February 23, 1908 Whatever it Takes, to Sell a Paper

Today in History

During the early colonial period, American newspapers were “wretched little” sheets in the words of America’s “1st newsboy”, Benjamin Franklin. Scarcely more than sidelines to keep presses occupied.

Newspapers were distributed by mail in the early years, thanks to generous subsidies from the Postal Act of 1792.In 1800, the United States could boast somewhere between 150 – 200 newspapers. Thirty-five years later, some 1,200 were competing for readership.

We hear a lot today about “fake news”, but that’s nothing new. In 1835, the New York Sun published a six-part series, about civilization on the moon.

great-moon-hoax-1835-new-york-sun-lithograph-298px

The “Great Moon Hoax”, ostensibly reprinted from the Edinburgh Courant, was falsely attributed to the work of Sir John Herschel, one of the best known astronomers of the time.

Whatever it took, to sell newspapers.

Two years earlier, Sun publisher Benjamin Day ran a Help-Wanted advertisement, looking for adults to help expand circulation.“To the…

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