<blockquote>No novelist would dare to picture such an array of beautiful climatic conditions—the rosy dawn, the morning star, the moon on the horizon, the sea stretching in level beauty to the skyline—and on this sea to place an ice-field like the Arctic regions and icebergs in numbers everywhere—white and turning pink and deadly cold,—and near them, rowing round the icebergs to avoid them, little boats coming suddenly out of the mid-ocean, with passengers rescued from the most wonderful ship the world has known.
<p style="text-align: right">—Lawrence Beesley, <em>The Loss of the S.S. Titanic</em> (June 1912)</p>
<div style="width: 310px;float:right;">
<p>The Titanic. Source: George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress).</p></div></blockquote>
In the hours after the <em>Titanic</em> sank, the press was faced with the task of telling a story about what had been thought impossible—the sinking of an unsinkable ship. Without substantive information—before the rescuing <em>Carpathia</em> returned to the United States—news bureaus around the world started running speculative accounts about the disaster.
<div style="width: 310px;float:left;">
<h5><span style="font-family: Arial">In our latest issue: The exonerated executioner of a Native American sorceress; profiling a polymathic chess master; using a local newspaper archive to uncover an American city's past; and unremembered inhumanity that sparked a world war.</span></h5>
<span style="font-family: Arial"><a href="http://www.readex.com/readex/newsletters.cfm?newsletter=189&article=... target="_blank"><strong>
Murder! Or the Remarkable Trial of Tommy Jemmy, 19th-Century Seneca Witch-Hunter and Defender of Indian Sovereignty</strong> </a></span>
<span style="font-family: Arial">By Matthew Dennis, Professor of History and Environmental Studies, University of Oregon</span>
<p style="text-align: left">Thousands of ships over centuries have lined the ocean floor, but even 100 years after it sank, the Titanic still fascinates. James Cameron’s 1997 critically acclaimed "Titanic"—the second bestselling film in U.S. history—was re-released this month in 3-D. The <em>Titanic</em> has also been the subject of several TV documentaries retelling and exploring the disaster. In its own time, no news event was more covered in exacting detail through the pages of the press. News of the <em>Titanic’s</em> shocking demise made front pages across the nation.</p>
<div style="width: 460px;display:block;margin:0 auto;"><a href="/sites/default/files/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/bostontitanic.pdf" target="_blank">
</a><p>Dr. James McCune Smith. Source: New-York Historical Society</p></div>
In 2010 descendents of Dr. James McCune Smith, a prominent abolitionist leader and prolific author, discovered and dedicated his unmarked grave in Brooklyn, New York. Dr. Smith (1813–1865) was also the first professionally trained black surgeon in America. Although the dedication of his gravesite received some media coverage, Smith remains a surprisingly little-known pioneer in the struggle for professional and social equality for African Americans.
Smith died at the age of 52—five months after the end of the Civil War and less than three weeks before the 13th Amendment abolished slavery—keenly aware that African Americans still faced a long, hard struggle for equality. The New York draft riots of July 1863, in which mobs attacked not only the city’s wealthy but also black New Yorkers, had made that clear to him.
This year marks the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens’ birth. <em><a href="http://www.readex.com/readex/index.cfm?content=96" target="”_blank”">America’s Historical Newspapers</a></em> contains hundreds of contemporaneous articles about this genius of English literature, as well as reviews of his works and advertisements for his books. Here are a few samples, supplemented by the menu of a banquet held in his honor, found in <em><a href="http://www.readex.com/readex/product.cfm?product=2" target="”_blank”">American Broadsides and Ephemera</a>.</em></span>
<div style="width: 310px;float:right;"><a href="/sites/default/files/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Dickens-Albany-Evening-Journal-New-York-Albany-June-10-1865.pdf" target="”_blank”">
</a><p>From the online archive of the Springfield Republican and Union</p></div>
Memories take many forms: stories of an older person, memorabilia preserved in a scrapbook, and even creative wonderings piqued by the sight of an old building. Reminiscences like these offer initial clues to local history, and—in my continual quest to learn more about my adopted hometown—I scour books, nose into diaries, sift through old records, and talk to long-time residents. In the end, electronic archives of local newspapers can provide a more complete chronicle.
<p>The Evening Star Newspaper Buildings. Source: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division</p></div>
On December 16, 1852, a newspaper described by historian Fred A. Emery as “The Rock of Gibraltar in Washington Journalism” was born. <em>The Evening Star</em> was one of dozens of newspapers that sprang up in the mid-19th century in Washington, D.C. Like many of its kind, it began modestly as a four-page broadsheet printed by a hand press. Only 250 copies were made for its initial run. However, its owner, Captain Joseph Borrows Tate, had a big vision, which he and the editorial staff declared proudly in its Manifest: “The<em> Star</em> is to be free from party trammels and sectarian influences.”
Unlike other newspapers that were polemical and highly political in nature, the <em>Star</em> was to be neutral. It was also to be “devoted in an especial manner to the local interests of the beautiful city which bears the honored name of Washington.” In other words, the <em>Star</em> was to be a newspaper focused on largely local news and concerns. It was also to dedicate itself to the development and progress of the city of Washington.
Something of the idealism and high aspirations of the newspaper can be seen in this poem written specifically for its inaugural issue.