Frontpage 1809

On June 18, 2019, LNP will celebrate its 225th anniversary. The earliest newspaper to which today’s LNP traces its roots was the Lancaster Journal, first published on June 18, 1794, by William Hamilton and Henry Willcocks from a news office located in a tavern building at the King Street site of the current LNP building.

To celebrate 225 years of Lancaster newspapers, we present this series of 52 front pages from the history of the newspapers which would eventually become LNP. 

Building a library

This Lancaster Journal front page from Feb. 24, 1809, has an unusually large focus on the publishing of books. For example, “The Private Life of Washington” by M.L. Weems, was sold from the newspaper offices. A bestseller in its day, this book is best known to modern readers as the source of many apocryphal tales of the nation’s first president, including the story of the cherry tree. The work was intended to be less of a historical record and more a source of moral instruction for the nation’s youth.

Early crowdsourcing, part 1

The Kickstarter funding model – in which a product is proposed, customers pay for it in advance, and it is produced only when a certain funding goal is met – might be common in today’s world, but the concept far preceded the internet. For example, this page includes an offer from Journal publisher William Hamilton to publish a bound collection of the writings of John Wesley, founder of the Methodist faith, who died the previous decade. The $6 book was to be published only when 500 orders had been placed. 

Early crowdsourcing, part 2

Another example of early crowdsourcing appears in the next column. This one is an offer from publishers Hamilton & Ehrenfried to print a complete English-German and German-English dictionary, including a guide to pronunciation and grammar. The book was to cost $6 if bound in pasteboard, $6.50 in leather, gilt and lettered. A full thousand orders were required before production would begin. As to why such a dictionary was desirable – in addition to being “superior to any Dictionary of the kind ever published” – the publisher had this to say: “Wherever the traveler plods his variegated way, he can partake of the homespun hospitality of the honest and industrious German. What an additional Gratification it must be to address him in the language he best understands – perhaps the only one he has ever known!”

The 1800s

  • In 1806, William Dickson, the publisher of the Intelligencer & Weekly Advertiser, was charged with libel. He continued to edit the newspaper from his jail cell.
  • Throughout the decade, Lancaster native Robert Fulton was in the news. In 1800, he was commissioned by Napoleon Bonaparte to design a submarine. He produced the Nautilus, widely regarded as the first practical submarine in history. In 1807, after returning to America, Fulton launched the first commercially successful steamboat, the Clermont, which ferried passengers along the Hudson River between New York City and Albany.

Source: LNP archive; TeachingHistory.org