Comprising four pages per issue, the first half in English, and the second half in Chinese, The Oriental was the second Chinese-language newspaper in the U.S. It was also the first of several nineteenth-century Anglo-Chinese newspapers to establish sections in English. Edited by William Speer (1822-1904), a Presbyterian minister and Lai Sai (also known as Lee Kan), associate editor, The Oriental commenced publication on January 4, 1855. Lai Sai was the first Chinese elder in San Francisco’s Presbyterian church and Speer’s former student from the Morrison Education Society School in Hong Kong. Lai was responsible for the Chinese content of the newspaper, which included advertisements and the first directory of Chinese businesses in San Francisco in 1856. The newspaper was published by Whitton, Towne. & Co. at 151 Clay Street, San Francisco. Its publication schedule was inconsistent. Intended to be published triweekly in Chinese and weekly in English, its schedule was later changed to weekly in Chinese and monthly in English. In terms of content, the paper consists of local, domestic, and international news items, religious poetry and anecdotes, updates on previous articles, targeted advertisements, and business/organization listings. Below are some images of its 2 nameplates and a closeup of the masthead.
While conducting some archival research for a different project at the American Antiquarian Society (AAS) in Worcester MA, I stumbled upon this newspaper first due to its derogatory title. Thus far I have been able to look at the AAS’s holdings, consisting of three issues, and some online versions. I welcome the names of Chinese-language translators who can help me in this project, as well as leads on accessing more of the print run, if it exists.
I have a longer article on the paper that I am working on, and shoutout to Spencer Tricker for your comments/insight at our C19 conference roundtable this April!
 For more on William Speer, see Gordon H. Chang’s “CHINA AND THE PURSUIT OF AMERICA’S DESTINY: Nineteenth-Century Imagining and Why Immigration Restriction Took So Long.” Journal of Asian American Studies 15, no. 2 (06, 2012): 145-169, 239.
James Hill’s “DeathWish” ends with a moving description of Jiggs on the shoulders of paraders singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing” written by Johnson and set to music by his brother. Here is a youtube video on the history of the song. JWJ is interred at Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn.
The Early Poems of Sarah Morgan Bryan (Piatt) in the New York Ledger, 1857-1860 is a DH project that I started in 2015 with my advisor Elizabeth Renker during the first City of Print institute. The site is now LIVE: https://kb.osu.edu/handle/1811/87056
On Jan. 24, 2020, The New York Times published a series of sketches and photos of sites in lower Manhattan that have changed over time. Newspaper Row was one of the sites mentioned. Above is a photograph of newies peddling newspaper in front of The Tribune building. This image recalls Vincent’s and Kelley’s great talks on newsies and the Park Row, respectively.
First I’m writing from my phone, so apologies in advance for any typos. I’m not sure if anyone else saw this but there’s a new litmag that launched today called The Drift, which opened with a salvo about the state of periodical publishing today: https://thedriftmag.com/editors-note/
They have a lot of punchy takes on the current NYC “media establishment” that is both humorous and angry, especially in contemporary discussion of covid and police protests, but I’m curious about how we can think about their intervention alongside our more historically oriented discussions of periodicals.
They look back to modernist little magazines and say: “We think there’s an audience now for this kind of magazine: one in which socialism and feminism don’t entail moralizing; in which political wars are not fought on cultural battlefields; in which an essay isn’t an excuse for self-indulgence; in which there’s more to the media than endless recursive analysis of the media.”
This will be brief: in the afternoon session on Tuesday, Martha Patterson asked a question about collage and the 19th century newspaper page (forgive me if I misunderstood the nature of the question). This isn’t necessarily a collage, but with my colleagues on the Viral Texts Project we “mapped” a page of what we took to be a rather typical mid- to late-nineteenth century front page of a US newspaper (in this case, from Clearfield, PA). Our main focus is reprinting, and here we were looking at reprints of a bizarre text titled “Love Letter,” but I think this could be at least interesting to get a sense of the genre soup on the front page of a nineteenth century paper.
I wanted to thank everyone for the great questions in yesterday’s session. And I wanted to follow up on some of the conversation in the Chat string, as well as some of the emails that I’ve received. Initially, think that I need to clarify my use of the term “distance reading” as different from Moretti’s/the DH sense, in that what I mean is to read a sampling of fiction (whether in a single issue, across a single title, or within a single genre) in order to identify repeated tropes and formulaic patterns so a to identify broad cultural dynamics. Therefore, similar to Moretti, but a non-technological reading practice opposed or defined against the modes of reading established and sanctioned in an English Studies founded upon the reading practices of New Criticism. I think that I can clarify this (and other things) more if I attach part of a talk I gave at a symposium on Pulp Studies at James Madison a few years ago — a part specifically about methodology presented to an audience working specifically with pulp magazines. I will do some editorial intrusions for clarification and to contextualize for a more general audience. I hope this adds to yesterday’s conversation. Avanti… Continue reading →