Conference Archives

2010 Abstracts

Wallace Eberhard, University of Georgia, “‘Events of Interest’: The Civil War Soldier as Reporter”

This paper explores an under researched aspect of Civil War journalism:  The publication of dispatches written by soldiers, both Union and Confederate, for local newspapers, weekly and daily.  The practice appears to be widespread.  It was launched as a staple of content early in the war when the editor of the Sunday Mercury in New York invited soldiers from New York regiments to send them dispatches about “events of interest” as they went off to train and fight.  Many press historians have acknowledged the practice, but only a handful of articles and books have explored the work of an individual or the cumulative publications by a number of soldier-reporters.  The research showed these to be valuable additions to an understanding of the Civil War because they were eye-witness accounts written by participants.  They cover a wide range of subjects, reflecting the lively debates and outspoken criticism of the war’s conduct. 

Joe Marren, Buffalo State College, “Sol White: An Appreciation.”

Sol White (1868-1955) did what no one else did in the 19th century. He wrote about African American baseball so that Pete Hill, Grant “Home Run” Johnson and others would not be forgotten. Yet White was neither a historian nor a newspaper reporter who sought out a game to report (although after 1909 he wrote for two black newspapers in New York City – the New York Age and the Amsterdam News) (Carroll, 14). White was first and foremost a ballplayer. So his history of what was called “colored base ball” (a partial title from his book, Sol White's Official Base Ball Guide: History of Colored Base Ball, published in Philadelphia in 1907) is all the more remarkable because it looked at the forgotten innings that were rarely publicized since baseball drove out its black players by the end of the 19th century. Jerry Malloy, a widely respected scholar on 19th century African American baseball, said White’s guide is “the Dead Sea Scrolls of black professional baseball’s pioneering community” (Hogan, 47).

So what were White’s sources? After all, the bulk of the African American press at the time consisted of mostly small community weeklies that didn’t routinely cover sports, and the white press largely ignored black teams and players (Carroll, 11; Peterson, 39). Well, White’s own career as a player, coach, and manager, almost continuously from 1887 to 1909, and then briefly in 1924 (White, 159), put him in touch with some of the early players and teams. Based on his first-hand knowledge and contacts, White was able to write a history of the sport that is still used today for research on African Americans in late 19th century baseball. His book has been republished twice since 1984 (Hogan, 49).

Two ways to contextualize Sol White vis-à-vis the 19th century African American experience is to briefly examine both the century’s mindset on race and to look at the role of the African American press. This paper will also briefly examine two representative examples of the century’s literature, one antebellum and one postbellum, for a concept of how the races lived with each other.

Ryan Swanson, George Mason University, “We Hope to See the Game Fostered, Even in the Midst of War’: Examining Baseball in the Press to Gauge Suffering and Sacrifice during the Civil War”

Because of the ample records its participants left behind (especially in newspapers), baseball serves a valuable tool in analyzing the Civil War era and its cultural and social history.  It also offers instructors an accessible path by which to introduce their students to a less this-battle-then-that-battle history of America’s most pivotal conflict.  Soldiers and civilians alike played baseball during the war.  Most press reports of baseball activity, however, came from the North during the conflict, this pattern reflecting the fact that Southern cities such as Richmond, Charleston, and Savannah suffered a higher toll during the conflict than those north of the Mason Dixon line.

Examining newspaper coverage of baseball reveals, in a different way than most historical lenses, the stresses the war caused on American society.  Some Americans “used” baseball as a metaphor to explain the times, others to escape the tedium of military life, and still others to raise money for those off fighting.  And of course some men simply kept playing ball because it had been part of their antebellum lives.  Similarly some reporters simply kept doing what they had before the war—reporting on baseball because their readers wanted such information.  Herein lies the challenge and opportunity in looking at baseball and baseball journalism in the midst of America’s greatest military trial.  One must not, as Jules Tygiel warned, “over-intellectualize” the game and its coverage. Nor can one dismiss baseball’s utility in telling the on-the-ground stories of a nation at war.  So with an attempt at balancing these two possible extremes in mind, this study examines baseball activity and baseball press coverage in order to provide a new mechanism for understanding and teaching the nuances of the Civil War.    

Panel “On the 200th-Birthday of Margaret Fuller: Celebrating the Contributions of 19th-Century Women Journalists, from Civil Rights to International News and War Reporting to Publishing”

Until the 1880s, there were few women involved in either publishing, editing or writing for mainstream American newspapers. Margaret Fuller, who was born 200 years ago, was one of the first women on staff at a major newspaper when Horace Greeley hired her in 1844 at the New York Tribune. Two years later, she became probably the first woman foreign correspondent when Greeley sent her to cover Europe. This panel highlights the contributions that a few pioneering women made to journalism in the 19th century, starting with two presentations on Fuller’s politically engaged work domestically and abroad, followed by the struggles of Mary Ann Shadd Cary and her fellow African American journalists. The fourth and fifth presentations introduce two women who broke particularly thick glass ceilings—war correspondence in the case of the newly discovered Confederate reporter “Luna” and publishing in the case of “Mrs. Frank Leslie.” As different as their stories are, all journalists featured in this panel demonstrated that women made a difference even in the rowdy realm of party and penny papers, the birthplace of modern U.S. journalism.  

Giovanna Dell’Orto, University of Minnesota, “‘May she be worth of the privileges she possesses’: Fuller, America, and the World”
Foreign correspondence for American newspapers in the 19th century was imbued with a sense of innate superiority of U.S. institutions that mandated a providential mission to the rest of the unenlightened world. The very few women foreign correspondents of the time—of which Margaret Fuller was likely the first—qualified such beliefs in American superiority, because they could hardly embrace the role of the United States as light to the world’s downtrodden peoples after experiencing the oppression of American women. Fuller’s correspondence, contained in 37 dispatches from Great Britain, France and Italy from 1846 to her death in a shipwreck in 1850, reveals the effort of reconciling her increasing identification with the cause of European revolutionaries with her desire for U.S. leadership, tinged by an ambiguous allegiance to a homeland that she can only wish were “worthy of the privileges she possesses.”  
Debra R. van Tuyll, Augusta State University, “Discovering Luna, Confederate War Correspondent”
J. Cutler Andrews ground-breaking research on the Confederate press in the Civil War identified three women who had been war correspondents for the South, but recent research has uncovered a fourth, Luna, who wrote for the Richmond Daily Dispatch from Norfolk. This presentation will examine Luna’s work in comparison to that of another Norfolk female correspondent, Virginia, who wrote for the Mobile Advertiser and Register. There is some reason to suspect these may be the same woman, in which case, this would be the first time a female war correspondent has been found to write for more than one newspaper. Writing for multiple papers was a common matter for male war correspondents. If this hypothesis is supported, it will show that women also sought multiple outlets for their work and that their war reporting experiences were broader than has previously been thought.
Jennifer Moore, University of Minnesota, “Through a Woman’s Eyes’: Publisher Mrs. Frank Leslie”
Born Miriam Follin, Mrs. Frank Leslie was a 19th-century publishing heiress ahead of her time. She became familiar with the publishing business as a fan of illustrated periodicals, and in the late 1850s she began to work with Frank Leslie, whom she eventually married. When Frank died in 1880, leaving his business in massive debt, Miriam was faced with either going bankrupt or rebuilding the business. A cunning and resourceful entrepreneur, she fought in court with Frank’s son to take over the business, and then revived the publishing empire—even though the struggles for a woman in the business were such that she legally changed her name to Frank Leslie. Upon Miriam’s death in 1914, the Leslie publishing company was worth nearly $2 million and she left most of her inheritance to women’s suffrage. Many credit her donation as the last financial push the movement needed to pass the 19th amendment. Despite working in a male-dominated industry, Mrs. Frank Leslie’s business acumen set her apart from other publishers.
Thomas C. Terry, Idaho State University; Donald L. Shaw, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and Caitlin Hourigan, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, “Celebrating Forefathers…or Picnicking with Firecrackers?”: A Content Analysis Study of American Newspaper Celebrations of the July 4th Independence Day, 1820-1860”

“The only birthday I ever commemorate,” Thomas Jefferson observed, “is that of our Independence, the Fourth of July." In a June 24, 1826 letter to the mayor of Washington, D.C., Roger Weightman, who had invited the former president to attend July 4th ceremonies and less than a fortnight before his death, Jefferson termed himself “one of the surviving signers of an instrument pregnant with our own, and the fate of the world . . . . ” Jefferson consoled himself, in the last days of his life “that our fellow citizens, after half a century of experience and prosperity, continue to approve the choice we made” in Philadelphia. He considered the Declaration of Independence a “signal” to the world of “arousing men to burst the chains, under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings & security of self-government . . . [and] the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion” as well as various “human rights.”

Is it possible that the bonds that drew the regions together so strongly in the Revolutionary period weakened as the memories of George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and other revolutionary and founding leaders faded into the past? We argue that one might find a clue of deeper regional feelings by examining how different regions of the nation celebrated the anniversary of our day of independence, July 4, 1776.

This study draws on a national sample of Independence Day stories in American newspapers from 1820-1860. We, of course, know a war came; they did not.  There were other considerations.  Reporters began to gather actual news of events in the 1820-1860 period.  Telegraph news grew after its 1844 demonstration and the launching of the Associated Press.  Editors and their comments were less needed to fill space.  Therefore, if celebration of the national birthday slipped away from historical figures like Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams, and Patrick Henry, it might be because reporters filled the space with stories about firecrackers, horse races, and parades.

Crompton B. Burton, Marietta College, “‘So Many Errors’: John Mead Gould, Antietam, and Civil War-Era Pamphleteering”

On the morning of September 17, 1862, Union General Joseph King Fenno Mansfield was mortally wounded in the East Woods of Poffenberger’s farm not far from Sharpsburg, Maryland. Accounts of this little-known event during the battle of Antietam, most notably those from Lieutenant John Mead Gould of the Tenth Maine Infantry, later became the source of ongoing controversy among veterans seeking to establish their Civil War legacy for future generations.

When his version of what happened to Mansfield was challenged late in the nineteenth century, Gould countered by producing a thirty-two-page pamphlet in which he sought to definitively establish what he believed had taken place. His single-minded, lifelong campaign advocating for his version of events and the use of the private press to argue his case remain a valuable demonstration of the ongoing popularity of the pamphlet with American polemicists and its particularly effective application in addressing allegations of military misconduct and misplaced credit both during and after the conflict.

More than that, Gould’s pamphlet, The Mortal Wounding of General Mansfield at Antietam: September 17, 1862, and others like it provide scholars with an outstanding opportunity to learn more of the conflict’s survivors, the methods they employed to cope with the lingering effects of their combat experience, and the ultimate role of such publications in shaping the nation’s memory of the Civil War and its contentious aftermath.

David Bulla, Iowa State University, “Walker Percy and the Civil War”

Walker Percy was a preeminent American novelist of the second half of the twentieth century. He was born in Birmingham, Alabama; raised in that city, as well as Athens, Georgia, and Greenville, Mississippi; attended college at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and spent most of his adult life in New Orleans and Covington, Louisiana (a town across Lake Pontchartrain from that city). Along the way, he wrote six novels, including the National Book Award-winning The Moviegoer. He also authored many nonfiction essays, several of which were compiled into books. While the South serves as the setting for each of his novels and is the focus of several of his essays, Percy tried to minimize his Southern heritage. He preferred to be called an existentialist or Catholic novelist, rather than a Southern one. At first glance, the Civil War seems to play a minimum role in his writing. Yet a closer examination shows that the Civil War, especially the South’s defeat, was never far from his thoughts, in large part because of his nearly life-long friendship with Shelby Foote, the author of a three-volume history of the war and a major contributor to Ken Burns’ documentary about the war that first appeared in the fall of 1990 only four months after Percy’s death from prostate cancer. The following study attempts to describe how important the war was to Percy by looking at his fiction, nonfiction essays, and his correspondence with Foote. Much of the research was completed at the Wilson Library at UNC-CH, which houses Percy’s papers. The author is grateful to the librarians there.

Panel “Abraham Lincoln and His Adversaries”
Bryon C. Andreasen, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, “Copperhead Christians and the Press”
Pro-war, pro-administration sentiment held sway in most northern evangelical churches during the Civil War—especially among church leaders who controlled access to the religious press in the north.  Cut off from the usual outlets for religious discourse, those northern evangelicals who opposed the administration’s war policies turned to the secular Democratic press to voice their concerns.Democratic newspaper editors (some of them clergymen themselves) provided a venue for religious Democrats.  Many articles and letters in these newspapers attest to how the Democratic evangelical minority in the north groped toward a defense of their Christian character.  In turn, partisan editors used religious dissent as another political weapon against the Lincoln administration, couching their views and arguments in terms that resonated with the religious sentiments of pious Democrats. This paper, based on research in wartime northern Democratic newspapers and religious weeklies, provides an introduction to the role the press played in mixing matters of church and state, and underscores the irony that those who protested the loudest against mixing religion and politics—conservative northern evangelicals—did so through means that were indisputably politically partisan.
James M. Cornelius, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, “Lincoln in the Eyes of the Opposition Press: An Anglo-American Perspective”
This paper examines a newly discovered source—The Realm (London) of 1864—and compares its views to anti-Lincoln papers in New York (the World, the Day-Book), Chicago (the Times), Springfield (the Illinois State Register), and Richmond (the Whig). Whereas much analysis of the American press has focused on internal opposition to administration policy, usually along racial or economic lines, this paper broadens the perspective into a European as well as a cross-topical analysis to grasp why the federal war policy so inflamed European political opinion.The earliest bulk reportage that may be classed as anti-Lincoln—in the Democratic papers during his 1858 debates against Stephen A. Douglas—focuses almost entirely upon situational and immediate sociological disagreement with Lincoln’s views.  Coverage during the Civil War grew more personal but also more largely political and to an extent internationalist.  Yet points of similarity and points of disagreement between U.S./C.S.A. and European opposition to Lincoln reveal distinctions that have gone little examined in existing studies, including the Polish uprising of 1863, the Dano-Prussian war of 1864, and events in Canada.  Even the well-known co-reliance of Confederate and European reportage against Lincoln and his war can be modified through this new source.Also addressed in this brief analysis will be recent work by Barry Schwartz (2000, 2008) on Lincoln’s reputation in our own post-heroic era, in order to point out that an anti-heroic American president had arisen in many minds by late 1861 along lines extending well beyond the American political fracture.
Daniel W. Stowell, Papers of Abraham Lincoln, “Some Dared Call It Treason: The Closure of Newspapers in the Civil War North”
The Constitution of the United States defines treason as “levying war against” the United States, “adhering to their enemies,” or giving “aid and comfort” to their enemies.  The First Amendment to the Constitution declares that Congress may make no law abridging the freedom of the press.  These two provisions came into open conflict during the American Civil War, and federal authorities stopped hundreds of newspapers in the North from publishing.
Most scholars, who have viewed these events from an era dedicated to unfettered press freedom, have blamed overzealous military officers, supported by a president unwilling to override them.  Few scholars have examined what these newspapers were printing.  In the context of a civil war, with fluid and vague lines between loyal and disloyal areas, what constituted giving “aid and comfort” to the nation’s enemies?  Did the publication of plans for military movements deserve the label “treason”?  What about resistance to the draft?  Within the context of the unfettered language of nineteenth-century partisan journalism, such lines are difficult to draw.  At what point did legitimate opposition to the party in power become “aid and comfort” for the enemy?  Could an editor oppose the draft?  Could he advocate violent resistance?  In a period when enrolling officers were attacked and some killed, these were not academic questions.
This paper will explore the language used in surviving issues of several newspapers that were suppressed to place their words in the context of the constitutional prohibitions against treason and the guarantees of press freedom.  By examining newspapers from Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, and other areas, this paper will provide a clearer understanding of what the editors were writing and what they urged their readers to do.  Perhaps, in the glow of hindsight, the label “treason” has been cast aside too quickly.
Donald L. Shaw, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, “Historical Agendas and Contemporary Residues”
Nancy McKenzie Dupont, University of Mississippi, “An Inherited Passion for the Union: Willie Morris’s Ancestor in the 1860 Fight Against Secession”

Throughout his writing career, acclaimed Mississippi author Willie Morris wrote glowingly of his great-grandfather George W. Harper.  Though Morris never knew him, Harper’s memory was kept alive and passed on through Morris’s grandmother.  In writing about Harper, Morris maintains that Harper was a man of great courage and conviction especially because he used his press at the Hinds County Gazette to vehemently oppose secession.

Only a few editions of the Hinds County Gazette are extant and legible from the secession debate that gripped Mississippi in late 1859 and 1860.  However, in the editions that are available, the Hinds County Gazette showed itself to be strongly pro-union, adamantly supportive of the Constitutional Union party, and firm in its conviction that secession would lead to war and destruction.  To take such a stand took courage for any newspaper but especially for the Hinds County Gazette because it published just a few miles from the press of the Mississippian, edited by Ethelbert Barksdale, one of the South’s most fervent fire-eaters. 

In the pages of the Hinds County Gazette and Morris’s second-hand recollections, George W. Harper is revealed to be a persistent Whig, a die-hard Unionist, and a reluctant Confederate.

James E. Mueller, University of North Texas, “‘Custar’ Was Conspicuous: How the Press Covered George Armstrong Custer in the Gettysburg Campaign”

This paper examines how the press covered George Armstrong Custer during the Gettysburg campaign. Custer is a household name today because of his role in the Little Bighorn, popularly known as Custer's Last Stand. But Custer defeat and death were a shock in 1876 in part because he had a reputation as one of the most successful generals in the Civil War.

A number of historians claim Custer's Civil War reputation was generated in part by newspaper reporters who thought he was a good subject because of dashing looks and exciting charges. They claim he was became famous first because of his role in the Gettysburg campaign--the first campaign he served in after his promotion to general. This study examines the coverage of Custer a variety of newspapers and one illustrated magazine during the campaign to shed light on the development of Custer's fame.

William Huntzicker, St. Cloud State University and Mary M. Cronin, New Mexico State University, “The Coming Man: Chinese Racial Representations in Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper”

This research examines Chinese images from “The Coming Man” series, a 13-part feature that ran in Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper from May 7 to July 30, 1870. The series came at a time of growing racial stereotyping and physical violence against Chinese immigrants. While the length of the series was unusual for an illustrated newspaper, the content—on immigrants—was not  since the Chinese were seen as both newsworthy and exotic. This research finds that some of the racial depictions foreshadow later representations of the Chinese as a diligent, model minority, while other representations from the series played to existing racial stereotypes that reinforced public beliefs of an emerging “yellow peril.”

Panel: “A House Divided: Newspaper Coverage of the Election of 1860”
David Bulla, Iowa State University, “Newspaper Coverage of the Rise of Lincoln in 1860: Cooper Union, the Republican Convention, and the Election”
This study focuses on how Northern newspapers covered the political ascent of Abraham Lincoln in 1860, including his speech at Cooper Union in February, the Republican Convention at the Wigwam in Chicago in May, and the general election in November. Among the newspapers to be examined in this study are the following: Atlanta Daily Intelligencer, Augusta Chronicle & Sentinel, Baltimore Sun, Chicago Press & Tribune, Cincinnati Daily Commercial, Cincinnati Daily Gazette, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Columbus (GA) Enquirer, Detroit Free Press, Louisville Journal,  New York Tribune, St. Louis Daily Missouri Democrat, St. Louis Daily Missouri Republican, Springfield (MA) Republican, and South Bend (IN) St. Joseph Valley Register. The author looked at both Republican and Democratic and Northern and Southern newspapers. This research shows how newspapers responded to Lincoln. It shows how they covered Lincoln during these key events in 1860, looking primarily at editorials and news reports. The study finds that for the most part the coverage conforms to the political press model, but there is some evidence of objective and neutral reporting on Lincoln. Dr. Bulla would like to thank his research assistant, Ryan Curell, for his help in this project.
Lonnie Burnett, Univ. of Mobile, “The Disturber of the Democracy: John Forsyth, The Mobile Register, and the Election of 1860”
Ford Risley, Penn State University, “‘Not the Harvest but the Green Blade’: Abolitionist Editors and the Election of 1860”
Debra R. van Tuyll, Augusta State University, “Lincoln and the 1860 Presidential Election in the Southern Press”
Panel: “Exotica, Escapes and the Establishment: Successes and Failures of Sensational Reporting in 19th Century Newspapers” (Jack Breslin, Iona College, moderator)
Elliot King, Loyola Univ. Maryland, “The Other Side of the Story: The Established Press in the Yellow Journalism Era”
Although “sensationalism” was deeply rooted throughout much of the American press during the second half of the 19th century, its quintessential example is the yellow press in New York in the 1890s.  As the common wisdom goes, the press war between Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst made sensationalism—a fixation on crime and human interest stories told in a lurid fashion, playing fast and loose with the facts, bold crusading for social causes, stunt journalism, and perhaps undeserved claims of political influence—a prominent feature of American journalism with the New York World and the New York Journal dominating its rivals and New York journalism until the model of journalism used by The New York Times ultimately triumphed.However, much like the 1830s and the experience with the New York Herald, although the World and the Journal were clearly innovative and built mass circulations, the established press of the time also maintained its market presence.  In fact, the New York Post and the New York Tribune (after combining with the New York Herald to form the Herald Tribune) outlasted the World and the Journal. This paper examines the ways the Post and the Tribune reacted and responded to the sensationalism of the World and the Journal through an examination of their coverage of the paradigmatic episodes associated with yellow journalism as well as the correspondence of their editors E.L. Godkin and Whitelaw Reid.
William Huntzicker, St. Cloud State University, “Sin, Sex and Sensation: New York News in the 1830s and the 1840s”
Prostitute Helen Jewett was found dead in her bed in an elegant New York City brothel in the early morning hours of April 10, 1836. Her body must have appeared grotesque: her head had been split open with an ax and her body started on fire. To make the scene more grisly, two doctors arrived to do an autopsy on the scene. They cut the body open from the neck to the lower abdomen, peeled back the skin, and cut into some of her internal organs. Yet New York Herald editor James Gordon Bennett, as one of the first journalists to visit the scene of such a major crime, transformed the deceased from charred and bloody flesh into a beautiful object, like “a statue of marble,” to be admired. “Bennett’s rhetorical strategy,” as historian Patricia Cline Cohen has written, “favored a sexualized corpse over a mutilated one.” This paper will look at the "moral wars" in the New York press over the definitions of news, obscenity and the boundaries of propriety of the era.
Paulette Kilmer, University of Toledo, “Rising From the Ashes, Riding the Wind, or Cheating the Sea: Miraculous Escapes and Improbably Rescues in Nineteenth Century Disaster Reporting”
When buildings collapsed or burned, ships vanished or sunk, and storms or other natural calamities shattered communities; hundreds, sometimes, even a thousand or more died.  Nineteenth century newspapers graphically described the desolation and mangled bodies with sensational headlines and verbal snapshots of the suffering.  A recurrent theme in the sorrowful roll call of those who had died suddenly, violently, and “thrillingly” celebrated the blessed soul who personified hope by defying the elements and rising from the dust or sea breakers to live another day.  News accounts of disaster stories sometimes celebrate these melodramatic, incredible vignettes and, thus, inadvertently, pass on motifs in the disaster or calamity archetype, including the fool’s lack of forethought, the fantastic rescue, and improbable escapes, like flying through the air.
Katrina J. Quinn, Slippery Rock University, “Reporting on the Saints: Sensationalism and Scandal, 1855-1860”
While the Mormons and their polygamous ways were fuel for sensational reporting in the mid-nineteenth century, at the center of the maelstrom was just one man: Brigham Young.  Appointed governor of Utah Territory in 1851, Young became a lightning rod of controversy and paranoia, largely as a result of newspaper coverage that reinforced his public image as a moral and political threat to the Union.  This study explores newspaper coverage between 1855 and 1860, correlates this coverage with historical trends and events, and suggests deeper themes related to a reading public that was at once repelled by—and yet fixated on—Young’s personal and political habits.
Dwight Teeter, University of Tennessee at 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 b 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.

April Holm, Eugene Lang College and The New-York Historical Society, “‘The Influence of the Periodical Press’: Western Evangelical Publishing and the Rise of Sectionalism”

The antebellum evangelical press, though periodicals and books, connected Christians scattered across the West and contributed to the formation of a Western evangelical identity in the Ohio Valley region.  This instrument for regional affiliation, however, also contained the power to hasten division.  As evangelicals communicated through the press, differences in belief about slavery, abolition, and sin became too pronounced to ignore.

American evangelicals connected westward expansion and Divine Will.  Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians invested the West with the potential to spark the conversion of the nation and bring the millennium.  These evangelicals relied on a thriving press to build a strong Western network throughout a region divided between slavery and freedom.  However, the very institutions that made churches so successful in the West also made them susceptible to the first stresses of the conflict that would lead to disunion.

Journals and newspapers at first strengthened ties among Western evangelicals, but the press collected and disseminated regional differences as well.  Thus, publications became a forum where sectional differences surfaced and conflicts first flared.  In 1837, the Presbyterian Church divided, and 1844 and 1845, respectively, Methodists and Baptists split into explicitly sectional Northern and Southern branches over the question of the sinfulness of slaveholding.

In the 1850s, the sectional conflict that would lead to the Civil War permeated the evangelical churches and perpetuated the rancorous schisms of the 1840s.  Conflict over and within the press revived debates over slavery, sin, and schism.  Division in these churches came, not because pro-slavery and anti-slavery church members in the West were so unconversant with one another, but rather because they were so well-connected.  Within a decade, the mounting pressure of the same questions that had divided the churches strained the unity of the nation itself to the breaking point. 

James B. Jones, Tennessee Historical Commission, “Visual Documents Relating to the Midland Railroad Subsidy Issue in Nashville, September 1887: The Victory of Monopoly Capitalism over Populist Editorial Cartoons”

In September 1887 the voters of Davidson County and the city of Nashville were asked to approve a bond issue aimed at building the Tennessee Midland Railroad.  It promised competition with the existing Louisville & Nashville Railroad and its nominal competitor the Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railroad, a regional monopoly. The ensuing battle over the subsidy was fought in the editorial columns in both the pro-Midland Nashville Daily American, and the advocate for the L&N, the Nashville Banner. A unique characteristic of this fight was the use of the contemporary cartoons, usually but not exclusively, by the Democratic newspaper, the Daily American.

Paulette D. Kilmer, University of Toledo, “Monsters—North and South: An Archetype for Catastrophes and Foes in Civil War Newspapers”

Newspapers inadvertently spotlight archetypes, patterns embedded in the collective human subconscious.  One prototype that reporters and editors invoked during the Civil War, monsters, empowered them to transmogrify intangible cosmic forces (slavery, war, debt) as well as enemies into entities that heroes willing to sacrifice themselves and able to persevere could defeat or at least drive away.  Three motifs of the monster archetype provided frames for understanding events during the War Between the States: the all-swallowing monster, the transformation of a person into a monster, and the path between the dreaded Scylla and Charybdis.

Kristi Richard Melancon, Louisiana State University, “‘We Plead Our Manhood’: Black Men’s Economic Literacy in The New Orleans Tribune”

Analyzing the gendered rhetoric of the New Orleans Tribune, the first black-owned daily newspaper in the United States, this presentation borrows from literacy studies, rhetorical theory, periodical studies, and feminist theory to argue that the newspaper’s inclusion of black men’s everyday literacies within its pages initiated changes in the representation of free blacks after the Civil War.  Refusing to conform to the then-popular portrayal of black males as vagrants or dependent children, the Tribune informed its wide readership of black men’s economic literacy and entrepreneurship. These new self-representations served to remind the newspapers’ readers, including whites, of free black men’s sexual and gender normativity and to imprint the image and reality of the black patriarchal family within their minds to prove blacks’ humanity and worthiness of equal political rights within the public sphere.  Roderick Ferguson comments on the “emergence of a racialized network of power that speaks in anticipation of a humanity and citizenship that is secured by performing sexual and gender normativity” within the African American community during the nineteenth century. Manhood was a prerequisite to citizenship; therefore, black men had to showcase their ability to earn a living and to accumulate wealth in order to gain the vote, and many in New Orleans used the Tribune as a tool to accomplish this goal.  The newspaper’s staff argued, “It is well to show the world that there is intelligence, virtue, courage, industry, in the colored man.”

Panel: “Editors and Authors: Publishing Book-Length Journalism History” (Lee Jolliffe, Drake University, moderator)
David Sachsman, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, “Sensationalism in the 19th Century Press: The Making of a Collection”
David Bulla, Iowa State University, “Lincoln’s Censor: Working with a University Press”
Dwight Teeter, University of Tennessee at Knoxville, “Fanatics and Fire-eaters: Making of Successful Writing Partnerships”
Debra R. van Tuyll, Augusta State University, “Knights of the Quill: Recruiting and Working with Writers”