Historical Newspapers


“A newspaper for sensible people or for fools?”: An 1894 Lecture on “The Making of a Newspaper Man”

Charles A. DanaJournalist Charles A. Dana (1819-1897), noted editor of the New York Sun, delivered a lecture on “The Making of a Newspaper Man” at Cornell University on January 11, 1894. This lecture and two related ones delivered in 1888 and 1893 were published the following year in a volume titled The Art of Newspaper Making. On January 19, 1895, the Kansas City Star published this article summarizing his Cornell address. Here’s the Star’s account of what Dana said:

Click to open in PDFThe newspaper profession is certainly a learned profession in one sense, but at the same time there are certainly many newspapers in which learning is very sparsely and very meanly applied. On the whole, the newspaper is very much like human nature—it is right sometimes and it is wrong very often. But the newspaper is not only a necessary institution, but it is a useful and beneficial institution. Just now the business of making newspapers is going through a revolution. It is passing through changes of a very radical and remarkable nature.

That revolution comes primarily from new high-speed printing presses, Dana says, and with that change…

An important question to be decided by the newspaper conductor is, what kind of newspaper will you make? That question may be divided into two. Will you make a newspaper for sensible people or for fools?

“A newspaper for sensible people or for fools?”: An 1894 Lecture on “The Making of a Newspaper Man”

Just published—The Readex Report: April 2015

In this issue: helping young African-American scholars move toward new academic heights; six-foot-under censorship in the honor-bound Old South; and a Founding Father's focus on frugality shapes the American dream.


Diversifying the Graduate School Pipeline with Under-Represented Scholars: An Innovative Program of the African American Literatures and Cultures Institute
By Joycelyn K. Moody, Sue E. Denman Distinguished Chair in American Literature, University of Texas at San Antonio, and Howard Rambsy II, Associate Professor, Department of English Language and Literature, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

For the last five summers, the two of us have coordinated the African American Literatures and Cultures Institute (AALCI)—a program for college students with interests in eventually pursuing graduate degrees. The Institute convenes on the campus of the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) for the month of June. The program has provided us with important opportunities to enhance undergraduate students’ learning and to orient them toward a broader as well as deeper realm of ideas concerning African American studies. > Full Story

Just published—The Readex Report: April 2015

“There’s something about them you’ll like”: The Continuing Adventures of Herbert Tareyton

In the 1960s and 1970s, the advertising campaign for Tareyton Cigarettes upset grammarians, teachers and others. “Us Tareyton Smokers Would Rather Fight Than Switch,” the ad copy proclaimed. The accompanying pictures showed smokers with a black eye.

From The Oregonian (Nov. 17, 1963)


In the late 70s, when Tareyton introduced a light cigarette brand, the copy became “Us Tareyton Smokers Would Rather Light Than Fight.” The black eyes were replaced with a white patch in the same shape.

From the Cleveland Plain Dealer (Dec. 27, 1979)


This was a long way from how the cigarette was marketed in the early part of the 20th century, as seen in this example from the 1918 Seattle Times. To begin with, Tareyton had a first name—Herbert! And the tag line was “There’s something about them you’ll like.” There was a centered portrait, presumably of Herbert himself. He wears a top hat and suit, has a monocle in his right eye, carries a walking stick and, of course, smokes a cigarette. He’s an urbane gentleman out for the evening. “Twenty for a Quarter” completed the copy. Smoke Herbert Tareytons, the ad seems to say, and you too can be a gentleman.

“There’s something about them you’ll like”: The Continuing Adventures of Herbert Tareyton

What Not to Wear?: “China’s General Chiang Issues Ten Style Commandments for Women”

Chiang Kai-shek. Source: National Archive Press. via Wikimedia CommonsIn the mid-1930s, when he presented these fashion rules, Chiang Kai-shek was political leader of the Chinese Nationalist Party, head of the country's army, and nominally China’s leader. China, however, was divided into competing factions: besides Chiang's forces, the Communists controlled the province of Jiangxi, and the Japanese were encroaching into the northeast region. At the end of 1934, when the article below was published in the Seattle Times, Chiang's armies were making their fifth attempt to encircle the Communists in Jiangxi, a successful effort that led to the famous Long March. The Long March, the Communist armies' meandering retreat under pressure to Shaanxi, lead to Mao Zedong becoming political leader of the Communists, with Zhou Enlai’s support, and Zhu De becoming military leader. They would remain in these roles for the rest of the Chinese Civil War.

Seattle Times, Dec. 9, 1934
In December 1934, Chiang had a busy life. He probably shouldn't have tried to prescribe a wardrobe makeover for his country’s women. As the article puts it:

What Not to Wear?: “China’s General Chiang Issues Ten Style Commandments for Women”

Houdini’s Amazing Life – and Mysterious Death

Harry Houdini is internationally famous as the world’s foremost magician and escapologist. For 35 years, from 1891 until his sudden death on October 31, 1926, at the age of 52, Houdini amazed audiences with seemingly impossible escapes that became increasingly dangerous.

More mysterious than any of his escapes, however, was the circumstance of his final act: his death. Houdini did not perish before an audience performing one of his stunts; rather, his death seems to have resulted from pride and stubbornness.

Houdini’s escapes made great copy, and newspapers closely followed his exploits throughout his long career—up to and including his puzzling death. Reading these contemporary accounts provides fresh perspective on the man and his times.

Houdini was born Erik Weisz on March 24, 1874, in Budapest, Austria-Hungary. His family immigrated to the U.S. and lived in Wisconsin and then New York City where, at the age of 9, Erik began his performing career as a trapeze artist called “Ehrich, the Prince of the Air.”

In 1891, at the age of 17, he began his career as a magician, first performing card tricks billed as the “King of Cards.” His fame grew when he moved on to escaping from handcuffs, eventually becoming widely known as “The Handcuff King.”

To publicize his escape act, Houdini would challenge a city’s local police force to use their strongest handcuffs on him. This Nebraska newspaper article reported the time the 25-year-old Houdini confounded the Omaha Police Department.




According to this article:

Three pairs of wrist fasteners were placed on Houdini first, then his feet were secured with very heavy leg irons, and to make his escape a still greater feat, he bent over and permitted his wrists and ankles to be secured with two additional pairs of handcuffs.

Houdini’s Amazing Life – and Mysterious Death

Just published—The Readex Report: February 2015 (10th Anniversary Issue)

IN OUR 1OTH ANNIVERSARY ISSUE: Civil War-era writers see biblical parallels in the American profile; students use primary sources to refine their research processes; and a heated debate rages on the effects of African-inspired inoculations.

Civil War Biblicism and the Demise of the Confederacy
By Eran Shalev, Senior Lecturer, History Department, Haifa University, Israel
Just published—The Readex Report: February 2015 (10th Anniversary Issue)

Baker, Sailor, Soldier, Spy: Christopher Ludwick and the General Staff of Life

Before Napoleon averred that “An army marches on its stomach,” General George Washington was applying that maxim in the field against the British. And to ensure that the Continental Army was well supplied with its most basic staple, Christopher Ludwick was appointed Baker-General on May 3, 1777.



Upon receiving his commission, Ludwick was charged with “using his best endeavors to rectify the abuses in the article of bread.” But he rejected its initial terms of 100 pounds of bread from 100 pounds of flour in these words:

No, gentlemen, I will not accept of your commission upon any such terms. Christopher Ludwick does not want to get rich by the war. He has enough money. I will furnish 135 pounds of bread for every 100 pounds of flour you put into my hands.

Baker, Sailor, Soldier, Spy: Christopher Ludwick and the General Staff of Life

The Death of Winston Churchill: As Seen in One American Newspaper Archive

January 24, 2015, was the 50th anniversary of Winston Churchill’s death. The soldier, politician and writer lived a long and notable life, which was extensively covered in American newspapers. From his 1899 prison escape during the Boer War, he was in the public eye, serving in parliament from 1900 on and in government almost continuously from 1908 to 1929. He took a brief time away from government during World War I, when, following the battle of Gallipoli—which he championed, but which was a failure—he resigned as first Lord of Admiralty to serve on the front lines.

From 1929 through the 1930s, he was an early and implacable foe of Hitler and the Nazis. He decried the Munich Agreement. He argued for the rearming of Britain. He re-entered government in 1939 and became Prime Minister in 1940. He made mistakes in and out of office. He returned Britain to the gold standard as Chancellor of the Exchequer. He supported the King in the Abdication Crisis. He was against freedom for India. There was no other politician in Britain who could have rallied the people and worked with Roosevelt and, later, Stalin to win World War II.
The Death of Winston Churchill: As Seen in One American Newspaper Archive

Context Adds Complexity: Before and After the Attack on Pearl Harbor, as Seen in Major American Newspapers in the Pacific Northwest

Reliving a moment in history through the pages of America’s Historical Newspapers takes the event out of its place on the timeline of history and reinserts it into the messy context of its era. The details of the event aren’t altered, but what surrounds it makes you think, “Oh wow, that was going on at the same time.” Or, “Man, I didn’t know he was involved in this.” Or, “I never knew that happened.”

Sometimes even events that everybody knows about are seen in new ways. The response to the attack on Pearl Harbor is a case in point. One of the odd things is that Pearl Harbor seems to exist almost outside of the wartime context, even though Japan was at war in China. The bombs falling on Hawaii and the sinking of our ships dominate our memory of it, even though it had a greater role in Japan’s war strategy which sometimes seems forgotten.
Context Adds Complexity: Before and After the Attack on Pearl Harbor, as Seen in Major American Newspapers in the Pacific Northwest

Just published—The Readex Report: November 2014

IN THIS ISSUE: Myth and fact mingle in early depictions of the Muslim world; history redeems a Justice of the Antebellum Supreme Court; and stitching together facts to visualize Colonial clothing.

The Muslim World in Early U.S. Texts
By Julie R. Voss, Assistant Professor of English, Coordinator of American Studies Program, Lenoir-Rhyne University

Just published—The Readex Report: November 2014

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