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Famous Newspapers Often Reprinted

Historical newspapers were often reprinted to be sold or given away as souvenirs as far back as 1826. They were available at souvenir stands in the area of the event (e.g. Ford's Theatre) or for special events such as a GAR meeting. These filled a demand for the items that the surviving originals could not fill.

Unfortunately today many people find these reprints tucked away in trunks or boxes in their attic thinking they found a historical treasure. Surely it must be original because it is so old. Sadly they look old because they are old, just not an original issue. While the original issue might survive in a small handful of copies (two in one case), tens or hundreds of thousands were reprinted and they have a much higher survival rate. The American Antiquarian Society is fortunate enough to have originals of the most often reprinted issues.

The most often reprinted issues were:

  • Ulster County Gazette. Kingston, New York, January 4, 1800. This has a report on the death of George Washington. It is the earliest reprinted American newspaper, first reprinted in 1826. AAS and the Library of Congress have the only two known issues. Over sixty reprints have been identified.
  • New York Herald. April 15, 1865. This has the first report of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Some reprints have an out of date woodcut of Lincoln showing him beardless. The original did not have any illustrations and this was added later to make the newspaper more visually appealing. Another common feature of some reprints is the Extra 8:10 a.m. edition.
  • Daily Citizen. Vicksburg, Mississippi. When General Grant and his troupes took over the city, the printer, J.M. Swords, fled leaving the type standing. By this time due to a paper shortage, Swords was printing the newspaper on the back of unused wallpaper. The Union soldiers reset the type in the last column and printed a special issue for themselves. Very few originals have survived, but it has been reprinted over thirty times. AAS has 3 copies of the original, each printed on a different pattern of wallpaper.
In Joseph Gavit's A List of American Newspaper Reprints (NY: The New York Public Library, 1931), he lists 187 different reprints and many more have been identified since its publication.

The Library of Congress issued a series of 18 Information Circulars on authenticating old newspapers. The text is now available online at: http://www.loc.gov/rr/news/circulars/circulars.html

- Vincent Golden, Curator of Newspapers and Periodicals

 

 


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Last updated January 30, 2005

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