Symposium on the 19th Century Press, the Civil War, and Free Expression
November 5-7, 2015
Joe Marren, SUNY Buffalo State, "At War with Madison"
If war is hell, then a president dealing with the press during a war is Dante’s version of a Sunday stroll in the park. Wars are quite obviously deadly, costly and messy and should be avoided. Yet when the war is unpopular and unjustified (according to some of the newspapers of the day), then the ire of the press and the nation falls on the chief executive. James Madison, the fourth president of the United States, was in office during the War of 1812.
This paper will examine how some scholars said he was forced into the war by popular opinion through the political press of the day and also congressional elections that put more “War Hawks” in the House of Representatives. Madison’s foreign relations and subsequent policies, which some scholars contend had origins in the administration of Thomas Jefferson (Madison was Jefferson’s secretary of state), eventually bent to the winds of war.
Also, this paper will examine and seek comparisons or contrasting points between war coverage and criticism of Madison as the war waged on (June 1812 to March 1815). Examined will be American newspapers from the Federalist sphere of influence (mostly New England) that criticized the war and Madison, and from the pro-war Republican sphere (mostly centered on the western frontier and the South). For a fuller view, Canadian newspapers and how they framed the war will also be examined.
Since Buffalo was on the frontier and elected a War Hawk congressman in Peter Porter, the differences in how Buffalo reacted to the war will be included in this paper. Buffalo was burned on New Year’s Eve in 1813.
David W. Bulla, Zayed University, "Winston S. Churchill on the American Civil War"
Winston S. Churchill, in addition to a political career that included two stints as prime minister of Great Britain, was also a prolific writer and journalist. In 1898, he began to contemplate and research a book on the American Civil War. Although that book would not be published for another half century—because of Churchill’s commitment to his political career—he did give serious attention to the great American internecine conflict because he was interested in both its military and political dimensions. His Civil War book would be published in England as seven chapters covering 102 pages in the fourth volume of his A History of the English-Speaking Peoples in 1958. It was also published, in a separate volume, as The American Civil War in the United States. The idea grew at a time when he wrote a biography of his father, contemplated a similar book on the Italian liberator Garibaldi, and began working on a treatment of his ancestor, John Churchill, the first Duke of Marlborough. He certainly had an interest in the U.S. war because his mother was an American, from New York, and his grandfather on her side had been a financial partner of Henry S. Raymond, the editor of the New York Times. Churchill, who had studied at Sandhurst, fought in South Africa, and was stationed in India when he began to contemplate his Civil War history, was most interested in the military aspects of the clash between the Union and Confederacy. He was very fascinated by the relationship between the civilian military leader, Abraham Lincoln, and his various military officers—especially, George McClellan, Joseph Hooker, and Ulysses S. Grant. He was also interested in main causes of the war—slavery, states’ rights, and the North’s ascension due to industrialization—but he also wanted to understand in the long run, many years later, how the Allies of World War II came together to stop Nazi aggression; that is, that it was not just the common language, but also common cultural values, including, ultimately, a hatred for slavery and inequality, a high value on freedom, and a belief in democracy. Churchill saw the nineteenth century as a key moment in human history; that it was a time when long-standing monarchies and autocracies finally progressed and that Western Europe blossomed because of the explosion of science and technology and rapid industrialization. Such progress did not come without sacrifices, and the American Civil War represented one cost of progress. The following research paper examines the writing and publication of Churchill’s analysis and interpretation of the U.S. Civil War.
Rachel M. A. Manuszak, University of South Carolina and Sara L. Schwebel, University of South Carolina, "The Lone Woman of San Nicolas Island in the Popular Press: Tracing a Narrative's Circulation"
This article traces the circulation of news about the Lone Woman of San Nicolas Island, a California Indian who spent eighteen years alone on the most remote of the California Channel Islands between 1835-53, as a result of the international maritime sea otter trade and multinational policies of Indian removal. The story of this “female Crusoe” broke in Boston in 1847 and then circulated nationally and internationally, and nearly continuously, into the 1920s. Scholars have previously assumed that the story of this California Indian was of largely local and regional interest during the nineteenth century, and they were unaware of the longevity of the Lone Woman’s story in the press. By examining 245 individual accounts of the Lone Woman published from 1847-1936, this paper traces the geographical breadth and temporal depth of the news story’s circulation, arguing that the disparate accounts of the narrative cohered around 1880 and then became a mythic history cited by scientific writers studying California Indians. In both its popular and later scientific form, the Lone Woman, depicted as the “last of her race,” bolstered a narrative of vanishing Indians, thereby helping to justify the United States’ westward expansion and ongoing settler colonialism.
Simon Vodrey, Carleton University, "Fire Eaters, Lightning Wires & Total War: The Electric Telegraph & the Evolution of Modern Journalism in the Charleston Mercury"
It is more than one hundred and fifty years since the formal end of the American Civil War, but the war’s legacy remains today—in the field of journalism. This paper seeks to examine the contribution that was made to modern journalism by the electric telegraph and its use by reporters during the American Civil War (1861-65). I argue that the press’ use of the telegraph during this war played a role in transforming antebellum American journalism into the print-based journalism with which we are more familiar today (Van Tuyll, 2008). To do so, I use a longitudinal newspaper content analysis of the popular Southern newspaper the Charleston Mercury between the years 1859 and 1867 as a case study to reveal the process by which two specific changes were effected, changes which today remain common attributes of American print-based journalism. The first change is that the Civil War extended, and then solidified, the practice of cooperative newsgathering. The second change is that the coverage of the war signaled a move away from the majority of column-space in newspapers being devoted to local coverage and political commentary. These changes were coded for and analyzed with an eye to answering two research questions: How did the use of the electric telegraph by the press during the American Civil War contribute to the development of modern journalism? What role did the Civil War play in the transformation of American journalism?
David L. Salvaterra, Loras College, "Dennis A. Mahony: Prophet, Martyr, True Patriot? The Content of a Copper Head"
This is a study that probes the likely sources of the thought of one Copperhead newspaper editor from Dubuque, Iowa in mid-1862 and 1863. Dennis A. Mahony, implacable opponent of the Lincoln Administration, was arrested and imprisoned in Washington, DC for about three months yet conducted a campaign from his jail cell for a seat in the US House of Representatives. Though he lost the election he did make what he felt was a compelling case against the administration detailed in a most remarkable smuggled campaign document and in his newspaper columns both before and after incarceration (and even during it by proxy via a protege), and in two 1863 books.
I argue that Mahony’s thought has its ultimate origin in Cato’s Letters a 1720s series of British newspaper articles that informed Revolutionary era US ideology prompted by Old Whig or Real Whig thought and the South Sea Bubble scandal. Though no direct links to Cato are discoverable the case can be made I think, on the striking and repeated similarities in tone, style, language, rhetoric and core ideology evident in both.
I also argue that Mahony had a unique self-understanding that drove his enmity toward Lincoln, Republicanism and abolition and that placed him on a collision course with the administration. Though not at all a religious man he sees himself, Lincoln and abolitionists as figures from the Old Testament Book of Esther.
Mary M. Cronin, New Mexico State University, "Sifting Comic Wheat from Western Chaff: Alex E. Sweet, John Armoy Knox and the Humor of the American West"
Periodicals devoted exclusively to humorous musings became staples among magazine readers during the Gilded Age. While many of these publications were produced in New York City, the largest circulating humor magazine focused on western humor and was published out of San Antonio, Texas. Dubbed Texas Siftings, the magazine was the product of two immigrant transplants, a Canadian named Alex Sweet and an Irishman, John Armoy Knox. Both Sweet and Knox Sweet and Knox were part of a pop culture phenomenon--a group of journalists turned humor writers who have been dubbed the ‘literary comedians.’ Today the two humorists’ names and their publication are largely forgotten, save for a few academic journal articles and one modern compilation of their writings. Neither Sweet nor Knox took to the lecture circuit, as did many humorists of their day, nor did the men expand their talents into the world of comic novels, a move that might have made the two be remembered by future generations. But for two decades, Sweet and Knox satirized and lampooned Western subjects, but also skewered to comic effect the public’s stereotypes of frontier life and civilization.
Thomas C. Terry, Utah State University and Donald L. Shaw, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, "Rest Under the Shade of the Trees: Fourth Level Agenda Setting and Framing the Civil War and the Lost Cause through Obituaries of Union and Confederate Generals, 1863-1916"
The Lost Cause captured the imaginations and romance of southerners in the wake of the Civil War as the former Confederacy’s economy and society were shattered and confused. The Lost Cause was equal parts ideology, justification, and nostalgia. Perhaps the last deeply divisive and highly visible vestige of the Lost Cause – the Confederate Battle Flag – has been hauled down and consigned to historical rather than living memory. This study mined the emotions, coverage, and opinions of the obituaries of 16 prominent Civil War generals, from the battlefield death of General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson in the midst of the Civil War in 1863 to the death of Lieutenant General James Longstreet in his bed in 1904 four decades later, by employing the techniques of a new fourth level of agenda setting to see whether the Lost Cause can be seen in the deaths of those great generals. A previous study that counted mentions of the Lost Cause over, roughly, the same 40-year period, discovered a rise and fall of the Lost Cause. Except for two oblique allusions to it, the current study did not discern the Lost Cause in the reports of the deaths of the most prominent Confederate and Union generals.
Gregory A. Borchard, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, "President Lincoln's Emerging Legacy: Assassination Coverage in the New York Times and Chicago Tribune"
This paper focuses on coverage of President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination primarily from the front pages of the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune in the two weeks following his death, combining his initial legacy, according to these two newspapers, with secondary interpretations of his impact on American history in the 150 years since his death. Featuring the Times and Tribune as sources to evaluate the general reaction of editors and readers both in the United States and abroad, it includes primary source material in the North, South, and internationally to construct a close account of the tumultuous events of April 1865. It suggests the Times and Tribune, both pro-Republican and pro-Lincoln, set the tone for Lincoln’s legacy in newspapers domestic and abroad, even those that had initially criticized the administration during the Civil War. Evidence of this tone can be found in contemporary accounts of Lincoln’s life, with secondary sources either consciously or unknowingly replicating much of the praise for Lincoln from his staunchest supporters.
Dianne M. Bragg, University of Alabama, "Sumner, Brooks, and Buchanan: Paving the Way to 1860"
After the tumultuous passage of the Compromise of 1850, political tensions between the North and the South continued to grow with increasing intensity. With that unstable backdrop, 1856 quickly became a year fraught with volatile political reckoning. In May, Preston Brooks’ notorious attack on Charles Sumner in the Senate Chamber was fodder for newspapers in both regions. Throughout the summer and on toward the presidential election in November, northern and southern newspaper coverage reported on every aspect of the incident and its aftermath. On the heels of that sensational story, James Buchanan was elected president in what first appeared to be a victory for the Democratic Party. But it would not take long for newspaper coverage to show how deeply the Democrats were splintered. This research paper will offer a glimpse of how Brooks’ attack on Sumner and the newspaper coverage it received had an impact on Buchanan’s election and, therefore, the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860. The coverage in 1856 indicates newspapers were cognizant of the enormity of the events that were occurring. Likewise, newspapers in the following years would look back at 1856 and understand how the events of that year had paved the way for what was to come.
Angie M. Zombek, St. Petersburg College, "Traitors, Smugglers, Wayward Women and Individual Anguish: Newspaper Tales about the Old Capitol Prison"
Historian William B. Hesseltine left an indelible mark on the study of Civil War Military Prisons with his 1930 landmark study, Civil War Prisons: A Study of War Psychology. Hesseltine concluded that reports about maltreatment and atrocities inflicted upon Union and Confederate inmates that appeared in Northern and Southern newspapers caused officials on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line to suffer “war psychosis” and adopt retaliatory policies. Even though Hesseltine and later scholars focus on large-scale reports of suffering, public interest in imprisonment ran much deeper than that during the Civil War. Journalists and the American public were interested in the federal government’s role in administering military prisons, especially the Old Capitol Prison, located in the heart of Washington, D.C. News stories that appeared across the country in major papers such as the New York Times, D.C. National Republican, and New Orleans Times Picayune, to name a few, frequently focused on individuals and/or small groups of inmates, highlighting in detail their crimes and their personal background. In so doing, journalists either fit in with, or predated, techniques found to be common in nineteenth-century journalism. Journalists detailed sensational crimes that landed civilians and members of both the Union and Confederate military in the Old Capitol, infused stories of arrest and escape with personal anecdotes thereby fitting in with the human-interest genre, and exposed challenging conditions that individual inmates faced while incarcerated, including some which at times led to death. Ultimately, newspaper stories detailing the Old Capitol Prison and its inhabitants reveal that “war psychosis” and the newspaper articles that led to it were only part of a broader and more personal tale that journalists told about wartime imprisonment.
Crompton B. Burton, University of Maine, "'Let Every Comrade Lend Us A Hand': George E. Lemon, the National Tribune and the Civil War Veteran Press"
The National Tribune represented many things to many people during its publication over the last three decades of the nineteenth century. For its founding editor, George E. Lemon, the journal proved a highly effective advertising organ for his practice as a pension agent as well as a persuasive political tract in support of issues important to both himself and veterans of the Union Army. For Captain Grenville Sparrow, formerly of the Seventeenth Maine Volunteer Infantry, the periodical served as a vital connection to comrades and camaraderie otherwise lost on a society unable or unwilling to provide the special understanding needed for survivors of the conflict. And, for Republican candidates for political office, the National Tribune and its subscribers quite simply meant votes.
Given such influence and impact, it remains an interesting question as to why the National Tribune and the veteran press, produced for hundreds of thousands of readers over more than thirty years, remain mere footnotes in scholarly surveys of American journalism during the post-Civil War period. Perhaps it’s because no less an authority than Frank Luther Mott tended to marginalize such publications in his comprehensive historical treatises on the country’s magazines and newspapers or because more contemporary scholars such as David Blight and Larry Logue look elsewhere for documenting the dynamics of the veteran experience.
And, yet, the National Tribune justifiably invites research specific to its own remarkable story. The purpose of this study is to take up that challenge and document the newspaper’s growth from a mere commercial broadside to a powerful platform for advocacy that eventually evolved into a therapeutic forum for those desperate to ensure their legacy in the eyes of future generations. Considered in that light, the Tribune achieves a certain measure of uniqueness among nineteenth century journals and deserving of more than passing reference as just another specialty magazine serving the tastes of ex-soldiers. In fact, Lemon’s Tribune emerges from such examination as a publication of enduring consequence and a significant political and polemical sheet capable of galvanizing a vocal minority into a force to be reckoned with on the national stage and as a rich and untapped resource for the study of the narrative and personal history of the Civil War and its aftermath.
Jack Breslin, Iona College, "The Presidency and the Press in 19th Century: From Lapdog to Watchdog"
This study examines the relationship between the presidency—both the office and the individuals—and the press—both party-owned and independent—during the nineteenth century.
At the beginning of the 19th century, the American presidency and American journalism were still in their infant stages. Both were bold experiments in democratic government and free expression which had never been tried. Would the relationship between the office of the presidency and an independent press be compatible, tolerant or adversarial? Or all of the above?
During the 19th century, the American press developed through distinct stages. Newspapers grew from party-owned newspapers to independent privately owned newspapers. In covering politics, they matured from lapdog party organs to sensational “watchdog” journals safeguarding democracy from corruption and abuse of power.
The American presidency was also transformed through politics, personalities and press relations during the 19th Century. Before the transition to an independent press, some chief executives enjoyed favorable coverage from their party-owned organs, while enduring defamatory criticism from the opposition’s newspapers. Even though privately owned, some newspapers openly favored one party – and its president – over another which influenced news and editorial coverage. Some presidents seemed powerless and inept in dealing with the press, while other “imperial” presidents were masters of manipulation in cultivating influential newspaper editors and publishers.
By the end of the 19th century, the sensational-leaning newspapers were not only investigating corruption and crusading for reform, but also examining the private lives of sitting presidents and presidential candidates. This probing of political issues and presidential personalities influenced public opinion, news coverage, editorial positions and agenda setting by both sides.
After discussing the influence of select presidents and their press relations with the growth of the presidential office and influence of American journalism on the political process, this study concludes with comparisons with the relationship between today’s media and the occupants of the Oval Office.
Joseph J. Cook, Saber & Scroll Journal of History, "Henry Clay is Dead: The End of Compromise in Antebellum America"
Henry Clay served the United States for four decades in the critical first half of the 19th Century. During this time, he earned a reputation as the Great Compromiser, due to his unrelenting efforts to hold the nation together despite growing sectional strife. This paper examines the difficulty that Clay was finding in carrying on his policies of compromise and sectional unity in the last years of his career, as his own Whig Party was thrown into turmoil by the rising tide of anti-slavery sentiment expressed by men like William H. Seward. Special attention is paid to the coverage that Clay and others were receiving in the newspapers of the 1850s, as even the traditional Whig press was divided on the abolitionism issue. This divide was seen clearly at the time of Clay’s death, with abolitionist papers giving only cursory praise for the man they came to hold in contempt for his perceived surrenders to the Slave Power of the South. Treatment of Clay’s death in the newspapers symbolized the growing divide between sections and groups within the country that he had fought so hard to hold together. However, as civil war drew near, newspapers frequently made appeals and allusions to the ghost of the Great Compromiser. The very name of Henry Clay came to be a pillar of the unionist cause in newspapers as the country entered its greatest crisis. His example served as an inspiration and a foil to the great men of the new Republican Party (Lincoln and Seward are focused on specifically), who were tasked with keeping alive his vision of a united nation.
James Scythes, West Chester University of Pennsylvania, "John Brown is Not Insane: The Perception of John Brown in Newspapers After the Harpers Ferry Raid"
On October 16, 1859, John Brown and eighteen followers seized control of the federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia in an attempt to arm slaves and attack slaveholders of Virginia. But thirty-six hours later, after a brief battle, U.S. Marines captured Brown and six of his followers. In the weeks and months that followed, John Brown was vilified in many newspapers around the country. These papers, mostly pro-slavery, portrayed him as an insane murderer. Abolitionist newspapers also used words such as insane and misguided to describe Brown, but the editors of these papers also saw him as a man who was fighting against a great evil – the institution of slavery. The greatest defense of John Brown came from African American newspapers, such as Douglass’ Monthly. Within two months, though, the perception of Brown in the abolitionist newspapers of the North began to change. He became the symbol of the struggle against slavery in the white and black abolitionist press. This paper will analyze how John Brown was portrayed in the press after his attack on Harper’s Ferry, and the effect his raid had on sectional tensions in the United States. Southerners became more fearful of Northerners traveling in the South and began to consider disunion. The supporters of John Brown in the North stated that his attack on slavery, and subsequent execution, made them more opposed to slavery than they had ever been before, creating a political environment that made compromise between the two sections of the nation nearly impossible.
Richard Stott, George Washington University, "The Ledger's Dilemma: How the Magazine with the Largest Circulation in the Country Faced the Sectional Crisis and the Civil War"
The New York Ledger had by far the largest circulation of any American weekly publication in the late 1850s and 1860s, in the 300,000 plus range. What was known as a "home paper," it published an eclectic mix of serial novels, humor, poetry, history and columns by its star writers like Fanny Fern. Its brilliant editor, Robert Bonner, promoted it with advertising the like of which had never been seen before in the United States. Bonner, his contemporaries believed, understood the outlook of average Americans as well as any man of the age, and examining how he responded to the sectional crisis and war helps illuminate public opinion in the era. Bonner’s policy was generally to avoid politics or anything controversial, especially anything that might offend his Southern readership. Indeed, it ignored it for months, even after mail service to the South ended. The Ledger had developed a formula that had made it the most popular publication in the country, and Bonner was reluctant to alter it. As the war continued it became increasingly challenging to maintain neutrality. Avoiding politics was one thing, but this was a war for national survival. So Bonner skillfully used the heterogeneous Ledger format to begin aligning his periodical with the Union side, but without materially changing the Ledger's nature. Serial romantic fiction remained the mainstay, but poems now mourned the Union dead, stories celebrated union heroes, editorials explained military terms. Bonner made clear what side the Ledger was on, but within its established framework. Because its basic format never really changed, the magazine seamlessly adjusted to the end of the war.
Katrina J. Quinn, Slippery Rock University, "The Rocky Mountains, Yosemite, and Other Natural Wonders: Landscape in Travel Correspondence of the Post-Civil-War Press"
The years following the Civil War comprise an important transition in the rhetorical connection of land to national identity, as stories of Civil War battles were replaced in the newspapers by a different type of conquest: journalists, adventurers, naturalists and other travelers who tackled the expansive plains, towering mountains, barren deserts, and vast expanses of the American West. This study, a work in progress, explores one pillar of national identity, the American landscape, through the published writings of these travelers in the post-war press. It presents some initial findings into the themes of America and Americanness which emerged in postwar travel correspondence, and suggests that the corpus of travel writing presented an idealized vision of the nation that set the stage for expanding western settlement, economic development, and tourism during the late nineteenth century.
Timothy L. Moran, Wayne State University, "Changes in the News: Characterizing Immigration, 1850-1890"
A longitudinal study of multiple newspapers on a single subject – immigration - finds that the press of roughly 1850 through 1890 was transforming toward the “Full News” independent press of the twentieth century. An increasingly sophisticated understanding of important national issues, and more technical competence in reporting on them, is evident in news coverage over this time period. Content analysis of several full-text searchable newspapers, and of a variety of slightly less-accessible national newspapers, reveals this increasing sophistication and shows that the increasingly networked press was accomplishing important self-imposed work as the Civil War years were left behind.
Immigration was a perennial national and local issue of significant interest during rapid national expansion. Newspaper coverage of the issue offers an excellent window into the changing news world of the time. Evolution of the press can be seen to be more intentional and less formulaic than has been represented. Far from being a social organ with a nativist knee-jerk reaction against aliens, the press moved toward objectivity, or at least toward complexity of coverage that gave some balance to its stories. Its terminology remained earthy and its portrayals were unapologetically racist, but underlying those factors one sees an emerging broadening viewpoint based on data and factual input. Newspapers created coded identities for immigrant groups, aided readers in interpreting immigration and its effects, and increased the complexity of their coverage of immigration over time. In doing this work the newspapers created a national audience that could then be instructed in their reactions to a major national issue.
Rich Shumate, University of Florida, "Riot, Race, and Who's To Blame: Press Coverage of the 1885 Rock Springs Chinese Massacre"
On Sept. 2, 1885, a fight between white and Chinese miners inside a Union Pacific coal mine in Rock Springs, Wyoming Territory, precipitated a riot that left more than 50 Chinese miners dead or missing and their neighborhood a smoking ruin, an event which generated headlines across the nation. In the aftermath of the Rock Springs Chinese Massacre, the press outside the West expressed outrage at the actions of the white miners, most of whom were themselves immigrants. But the Western and Wyoming press put the blame for the riot not on the miners but on the UP for its policy of importing Chinese miners in order to keep wages low and prevent organized labor from gaining a foothold in the Wyoming coalfields. This paper explores the dichotomy in the 19th century newspaper coverage of the massacre, which mirrors crosscurrents extant today in media coverage of the debate over immigration, incidents of racial violence, and the perceived failure of legal institutions to secure justice for victims of racial violence.
Tian Kisch, Harvard University, "'What a Grand Picture': Examining Frank Vizetelly's Civil War Sketches in the Illustrated London News"
When the American Civil War began in 1861, countless print publications and journalists undertook the enormous task of reporting on the war and its events. Among these journalists was Frank Vizetelly, a British war correspondent and artist dispatched by the Illustrated London News to report from the front lines of the Union and later the Confederacy. Vizetelly experienced battles and camp life firsthand; he mingled with soldiers and civilians alike. This research examines Vizetelly’s sketches and reports and compares them to their corresponding engravings and articles published in the Illustrated London News.
Examining Vizetelly’s work is especially significant in light of two issues vital to the question of British recognition and Confederate diplomacy: cotton and slavery. A case study in how visual depiction through the form of the sketch adds to our understanding of a foreigner’s perspective, Vizetelly’s work comes from a rare archive of understudied primary source material. Given the additional differences between Vizetelly’s original drawings and their engraved versions published in the Illustrated London News, an investigation of Vizetelly’s work also illuminates how the nuanced differences between the two alter the story presented by the image.
Harold Holzer, Roosevelt House, Hunter College, "Abraham Lincoln and the Power of the Press"
Richard Junger, Western Michigan University, "'My star is ever in the ascendant!' Success and the Not-so-gentle Art of Self-promotion Among Civil War Union Political Generals"
Abraham Lincoln appointed prominent politicians as generals in the mobilizing Union army in the early days of the Civil War for their leadership skills with their untrained, undisciplined recruits. But his so-called political generals swiftly turned their opportunity into a means to advance their own non-military careers, in the process redefining and reshaping what it meant to be successful in America. This paper examines how three Union political generals, Richard Oglesby, John McClernand, and Daniel Sickles, employed the mass news media as well as their own public speaking skills to advance their careers, to greater or lesser degree of success. Oglesby was an orphan and Mexican War veteran who used a serious wound suffered at the Second Battle of Corinth in October 1862 to propel a largely positively-reported bid to be elected Illinois governor in 1864. McClernand came from similar circumstances, fought in the same Blackhawk Native American War as Lincoln, and commanded Oglesby, but even with supportive mass news media coverage after he was sacked by Gen. Ulysses S. Grant in June 1863, he could not be elected to public office in the same state of Illinois because of his politics, not his often ham-handed efforts at self-promotion. In contrast to Oglesby and McClernand, Sickles came from a wealthy New York City background and made ample use of self-promotional techniques learned as an antebellum journalist but his personal behavior, from displaying his amputated leg in a museum to adultery to embezzlement to murder, intruded. By actively seeking to personally promote their own political and personal careers, these three and other political generals helped to standardize and propel the still present myth of the self-made man.
Niels Eichhorn, Middle Georgia State University, "Sensationalism or Journalism? The Civil War Diplomacy Coverage of Harper's Weekly"
The Civil War’s international ramification, such as questions regarding belligerent rights, neutrality, and maritime incidents, created many misconceptions and misunderstanding in the North Atlantic world. The United States perceived British neutrality as favorable to the Confederacy. These misconceptions in Anglo-U.S. relations were the result of sensationalist misrepresentations in the newspapers and general Anglophobia. Harper’s Weekly’s presentation of the Civil War’s foreign policy in its illustration was often sensationalist and lacked accuracy. Especially, the presentation of British neutrality was skewed against the perceived hostile British and provided a basis for future anti-British claims in the aftermath of the war. At the same time, some of the images illustrate a deep understanding of the recent past, but also took a patriotic Union-centric view. Sensationalist presentations of foreign policy in Harper’s Weekly increased popular misunderstandings with the United States.
Sam Graber, Valparaiso University, "Rossetti and 'The Real Soldier': Walt Whitman and American War News in Britain"
Walt Whitman’s relationship Civil War news, as an eyewitness and newspaper correspondent as well as a newsreader and poetic chronicler, helped establish his longstanding status as a quintessentially American voice. Whitman presented his own war writing as part of an exalted national history of the most recent past that he shared with millions of ordinary American newsreaders. Yet the development of his postwar verse and persona as a war poet was actually intertwined with the passionate involvement of British readers from the other side of the Atlantic who had also been deeply invested in news of the American War. Especially significant was the British literary critic William Michael Rossetti, whose active interest in war news also produced one of the earliest published explanations of that news’s reception in Britain. This essay demonstrates how British appropriations of Civil War news informed Rossetti’s advocacy for Whitman and provided crucial support for the American poet’s literary career. It suggests that, paradoxically, Whitman’s ultimate transformation into an iconic national bard depended as much on Rossetti’s understanding of British readers of the American War as on the poet’s own connection to their American counterparts.
Anet Frasto, Georgia State University, "Nikola Tesla: An Invisible Genius; A Revealing Look Through the Eyes of the Press About a Man We Know Nothing About"
The life of Nikola Tesla has always been a mystery to me. I knew that he achieved many successes in the electrical world and was behind the inventions of many great things that contributed to the progress of America. However, I wondered why I had not been taught about Tesla in my history classes. Instead I had learned about Thomas Edison and his invention of the light bulb, leading me to believe, like many others that Edison was mainly responsible for the power of electricity. Once I started researching, I discovered that Edison had been credited for many of the successes Tesla had accomplished. I also found that Tesla was responsible for a lot more of America’s progress than I had intentionally believed. The purpose of this paper is to show that Tesla was just as worthy as Edison during their time.
David B. Sachsman, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, "Yellow Journalism: Yesterday and Today"
Laura Diaz-Zuniga, Georgia State University, "Fear and Division: Northern and Southern Newspaper Coverage of the Harpers Ferry Raid, 1859-1860"
On October 16, 1859, abolitionist John Brown led a raid on the town of Harpers Ferry, Virginia. The unsuccessful raid was part of Brown’s attempt to form a slave army to abolish slavery in the South. Brown’s raid gained notoriety nationwide at a time when the U.S. was preparing for the election of 1860. The present study seeks to examine how the raid on Harpers Ferry impacted the growing rift North and South experienced over slavery. The researcher surveyed both primary and secondary sources. The former include Northern and Southern newspapers, while the latter include texts recounting and analyzing the events surrounding the raid. The study found newspapers skewed the facts of the raid and its aftermath to best fit their political beliefs, which were usually either Democratic or Republican. Research findings supported the claim that the North was eager to prove Southerners lived in fear of a slave insurrection. The present study also found Republican Northern newspapers focused their coverage on slave states that were on the verge of passing laws which would enslave free blacks. Such states were Maryland, Missouri, and Tennessee. Southern Democratic newspapers, on the other hand, strived to prove people in slave states held no fears of insurrection. In fact, they portrayed Southerners as strong and unafraid before the possibility of a slave insurrection. The present study found Southern newspapers counterattacked their Northern rivals by publishing accounts about Northerners who were opposed to abolition. This was intended to weaken the popularity of Northerners among the abolitionist community. Newspapers proved to be an effective method when analyzing the growing hostility Brown’s raid ushered shortly before the Civil War.
Donald Campbell, University of Alabama, "Union Raiders in Alabama: Newspaper Coverage of Federal Assaults in the Yellowhammer State, 1863-1865"
The War Between the States was one of the most crucial periods of American history. As the country tore apart and went to war with itself, a number of issues critical to the survival of the republic were finally to be settled once and for all. While much of the war was fought in key states like Virginia and Tennessee, Alabama saw its own action, though this combat came mostly in the forms of Union raids into the Yellowhammer State between 1863 and 1865. Northern commanders Abel D. Streight, Lovell H. Rousseau, James H. Wilson, and John T. Croxton led such raids into the state, in order to do what they could to wreck the Confederate war machine and thus bring the war to a quicker conclusion. This research paper attempts to examine newspaper coverage of these Union raids from three different perspectives: Northern, Southern, and international publications. It also seeks to demonstrate how articles reporting on the Union attacks in Alabama could vary greatly, depending on such factors as how quickly newspapers received information from their “frontline” sources; which sources, military dispatches or news reporters, the newspapers received their information from; and how accurate reports sent to these publications, both those written immediately after any action and those written once facts became clearer, were.
Amber Roessner, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, "(New) 'Woman as Athlete?' The Negotiation of the Sporting Woman in the Gilded Age Press"
Throughout the Gilded Age (1865-1900), the New Woman claimed headlines for her exploits in a wide range of athletic endeavors from baseball and boxing to skating and wrestling, but her participation in the sporting sphere was not without controversy. This manuscript considers the cultural conversations that took place in the press of the Gilded Age over the novelty and propriety of the New Woman as athlete, the negotiation of the female athlete’s place in sport, and the legacy of these debates on established gender norms that lingered into the twentieth century. The author examined a census of more than 100 articles about female athletes, which were published in major U.S. newspapers and magazines throughout the Gilded Age. In the last instance, the manuscript contends that the press played a complex role in the negotiation of a woman’s place in sport. The cultural conversation in the press over the New Woman as athlete centered on the novelty and propriety of competing in the male sphere of sport and contributed to gender norms that dictated the status of women in society for years to come.
Paulette D. Kilmer, University of Toledo, "Why Women Dared to Make Journalism Their Calling"
Jonathan Daniel Wells, University of Michigan, "Southern Women Journalists and Regional Comparisons in the Gilded Age"
Jennifer E. Moore, University of Minnesota Duluth, "'Running the Gauntlet': Representations of Women in the Gilded Age Press"
Women made up one-third of the workforce in New York City by the year 1870. At that rate, women would have been a constant presence on the streets, in the public marketplaces, and in other spaces where the public met and gathered. This degree of female employment outside of the home was one of many far-reaching social and political changes during the post-Civil War period. Whether or not this reality was reflected in news images of women is another matter. Historian Joshua Brown asserts that the illustrated press during the Gilded Age sometimes presented contradictory images of women, commenting that many pictorial representations were “at times confusing and often unpredictable.”
To better understand how women were represented in the Gilded Age press, this research examines the pictorial content of the two leading illustrated newspapers of the nineteenth century, Harper’s Weekly and Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper. As the “cult of domesticity and true womanhood” paradigm waned and women became more “visible” outside of the home, how was that change represented in visual reporting? How did the continued fight for suffrage and the emancipation of African Americans, for example, influence how women were drawn in the pictorial press? Not only were social mores changing, but the newspaper business was transforming as well. The economic and technological shifts in the newspaper industry inform this research as well, as both likely played a role in how and why women were depicted in the press.
Selected issue of both Harper’s and Leslie’s are studied from 1870 through the end of the nineteenth century. Interpretive visual methods informed by Stuart Hall are used to better understand how women were represented in Gilded Ages pictorial press content. This method of analysis recognizes images as complex and powerful in their meaning-making, allowing for a more robust and nuanced interpretation of both implicit and explicit cultural messages coded into these pictorial representation of women during the Gilded Age.
Scott D. Peterson, Wright State University, "'Muscular Heathenism' v. 'Odor of Chivalry': A critical cultural comparative analysis of illustrated newspaper coverage of an 1860 boxing match"
On April 17, 1860, American boxer John C. Heenan met English champ Tom Sayers to decide the bare-knuckle boxing champion of “the world.” The resulting coverage found in Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper (FLIN)—56 illustrations, 34 separate textual items, six covers, and four two-page pictorials—contrasted with material found in Harper’s Weekly (HW), which included just four write-ups and four illustrations (three of which were satirical cartoons). The critical cultural analysis in this paper compares the text, illustrations, and the resulting representations found in the fight coverage of HW and FLIN. The analysis revealed how Leslie created the spectacle and the audience he profited from, as well as the lengths he went to with the textual and visual representations of his newspaper’s coverage during a time when prize fighting was illegal and the genteel cultural gatekeepers of were united against the sport.