New-York Historical Society Library Exhibitions

All the News That’s Fit to Print – By Hand: Manuscript Periodicals from the New-York Historical Society



Vermont Autograph and Remarker, 1854

James Johns (1797-1874), Vermont Autograph and Remarker (Huntington, Vt.), 1 December 1854.

Were it not for its upward slanting lines of text, one might guess this tiny newspaper rolled off a press, but it was “pen printed.” Pen printing was a form of precise penmanship which strove to mimic type. A master of the art, and the creator of this issue of the Vermont Autograph and Remarker, was James Johns, self-appointed (and largely self-educated) chronicler of the Green Mountain State. For nearly sixty-five years he churned out stories, poems, sermons, and acrostics, but his occasional newspaper enjoyed the widest circulation. He distributed it for token sums (but more frequently gratis) between 1833 and 1873. Although Johns acquired a hand press in 1857, it lacked sufficient type to ink all four pages of the paper simultaneously, so he reverted to his tried — and quicker — method of pen printing.


Port Foulke Weekly News, 1860

Port Foulke Weekly News (Foulke Fjord, Greenland), vol. 1, no. 3 (25 November 1860).

Between November and December 1860, the crew of the schooner United States, on an Arctic exploration under Isaac Israel Hayes, issued seven numbers of a handwritten periodical from their base at Foulke Fjord, Greenland. The Port Foulke Weekly News included poems, essays, and humorous observations, but the submissions only went so far toward alleviating the frigid monotony. As the editor waxed darkly on 25 November (his tongue in shivering cheek):

Our readers no doubt think it very funny to write an Editorial; thermometer below zero, ink frozen, imagination congealed, memory gone with the summer, thoughts in the sunny south, and feet wrapped up in furs. But there’s no fun about it. . . . The Editor has a very uneasy chair. His bed is not a bed of roses, but a bed of ice. He eats ice, he drinks ice and he even smells ice. His editorial brethren have abandoned him to his fate, and he feels that there is nothing but ice in all the world. Ice! Ice!! Ice!!!


Prison Times, 1865

Prison Times (Fort Delaware, Delaware City, Del.), vol. 1, no. 1 (April 1865).

In April 1865, near the end of the Civil War, the Confederate detainees at Fort Delaware, on Pea Patch Island, created a manuscript newspaper, the Prison Times, which so closely mimicked printed publications that it included a masthead, motto (“en temps et lieu,” or “in time and place”), and advertisements for shoemaking, dentistry, and other services available in the camp. There were even debating clubs. The contributors’ wish to be “far away in our loved Sunny South” before they could have time to produce subsequent numbers came true: the hostilities ceased soon after this issue came out, so it remains an anomaly. Four copies are known to survive, each in the meticulous script of Captain J. W. Hibbs of the 13th Virginia Infantry, C.S.A.


Boys’ Gazette, 1879


The Yankee Boys, 1878

William Wright Patterson (1865-1887), Yankee Boys, vol. 1, no. 4 (19 October 1878) and The Boys’ Gazette, vol. 1, no. 3 (2 September 1879).

Some children of the nineteenth century, like Brooklynite William Wright Patterson, were inspired by publications such as The Youth’s Companion and St. Nicholas Magazine to write and illustrate their own periodicals. William’s contained a mix of sporting news (“Racing at Jerome Park”), advertisements (“BOSTON BAKED BEANS!”), and “photographs” of eminent Americans (note the toothless George Washington in the issue of Yankee Boys). Judging by the pictures of trains scattered throughout his Boys’ Gazette, William clearly fancied travel. Sadly, though, it seems his only major journey came near the end of his short life, when his parents sent William and his wife (he married at nineteen) to California in a futile attempt to fight off an illness. He died back in Brooklyn at age twenty-two.


The People’s Paper, 1887


The People’s Paper

Richard H. Gosman (1875-1946), three issues of The Peoples [sic] Paper, March, April, and June 1887.

Richard “Dick” Gosman was born in 1875 and raised on a farm in Blissville, Queens. Between ages ten and fourteen (1886-1889) he produced several handcrafted periodicals, of which his monthly Peoples Paper ran the longest, from January 1887 through at least February 1888. Dick (whose self-portrait graces the cover of the March 1887 issue) copied stories from printed journals like Harper’s Young People and Golden Days for Boys and Girls, but he also “published” original tales, local news, and funny pictures, like the one below from April 1887 of John L. Sullivan, the Boxing Elephant, a genuine circus attraction of the day. Advertisements on the back page of the June 1887 issue hawked real stores like Ridley’s, on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, as well as Dick’s own poultry and egg business. A regular “Household Column” carried recipes, but one senses how the editor must have pestered his mother once too often for ideas: he announced conclusively in July 1887 that “NO RECEIPTS WILL BE IN THE PEOPLES PAPER ANY MORE.”


Eight anonymous manuscript “dime novels,” late nineteenth or early twentieth century.

The creator(s) of these miniature “dime novels” clearly had that genre in mind: their alliterative titles, exotic settings, and graphic cover illustrations (all drawn freehand!) mimic the adventure-filled serials that sold for ten cents around the turn of the twentieth century. Compare the leopard mauling a man on the cover of Will Wizard: Or, The Young Hunter Afloat (bottom row, second from left), to the lion mauling a man on the cover of A New-York Boy Out With Stanley; Or, A Journey Through Africa, issued in 1901 (below). Although these diminutive works were purportedly written by “E. T. Ellis,” “Liuetenant T. Mark,” “Ned Perce,” and “Captain Starbuck,” those names are probably pseudonyms for one or two authors who may or may not have copied from existing publications. Unlike most dime novels, which followed the cliffhanging exploits of their characters week to week, these little magazines are each “complete in one number.”


Pluck and Luck, 1901

This exhibit was curated by Joseph Ditta, Reference Archivist, Manuscripts Division


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