|Some New York newsstands still use wooden blocks to keep|
papers from blowing away. The Sun ceased publication in 1950.
When I was growing up, my father’s job involved writing, editing, and a bit of public relations. As a result, he often received promotional material that combined imaginative graphics with fun facts, and he would diligently pack these items into his leather briefcase and bring them home to my brother and me.
One of our treasures was a poster of the U.S. presidents that stopped at LBJ. We would spread it out on the wood floor and pore over it, and to this day its configuration of the presidents is how I envision them: in rows on shiny pale blue paper, their portraits in black and white and framed by ovals. They come to me in heavenly groups of seven (joke) – Washington to Van Buren, William Henry Harrison to Buchanan, Lincoln to Benjamin Harrison, and so on.
|William Henry Harrison framed by an oval|
My father also brought home a map of the U.S. marked with all of the major daily newspapers. The names of the papers were confounding and – because of their association with unfamiliar cities – rather exotic.
Cleveland Plain Dealer
New Orleans Times-Picayune
Des Moines Register
San Jose Mercury News
Most of these newspapers were founded well before the Civil War. The Hartford Courant was founded in 1764. Obviously, the names are vintage and contain words that are not in common usage today.
|Cleveland Plain Dealer, circa World War I|
A plain dealer was an honest broker. Registers and ledgers referred to the endless lists of information, usually related to debt, travel and mail, which occupied many pages of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century newspapers. Bee possibly meant a group of people working together, like a sewing bee. But who knows? Perhaps it referred to the insect bee which gathered and spread news as if it were pollen.
Mercury must have been derived from the Roman god Mercury, who was a messenger. The picayune was a Spanish coin whose name came from the French word picaillon. Courant, also from the French, means running.
|Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 1897|
It’s nearly impossible to write about newspapers without bemoaning their slow death. Yet despite hundreds of consolidations during the past several decades, many of the original names -- or vestiges of them -- remain. The 1982 merger of the Atlanta Journal and the Atlanta Constitution resulted, for example, in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. That’s pretty remarkable, considering our unsentimental penchant for tossing out the old.
Returning to the sixties.
After my father brought the map home, it took a few days to memorize the names of the newspapers. I remember walking home from school on a spring afternoon, announcing them inside my head as if it were 1941 and I was a big band leader, introducing the members of the rhythm section.
| Jackson Clarion-Ledger|
Jackson, Mississippi, 1912