Infamous Scribblers is a perceptive and witty exploration of the most volatile period in the history of the American press. News correspondent and renonwned media historian Eric Burns tells of Ben Franklin, Alexander Hamilton and Sam Adams—the leading journalists among the Founding Fathers; of George Washington and John Adams, the leading disdainers of journalists; and Thomas Jefferson, the leading manipulator of journalists. These men and the writers who abused and praised them in print (there was, at the time, no job description of "journalist") included the incendiary James Franklin, Ben's brother and one of the first muckrakers; the high minded Thomas Paine; the hatchet man James Callender, and a rebellious crowd of propagandists, pamphleteers, and publishers. It was Washington who gave this book its title. He once wrote of his dismay at being "buffited in the public prints by a set of infamous scribblers." The journalism of the era was often partisan, fabricated, overheated, scandalous, sensationalistic and sometimes stirring, brilliant, and indispensable. Despite its flaws—even because of some of them—the participants hashed out publicly the issues that would lead America to declare its independence and, after the war, to determine what sort of nation it would be.
While American literary history has long acknowledged the profound influence of journalism on canonical male writers, Sari Edelstein argues that American women writers were also influenced by a dynamic relationship with the mainstream press. From the early republic through the turn of the twentieth century, she offers a comprehensive reassessment of writers such as Catharine Maria Sedgwick, Harriet Jacobs, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Drawing on slave narratives, sentimental novels, and realist fiction, Edelstein examines how advances in journalism—including the emergence of the penny press, the rise of the story-paper, and the birth of eyewitness reportage—shaped not only a female literary tradition but also gender conventions themselves. Excluded from formal politics and lacking the vote, women writers were deft analysts of the prevalent tropes and aesthetic gestures of journalism, which they alternately relied upon and resisted in their efforts to influence public opinion and to intervene in political debates. Ultimately, Between the Novel and the News is a project of recovery that transforms our understanding of the genesis and the development of American women’s writing.
David B. Sachsman and David W. Bulla have gathered a colorful collection of essays exploring sensationalism in nineteenth-century newspaper reporting. The contributors analyze the role of sensationalism and tell the story of both the rise of the penny press in the 1830s and the careers of specific editors and reporters dedicated to this particular journalistic style. Divided into four sections, the first, titled "The Many Faces of Sensationalism," provides an eloquent defense of yellow journalism, analyzes the place of sensational pictures, and provides a detailed examination of the changes in reporting over a twenty-year span. The second part, "Mudslinging, Muckraking, Scandals, and Yellow Journalism," focuses on sensationalism and the American presidency as well as why journalistic muckraking came to fruition in the Progressive Era. The third section, "Murder, Mayhem, Stunts, Hoaxes, and Disasters," features a groundbreaking discussion of the place of religion and death in nineteenth-century newspapers. The final section explains the connection between sensationalism and hatred. This is a must-read book for any historian, journalist, or person interested in American culture.
When a fiery meteor crash in 1807 lit up the dark early-morning sky in Weston, Connecticut, it did more than startle the few farmers in the sleepy village. More importantly, it sparked the curiosity of Benjamin Silliman, a young chemistry professor at nearby Yale College. His rigorous investigation of the incident started a chain of events that eventually brought the once-low standing of American science to sudden international prominence. And, by coincidence, the event also embroiled Silliman in politics, pitting him against no less an adversary than President Thomas Jefferson. Based on a wealth of original source documents and interiews with current experts in history, astronomy, and geology, this journalist tells the remarkable story of Benjamin Silliman, arguably America’s first bonafide scientist. In a lively narrative rich with fascinating historical detail, the author documents the primitive state of American science at the time; Silliman’s careful analysis of the meteor samples; and the publication of his conclusions, which contradicted both popular superstitions regarding meteors as ominous portents and a common belief that meteors come from volcanic eruptions on the moon. She also describes Silliman’s struggles to build a chemistry department at Yale with rudimentary material; new insights into geology that resulted from his analysis of the meteor; and his report to the prestigious French Academy, which raised the prestige of American science. Finally, she discusses the political turbulence of the time, which Silliman could not escape, and how the meteor event was used to drive a wedge between New England and Jefferson. This is a fascinating vignette of Federal Period America when science on this continent was still in its infancy, but was just beginning to make its mark. From the Hardcover edition.
Until relatively recently, the connection between British imperial history and the history of early America was taken for granted. In recent times, however, early American historiography has begun to suffer from a loss of coherent definition as competing manifestos demand various reorderings of the subject in order to combine time periods and geographical areas in ways that would have previously seemed anomalous. It has also become common place to announce that the history of America is best accounted for in America itself in a three-way melee between "settlers", the indigenous populations, and the forcibly transported African slaves and their creole descendants. The contributions to British North America in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries acknowledge the value of the historiographic work done under this new dispensation in the last two decades and incorporate its insights. However, the volume advocates a pluralistic approach to the subject generally, and attempts to demonstrate that the metropolitan power was of more than secondary importance to America in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The central theme of this volume is the question "to what extent did it make a difference to those living in the colonies that made up British North America in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries that they were part of an empire and that the empire in question was British?" The contributors, some of the leading scholars in their respective fields, strive to answer this question in various social, political, religious, and historical contexts.
Before colonial Americans could declare independence, they had to undergo a change of heart. Beyond a desire to rebel against British mercantile and fiscal policies, they had to believe that they could stand up to the fully armed British soldier. Prelude to Revolution uncovers one story of how the Americans found that confidence. On April 19, 1775, British raids on Lexington Green and Concord Bridge made history, but it was an episode nearly two months earlier in Salem, Massachusetts, that set the stage for the hostilities. Peter Charles Hoffer has discovered records and newspaper accounts of a British gunpowder raid on Salem. Seeking powder and cannon hidden in the town, a regiment of British Regulars were foiled by quick-witted patriots who carried off the ordnance and then openly taunted the Regulars. The prudence of British commanding officer Alexander Leslie and the persistence of the patriot leaders turned a standoff into a bloodless triumph for the colonists. What might have been a violent confrontation turned into a local victory, and the patriots gloated as news spread of "Leslie’s Retreat." When British troops marched on Lexington and Concord on that pivotal day in April, Hoffer explains, each side had drawn diametrically opposed lessons from the Salem raid. It emboldened the rebels to stand fast and infuriated the British, who vowed never again to back down. After relating these battles in vivid detail, Hoffer provides a teachable problem in historic memory by asking why we celebrate Lexington and Concord but not Salem and why New Englanders recalled the events at Salem but then forgot their significance. Praise for the work of Peter Charles Hoffer "This book more than succeeds in achieving its goal of helping students understand and appreciate the cultural and intellectual environment of the Anglophone world."— New England Quarterly, reviewing When Benjamin Franklin Met the Reverend Whitefield "A synthetic essay of considerable grace and scope... An excellent overview of the field."— Journal of Legal History, reviewing Law and People in Colonial America