Conference Archives

2004 Abstracts


Gregory Borchard, “Greeley at Salt River: Whig Radicalism and the Collapse of the Second Party System”

The radical social and political agenda of Horace Greeley, editor of the Tribune, emerged in 1847 with publication of Association Discussed, a series of exchanges between Greeley and New York Times founder Henry Raymond.  This paper examines how Greeley’s advocacy of abolitionism, free-soil, Fourierism, and a high protective tariff contributed to the dissolution of the Whig party.  It argues extreme partisanship published in the Tribune created a destabilizing effect on the second party system.

Greeley’s critics claimed he disgraced the Whigs’ core capitalist values by advocating the elimination of the private ownership of property.  However, anti-Democratic groups and third parties in the 1840s and 50s adopted a number of his most controversial proposals.  After the failure of the Scott campaign in 1852, issues considered too radical for Whig platforms were advanced in the third party system, as Republicans adopted a number of Greeley’s ideas on free-soil and abolitionism.

This paper cites the correspondences, editorials, and speeches of Horace Greeley and associates William H. Seward and Thurlow Weed.  It features Association Discussed, Tribune articles, and campaign documents to illustrate the radicalization of Northern interests before the Civil War.  The paper is significant for press historians because it profiles the effect of media on party organization, and it reinterprets Greeley’s contributions to the third party system.

Sherrie Farabee, “Slavery in the Florida Whig Press: A report on how three Florida Whig papers covered slavery and the 1850 Compromise from 1848-1852”

This paper examines how three leading Whig newspapers in Florida covered the issue of slavery during the five year period prior to the Civil War, and how coverage changed as the debate over slavery as an institution heated to the flash point. The time frame is 1848 to 1852, when the Whig party dominated Florida politics. This time frame also brackets the 1850 compromise, allowing time to examine how this historic event played into the pre-civil war journalism and coverage of slavery and politics by the dominate political force of the time.    This study is a content analysis of the Florida Whig. The Florida Sentinel and the Florida  Republican. The three were dominate political organs for east, west, and middle Florida for the time period studied. The goal was to document how the frequency and length of stories on slavery and the 1850 compromise, and the overall news hole devoted to those topics, fluctuated over the period studied. This was explored by counting the frequencies from year to year     While changes were expected and observed, final analysis suggest the changes could have been as much related to major political events (Two presidential elections and the 1850 Congressional session) as to the growing realization among the Whigs that slavery should be taken seriously as an issue countrymen were willing to go to war over. Study findings are consistent with the idea of fluctuations in coverage being linked to waxing and waning Whig emphasis on the issue, although as previously mentioned results also suggest significant political events as rails controlling the direction of media coverage. Study data support the idea that length and frequency of news articles in the Whig newspapers decreased or increased with fluctuations of Whig emphasis on slavery and the 1850 Compromise, and suggest that the emphasis was heightened by specific events. Further study is warranted to determine whether the two: events and issues bear equal weight or if, indeed the escalating emphasis on slavery in the pre-Civil War years was the primary motivator pf the fluctuations in news coverage observed in the study.

Martin Kuhn, “Drawing Civil War Soldiers: Volunteers and the Draft in Harper’s Weekly and Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, 1861-1864”

The news illustrations and editorial cartoons in Harper’s Weekly and Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper have been credited with directly aiding Civil War enlistment efforts in the North.  This paper uses illustrations and cartoons published between 1861 and 1864 in both weeklies to demonstrate that while both publications supported voluntary enlistments and bounties, Harper’s supported the Civil War draft while Leslie’s did not.

Robert L Spellman,Gone With The Wind: It’s The Copyright, Not Tara, That’s Worth Fighting For”

In the film Gone With the Wind Scarlett O’Hara’s father declares that land is the only thing worth fighting and dying for. He was wrong. Cotton exhausted the soil of the old South’s Tara’s and emancipation ended the slave foundation of the plantation economy. The film Gone With the Wind and the novel upon which it is based created a copyright or a panoramic mythical epic of the Old South and of Darwinian survival of those who see a tomorrow. The copyright created a stream of dollars that Tara could never have produced. It also created a tension and expensive court battles between the copyright owners who want to protect the orthodoxy of the Old South Myth, or at least Margaret Mitchell’s version of it and those who see it as a world that never was and as one degrading to the African Americans upon whose toil the agriculture of the South was built.

Robert Sampson, “John L. O’Sullivan and the Tragedy of Radical Jacksonian Thought”

Coming to the aid of Stephen A. Douglas and his Kansas-Nebraska bill, John L. O’Sullivan deployed his favorite rhetoric cannons- a kind Providence, the Union, and a fast approaching future greatness—in the columns of the Washington Daily Union on march 10, 1854. He did so with practiced ease. But the pen that coined the phrase “Manifest Destiny” and sang the praises of democracy and the Democracy had now joined in an effort that would destroy the existing party system and contrary to the hopes of Douglas and O’Sullivan, fan the sectional fires it hoped to smother.
With an enthusiasm that marked all his projects, O’Sullivan threw himself into the campaign to pass Douglas’s Nebraska bill. Recognizing the controversy it was creating O'Sullivan sought in the Daily Union article to present ‘the case in an aspect which may possibly be serviceable with some of our northern men.” And he Claimed to be the instigator of a Tammy Hall resolution in favor of abandoning the Missouri Compromise in favor of “the Non-Intervention Principle” implied in the Douglas bill.

Cynthia. Mitchell, “Checking Financial Power: Newspaper Coverage of the New York Stock Exchange’s Bid to Control the Ticker, June 1889”

In the late 19th century, did the penny press act as a check – a so-called "fourth branch of government" – when it came to its coverage of the increasingly powerful New York Stock Exchange? This essay examines New York's five largest daily newspapers for their coverage of the week in 1889 when the NYSE cut of all ticker service from its floor. The move forced its members and countless brokerage firms to employ messenger boys to scribble down the price quotes and sprint from the exchange. It was the most public and most dramatic maneuver in the NYSE's two-decades-long fight to deny ticker service to a rival exchange and the small gambling parlors known as "bucket shops." The NYSE's ultimate goal was to gain complete control over who could receive its valuable information and how. The examination found that the newspapers clearly viewed themselves as a watchdog. Despite the growing prestige, respectability and glamour of Wall Street and the NYSE's undisputed role at the helm of the nation's financial business, the newspapers did not parrot the exchange's party line in covering the week of tickerless trading. Of 50 news stories, only two gave sympathetic treatment to the NYSE's stance, and both of those stories appeared on the first day. After that, not a single story in the news or editorial columns backed the NYSE’s move as a wise one, and many of the news stories were chock full of critical editorial comments. So during a time when there was no government agency to act as a check on the actions and power of the NSYE, the press took on this role instead. This is especially notable given that this occurred a good decade before the so-called muckraking period, when crusading journalists called to account the country's most powerful business trusts. 

Jennifer Moore, “A Survey of the Newspaper Industry’s First Professional Trade Publication, The Journalist (1884-1907)”

First published in 1884, The Journalist was a weekly periodical devoted to the newspaper worker. A study of selected editions of The Journalist from 1884, 1897 and 1907 sought to identify how the editors defined the profession of journalism. Identifying recurring topics discussed in The Journalist can contribute to an understanding of the profession of journalism – both then and now. The Journalist merits scholarly attention because journalism as a profession was a developing idea in 19th century America, and The Journalist was created partly to serve a burgeoning professional movement. It was thought that vast changes in technology, the development of journalism education, and the culture of professionalism would be reflected in the content of the publication.

The format and content of The Journalist changed significantly from 1884 to 1907. Editions studied in 1884 and 1897 touched on issues important to the working newspaper person, but the journal’s focus seems unclear. The editor’s personal tiffs with members of the New York journalism community, for example, did not serve any professionalizing goal. By 1907, the publication changed to a monthly, and content was redirected instead to those who were involved in sustaining the finances of the newspaper industry. The seemingly irregular editorial content may reflect the larger struggle to identify and maintain the role of the journalist in a fast changing society at the turn of the 20th century.