Times for Coolidge.  News stories and editorials surrounding specific significant events in both administrations were studied – the election of 1836, the Panic of 1837, and the election of 1840 for Van Buren; Coolidge’s succession after Harding’s death and the election of 1924 for Coolidge.  Findings revealed Van Buren’s failure to cultivate favorable press coverage, even with the partisan press that supported him, while Coolidge carefully cultivated a strong working relationship with the Washington press corps, resulting in positive coverage.


Sylvanus Cadwallader and William E. Huntzicker, Bemidji State University

Covering the Republican General U.S. Grant for the colorful Copperhead editor Wilbur Storey required a special talent. When Sylvanus Cadwallader accepted the position, he knew that Grant had sent his predecessor had been sent to prison for making up stories.


Storey edited the Chicago Times  and so goaded the Union troops under General Ambrose Burnside that his soldiers closed down the newspaper for several days. Storey said newspapers had a responsibility to "print the news and raise hell!" and he told one of his Civil War correspondents use the telegraph regularly. "Telegraph fully all the news," he said, "and when there is no news, send rumors."


In his memoirs written late in life, Cadwallader recalled that he and Grant worked out a professional relationship of mutual respect. The reporter could be critical of the general, but he dared not make up stories or predict troop movements. He was free to criticize the general, and he would not be subjected to censorship. Although Cadwallader's reports would not be considered objective journalism, they steered an independent course seeking to satisfy his Democratic editor and Republican general. The experience allowed the correspondent to write stories that became recognized as the best reports from the Western fronts and the led him to become chief of the New York Herald's war coverage.


Robert Dardenne,  “Murder in the News: The Courant from the Revolution to Reconstruction”

Murder transcends journalistic notions of entertainment and information. People have always eagerly attended to fictional and factual stories describing violent loss of life from the mundane to the macabre, as murder has been a topic of news as long as newspapers have been published and before. Murder is also well-suited to the study of news and its development, as it is among the most consistent and persistent items of news in newspapers from their beginning to the present.

The study focuses on various constructions of murder in news articles in The Connecticut Courant, later the The Hartford Courant, the oldest continuously published newspaper in the United States. The study encompasses two-month sample periods when the paper was a daily (after 1835) and four-month sample periods when it was published weekly, every ten years from 1765 to 1875, although summary information includes decades through 1945. Looking at one newspaper over a long period of time provides a case study of the news portrayal of murder and how it changed and developed. It may not be generalized over all newspapers, but contributes to our understanding of how we have portrayed ourselves in violent death.


During the presidential campaign of 1860, a newspaper in Vicksburg, Mississippi, endorsed Stephen A. Douglas despite the fact that the state had become hostile to Northerners.  The Vicksburg Citizen was owned by James M. Swords, a young newspaper proprietor who believed strongly in the character and statesmanship of Senator Douglas.  Swords took his position despite the opposition of other more powerful newspaper owners in Mississippi who were endorsing Southern Democratic nominee John C. Breckinridge and Constitutional Union candidate John Bell.

Throughout the campaign, Swords tried to warn Mississippians that support for Breckinridge was based on what he believed was an organized attempt to insure a Lincoln victory so the South would be forced to secede.  At the core of his arguments for Douglas, however, was an obvious faith in a politician who the newspaper claimed was without a stain on his reputation.  After Lincoln’s election, however, the Citizen broke ranks with Douglas and joined the call for secession.

A study of the Citizen’s campaign issues provides surprising insights into the perimeters of the debate in the South over  Lincoln’s growing strength in the North.  It further supports a position that secession was not a foregone conclusion in the South during the campaign of 1860.   


Since its appearance in the summer of 1997, North Carolina author Charles Frazier's lyrically written first novel, Cold Mountain, has sold nearly two million copies--an astonishing total for a historical novel that even its warmest supporters will admit is sometimes slow going. Readers and critics alike have responded rapturously to the doomed efforts of a war-weary Confederate Army deserter named Inman to return to his highland home in western North Carolina and the love of his life, southern belle turned subsistence farmer Ada Monroe.

There is no question that Cold Mountain is a runaway success, both critically and financially. But is it, as some reviewers have claimed, a great Civil War novel? Is it even a Civil War novel at all? The answers, I would suggest, are "No" and "Yes."

Mel Young, ““The Jewish Press during the Civil War 1861-1865”“

To be "politically correct" circa 1861-1865 and the mid-19th. century the title of this presentation would be the "The Hebrew (Israelite) Press" or words to the effect.  The term/reference "Jew" was more often used in a negative or derogatory sense. 

This may become apparent in the subject matter presented herewith.  The writers and editors would refer to the readers as a "co-religionist". During this time period there were a large number of ethnic newspapers and periodicals printed in English and in the languages of the immigrant or "old country".  All cultures had their specific publications.  I selected for this study the leading publications of the Jewish population of the Civil War period.  They were all northern publications.  There were no on-going such publications in the south.  If fact, the increasing scarcity of newsprint curtailed even the most prominent of Confederate new media.

Rodger Van Ommeren, “Press Coverage of President Garfield’s Assassin”

This study deals with press performances by The New York Times before and during the trial of President James A. Garfield’s assassin, Charles J. Guiteau.  The study focuses on how The New York Times - in news columns, headlines and editorials - covered the event during this emotionally charged time in American history.  Evidence was abundant to support the contention that a madman stereotype was created by the newspaper that would have made it difficult for the defendant to receive a fair trial had the trial been held in New York City rather than in Washington, DC, where the crime occurred.