Front page - 1831

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. 

The Petticoat Affair

The big issue seizing the nation’s interest in 1831 was not a war or violent conflict – it was a spat in President Andrew Jackson’s administration that would eventually lead to the dissolution of Jackson’s first cabinet. Known as the “Petticoat Affair,” a simple argument over potential sexual improprieties predated similar presidential scandals by 150 years.

In 1829, Secretary of War John Eaton married Peggy O’Neill, shortly after the latter’s husband, Navy purser John B. Timberlake, died of pneumonia. Vice President John C. Calhoun’s wife, Floride, soon headed up an informal shunning of O’Neill due to the belief that she had not waited long enough after her prior husband’s passing to marry Secretary Eaton. Calhoun was already raising Jackson’s ire with constant disagreements over tariffs and the growing fear of secession from the South. Using the Petticoat Affair as an out, Jackson replaced his entire cabinet, with the exception of Postmaster General William T. Barry.

This all brings us to the front page of this edition of the Lancaster Journal, which features correspondence between former Attorney General John M. Berrien and Francis P. Blair, the editor of the short-lived Washington Globe newspaper. A month before this edition went to press, The United States Telegraph newspaper included text saying that there was proof that the families of Calhoun, Berrien and others had refused to accept the Eatons into their social circle.

The reprinted correspondence in the Journal, which takes up the entire right side of the front page, finds Blair and Barrien sparring over where this correspondence came from, whether it was true and how it affected the dismissal of Jackson’s cabinet. Interestingly, Blair had recently become a member of the so-called “Kitchen Cabinet,” a new, informal group of advisers brought on by the president to replace his old cabinet. In stark contrast to later political rivalries, both Blair and Barrien take large strides to not appear out of turn in the midst of essentially calling each other liars.

Though the language used might be different, this correspondence highlights what would continue to be a theme throughout politics up to the current day – politicians and reporters arguing about the truth and the ways in which it is discovered and parceled out to the public at large.

Sources: LNP archives; owlcation.com/humanities