The Press Gang: Newspapers and Politics, 1865-1878

By Mark Wahlgren Summers | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1
Wonderful! Wonderful!

Traveling down the Mississippi on a steamboat in 1871, a journalist watched a yawl shoot out from the bank. If he thought that the two passengers were coming to board or trade, he was quickly set right. "Throw me a paper! " one of them shouted, "throw me a paper!" Visiting America just after the Civil War, Scotsman David Macrae found newspapers as necessary as money but much more plentiful. Even some prisons supplied prisoners with the morning edition. To do otherwise, a warden informed one visitor, would be cruel and unusual punishment. By Macrae's count, more dailies were published in New York City in 1868 than in England, Scotland, and Ireland combined. 1

Americans going abroad were impressed in just the opposite way. They returned aware that the press at home was something special. Anglophiles at the Nation, America's foremost journal of opinion, had to admit that while European journals beat American ones for editorial writing, they came nowhere close at news .gathering. For all the wit and eloquence in their political essays, French newspapers struck travelers as sensational claptrap;

-9-

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