Author: Ralph Frasca
Publisher: Susquehanna University Press
Category: Language Arts & Disciplines
In the postbellum nineteenth century, journalism reached larger audiences with more information in less time. With the rise of industrialization and mechanization, the means of conveying news to the public improved dramatically. In 1873 Frederic Hudson, one of the nation's first journalism historians, predicted that these technological advances would spawn genuinely national newspapers. Such publications would be circulated to all parts of the country by means of pneumatic tubes, he wrote, which could convey newspapers from one coast to the other within three hours. The prophesy of compressed air blowing bunches of newspapers across the length and breadth of the country was so far awry that it is amusing to consider today. However, Hudson's forecast of a national newspaper, which seemed just as far-fetched in that era of a distinctly provincial press, came to fruition in only the following decade. As the population soared (due in large measure to immigration), as urban areas blossomed, and as the public became increasingly literate, more people turned to newspapers for information about their community and nation. It was against this backdrop that the Saturday Globe was born in 1881. From its auspicious infancy in Utica, New York, the Saturday Globe grew into a major newspaper with nationwide circulation. Through its pioneering use of regional editions, it became the first truly national newspaper in United States history. It served as a unifying force for disparate communities, which were constantly being redefined by the expansion of industry and the increase in population. The Saturday Globe's readership, which peaked at nearly 300,000, was attracted by its stunning artwork, its national scope, and its charming miscellany of stories. In many ways, the Saturday Globe was a theoretical forerunner of USA Today. Although it eschewed the political partisanship so common among newspapers of the era, the Saturday Globe emanated a morally conservative tenor, which was sometimes difficult to reconcile with the newspaper's tendency toward sensationalism. Relying on many diverse sources, Ralph Frasca constructs a comprehensive social history of the Saturday Globe, placing it in a larger context by showing how cultural, technological, economic, demographic, and journalistic forces in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries both created a milieu for the Saturday Globe's inception and success and lead to its demise forty-three years later. The story of the Saturday Globe offers insight into the processes by which mighty newspapers rise, fall, and erode into the deepest recesses of time. The survival of America's newspapers is just as much a concern now as when the Saturday Globe, a mere husk of its former self, folded. While the Saturday Globe fought a losing battle against imitators and magazines, today's newspapers wage a similar war against the encroachment of the broadcast media. The history of the Saturday Globe offers a compelling case study of a major newspaper's rise and fall.