The First African-American Newspaper in Indianapolis Digitized

117 issues of the Indianapolis Leader (1879-1882) are available here.
117 issues of the Indianapolis Leader (1879-1882) are available at Hoosier State Chronicles.

The Indianapolis Leader began in August 1879 as the city’s first black newspaper.  Three brothers, Benjamin, Robert, and James Bagby published the four-page, Republican oriented weekly with the motto “An Equal Chance and Fair Play.”  The Bagbys advertised the paper as follows: “Let every colored man who favors the elevation of his race subscribe for the Leader; and let every white man who believes that slavery was a crime against humanity and that it is the duty of the ruling race to aid the Negro in his struggle for moral, social and intellectual elevation do likewise.”  A correspondent to the Leader wrote, “The interchange of ideas and opinions so judiciously fostered by the Leader is most beneficial to the race in every way….It is a great educator.”  The Leader encouraged northern migration for southern African Americans, and carried society news for Indianapolis’s African-American community.  The Leader’s reported circulation in 1884 was 3,000.  Two other African-American newspapers debuted around this time, the Indianapolis Freeman (1884) and the Indianapolis Colored  World (1883).

The Bagby’s sold the Leader in 1885, and its transition at that point is unclear although it ceased to be an African-American newspaper.  By 1886, Edward Hutchins was editing and publishing the Leader as a four-page, Greenback affiliated weekly.  Vermillion County farmers Andrew J. and Lewis H. Johnson acquired it the next year, before Thomas J. Sharp took over as editor and publisher in 1888.  Sharp advertised the Leader as “The great Union Labor paper of Indiana….It circulates…chiefly among farmers and the laboring people.”  Sharp reported a circulation of 3,200 in 1888, but the figures fell to 2,300 by 1890.  The falling readership perhaps prompted Sharp to sell the paper to John Medert in 1890.  Sharp returned as editor in 1891, but the Leader ceased publication sometime that year.

A history of the Jasper Weekly Courier

The Jasper Weekly Courier, click to access 3,232 issues between 1858-1922 at Hoosier State Chronicles.

The Jasper Weekly Courier debuted on March 19, 1858 in Jasper, Indiana.  Jasper, the county seat of Dubois County in southern Indiana,was an agricultural trade center near iron and coal deposits.  John Mehringer, Rudolphus Smith, and Clement Doane published the Courier as an organ of the Democratic Party.  The Courier was the first newspaper published in the county since the American Eagle left Jasper in 1848 after a two year publication run.  On November 1, 1859, Doane became sole proprietor of the Courier.  The paper endorsed Stephen A. Douglas in the 1860 presidential election.  The Courier drew criticism early in the Civil War for being disunionist.  Doane fired back with an editorial affirming his loyalty, but lamented “a Union which requires bayonets and bullets to keep it together.”  In 1872, Doane expanded the four page [five column] weekly to eight pages [also five columns].  He continued to publish the newspaper until his death in 1904.  His son, Benjamin E., assumed publishing duties until his death in 1922.  Benjamin Doane’s children briefly tried to maintain the Courier, but the newspaper’s publication ceased in July 1922.

For most of its sixty-four year existence, the Courier was the oldest, continuously published, English language newspaper in Dubois County.  Jasper’s population ranged from 1,000 to 2,000 during the Courier’s lifetime, and the newspaper’s reported circulation ranged from 350 in 1869 to 750 in 1920.  Since the county had a large German speaking population, the very first issue of the Courier bore an advertisement in German announcing, “Advertisements in German will always be handled in this office in the best and cheapest manner.”  In 1867, a German language newspaper, the Signal, premeried in nearby Huntingburg to better serve German speaking residents of the county, and eventually boasted a larger circulation than any other nineteenth-century Dubois County newspaper.  The Courier’s first viable English language competitor, the Jasper Times, debuted in 1879 as a Democratic organ.  The Times converted to a Republican newspaper in 1883, and by 1890 reportedly out-circulated the Courier, 700 issues to 572.  Despite this success the Times folded in 1891.  Four years later in 1895, the Jasper Herald premiered.  The Herald was also a Democratic voice, and eventually superseded the Courier with circulations over 1,000 in the 1910s.

Football Season Begins…in 1901

Indianapolis Journal, September 3, 1901. Hoosier State Chronicles.

Football season is upon us.  Hoosiers love their high school squads, college teams, and the Colts.  Indiana residents even loved football in 1901, when the state’s past-time of basketball was still in its infancy.  Read more about Indiana football at the dawn of the 20th century in the Indianapolis Journal above.

100 Years Ago today in Indiana, as Reported in the Jasper Weekly Courier

Jasper Weekly Courier, August 29, 1913. Chronicling America.

There are currently over 63,000 pages of historic Indiana newspapers available for free through the Chronicling of America website at the Library of Congress.  You can find many great pieces of the past there.  For instance, if you wanted to find out what happened 100 years ago today, you could check out the Jasper Weekly Courier for August 29, 1913.  The Courier ran a column titled “Happenings in Indiana,” click on the image to the right, and go to the sixth column.

You can also peruse the entire issue of the paper at this link Jasper Weekly Courier.

A Brief History of the Indianapolis Journal

Indianapolis Journal, March 1, 1895. Hoosier State Chronicles.

Access 32 years of the Indianapolis Journal (1872-04)!

In 1825, Indiana state printer John Douglass relocated with the state capital from Corydon to Indianapolis, then a town with less than 1,000 residents.  Douglass had previously published the short-lived Madison (IN) Western Clarion, and upon arriving in Indianapolis purchased a share of the Western Censor and Emigrants Guide.  Douglass and his partner, Douglass Maguire, changed the name to the Indiana Journal, and produced their first issue on January 11, 1825.  The anti-Jacksonian publishers advocated for government sponsored internal improvements and protective tariffs that would aid Indiana’s agricultural economy.  These political positions led the Journal to align with the emerging Whig Party in the 1830s.

Beginning in 1839 the publishers increased and varied the Journal’s publication frequency based upon when the Indiana General Assembly convened; what had hitherto been a weekly edition, became semi-weekly, tri-weekly, and daily at different times from 1839-1851 to accommodate more state legislative news.  In 1840, Douglass and his new partner, Samuel V. B. Noel, also issued a campaign newspaper, the Spirit of ’76, which supported former Indiana Territorial Governor William Henry Harrison’s Whig candidacy for President of the United States.  After eighteen years operating the Journal, Douglass sold his interest to Noel in 1843.  Noel only maintained sole ownership of the paper for two years, but during that time he changed the name of the paper to the Indiana State Journal, and he allowed Henry Ward Beecher to edit and issue the Indiana Farmer from the Journal’s presses.

John D. Defrees, former publisher of the Northwestern Pioneer and St. Joseph Intelligencer in South Bend, acquired the Journal in 1845 and operated it until 1854.  Defrees continued the Journal as a Whig organ, and the paper’s editorials criticizing the Democratic administration’s conduct of the Mexican-American War echoed Whig rhetoric heard around the country.  Defrees’s use of the Journal to spread Whig ideas made him an important Indiana political voice, and when the Whig Party collapsed in the early 1850s Defrees became an important leader in the fusionist movement that established the Republican Party in Indiana.  Defrees also made several important changes to the Journal and Indiana journalism.  He installed the city’s first steam driven printing press, expanded the page format from four to six columns, and introduced better quality illustrations.  Defrees also conducted a fierce rivalry with the Democratic Indiana State Sentinel, and introduced Indianapolis’s first permanent daily, the Daily Indiana State Journal, one week before the Sentinel’s daily premiered in April 1851.  The daily edition’s title changed to Indianapolis Morning Journal in 1853, the Indianapolis Daily Journal in 1854, and simply the Indianapolis Journal in 1867.  The fledgling Indianapolis Locomotive, the brain-child of some Journal apprentices in 1845, demonstrated the reading public’s appetite for more local and society news.  The Journal’s daily production schedule created room for local stories, and next day reporting.

One of the most important nineteenth-century Indiana journalists, Berry R. Sulgrove, joined the Journal in 1854 as editor.  Sulgrove also wrote much local news copy.  He acquired controlling interest in the Journal by 1856, and transitioned the Journal from Whig into the Republican camp.  During the Civil War, Sulgrove penned strong Unionist editorials that supported the policies of President Abraham Lincoln and Governor Oliver P. Morton.  During the war, the Journal’s daily circulation reached 6,000; for comparison the city’s pre-war population was 18,611.

Indiana had a bustling literary scene in the late 1800s, which was due in part to the Journal’s managing editor Elijah W. Halford’s advocacy and support of Hoosier authors.  James Whitcomb Riley, the “Hoosier Poet,” greatly benefitted from Halford’s patronage.  Riley published hundreds of poems and humor pieces in the Journal from 1877-1901, and also worked as a Journal reporter for few years.

In 1880, John C. New became Indiana’s Republican Party Chairman, and purchased the Journal.  New’s greatest success as a political operative and a newspaper publisher was his advocacy of Benjamin Harrison for the Republican presidential nomination in 1888.  New first suggested Harrison for president in 1884, and redoubled his efforts in 1888.  He avidly promoted Harrison’s candidacy in Journal editorials, and distributed thousands of Journal issues among delegates at the Republican National Convention that subsequently nominated Harrison.  The Journal’s role in Harrison’s nomination and subsequent election to the presidency elevated the newspaper’s national profile.

The increased profile, however, did not translate to better sales.  In 1890, the Journal’s daily circulation of 8,263 was paltry compared to its competitors the Indianapolis News with 21,468 and the Sentinel with 15,800.  In the late 1890s the Journal faced even more competition from yellow journalism that used sensational headlines to drive sales.  The ever respectable Journal editors explained, “The Journal refuses to put itself on a level with the cheap papers flooding the country, and therefore appeals only to that class of reading public which wants the news presented in a decent and dignified manner.”  The Journal managed to boost its daily circulation to a high in 1901 with 22,320, but in a city of 170,000 the News remained the leader with almost 50,000 daily issues in circulation.  Three years later in June 1904, George McCulloch, publisher of the recently established Indianapolis Morning Star, purchased the Journal.  McCulloch issued the paper as the Indianapolis Morning Star and Journal until October 26, 1904 when he dropped Journal from the title.

Bibliography

Irby, Harold F. “A History of the Indianapolis Journal” Master’s thesis, Butler University, 1936. Access it here: http://digitalcommons.butler.edu/grtheses/224/

Miller, John W. Indiana Newspaper Bibliography. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society, 1982.

“Berry R. Sulgrove, Journalist,” Indiana Magazine of History 1 (1905): 139-147.

Sulgrove, Berry R. History of Indianapolis and Marion County, Indiana. Philadelphia: L. H. Everts & Co., 1884.

NEH funding renewed for two more years of digitizing Indiana newspapers

The following is a news release from the Library of Congress about new grant awards for the upcoming two years, including more Indiana newspapers!  Historic newspapers slated to be added in the coming two years include more issues of the Indianapolis Journal and the Indiana Tribüne, that we were unable to incorporate during the first grant.  In addition, the Western Sun, published in Vincennes, Indiana, will be included in the project.  The Sun has a long history in Indiana; it has been in continuous publication, despite turnovers in ownership and name changes, since it was started on July 4, 1807.

NEH Announces $3.5 Million for 2013 NDNP Awards, including Participation by 4 New States and Territories

July 29, 2013

Recently the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) announced 14 awards totaling $3.5 million to institutions representing their states or territories in the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP). Three projects – sponsored by the Connecticut State Library; the Idaho State Historical Society; and the Mississippi Department of Archives and History – are new to the program this year. The University of Florida returns to NDNP, partnered with a new NDNP participant, the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras, to digitize newspapers from both locations. Ten other institutions – University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; Indiana State Library; Kansas State Historical Society; Louisiana State University Libraries; Montana Historical Society; State Historical Society of North Dakota; Oklahoma Historical Society; University of Oregon Libraries; University of South Carolina; and West Virginia University Research Corporation – have received continuing awards to contribute additional content to the program.

This funding will support the selection and digitization of historic American newspapers published between 1836 and 1922 by each participating state, according to NDNP technical guidelines. The Library of Congress (LC) will make these newspapers freely available through the Chronicling America Website (http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/) beginning in mid-2014. In all, 37 states and territories have participated in the program.

NDNP, a partnership between the NEH and the LC, is a long-term effort to provide an Internet-based, searchable database of all U.S. newspapers with descriptive information and select digitization of historic pages. Supported by NEH, this rich digital resource will be developed and permanently maintained at the Library of Congress. The NEH grant program will fund the contribution of content from, eventually, all U.S. states and territories…. Read more about it!

The Secret Surgery of President Grover Cleveland: Indiana State Sentinel, July 5, 1893

President Grover Cleveland. Wiki Commons.

In the midst of the fight for repeal of Free Silver coinage in 1893, Cleveland sought the advice of the White House doctor, Dr. O’Reilly, about soreness on the roof of his mouth and a crater-like edge ulcer with a granulated surface on the left side of Cleveland’s hard palate. Samples of the tumor were sent anonymously to the army medical museum. The diagnosis was not a malignant cancer, but instead an epithelioma.

Indiana State Sentinel – July 5 1893 – Hoosier State Chronicles

Cleveland decided to have surgery secretly, to avoid further panic that might worsen the financial depression. The surgery occurred on July 1, to give Cleveland time to make a full recovery in time for the upcoming Congressional session. Under the guise of a vacation cruise, Cleveland and his surgeon, Dr. Joseph Bryant, left for New York. The surgeons operated aboard the Oneida, a yacht owned by Cleveland’s friend E. C. Benedict, as it sailed off Long Island. The surgery was conducted through the president’s mouth, to avoid any scars or other signs of surgery. The team, sedating Cleveland with nitrous oxide and ether, successfully removed parts of his upper left jaw and hard palate. The size of the tumor and the extent of the operation left Cleveland’s mouth disfigured. During another surgery, Cleveland was fitted with a hard rubber dental prosthesis that corrected his speech and restored his appearance. A cover story about the removal of two bad teeth kept the suspicious press placated. Even when a newspaper story appeared giving details of the actual operation, the participating surgeons discounted the severity of what transpired during Cleveland’s vacation. In 1917, one of the surgeons present on the Oneida, Dr. William W. Keen, wrote an article detailing the operation.

Cleveland enjoyed many years of life after the tumor was removed, and there was some debate as to whether it was actually malignant. Several doctors, including Dr. Keen, stated after Cleveland’s death that the tumor was a carcinoma. Other suggestions included ameloblastoma or a benign salivary mixed tumor (also known as a pleomorphic adenoma). In the 1980s, analysis of the specimen finally confirmed the tumor to be verrucous carcinoma, a low-grade epithelial cancer with a low potential for metastasis.

President Lincoln and Religion: The Evening Journal, September 6,1872

President Abraham Lincoln. Nathan Greene Studio.

“Mr. Lincoln’s Religious Views
The testimony of Mrs. Rebecca R. Pomeroy of Newton, Mass.”

(Page one, third column, seventh title down.)

 

Indianapolis Journal, September 6, 1872. Hoosier State Chronicles.

Susan B. Anthony Arrested for Voting: The Evening Journal, November 25, 1872

Susan B. Anthony, in her older years. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
Susan B. Anthony, in her older years. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

“Miss Anthony in Court.”

First appearance of a woman on charge of illegal voting.
[Reprint from the Rochester Democrat, November 10, 1872] 

 

The Evening Journal, November 25, 1872. Hoosier State Chronicles.

 

%d bloggers like this: