Project News

Printer’s Devil

“Printer’s devil” was the name given to an apprentice in a newspaper’s print room. Tasks ranged from preparing the ink, paper and type for the presses, to cleaning the machines, and running any other errands delegated by the printer. Many printer’s devils worked their way up to become master printers; others went even further and became editors or publishers. Former printer’s devils here in Tennessee include Adolph Ochs and William Rule.

“Printer’s Devil” is also the title of an excellent Twilight Zone episode (starring Burgess Meredith) set in a small town newspaper office.


Batch Names

In Tuesday’s post, I mentioned that the latest Tennessee batch to be included in Chronicling America was named homer. NDNP guidelines require each batch to be identified with a unique name. Awardees are given free rein to name them, so usually have some fun with it. You can check out other awardees’ batch names here in Chronicling America (click on “batches”).

Here’s a list of batch names for Tennessee. See if you can guess what we’ve named them after. There are a few that will probably give it away …

archie, bonnielou, chet, dolly, elvis, furry, grady, homer, isaac, jethro, kitty, luke, monroe

If you still haven’t guessed it, here are some visual clues:

Answer: They’re all Tennessee musicians.

The Lively Morgue

Sorting News Pictures (undated)

This eye-catching new project from the New York Times covers a more recent time period than the newspapers we’re digitizing for Chronicling America, but is well worth a look for anyone interested in newspaper history; particularly photography.

The paper plans to publish several photographs online each week from its vast archive (“morgue”). To give you an idea of just how vast the archive is, the website states, “If we posted 10 new archival pictures every weekday on Tumblr, just from our print collection, we wouldn’t have the whole thing online until the year 3935.”

Perhaps even more intriguing than the photographs themselves, is the information written and printed on the reverse of each print. This information provides an invaluable insight into the editing and publishing process.


9,500 Pages Added to Chronicling America

Tennessee’s 8th batch of digitized historical newspapers – batch homer – was added to Chronicling America over the weekend, bringing our state’s total to 66,743 pages. The latest titles to appear are: the Athens Post, the Clarksville Chronicle, the Columbia Herald, and the Fayetteville Observer.

This copy of the Athens Post appears to have belonged to Isaac T. Lenoir, local politician and founder of the nearby town of Sweetwater, Tenn. At the time of this newspaper, Sweetwater had only recently been established and was not incorporated until seven years later.

Athens Post. July 3, 1868

Spirit of the Tennessee Press

Illustration from Mark Twain’s Sketches, New and Old (1882)

Twain’s Journalism in Tennessee (see November 30 post) may be fiction but it isn’t too far removed from the reality of the times. Tennessee seemed to have quite the reputation for editorial feuds, as noted in this report from Nashville, printed in the New York Times, November 15, 1908.


The newspapers covering the infamous editorial feud between George G. Poindexter and Allen Hall, mentioned in the clipping above, can now be accessed through Chronicling America. Poindexter, editor of the Nashville Union and American had been caught up in an “editorial war” with Hall of the Nashville Daily News. The conflict reached a high point in November 1859, when Poindexter accused Hall of being an abolitionist. Threats were exchanged, and when Poindexter confronted Hall at his office, Hall shot and killed him.

Search Chronicling America for more on this story, including details from the court case.

Announcement of G.G. Poindexter’s death, Nashville Union and American November 19, 1859

Chronicling America Update

We’ve almost reached the half way mark. There are now 47,982 pages of Tennessee newspapers available on Chronicling America.

Recently added titles: the Bristol News, Brownlow’s Knoxville Whig, William Rule’s Knoxville Chronicle and the Nashville Daily Union.

The update includes a copy of this April 15, 1865, Extra edition of the Nashville Daily Union, announcing President Lincoln’s death. Note the heavy black lines between the columns and around the border; a visual device used by newspapers to signify the death of a prominent person.