Front page - 1855

On June 18, 2019, LNP celebrated 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. 

Know Nothings

On the left side of this front page of the Lancaster Intelligencer, a University of Mississippi president came out swinging against the Know Nothing Party. The political group, which would later be known as the American Party, formed in 1849 as a result of growing anti-Catholic sentiment stemming from mass immigration from Ireland and Germany. Named the Know Nothings thanks to an early practice of responding “I know nothing” to questions about the group, its members were united behind hatred and fear that Catholics would rise to powerful governmental posts. Most notably, the group was able to elect numerous mayors, governors and state-level officials in 1854. As a harbinger of things to come in the following decade, the northern half of the country would lose interest in the Know Nothings due to their stance on slavery and immigration. The man railing against the party in this 1855 column was Augustus B. Longstreet, most famous for presiding over numerous Southern universities and writing “Georgia Scenes.” Before Longstreet listed his concerns with the Know Nothings, it seems the paper already agreed with his statements, calling the Know Nothings “dangerous and corrupting,” a group whose existence “depends on the deceit and falsehood of its members.” Just a month after Longstreet’s letter was printed, a riot broke out in Louisville, Ky., on the day of the governor’s election. Protestants would attack Irish and German Catholic neighborhoods, killing 22 and injuring many more. The day would come to be known as “Bloody Monday.”

Deepening divide

A column on this front page, reprinted from the Baltimore American, delves – with a tone that seems almost flippant – into the divide over slavery, which was growing ever deeper. The passing of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act was initially meant to act as a compromise between Northern and Southern states, but it ended up being one of the final splinters in the lead-up to the Civil War. In early September of 1851, Maryland slave owner Edward Gorsuch alerted local authorities to the possibility that four of his slaves had escaped for the refuge of Lancaster County. Gorsuch’s search party, which included slave catchers and Philadelphia police officers, was spotted by a lookout, giving the four former slaves a chance to prepare. Given shelter by the free man William Parker and his wife Eliza, the couple initially refused Gorsuch’s order to hand over the escaped men. Sensing a violent encounter, Eliza blew a horn alerting other free men and white abolitionists in the area to convene. A fight between the two groups resulted in the death of Gorsuch, and the slave catchers eventually retreated. Thirty-eight men, including four white abolitionists, were brought to trial, only for all 38 to be acquitted. While Northern states held the case as a positive step forward, Southern anger increased as the decade wore on.