Friday, February 6, 2009

True American

I'm so jazzed about this title that I can't contain myself anymore.
(pictured above: Volume 1, No. 2, scanned from master negative microfilm)

The True American [sn84024557] was Cassius Marcellus Clay's  "Emancipation" newspaper, though the masthead makes it sound much broader than that: 

"Devoted to Universal Liberty; gradual Emancipation in Kentucky; Literature; Agriculture; the Elevation of Labor, Morally and Politically; Commercial Intelligence, &c. &c."

Printed in Lexington and Cincinatti (though it always carried the Lexington dateline) from June 3, 1845 - September 21, 1846, The True American was published by William L. Neale with Cassius M. Clay as editor. But, make no mistake, Clay was leading the way. 

Clay had heard William Lloyd Garrison, founder of The American Anti-Slavery Society, speak several times while attending Yale University to become a lawyer. Garrison inspired him to do something about the "evils" of slavery, which eventually lead to the press. It put him in a somewhat precarious position, however, as his parents were large slave owning people in Madison County, KY. And, even though the issue had been proposed many times, the majority of the state had rejected abolition because they could never come to terms with compensation for the slave owners or colonization of the slaves. Needless to say, abolition was a hot topic in Kentucky.

According to Herndon J. Evans in "The Newspaper Press In Kentucky"; "Number 3, North Mill Street, was the site of the office, where Lexington was treated to its first newspaper plant armed with two brass cannons, iron barred windows, and an arsenal of Mexican lances and pikes. A trapdoor in the roof provided an escape route in case the editor and his helper found they could not hold the fort in an attack. In the basement, Clay had rigged up an "infernal machine" with a powder keg that he could set off from the outside to blow up the building and whoever was in it should the attackers succeed in taking over the plant."

While The True American falls well outside the current NDNP date range, it is a vitally important paper to the State of Kentucky and will be accessible through the Kentuckiana Digital Library soon. The University of Kentucky Libraries' Special Collections has 45 original issues of some 69 total. They were filmed, presumably in the 1980's, at an admirable reduction ratio with even lighting in the 1A position; together they make excellent digital images.

Stay tuned!

1 comment:

  1. This pre civil war, anti-slavery "True American" newspaper was probably the first journalistic attempt to print and deliver emancipation views in a slave state....Kentucky. This anti-slavery "rag" was made and printed on wonderful, durable, and strong Kentucky hemp fiber. The owner/editor/writer in deed was a rich white lawyer who grew up with slaves, named Cassius Marcellus Clay. The mob (sometimes known as the "committee of sixty), a slave owning rich masters group secretly calling themselves the "Revengers" sent Clay a cease and desist publication letter written on hemp, OR ELSE (quoting the letter) "the hemp is ready for your neck". Kentucky hemp made the very best hangin' rope; proving again that old adage-----> natures best gifts sometimes become a noose in the hands of lawless power when confronted with prophetic truth. In this case and in most others, it matters "how" we use, not "that" we use. Good manners always matter......
    PS I owned and managed a large used and rare independent book and ephemera store called Paper Treasures in Virginia from 1986-2006....about twenty years ago we bought 1200 anti slavery newspapers (all but 4 were northern papers---> NYC, Philadelphia, Boston)....we sold all except 6....4 are original True Americans on Kentucky hemp....