The appearance of the terms “licentious” and “licentiousness” in American periodicals rose dramatically in the early 1840s in tandem with the rise of the unruly urban newspapers collectively called the Flash Press. Now a unique collection of this short-lived form of journalism, created from the exceptional holdings of the American Antiquarian Society, is available in digital form.
Learn more about the Flash Press in this new 1-Minute Video:
Discussing this collection, the scholar Robert Wilhelm, author of The Bloody Century: True Tales of Murder in 19th Century America, writes:
These 19th-century papers provide a missing link—a sympathetic view of the demimonde, appealing to a literate, urban and mostly male audience to balance the moralistic tone taken by mainstream publications of the time. While I was aware these papers existed, I had no idea how many different titles had been published and how many issues have survived. To have them all available in one place, carefully digitized and easily searchable, is invaluable. I was especially impressed by the quality of the illustrations which were often as important as the text in these publications and are as pleasing to contemporary readers as they were to rakes and sporting men. American Underworld: The Flash Press offers a unique perspective for scholars of American vice and crime as well as researchers in other scholarly areas such as urban life and women’s studies.
In 1895 editors at thirteen major American newspapers were asked to use their “prophetic powers” to forecast the news publishing world a century hence.
Over the previous decades, many of them had personally witnessed a host of “advancements in the art of newspaper making”: “from the Washington hand press to the perfecting press; from the stage coach to the telegraph; from paper at 10 cents to good paper at 2 cents a pound; from handset to marvelous typesetting machines…”
In this full-page article found in America’s Historical Newspapers, each of those prominent journalists “draw aside the curtain and peer into the future” to imagine the newspaper of 1995.
Here are excerpts from their predictions published nearly 120 years ago.