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Phil Barber, Cambridge, Mass. 02139 Telephone (617) 492-4653
An Abundant Reproduction
The Ulster County Gazette of January 4, 1800 is among the most commonly encountered imitation old newspapers. If you have one, it is a later reproduction and has little or no value to collectors.
"No other item in American literature has received such extensive, minute and careful studay as this Ulster County Gazette. . . Sixty-seven reprints, beginning about 1825, have been catalogued. There is little surprise in the quotation that the Ulster County Gazette 'covers the country like the dew' (Vail). Probably a ten-year-old issue of any present day newspaper in the United States would be more difficult to find than one of the reprints of this paper..." - Edmond S. Meany, The Ulster County Gazette, article in the January, 1931, issue of the Washington Historical Quarterly, Seattle.
Over the years Washington memorabilia has been avidly sought - and this particular issue has been heavily reproduced. It is important to note that these reproductions were not made as impositions on collectors, but rather were used for educational or souvenir purposes. In most cases they are do not follow the original typesetting are are of course printed on paper made from technologies that did not exist in 1800.
Only Two Originals Exist
For many years, a single example of this newspaper was known to have survived. It was from this issue, and a possible 1825 reprint by the original publisher, that the reproductions have been made, some in facsimile, most completely different in layout. A comprehensive search for Washington souvenirs in 1930, connected with the 200th anniversary of the General's birth, turned up, against all the odds, a second copy of this issue. It was found in Europe, among the papers of Lt. Col. Bernhard Anton Von Klock, commander of a regiment of the Continental Army. His brother's family in the Mohawk Valley sent him occasional American newspapers.
These two are the only known genuine specimens of this newspaper in existence. Neither is in private hands and there is no chance of a third copy surfacing today in the general market, after so many years of searching by historians. The original press run was probably no more than 500 copies, and the survival of just two of them is quite in keeping with documented survival rates of other period newspapers.
The Era of the Reproductions
Earlier Americans were enormously proud of the history and their first President. Historical memorabilia was very collectible, and, surprisingly to modern collectors, little distinction was made between genuine items and souvenir reproductions.
The uncertainty of the 1850's generated a powerful wave of nostalgia for America's "good old days". A colorful legend was invented, that a copy of this newspaper was discovered in the demolition of an old home, and it was decided to reproduce it for public sale as an historical souvenir. Accordingly the Longley brothers of Cincinnati began mass production of this newspaper, which contains news of the honors paid by the Congress to the late George Washington. Their advertisement reproduced here ran in a Cincinnati newspaper in 1858; you will note that it specifies that thousands of copies are being turned out. In fact there are five know varieties from this printer alone. There have been at least seventy other reprints of this paper, plus many more that are at present not completely documented. The earliest verified reproduction dates to 1849 or 1850, though it is thought that the first may have been made as early as 1825 as noted above.
Most of the reprints were done between 1875 and 1889, so they indeed look and feel "old" although the experienced collector will immediately notice that the typography and paper are not consistent with the kinds used in 1800. A large number, estimated at more than 100,000 copies in some ten variants, was printed as souvenirs for the tourists at the nation's hundredth birthday Exposition held at Philadelphia in 1876. Some obvious reproductions bear the 1876 date, some are marked "fac-simile"; many imitations bear the legend "Copy-Right Secured", which the originals of course do not. In some varieties appears a price of 25¢. The hundredth anniversary of Washington's Inaugural in 1889 produced another half-dozen varieties.
A variant exists in which the newspaper's title appears as The Continental Intelligencer, while the content is that of a Gazette reprint. It was issued as a fundraiser in 1875.
In 1889, the 100th anniversary of George Washington's inaugural as the U.S.'s first President, a unique new variant Gazette reprint was made which included a small frontpage engraving of Washington. The technology to print such engravings in newspapers did not exist, of course, in 1800. This portrait was modeled on the Rembrandt Peale painting of the first President, which the artist prepared in 1823. It was purchased by the U.S. government in 1832 for display in the U.S. Capitol, where it can be seen to this day.
The fad seems to have finally died out by 1900 as there are no reproductions which can be attributed definitively to the centennial of Washington's death. 1927 is the date of the last reprint that has currently been confirmed by investigators. Surviving printers' records indicate press runs of 10,000 to 100,000 copies each for many of these hundred-odd reproductions, with a total estimated printing of three million.
Some Diagnostics of the Reproductions.
Most of the reproductions can be recognized by the following characteristics, none of which exist in the originals. The presence of just one of these features indicates that the piece under study is not a genuine newspaper. Note that the illustrations provided in the graphics links on this page (highlighted and underlined in blue) are of reproductions.
These fakes are so abundant that a literature has developed about them. The best articles are:
See also my descriptive pages on
You can get full details of these and fifteen other common newspaper reproductions from the Library of Congress website. See Information Circular No.'s 1 - 17, located in the Library's Newspaper Reprint Circulars Page.
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