“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.
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 …
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.
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.
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.
In celebration of Mark Twain’s 176th birthday, here’s a link to his satirical account of life in a fictional newspaper office, inspired by his experiences as a printer and journalist in Tennessee in the 1850s.
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.