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The Commercialization of News in the Nineteenth Century

Gerald J. Baldasty

Publication Year: 1992

     The Commercialization of News in the Nineteenth Century traces the major transformation of newspapers from a politically based press to a commercially based press in the nineteenth century.  Gerald J. Baldasty argues that broad changes in American society, the national economy, and the newspaper industry brought about this dramatic shift.
     Increasingly in the nineteenth century, news became a commodity valued more for its profitablility than for its role in informing or persuading the public on political issues.  Newspapers started out as highly partisan adjuncts of political parties.  As advertisers replaced political parties as the chief financial support of the press, they influenced newspapers in directing their content toward consumers, especially women.  The results were recipes, fiction, contests, and features on everything from sports to fashion alongside more standard news about politics.
     Baldasty makes use of nineteenth-century materials—newspapers from throughout the era, manuscript letters from journalists and politicians, journalism and advertising trade publications, government reports—to document the changing role of the press during the period.  He identifies three important phases: the partisan newspapers of the Jacksonian era (1825-1835), the transition of the press in the middle of the century, and the influence of commercialization of the news in the last two decades of the century.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press


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pp. vii

Tables and Figures

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

I am indebted to many for their assistance during this project: the University of Washington for a year-long sabbatical leave from teaching, during which time I wrote the first draft of the manuscript; and the University of Washington Graduate School Research Fund for a grant ...

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pp. 3-10

In 1801, Federalists in New York City established the Evening Post to espouse their cause, attack the Jefferson administration, and serve as the political mouthpiece of Alexander Hamilton. The first issue of this four-page daily newspaper included attacks on the Jeffersonians, essays on American politics and on the press, ...

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Chapter One. American Political Parties and the Press

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pp. 11-35

In the early 1830s, members of the Antimasonic party in Plymouth, Massachusetts, spent nearly two years trying to start a newspaper to promote their party and candidates. Few in number and lacking major financial resources, they struggled to raise enough money to buy a press and type, ...

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Chapter Two. New Directions in American Journalism

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pp. 36-58

When Francis Preston Blair died in 1876, newspapers noted the tremendous changes in journalism in the preceding generation. The Chicago Tribune called Blair a leading Jacksonian partisan editor, and said that his death "recalls other and almost forgotten times in American politics.,,1 ...

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Chapter Three. Advertising and the Press

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pp. 59-80

In 1894, a writer for the advertising trade journal Fame observed that it was a well-known fact that only about a half dozen U.S. newspapers (out of nearly 16,000)1 could survive without advertising. Advertising accounted for the majority of a newspaper's revenues, he argued, noting that subscriptions ...

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Chapter Four. Newspapers as Businesses

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pp. 81-112

When a Missouri editor complained in the 1890s that "people seem to forget that a newspaper is primarily published as a business enterprise," he was simply pointing out one key aspect of journalism of that era: the newspaper was a business, and news was valued and defined within that context. 1 ...

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Chapter Five. Shaping and Packaging the News: Luring Readers and Advertisers

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pp. 113-138

The business orientation of the newspaper industry in the late nineteenth century dictated that publishers and editors pay heed to two audiences: advertisers and readers. Advertisers supplied the biggest share of newspaper revenue, and readers, with their numbers and buying power, attracted advertisers. ...

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Chapter Six. The Commercialization of News

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pp. 139-148

In 1900, American newspapers bore little resemblance to the small journals that had so earnestly debated politics in the 1820s and 1830s. Newspaper owners and editors were no longer primarily political activists obsessed with winning elections and filling their newspapers with political argument. ...

Appendix 1. Content Analysis Scheme

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pp. 149-152

Appendix 2. Content Analysis Tables

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pp. 153-158


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pp. 159-204

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 205-224


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pp. 225-227

E-ISBN-13: 9780299134037
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299134044

Publication Year: 1992