April 12th marked the 150th anniversary of the first shots of the Civil War at Fort Sumter, SC. I was curious what the newspaper headlines looked like, so I decided to check it out in bound volumes of Civil War era newspapers at the Dayton Metro Library.
Here is what the front page of the Daily Dayton Journal for April 13, 1861, looked like:
Hmm…a bit bland. I don’t know why I’m always still surprised when mid-19th century papers don’t have a lot of pictures or graphics, but somehow I am. Here’s a close-up of the text from the center just under the masthead, so you can actually read the text:
Looks like capital letters, spacing, italics and exclamations points were the old-school tools of print media to get an urgent message across!
The Daily Dayton Journal was the Republican newspaper in Dayton at that time.
The Democratic paper was the Dayton Daily Emipire (of which notorious Copperhead and Daytonian Clement Vallandingham was an early part owner). Unfortunately, the library does not happen to have any issues of the Empire for April 1861. I did, however, look at a few issues from 1860, which included an interesting note on “True Republicans”.
If you know anything about the history of the press, you know that newspapers could be very political and papers with opposing viewpoints often sparred with one another. For instance, here’s another snippet from the Empire proclaiming to include “a great many things not in this morning’s Journal“.
Oh politics and the press… I can still remember a time when I didn’t realize the media was partisan. Ah, to be young again. Ha!
I have made a mental note to myself to check both of these papers for some other crucial dates and events of the Civil War and see what each has to say. I have some obvious dates in mind, such as the Battle of Gettysburg, the Emancipation Proclamation, the surrender of Lee and the assassination of Lincoln. (I hope both papers are available; there are gaps in the Empire especially.)
If anyone has any other suggestions of dates/events to look for, I’d be glad to hear them. And don’t forget, you can always visit the Dayton Metro Library‘s Magazines & Special Collections department (basement of Main) and review our historic newspapers for yourself!🙂