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Baltimore News American collection

 Collection 0378-MDHC
The "Baltimore News American" was a major daily newspaper printed under various titles and multiple forms for over 200 years. The highlights of the collection are the over one million photographic print and negative images, dating roughly from 1904 to 1986, along with the 1900 microfilm reels of newspaper content, covering a view of Baltimore and Maryland from 1799 to 1920 and 1946 to 1986. The collection encompasses images of many aspects of the human experience--people, places, and events that occurred in the city of Baltimore, the state of Maryland, and the world--as well as administrative files, one-off publications, ephemera, maps, and memorabilia, detailing the history of the newspaper and its predecessors.

Dates

  • circa 1773-2006
  • Majority of material found within 1923-1986

Use and Access to Collection

This collection is open to the public and must be used in the Special Collections reading room. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.

A very small number of files in this collection are restricted due to privacy concerns. Restricted files are noted in the folder listing or on subseries inventories.

Researchers interested in accessing the photographic series are urged to contact us prior to visiting, as the materials may require a special search.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies or digital surrogates may be provided in accordance with Special Collections and University Archives duplication policy.

Photoduplication is permitted by researchers, but all copies are made in accordance with the "fair use" provisions of U.S. copyright law. More information about scanning and copying policies can be found on our Photoduplication Services page.

Please note that the University of Maryland Libraries do not hold copyright to any of the materials in this collection. Except for the pre-1924 newspaper issues on microfilm (which are in the public domain), permission to publish material under copyright must be obtained from the copyright holder. It is the researcher's responsibility to determine if there is a copyright holder and to obtain permission to publish.

(a) The copyright to photographs taken by News American staff, as well as staff-for-hire, may be held by the Hearst Corporation; inquiries about permission to use these images should be addressed to the Office of General Counsel, Hearst Corporation. Please contact the Curator for updated Hearst contact information.

(b) The copyright to photographs taken by news agency photographs may be held by those news agencies (i.e. Associated Press, United Press International), and inquiries should be directed to those agencies.

Publications using photographs from the Baltimore News American collection should include the credit line: "Baltimore News American Collection--Photograph Series, Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries." The department requests a complimentary copy of the publication.

Publications using text from the newspapers (or microfilm versions of the newspaper), or other textual materials in the collection, should include the credit line: "Baltimore News American Collection, Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries."

Extent

2,034.75
 Linear Feet

213 Items

Scope and Content of Collection

The Baltimore News American Collection consists of materials that document the history of the News American and its predecessors. The collection dates from circa 1773-2006 with the bulk of material dating between 1923 and 1986. It includes photographic materials, newspaper clippings, library files, correspondence, scrapbooks, unpublished and published manuscripts, editorial style guides, subscriber materials, an oral history, employee newsletters, maps, original newspapers, ephemera, and memorabilia. Prominent individuals documented in the collection include H.L. Mencken, Frank A. Munsey, R. P. Hariss, William Randolph Hearst, Sr., William Randolph Hearst, Jr., Millicent Hearst (wife of William Randolph Hearst, Sr.,) and John Steadman. Additional materials of interest include information about the News American's Bicentennial Celebration, women journalists, the demise of the News American, and the different buildings that the newspapers' printing and reporting divisions occupied. Some of the scrapbooks that date from the 1930's to the 1940's contain commentary from William Randolph Hearst, Sr., and his editorial staff.

Administrative History

The Newspaper

The News American was a daily newspaper in Baltimore, Maryland, which possibly had a continuous existence in print form for 214 years. Its editors and writers produced notable stories and helped make events more vivid and immediate for readers. For example, in 1814, the American & Commercial Advertiser became the first publication in the nation to print Francis Scott Key's poem "The Defence of Fort McHenry," which later became known as The Star Spangled Banner. In 1923, one of the most influential owners in the history of the newspaper, William Randolph Hearst, Sr., bought several of the News American's predecessor papers. Under the management of the Hearst family, the News American became the largest newspaper in Baltimore in terms of circulation by the middle of the twentieth century. On May 27, 1986, the News American published its last edition and shuttered its operations.

During its over 200 year existence, the News American experienced a number of transformations in its management, many of which were the result of business mergers. According to some historians and former employees of the newspaper, the News American traces its lineage back to Baltimore's first newspaper, the Maryland Journal and the Baltimore Advertiser, begun by William Goddard on August 20, 1773. Under the leadership of William Goddard's sister, Mary Katherine Goddard, the newspaper was the first to print the Declaration of Independence with the names of its signatories. Goddard's newspaper passed through several proprietors and ultimately ceased publication on June 29, 1797.

A competing argument suggests that the true originator of the News American newspaper may actually have been Alexander Martin, who likely began a new publication called the American and Daily Advertiser on May 14, 1799. Martin was a former partner of William Pechin, who once wrote for the old Maryland Journal. A partisan Republican-Democratic paper at that time, the American and Daily Advertiser was subscribed by Thomas Jefferson, who had a two-year subscription beginning March 24, 1801, during his term as President (see Founders Online, Thomas Jefferson, "List of Newspapers [circa April 23, 1802]").

Some other notable newspaper titles in the history of the newspaper include the Baltimore American and Commercial Advertiser (1857-1861) which was sometimes published under the title of the Baltimore American, the American and Commercial Advertiser (January 1-August 1858) and the American and Commercial Advertiser (1862-1869). Under the leadership of Charles Carroll Fulton, these newspaper titles were among the few major Baltimore newspapers to be pro-Union during the American Civil War. Other important nineteenth century predecessors to the News American newspapers were: General Felix Angus's Baltimore American (1883), Edmond V. Hermanage's Evening News (1872) which was Baltimore's first successful evening newspaper, and Charles H. Grasty's progressive Baltimore News (1892), where H. L. Mencken, the well-known Sun journalist, briefly worked as an editor.

During the late nineteenth century, a rivalry between the News American and the Sun began, one that would help to shape the history of Baltimore journalism into the 20th century. The Sun, while having a strong readership among the general masses, also increasingly gained a reputation as the newspaper of choice for Baltimore's elites. In contrast, the News American, and its predecessors beginning with the Baltimore News, began to be viewed, first as a progressive newspaper, and later, as a populist paper, which resonated with Baltimore's working-class and ethnic minorities.

In 1908, Frank A. Munsey bought the evening Baltimore News from General Felix Angus, and in 1920 Munsey purchased the morning Baltimore American. Three years later, Munsey decided to sell both papers to newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, Sr., who helped to introduce tabloid journalism and sensational headlines to readers in Baltimore. During the 1920s, the newspaper published many stories about crime and violence, and emphasized visual elements such as photographs and attention-grabbing headlines in large fonts. In 1928, the Baltimore American was discontinued as a morning newspaper, but the name was continued as a Sunday newspaper. Also in 1928, the Baltimore News gained the circulation lead over the rival Sun papers, which it held until the decline of the American beginning in the late 1970's.

In 1934, the Hearst Corporation bought the Baltimore Post from the Scripps-Howard Newspaper Syndicate, to form the Baltimore News and the Baltimore Post. In 1936, the company merged the two titles to form the Baltimore News-Post. The last newspaper title change in the history of the News American occurred on January 13, 1964, when the Baltimore News-Post and its Sunday edition, the Baltimore American, merged to form the News American.

For most of the 1970's, the News American continued to lead the Sun in circulation. In addition, in 1973 the newspaper reached a major milestone and celebrated its bicentennial anniversary. But the 1970's also signaled the beginning of the end for the News American. A number of social and economic factors, such as the rise of television, a demographic shift of Baltimoreans from the city to the suburbs, Baltimore's stagnant economy, and the loss of blue-collar manufacturing jobs contributed to the News American's demise. These issues, combined with the decline of evening newspapers in most U.S. markets, and internal management and labor related problems at the newspaper, effectively doomed the News American. During the 1980's, the difficulties facing the News American intensified and the Hearst Corporation, unable to find a buyer, decided to stop printing the newspaper. On May 27, 1986, the newspaper was closed for business.

The Buildings

The antecedent newspapers found in this collection were printed in a variety of locations, but always in Baltimore proper. Between 1849 and 1875, the Baltimore American was located at Nos. 126 and 128 West Baltimore Street. That latter year, a new iron building was constructed to house the American at Baltimore and Fourth Streets. Moving in 1905 to Baltimore and South Street, the new Baltimore American building occupied the site of a building destroyed in the great fire of 1904.

Beginning in the 1870s, the Baltimore News was published from a building at 119-121 East Baltimore Street until it moved to Calvert and Fayette streets around 1905. Five years later, the Baltimore News vacated that space and soon re-occupied it within the new Munsey Building, named after its owner-publisher Frank A. Munsey.

It was inside the Munsey Building on Calvert Street in 1920, where the American merged with Munsey's News. Upon Hearst's purchase of both papers from Munsey in 1923, the joint newspapers moved to Pratt and Commerce streets in 1924. On September 8, 1962, the Baltimore News-Post/News American moved into a new building at 400 East Pratt Street (bounded also by Commerce, Lombard, and South streets), presumably the location where the large advertising eagle (series 9) was hung. This complex of buildings contained the News American offices and printing presses. It was demolished partly by wrecking ball in 1990. (See series IV, boxes 2 and 4, for more information.)

The Library

The first known internal library of the newspaper was established around 1902 under the leadership of Charles H. Grasty, at the time general manager of the Baltimore News. As a result, most of the collected documentation about the internal workings of the newspaper dates only as far back as the early twentieth century. The first librarians were Ida Herzog, Marie Lambert, and Roxanne Duvall. In 1923, with the purchase of the Baltimore News and Baltimore American by William Randolph Hearst, Sr., the library expanded to include daily photographs and local news clippings. Arthur Curley was librarian between 1923 and 1926, followed by Louisa Doetsch until 1954. By that time, the library was used by writers and editors so heavily that it required a staff of more than one. By 1962, the library had over 2600 catalogued books. Head librarian, Earl S. Pruce, who worked from 1954 until the closure of the newspaper in 1986, studied the history of the newspaper, and took copious notes detailing previous owners, managers, and transactions. (See series III, box 3, and series IV, box 4, for more information.)

The Photographs

At the beginning of the 20th-century, as photographs began to appear in print with greater frequency, newspapers stored print versions of negative and positive film images in what came to be known as photo morgues. The photo morgue of the Baltimore News American was composed largely of photographic prints developed specifically to cover news stories in and around Baltimore. Perhaps only a fraction of these photos appeared in the print pages of the newspaper. With the development of wirephoto and laserphoto technologies, copies of photographs taken around the world for UPI (United Press International) and AP (Associated Press) were also added to the photo archive of the newspaper. Rather than keeping together photos taken for each individual news story, the newspaper staff organized the photographs by subjects and names of the individuals or organizations depicted in the photos.

Reference Works

Jefferson, Thomas. "List of Newspapers [circa April 23, 1802]"

Minick, A. Rachel. A History of Printing in Maryland 1791-1800 (M.Sc. Thesis, Columbia University, 1949).

Nasaw, David. The Chief: The Life of William Randolph Hearst (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 2000).

Steadman, John. The Best (and Worst) of Steadman: A Collection of Stories by the Sports Editor of the Baltimore News American ([Baltimore]: Press Box Publishers, 1974).

Whyte, Kenneth. The Uncrowned King: The Sensational Rise of William Randolph Hearst (Berkeley: Counterpoint, Publishers Group West, 2009).

Winchester, Paul, and Frank D. Webb. Newspapers and Newspaper Men of Maryland: Past and Present (Baltimore: Frank L. Sibley & Co., 1905).

Winkler, John K. "William Randolph Hearst: A New Appraisal." (University of Maryland Master's Thesis, 1989).

Arrangement

This collection is organized as ten series:
Series 1
Photographs
Series 2
Newspapers on Microfilm
Series 3
Adminstrative History
Series 4
Newspaper History
Series 5
Publications
Series 6
Public Engagement Files and Scrapbooks
Series 7
Original Newspapers (and Facsimiles)
Series 8
News Clippings
Series 9
Maps
Series 10
Memorabilia

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

The majority of the photographic series is in a delicate physical condition and staff may decide that items are too fragile for handling or photoduplication.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

In 1986, after the closure of the News American, the Hearst Corporation donated the newspaper's library and clippings morgue to the University of Maryland College Park. The materials received included over 1 million photographs from the photograph morgue. In 1988, J. William Joynes, a longtime reporter with the newspaper, donated thirty-five volumes of scrapbooks documenting stories he wrote for the newspaper between 1932 and 1972. Other purchases and donations, including a newsboy apron acquired in 2016, have been incorporated into the collection. In 2018 and 2020, the University of Maryland, College Park, received two transfers of News American photographic prints and negatives, glass plate negatives, and clippings from the Special Collections department of the Albin O. Kuhn Library and Gallery, University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Related Material

Material related to the Baltimore News American collection can be found in University of Maryland Special Collections and University Archives at Hornbake Library. A thesis written by Paul Scott Girsdansky in the journalism department tells the story of ("The Decline and Fall of the Baltimore"News American). The Felix Agnus Papers and the Louise Malloy Papers contain information from a publisher and a reporter, respectively, of the Baltimore American.

The Maryland State Archives has a collection of about 500 News American photographic prints dating from 1880 to 1965 in the MSA SC 2117: The News American Collection.

Separated Material

Book titles originally held by the Baltimore News American library (see Historical Note, for a history of the library, and Series 3: Administrative History, for a few records of the book accessions) have been dispersed and catalogued in the Marylandia and Rare Books Collection.

Processing Information

The collection is semi-processed, due to its enormous size. Series 1 is partly inventoried to the folder level. Series 2 is entirely inventoried according to the box and date of content. Series 3-6 are entirely inventoried to the folder level. Series 7 is entirely inventoried to the item level. Series 8 has a separate database listing for each folder. Series 9 is entirely inventoried to the folder level. Series 10 is entirely inventoried to the item level.

The arrangement of the collection was largely determined by the various processing archivists who first worked on the project. Materials in the collection were grouped into series by the type of files (i.e. textual, photographic). While the photographic prints were originally stored in envelopes in alphabetical order, there was little discernible original order to the textual materials. Some material had been collected by the News American's librarian, Earl Pruce. The J. William Joynes accession was incorporated into Series 6. An apron from a separate accession was added to Series 10.

Characterized by two types of photographic prints--subject and biographical images--the photographic materials (Series 1) continue to receive the bulk of the processing work. About 770 linear feet, or a half million photographic images (virtually all of the subject-related photographs) have been processed. Processing of the photographic prints with specific biographical content continues. Basic descriptive access and intellectual control for the processed folders (of photographs) has been provided through a computer-based database, which is available currently to patrons only in the Maryland Room.

During processing from 1997 and 2008, photographs were removed from acidic envelopes and placed in acid-free folders and boxes. Metal paper clips and staples were replaced with plastic clips. Newspaper clippings attached to photos were photocopied onto acid-free paper and the original clippings discarded. Beginning in 2016, processing of the photographic prints changed slightly. From that point to the present, the original newspaper clippings were retained and not photocopied. Staples were left in place. Oversize photographs were unfolded and rehoused in acid-free folders and boxes.

Series 2-10 were created by two processing archivists, who worked in 2008 and 2017, respectively, to reflect the type and subject of the materials. Within textual Series 3-7, materials are arranged in alphabetical order by the title of the creating newspaper when possible and then by subject matter. Materials that span several newspaper title changes are listed at the end of each series and are alphabetically arranged by subject. Due to the numerous newspaper title changes over the history of the News American, some early material (pre-1934) items was placed in Baltimore News-Post folders in order to facilitate processing. Folders labeled General are listed first and then the rest of the folders on the same level follow alphabetically. Additionally, all material was placed in acid-free folders and boxes, staples and metal paper clips were removed and newspaper clippings were photocopied onto acid-free paper; the originals discarded. Oversize items, which were too large to photocopy properly, were housed in oversize boxes with a separation sheet marking the original location of each item.

One group of newsprint clippings (Series 8) has been photocopied by the archival staff to increase accessibility. The Joynes scrapbooks, Action Line materials, newsboy apron, and calendars (Series were integrated into the collection in 2017.
Title
Baltimore News American collection
Status
Completed
Author
Processing of the photographic prints, overseen by Pamela Alsop, Joanne Archer, Ann Hanlon, and Laura Cleary, was conducted between 1997 and 2008. Glynnis G. Gilbert processed the Administrative Files (series 3-7) in August 2008. The restart of processing was led by Eric Stoykovich in 2016-2017. Numerous students and volunteers, including Willem Kalbach, Harrison Gage, Emily Flint, Mark Coulbourne, Jen Piegols, Tricia Glaser, Robert Headley, Roger Russell, and Dennis McGovern, have worked to process the photographic prints. In 2017, Harrison Gage, Emily Flint, Willem Kalbach, Jen Piegols, and Mark Coulbourne assisted in additional processing of various parts of series 2-10, which resulted in the revision of series descriptions.
Date
1997
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin

Revision Statements

  • 2012-04-03: EAD markup checked and verified using Oxgen software by Joanne Archer
  • 2017-10-26: EAD markup checked and verified using Oxgen software by Joanne Archer
  • 2018-11-09: Imported to ArchivesSpace via the API by Bria Parker
  • 2019-01-10: Minor updates and revisions made post ArchivesSpace import by Joanne Archer.
  • 2020-08-18: Liz Caringola incorporated materials transferred from UMBC in 2018 and 2020.

Library Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives

Contact:
University of Maryland Libraries
Hornbake Library
4130 Campus Drive
College Park Maryland 20742
301-405-9212