Symposium on the 19th Century Press, the Civil War, and Free Expression

November 10-12, 2016

Becca J. G. Godwin, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "U.S. Foreign Correspondence in the Dawn of Trans-Atlantic Cable News: Episodic Reporting of the Killing of a French Journalist in Paris"

In January 1870, U.S. newspapers and magazines--linked in direct communication with Europe since 1858 through the Trans-Atlantic telegraph cable--published timely, episodic stories out of Paris about the ramifications of the killing of a young French journalist by a cousin of Emperor Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte III. 

The advent of  “cable news" for a dramatic and continuing saga fulfilled the vision of earlier publishers to “eradicate time.” The cable allowed readers to follow serially the many episodes in the drama, from the shooting of Victor Noir to the mass street protests against the regime, the funeral, and the murder trial.  “No one speaks of anything but the death of Noir!” exclaimed the famous Parisian author of Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert. 

U.S. press reports often sympathized with Victor Noir – partly because he was a journalist -- but also because the French Emperor Napoleon III was unpopular in America. During the American Civil War, Napoleon had considered intervening on the side the Confederacy.  Then, while Americans were distracted by the war, Napoleon gained a foothold on the American continent when his army conquered Mexico and he installed a European prince Maximillian as Mexico’s emperor.

This paper takes a fresh look at the episodic coverage of the case of Victor Noir – a journalist who became famous because of the manner of his death –  a turning point in American foreign correspondence, highlighting the increasing use of overseas cable news from Europe, both for journalistic timeliness and for public consumption.


Matthew C. O'Neal, Auburn University, "The Role of Newspapers in Alabama's Redemption Election"

In 1874, Democrats in Alabama utilized divisive rhetoric to animate disaffected whites, driving voter turnout and bringing about the end of Republican Reconstruction. Throughout the campaign, newspaper editors and demagogues prescribed social ostracism and political violence as viable weapons against Republicans, which their audience received and acted upon. Murders of Republicans in the Black Belt, as well as riots at polling places on Election Day, indicated a willingness to resort to the brutal tactics espoused by political leaders. For the duration of the last two official years of Reconstruction, Democratic newspaper editors isolated Republicans and championed the conservative crusade.

This paper explores the active print culture that defined Alabama politics at the end of Reconstruction. The potential of rhetoric to produce action, a reciprocal relationship largely unexplored by historians of the period, becomes clear as a result. Admittedly, the phenomenon of printed and spoken word contributing to human deeds or emotions is difficult to trace. An objective reading of the sources, however, bespeaks a correlation. In this study, printed newspapers and manuscript collections proffer the viewpoint of the editors themselves, while Congressional testimony from Alabamians attests to their influence. Examined together, the sources reveal how Democrats in Alabama united an electorate through the language of anger and disillusionment. While it was not the sole arbiter of change in Alabama in 1874, newspaper rhetoric wielded more power than historians have recognized.


Brett Richard Bell, Washington State University Tri-Cities, "'To sustain untarnished the honor of our State': Southern Honor, the Press, and Mr. Polk's War"

This paper follows the members of the Arkansas Volunteer Regiment during the Mexican War, focusing specifically on discord within the ranks.  I argue that much more opposition to “Mr. Polk’s War” existed within the South than historians have previously noted, and this dissent was largely fueled by press reports of the dishonorable treatment that southern volunteers experienced while fighting in Mexico.  The editors and correspondents who went along with the volunteers, such as Albert Pike, Solon Borland, and Josiah Gregg, clearly showed that maintaining honor untarnished was a primary concern for southern volunteers.  The protection of individual or regimental honor led to disobedience, insubordination, and a near mutiny among the Arkansas volunteers before they fought at Buena Vista in February 1847.  The divisions within the regiment remained even after the battle.  Many volunteers simply grew tired of military discipline and decided to leave for home once their enlistments expired.  Even after leaving Mexico, two prominent members of the regiment, John Roane and Albert Pike, resorted to a duel after months of bitter fighting in the newspapers over charges of cowardice during the war.  Most significantly, the concern for untarnished honor was not unique to the Arkansas volunteers, as the majority of southerners decided against re-enlisting for the duration of the war when their terms of service expired, thus causing a manpower shortage which brought military operations in Mexico to a halt in the spring of 1847.  Therefore, southern honor was a disruptive force during the Mexican War that caused substantial difficulties in the prosecution of the war for the administration of President James Polk.


Joyce Caldwell Smith, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, "'A newspaper is a collection of half injustices': Stephen Crane's Public Persona in The New York Times"

Being a newspaper reporter himself and knowing the power of the press, Stephen Crane at times disparaged the media’s presentation of events and people. In his poem beginning with the line “A newspaper is a collection of half-injustices,” Crane characterizes this particular medium as a court “[w]here every one is kindly and unfairly tried,” a “market,” a “game,” and a “chronicle.” Were Crane now able to look back at his own image as built through the decades of his life and shortly thereafter in The New York Times, he probably would not back away from this poetic observation. My paper analyzes how the author’s own persona is characterized and developed in the Times over the last part of his life and the next twenty-three years. Using the Times Index, I analyze news stories beginning with Crane’s own essay about William Dean Howells, “Fears Realists Must Wait” in 1894 and moving to accounts of his involvement with the arrest of Dora Clark for prostitution, to reports of his being on the filibustering ship the Commodore when it sank off the coast of Florida, to the editorial announcement of his death, to his obituary, and to other mentions of the author prior to the publication of his first book-length biography in 1923.


Thomas C. Terry, Utah State University and Donald L. Shaw, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, "That Demon Defiance: Banned but Still Persistent, the Slave Trade through American Newspapers, 1851–1866"

Despite conventionally held belief and some historians’ confident observations, the American slave trade did not dry up in 1808 after its official prohibition, but continued robustly for decades. Stupendously profitable and with a reasonable chance of avoiding British warships bent on choking off the trade, the American slave trade continued in ships mostly constructed and fitted out in New York City. Profits were so high that one crew was even willing to burn its own ship to avoid detection. And if caught, crews were invariably released within a short period of time. This study examines what readers could have learned from predominantly northern newspapers in the course of daily and weekly journalism about the slave trade from 1851-1866.


Michael Fuhlhage, Wayne State University, "Southern Intrigues and Northern Suspicions: Newspapers as Open-Source Intelligence During the Secession Crisis, 1860–61"

While the military was just awakening to the promise and threat of OSINT, newspapers had provided actionable information to the federal government during the secession crisis, the months between Abraham Lincoln’s election as president in November 1860 and August 16, 1861, when Lincoln declared the Confederate states to be in a state of insurrection. This paper explores the federal government’s use of newspapers as OSINT sources by examining newspaper clippings referring to secession that were referenced and tucked into letters in Union officials’ scrapbooks, diaries, and journals in the National Archives, Library of Congress, and other archives, as well as newspaper articles referred to in the Official Records of the War of Rebellion. This project, drawing from the papers of William Seward, Joseph Holt, Winfield Scott, Montgomery Blair, and other Unionist officials in the United States government, is significant because it represents the first systematic analysis of government use of newspapers as open-source intelligence during the secession crisis. Historical evidence supports the argument that officials used newspaper articles concerning military movements and public sentiment to guide decision-making about how to respond to secessionism and threats to the before previous research has established.


James Scythes, West Chester University of Pennsylvania, "They May Be More Useful Within the Walls of Their Prison: Coverage of the Trent Affair in Southern Newspapers"

In the fall of 1861 the United States of America was immersed in a great civil war. As the men from both the North and South rallied to their respective flags, the leaders of the Confederacy looked toward Europe, especially Great Britain and France, for recognition, and possibly help, in their effort to gain independence from the Union. Confederate envoys James Mason and John Slidell were given the mission to travel to Great Britain and France and garner this support. As the two envoys embarked on their mission to Europe, a Union vessel, San Jacinto, stopped the British mail ship, Trent, carrying the Confederates and seized the two men, and their secretaries, from the ship. The action taken by the captain of the Union warship, Charles Wilkes, precipitated the worst crisis in Anglo-American relations since the War of 1812. This incident threatened to bring England into the American Civil War on the side of the Confederacy. Citizens of the North and the editors of northern newspapers initially praised the capture of Mason and Slidell, but how was this event covered in southern newspapers? Did journalists – both North and South – believe Wilkes violated international law by removing Mason, Slidell, and their secretaries from the Trent? Did southern editors believe Great Britain was going to support the Confederacy after the Trent Affair? This paper will analyze newspaper editorials from Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, and Louisiana, as well as articles from northern newspapers, to answer the above questions and explain how the editors of southern newspapers presented the story of the capture of the Confederate envoys to their readers between November 1861 and January 1862.


Simon Vodrey, Carleton University, "Blood, Electricity & Ink: Tracing the Transformation of Journalism in the New York Times"

The American Civil War (1861-65) is viewed as one of the single most defining events in American history. Although its last shot was fired over 150 years ago, its legacy still plays an important role in the American experience—and journalism is no exception to this rule. I posit that it was the press coverage of the Civil War utilizing the electric telegraph to relay information which, in large part, laid the foundation for modern print journalism as we know it today. To make this argument, I execute a longitudinal newspaper content analysis of the New York Times spanning the years 1859 to 1867 as a case study to shine light on whether or not four specific changes that remain hallmarks of modern print journalism were engendered during the Civil War. The first change is that the 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. The third is the claim that the reporting of the war led to the transformation of journalistic prose and the abandoning of narrative-based reporting. The fourth and final change is that it was during the Civil War that the byline became one of the standard characteristics of American journalism, thereby bringing the names of individual journalists out of obscurity. These four changes were examined with the ultimate goal of answering the following two research questions: What is the relationship between the development of modern print-based journalism and the American Civil War? What impact did the press’ use of the electric telegraph during the Civil War have on the practice of journalism?


Panel: "Custer: Comparing the Reality and the Myth"


William E. Huntzicker, St. Cloud State University, "Remembering Little Bighorn: From Vengeance to Entertainment"

Coming to terms with the defeat of the U.S. Cavalry at the Little Bighorn has been a long-term problem in American politics and culture. From the blame game politicians played after the crisis, the issues evolved to military strategy to vengeance to entertainment. When much of the nation was shocked after Wounded Knee in 1890, Frederic Remington quoted members of the 7th Cavalry on achieving payback for Custer, and Remington's publication, Harper’s Weekly, ran his double-page illustration of the stereotypical last stand. Since then, Custer has been portrayed by such stars as the swashbuckling Errol Flynn and the comedian Bill Hader. Every year people gather to watch reenactments of the Little Bighorn, and nearby Hardin, Montana, celebrates “Little Big Horn Days” on the battle’s anniversary.

A few years ago, a billboard on the interstate at Mandan, North Dakota, near Fort Abraham Lincoln, from which Custer’s command embarked on its fateful journey, urged travelers to: “Stay where Custer should have.”

Custer’s afterlife began almost immediately after news reached the nation of his demise at the Little Bighorn in 1876. The reactions ranged from memorials to celebrate the fallen hero, to vengeance at Wounded Knee, to trivial references and recreations – both at the little Bighorn and in films, both serious and absurd.


John M. Coward, University of Tulsa, "Illustrated Ideology: Fact, Fantasy and Custer in the Pictorial Press"

About a month after the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Harper’s Weekly published side-by-side pictures of a West Point solider before and after the battle. The “before” drawing, “Romance on the Hudson,” showed an idealized young couple courting on the grounds of the military academy. The couple was unidentified, but the drawing suggested the late George Armstrong Custer (a West Point graduate) and his beloved wife Libby affectionately holding hands. The “after” picture, “Reality on the Plains,” showed the same soldier lying dead on the prairie, an arrow deep in his chest, a photograph of his bride near his outstretched hand. This romanticized image, accompanied by a sentimental poem (“Red blood, flowing from manly veins, /Dyes with crimson the burning plains.”) was one of a number of the symbolic responses to the Sioux and Cheyenne victory over Custer in June 1876.

This research describes and analyzes illustrations of Indian-white violence in Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper and Harper’s Weekly as a blend of fact and fantasy that served a larger ideological purpose. In depictions of Custer and in other images of Indian-white violence following the Civil War, the illustrated press produced illustrations that largely—though not exclusively—denigrated Indians and justified the ideology of conquest and Manifest Destiny.


James E. Mueller, University of North Texas, "Little Big Myth: Press of George Armstrong Custer at the Washita"

George Armstrong Custer was one of the biggest Union heroes of the Civil War, leading many victorious cavalry charges, including one that arguably helped save the country at Gettysburg. His reputation today, however, is decidedly mixed, with some claiming he is a genocidal maniac and fool for leading his men to defeat at the Little Bighorn.

Before that disaster, Custer had won a significant victory over the Cheyenne at the Battle of the Washita in 1868, largely ending Indian attacks on settlers in the region. However, the battle became controversial as some charged Custer with inflicting unnecessary civilian casualties—so many that the “battle” was really a massacre. Some historians have argued that Custer’s negative reputation today can be traced to Washita press coverage.

The battle has been portrayed in popular culture in a number of media, most notably the 1970 western Little Big Man. The Washita scene is widely interpreted as a commentary on the brutality of the U.S. Army in Vietnam, and to this day the film’s negative portrayal of Custer resonates with many Americans.

This paper will examine contemporary press coverage of the Washita, comparing it to the historical facts of the battle. The paper will examine a sample of Democratic and Republican papers in order to shed light on any political differences in the interpretation of Custer’s actions. It is hoped the paper can add to knowledge of how the press coverage contributed to Custer’s image both in history and in popular culture.


Debra van Tuyll, Augusta University, "Political Reporting and Access to Local Government Information in Antebellum America"

According to most experts, access law was introduced in the 1950s and 1960s. Actually, what appears to have been the first access case occurred in1857 in Columbia, South Carolina after editor of the South Carolinian was banned from covering city council meetings. The editor responded by filing a suit which he won. In addition to testimony from the men who accompanied him to the meeting, Gibbes sought letters from mayors across America regarding their journalistic access policies. These letters give an insight into how local governments regarded political reporting and their willingness to open their meetings and records to political reporters. Further, the paper explores why South Carolina would have been a logical location for America’s first lawsuit for journalistic access.


Thomas C. Terry, USU, "Turn Their Back on the Fire: Prelude to Civil War through the Electoral College and the 1860 Presidential Election"

Until the author of this paper researched and created one, there has never been a complete academic collection of the entire membership of the Electoral College from 1788-2016, a total of 24,040 individual ballots. Utilizing that unique resource, the author explored the coverage of the most incendiary election in American history, that of 1860, as prelude to secession and Civil War.


Nancy McKenzie Dupont, University of Mississippi, "Free State of Jones: Myth, Legend, and Hollywood"

The 2016 release of the film Free State of Jones offers to a wide audience a myth that has been told in Mississippi for generations. The Free State of Jones refers to Jones county that along with surrounding counties in southeast Mississippi opposed the state’s secession and the Confederacy. The myth centers on a man named Newton Knight and his band of Confederate deserters, runaway slaves, and women defied forces who frequently surrounded them, holding out against all odds until the end of the Civil War. Though Knight only left one record of his remembrances, in a newspaper interview during the last year of his life, historians have struggled for decades to ascertain which parts of the myth were true. It was many years after the war before books were written, and it took even longer for Hollywood to depict the actual Newton Knight. Finally, the myth, with its truths, falsehoods, and unknowns was in widespread release, leading many to wonder how a man took such a dangerous stand in such perilous times.


Gary Sellick, University of South Carolina, "The International John Brown: The Global Contestation of the Memory of an American Martyr"

On December 2, 1859, John Brown was hanged in Virginia after leading an abolitionist insurrection at Harper’s Ferry. Yet, before his body had even been laid to rest at his New York farm, a battle was already raging as to how to remember him. While most scholars have looked at the national impact on the US of the raid and its aftermath, this paper takes an international view of the event, and the memory of the man. Using newspaper reports of Brown’s raid and his eventual demise, it shows that Brown became a symbolic martyr not only of the abolitionist cause that he died for but also a multitude of other anti-establishment movements around the world at the time. From Irish nationalists to French republicans to the population of the world’s first free-black nation, groups throughout the interconnected Atlantic world used Brown’s memory as a weapon for their causes. The paper also shows how conservative movements, many aligned politically with the US South, used Brown as a weapon against liberal movements, thus creating a global contestation of memory. Looking at responses to his death from as far afield as Haiti, Britain and Italy, this paper shows how the world responded to Brown’s martyrdom.


Crompton B. Burton, University of Maine, "Down in Dixie: The Reverend George W. Bicknell, the 'Tough Old Fifth,' and the Post-Civil War Lecture Circuit"

In the aftermath of the American Civil War, an unprecedented culture of commemoration emerged from the economic and emotional depression of the nation’s bitter reconstruction. At its peak in the waning years of the nineteenth century, the move to memorialize sacrifice, triumph, and defeat was largely driven by Union and Confederate veterans entering middle age and dedicated to preserving their legacy for future generations. Historian Joan Waugh observes, “As soldiers declared that the war was now ‘a matter of history,’ they knew they would be the ones to write that history.”

Civil War survivors proved to be prolific authors producing prodigious amounts of primary source material. Contemporary scholars have studied the product of the period at great length documenting the veteran experience. Their bibliographies  are full of references to magazine serials, newspaper articles, memoirs, regimental histories, diaries, and personal correspondence, but contain precious few citations from a heretofore  underappreciated and underestimated genre; the post-war dramatic lecture that enthralled audiences in churches, opera houses, theaters, and Grand Army halls well into the twentieth century. 

While such presentations are difficult to document let alone survey due to the ephemeral nature of an evening talk with its handwritten notes and long lost magic lantern slides, it is not impossible. This is especially true after the recent rediscovery of George W. Bicknell’s “Down in Dixie, A Veteran’s Story of the Civil War,”; a commemorative lecture of the period complete with its script and stereopticon slides.

Preserved in the archives of the Fifth Maine Museum on Peak’s Island, Maine, “Down in Dixie” offers more than just a unique opportunity to recreate the presentation as it once might have captivated visitors to the regiment’s Memorial Hall. Indeed, further exploration of such a significant sample of the lecture genre not only provides a more complete picture of the active speakers’ circuit that grew from the close of the conflict, but highlights the role such performances played in fueling the country’s movement of memorialization and influencing the perception and understanding of the Civil War by audiences of the day and generations to follow.


Mary M. Cronin, New Mexico State University, "When the Chinese Came to Massachusetts: Representations of Race, Labor, Religion and Citizenship in the 1870 Press"

On June 13, 1870, Massachusetts shoe factory owner Calvin Sampson brought 75 Chinese immigrants to his North Adams, Mass. factory to work as strike breakers. The North Adams “experiment,” as it became known, quickly developed into a national discussion that went beyond the issue of whether or not Chinese should be employed as an inexpensive work force during an era of growing factory mechanization and a subsequent de-skilling of industrial labor. During a period in which reporters still mixed facts and opinions in their stories, the arrival of the Chinese led journalists to explore and consider key questions concerning nationhood, immigration, and the role of labor in American society. These ongoing debates ultimately culminated, a decade later, in the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.

This research examines how newspapers from Massachusetts and New York State represented the issues of race, class, religion, and citizenship during the three months following the workers’ arrival. The research finds that in an era that was still partisan, editors’ political affiliations were not always determinative of their views toward the Chinese. Instead, a more complex mix of factors, including race, Anglo-Saxon beliefs in cultural superiority, perceptions of whether or not Asian immigrants could assimilate into American culture, economic concerns, distinct viewpoints on American business practices and varying beliefs in the definition of “progress” impacted editorial policies.


Katrina J. Quinn, Slippery Rock University, "Exploring the Lifecycle of Conventions of Breaking News in the Nineteenth Century: Disaster Reporting on the Virginia City Fire of 1875"

This research takes a systematic look at coverage of the Virginia City fire of 1875 to investigate the lifecycle and conventions of breaking news disaster reporting in the nineteenth century. Factors include timing, publication configuration, and rhetorical style of the story. It explores the prominence of dispatch reportage in the first week, and the transition from summary content to more detailed content during the same period. It also charts the emergence of sensationalized coverage and proposes that sensational reportage was an attempt not to distort or exaggerate but to convey the degree of the disaster and create a multi-sensory experience for the reader. A final discovery is the emergence of nationalistic discursive themes throughout the reportage, tying disaster reporting to the rhetorical construction of American national identity during the dynamic age of westward expansion. Primary source materials were acquired from the American Periodicals database from ProQuest, the Chronicling America archive housed at the Library of Congress, the California Digital Newspaper Collection, and the Cooperative Libraries Automated Network Digital Collections provided by the Nevada State Library.


Brian Gabrial, Concordia University, Montreal, "The Press and Slavery in America, 1791–1859: The Melancholy Effect of Popular Excitement"


Richard Junger, Western Michigan University, "'Be Yourself, Simple, Honest, and Unpretending': William T. Sherman and the Sin of Pride, 1821–1865"

Many phrases have been used to describe American Civil War Union General William Tecumseh Sherman, but none involving meekness. In spite of the harsh terms used, Sherman had at least one less abrasive quality to his personality, humility. He was humble, at least until the latter stages of the Civil War, a characteristic that has not been previously attached to him. His is a good case study of this overlooked aspect of the antebellum American psyche as well as it relates to Sherman himself, keeping in mind that the First Amendment includes the Establishment Clause, which protects religious rights.

The twenty-first century meaning of the word pride is much different from the word’s definition in the early nineteenth century. Pride then meant “inordinate self-esteem, an unreasonable conceit of one’s own superiority” according to journalist and dictionary writer Noah Webster. In the wake of the Revolutionary War period, pride emerged as a concern of early nineteenth-century Americans as part of the religious movement known as the Second Great Awakening, especially on the Ohio frontier. Sherman grew up not far from the frontier and was exposed to instruction on the sin of pride from an early age. Much of his conduct in the army before the Civil War was controlled by his fear of excessive pride. Even at the start of the Civil War he wrote his friend Ulysses Grant, who also grew up surrounded by the Second Great Awakening, "if you continue as heretofore to be yourself, simple, honest, and unpretending . . . . you will enjoy through . . . the homage of millions of human beings.” Historians need to recognize this part of Sherman's character. For biographers to portray him in two rather than the three-dimensional terms fails to provide a proper perspective of a man who had much to do with the Civil War and post-bellum America.


Panel: "The Election of 1860 and the Fall of the Great Republic"

Probably no presidential election season had greater eventual impact on the nation than that of 1860.  By mid-summer, the Democratic Party had fallen apart and the upstart Republicans gained their footing by surprisingly coalescing around a little known Illinois politician.  From editorials and editorial cartoons, this panel examines the period, beginning with the disintegration of the Democratic Party and turning to the election and post-election period.  Along the way, the voice of Catholic Americans is heard through their press, a voice that also reflected strong sectional sentiments that were dividing the country over slavery.  At the center of this discussion, then, is the dissolution of the American union and how selected newspapers, notably the New York Times, and their editors contended with the Republican victory and the impending crisis of Southern secession.


Brian Gabrial, Concordia University, Montreal, "The Platform Collapses: Politicians, Conventions, and Editors and the Death of the Democratic Party"


Joseph Marren, SUNY Buffalo State, "Separation of Church and State? Maybe Not so Much: The Catholic Press and the Election of 1860"


Jennifer E. Moore, University of Minnesota Duluth, "Drawing the Election: Editorial Cartooning and the 1860s Press"


Gregory Borchard, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, "The Unquiet before the Storm: Republican Editors and Editorials on Secession in the Months between Lincoln's 1860 Election and His Inauguration"


William E. Huntzicker, SCSU, "Raymond's Opinions, Lincoln's Duty and the Disintegration of the Union"


Niels Eichhorn, Middle Georgia State University, "Immigrants and the American Civil War: The Views of the Allgemeine Auswanderer Zeitung "

This paper focuses on the Allgemeine Auswanderer Zeitung and its coverage of the Civil War era. Many Germans had migrated to the United States in the 1850s, leaving their family members in need for information about the country. In addition, as many individuals still considered leaving for other parts of the world, the Allgemeine Auswanderer Zeitung provided essential information about the countries. While the paper paid intentionally little attention to the Civil War’s military and political affairs, the coverage focused on legal questions of inheritances, dealing with forceful recruitment into the armies, and most important agricultural opportunities on the western frontiers. Overall, the paper was an essential news source for immigrant and sheds light on issues immigrants and immigration promoters felt essential.


Ashley Towle, University of Maryland, College Park, "'We Are Killed All the Day Long': The African-American Press, Death, and the Legacy of the Civil War"

This paper explores how the African-American press reacted to the pervasive violence that wracked the Reconstruction South. Following the drastic changes wrought by emancipation and war, recalcitrant white Southerners turned to murder and threats of death as a means of re-establishing white supremacy. In the postwar years, white Southerners embarked on a campaign of terror intent on reestablishing white supremacy and curtailing African American political action. The murders white Democrats committed across the South, historians have argued, were a significant reason why Reconstruction ultimately failed. Scholars have not, however, investigated how African Americans used these instances of death to advance their most coveted goals of freedom.

Through a close analysis of black newspapers in the North and South following massacres such as the Memphis Riot, New Orleans Riot, and the Colfax Massacre, this paper contends that African Americans cultivated a discourse of death about the murders and losses that they endured. In the columns of black newspapers, the bodies of murdered freedpeople in the South became political tools deployed by African Americans to seek justice, equality, and the rights of citizenship. In the African-American press in the South and the North, editors described heart-wrenching and horrific scenes of murdered blacks in order to galvanize African Americans across the country to combat what they considered to be the origin of this violence—racial prejudice nationwide. In doing so, black newspapers entered into a larger discussion about the fraught legacy of the Civil War. I argue that African-American newspaper editors in the North and South used the deaths of freedpeople to spearhead a movement that demanded that the federal government fulfill the promises of the Civil War and emancipation.


Paulette D. Kilmer, University of Toledo, "The Cycle of Imagination and History…Suffrage Stories"

Paper trails, census records, and artifacts intrigue historians who seek to understand their significance in documenting change over time. Nevertheless, these bones from the skeleton of the past mean nothing until someone assembles them into a meaningful story that illustrates their cultural, psychological, and political significance. This essay borrows historical evidence from the U.S. Suffrage Movement to examine the process of imagination, stories, and history.  To understand what human experience means requires projecting from the past into the future, which then results in change possible only because someone envisioned the improvement, the innovation, or the reform. Newspapers often provide the narrative thread that connects ideas, stories, and historical progress.


Panel: "Bold Adventures across the Continent and Around the Globe: Gilded Age Adventure Journalists and their Exploits," Lee Jolliffe, Drake University (Discussant)


James E. Mueller, UNT, "'The First Bold Adventure in the Cause of Humanity': Stanley's Adventure Journalism on Finding Livingstone"

Henry Morton Stanley’s famous dispatches for the New York Herald about finding missionary David Livingstone in Africa in 1871-72 made the reporter an international celebrity and the phrase “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?” one of the most-repeated journalism quotes of all time. But Stanley’s publisher, James Gordon Bennett, Jr., saw the assignment as something more than mere journalism. His newspaper trumpeted Stanley’s project as a new role for the American press—completing the exploration of Central Africa begun by Livingstone. A Herald editorial claimed Great Britain had been too slow and cheap in exploring the continent, but the newspaper would show what decisive action could produce. Stanley’s reporting, the Herald editorialized, would be “the first bold adventure in the cause of humanity, civilization and science.”

After finding Livingstone, Stanley joined him in exploring the region and discovering, among other things, that Lake Tanganyika was not connected to the Nile River as some had supposed. The success of Stanley’s first adventure prompted the Herald to finance another reporting/exploring expedition to map the lakes and rivers of Central Africa in 1874. Stanley’s journalism boosted interest in Africa among Europeans and Americans and was a major influence in bringing the cultures together, for good or ill.

This paper will analyze Stanley’s reporting of the Livingstone expedition with a view of shedding light on the qualities that made his dispatches so popular. It will argue that Stanley’s reporting engaged the reader because he used the hallmarks of adventure journalism—he was a surrogate for readers, taking them along on his expeditions by building the narrative around his experience and creating a strong character with whom readers could identify. In this way, Stanley was a forerunner of modern writers like Hunter Thompson and Joan Didion.


Katrina J. Quinn, SRU, "'I turn my face westward tomorrow': Adventure Reporting from America's Western Trails and Rails, 1860–1880"

Four years before Horace Greeley advised Civil War veterans to “Go west, young man,” he took his own borrowed advice and launched a famed 1859 trip to the Pacific. Traveling by rail to the Missouri River at St. Joseph, he continued by stagecoach, foot, and mule for another 2,000 miles to introduce his readers to the wonders of the continent.

Greeley’s trip set the stage for other journalists. In fact, in an Atlantic Monthly review of Samuel Bowles’s 1865 Across the Continent, well-known writer and abolitionist Thomas Wentworth Higginson declared, “Since Mr. Greeley set the example, it has been the manifest destiny of every enterprising journalist to take an occasional trip across the continent, and personally inspect his subscribers.”

This study will explore the works of Greeley and other reporters who took the trails and rails to the American West during the 1860s and 1870s, including Fitz Hugh Ludlow of the New York Evening Post; Joseph Pratt Allyn of the Hartford Evening Press; Bowles of the Springfield Republican; Albert Deane Richardson of the New York Tribune; Grace Greenwood of the New York Times; Amos Jay Cummings of the New York Sun; and Frank Leslie of Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper. The study will investigate the motivation and technologies of travel and reporting, the content and structure of the reportage, and the prominent role of the journalist as eye witness and author. These adventures not only took readers to America’s verdant plains and towering mountains, but also introduced them to their western countrymen, provided insight to the natural and future economic resources of the continent, and highlighted the risks and dangers of western rails and trails that made reporting from the nineteenth-century West an adventure, indeed.


Jack Breslin, Iona College, "Publicity Stunt or Legitimate News? Press Coverage of Nellie Bly’s Race Around the World"

By 1889, New York newspaper reporter Nelly Bly (1864-1922), born Elizabeth Jane Cochran, had achieved national notoriety as an investigative reporter in the age of “Yellow Journalism.”  Two years before, her editor, Joseph Pulitzer of the New York World, allowed her to pretend to be a mental patient for ten days at the city’s infamous mental hospital on Blackwell Island.  Her undercover expose led to extensive reforms and increased funding for the treatment of the mentally ill. Bly continued her investigative reporting with similar methods about jails, factories, and political corruption.

The pioneering journalist gained global fame with her stories about her 72-day race around the world.   Considered by some as a promotional stunt inspired by the Jules Verne novel Around the World in 80 Days, Bly took nearly every available means of late 19th Century transport to make her east-west, around-the-world trek in 72 days, 6 hours, 11 minutes and 14 seconds from November 14, 1889 to January 25, 1890.  She later authored a book about her adventure.

The World featured saturation coverage of Bly’s global dash, even offering a trip to Europe as the prize for the closest estimate of her total time.  Meanwhile, another New York journalist, Elizabeth Bisland, sponsored by the Cosmopolitan newspaper, was competing with Bly by traveling around the globe from west to east. When Bly triumphantly arrived back in New York on a Pulitzer-chartered train, Bisland was four and a half days away on an Atlantic Ocean steamer.

While a remarkable feat for the time, was Bly’s journey and the resulting press coverage, especially the World’s sensational coverage and promotional gimmicks, a legitimate news story or a circulation-building publicity stunt? By this time, more than a dozen daily newspapers competed for the growing New York City readership.  By examining press coverage in other selected major New York City newspapers, particularly such competing newspapers as William Randolph Hearst’s sensational New York Journal, along with New York Sun, New York Herald, New York Tribune, and The New York Times, this study provides insights for determining the news value of this legendary story.  

In analyzing press coverage of Bly’s trip, this study will address other questions besides news value.  Were these rivals forced into covering Bly’s journey to satisfy their readers’ curiosity? Did they refuse to cover Bly’s progress until she arrived home?  Did the World ignore Bisland’s challenge, while other rival newspapers encourage her to beat Bly around the globe? How did “factual” news stories contrast with opinion-based editorial coverage?


Joseph Marren, Buffalo State, "Jack London and the Genesis of his Writing Life"

Although most of Jack London’s work was fictional and written in the early years of the 20th century, it can be argued that the roots of his success sprang from his non-fiction writing as he learned his craft in the waning days of the 19th century. Essentially, London invented himself from 1898-1900.

As such, the paper must focus on two factors in London’s non-fiction writing: His attempts at war correspondence and his tales of life on the road as a hobo in the late 19th century (which depended on his own working-class origins).

London felt that war correspondence was all glamour and he wanted to report on the Russo-Japanese War in 1904 the way he believed 19th century correspondents such as Stephen Crane did in the Greco-Turkish War and Richard Harding Davis did in the Spanish-American War. Frustrated by Japanese restrictions and censorship, London reverted to racism in his efforts to report on civilian life.

Likewise, his reporting on London slums (“People of the Abyss”) depended heavily on previous non-fiction accounts such as traveling with Kelley’s Army in 1894 and “Pinched,” when he was arrested for vagrancy in Buffalo and spent some time in jail. Although not specifically newspaper pieces, the accounts were able to reach what scholars term a “second-level narration that was not only a reportage on the actual events but also provided specific calls for action to alleviate the root causes of poverty.


David B. Sachsman, UTC, "At the Movies: The Celluloid Civil War"


Simon H. Sun, Harvard University, "'A Letter from the Flowery Flag Nation': The Chinese Shipping List & Advertiser's Reports on the American Civil War (1862–1865)"

Historians have begun to rethink the Sino-American relationship in the 19th century. As to the connections between China and the American Civil War, however, few solid researches have been produced. In this paper, the author examines the first modern newspaper published in Shanghai, The Chinese Shipping List & Advertiser, which reported the American Civil War with more than 20 thousand Chinese characters in at least 83 issues. In three issues, the newspaper even published “Call for Donation” that urged the Chinese merchants in Shanghai to contribute to British textile workers who suffered from the American Civil War. These reports provide important clues to the American Civil War’s impacts on China.


Panel: "Verbal and Visual Challenges to Political Leaders' Masculinity, 1854–1861"


Brie Swenson Arnold, Coe College, "No Back Bone, Sir, All Dough': James Buchanan, Doughface Democrats, and Manliness in Northern Print and Political Culture, 1854–1861"

On the eve of the Civil War, northern Democrats who sided with the South on slavery were commonly known as “doughfaces.”  Senators Stephen Douglas and Lewis Cass and Presidents Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan were among the most well-known doughfaces.  During the political upheavals over slavery in the 1850s, the doughfaces were mercilessly lampooned in the northern popular press.  Newspapers, magazines, books, broadsides, pamphlets, plays, political cartoons, and parade banners portrayed the doughfaces as less-than-ideally manly.  Descriptions of the doughfaces as weak, cowardly, cold-blooded, servile, spineless, and “soft” on slavery not only disparaged their pro-slavery, pro-South political proclivities, but also their masculinity. The masculinity of James Buchanan was particularly questioned and discussed, with northerners calling “Old Buck” a “doe-faced,” “weak-backed,” “sterile,” “soft,” “cold-blooded bachelor” “hermaphrodite”—euphemisms and not-so-subtle comments that mocked and questioned Buchanan’s masculinity and sexuality.  In the northern popular press as well as in individual letters, diaries, and scrapbooks, antebellum northerners linked Buchanan’s ambiguous masculinity and sexuality with his questionable political stance on slavery.  Such representations proliferated in northern print and political culture at the critical moment in which ordinary northerners were questioning their allegiance to the Democratic Party.  The disparaging representations of Buchanan and other doughfaces in the northern popular press played a role in the growth of negative perceptions of the Democratic Party—and the rise of the anti-slavery Republican Party—during the decisive political realignments that precipitated the Civil War.


Andrea R. Foroughi, Union College, "'Old Buck,' Bachelor Buchanan and 'Mrs. Buchanan': Emasculating James Buchanan in Political Cartoons, Prints and the Press"

Nominating James Buchanan as the Democratic presidential candidate in 1856 made sense to a political party that was increasingly divided over the issue of slavery’s expansion. Buchanan was a seasoned politician, having held a variety of elected and appointed offices and diplomatic posts, and he was the least objectionable Democrat to both the northern and southern wings of the party. As some scholars have noted, Buchanan entered office with more political experience than nearly any of his predecessors and high expectations to meet the challenges of holding the nation together as sectionalism intensified, but left it as one of the most disgraced presidents in the midst of a secession crisis. An examination of political lithographs and cartoons in illustrated newspapers provides a window into popular perceptions of Buchanan’s acceptability and competence as the nation’s leader. Illustrators of political prints in the 1850s represented him regularly as “Old Buck,” a defeated rooster, and small dog. Illustrated newspapers drew attention to Buchanan’s unmarried state as a problem for him as a leader. Political cartoonists, especially Henry Louis Stephens of Vanity Fair, depicted the president as an old woman, a “biddy,” and a schoolmarm in early 1860, when Buchanan hoped to be a potential nominee as the Democratic presidential candidate, and in late 1860 and early 1861, when he proved indecisive, inactive, and inadequate during the secession crisis. At a time when women were excluded from voting and political office, representing Buchanan in female attire and roles emphasized his inability to perform the duties required of a sufficiently masculine president.


Evan C. Rothera, Pennsylvania State University, "'Oh, for an hour of Jackson!' James Buchanan and Abraham Lincoln during the Secession Winter"

During the Secession Winter, November 1860 – March 1861, both James Buchanan and Abraham Lincoln were criticized by the press and their contemporaries for acting in unmanly ways. Buchanan, many argued, did nothing to arrest the course of secession and simply allowed the southern states to leave the union. People could not help but compare Buchanan’s course of action with Andrew Jackson’s during the Nullification Crisis of the 1830s. In this comparison Buchanan came off worse. Lincoln, on the other hand, was savaged by the press for sneaking through Baltimore into Washington in the early morning hours. People derided Lincoln for taking seriously the rumors of a conspiracy to kidnap him. Both men, in other words, were attacked because they did not embody martial masculinity and personified restrained masculinity. This paper highlights how Republicans and Democrats staked claims to martial masculinity during the Secession Winter and criticized political opponents for not living up to these visions. It also analyzes how both parties invoked the image of Andrew Jackson, the ultimate exemplar of martial masculinity, to make their case. This was a particularly interesting choice for Republicans because their party was principally composed of old Whigs who never had much use for Jackson. The desire for a strong leader caused both parties to venerate Jackson and this criticism made Lincoln less attentive to his personal safety while President.


Scott D. Peterson, Wright State University, "Curiosity Shop, Toy Department, and Beyond: The Development of Visual Baseball Journalism in Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper and How Best to Study It"

During 1856, which was the first full year of the publication of Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper (FLIN), there were only two references to baseball according to an electronic key word search: the first as a child’s game and a second as an activity that took place on “the famous grounds” at the Elysian Fields, an open space across the river from New York City in Hoboken, New Jersey. Almost 50 years later, the editors of FLIN published over 100 illustrations of baseball alone in 1910—including an eight-photo montage from a weekly “Sporting Gossip” column to cover “The Championship of New York” between the Giants and the Yankees. Given FLIN’s unique perspective as a repository of the social history of the nineteenth century, the overall purpose of this paper is to examine the development of visual baseball coverage in FLIN from its beginnings to the end of the nineteenth century and advance two arguments. First, this paper argues that the slow development of baseball journalism in FLIN mirrored the reluctant acceptance of the game by the middle and upper classes across that period. Secondly, the paper argues for the effectiveness of the method advocated by Johnes and Nicholson that involves a combination of traditional close reading of texts obtained through a digital search of electronic databases in contrast to a page-by-page search of the same source.

The paper also defines three types of sports journalism, Curiosity Shop, Toy Department, and Beyond the Toy Department, and discusses their roles in the development of visual baseball coverage in FLIN from 1855 to 1895.