The Amateur Press

SouthernerThe American Antiquarian Society recently donated two miniature amateur newspapers to the Library of Virginia from its large and impressive collection of early amateur publications.  According to the American Antiquarian Society, the amateur newspaper occupies “an unusual place in the history of journalism” created “to afford pleasure to its readers as well as to its editor and its publisher. The rage to publish, rather than profit, is the motive that most often induces people to become amateur journalists; and, throughout the history of the genre, most but not all amateur journalists have been juveniles.”

The Southerner, published in Newport News by the Virginia Pub. Co., began in 1904 and was edited by A. M. Hamilton. Every issue of the Southerner had a different motto ranging from “The Virginia Boy Advocate” to “Virginia’s Monthly Magazinelet” to “The South’s Literary Exponent.” The subscription for the publication was a reasonable 25 cents a year (foreign subscriptions 50 cents) and advertising could be bought for five cents a line or fifty cents per inch, not a bad deal considering the paper’s size: seven inches by five inches. The Southerner contained poetry, editorials about the amateur press, character sketches, and short stories.

The Virginian, published, coincidentally, in Tiny, Virginia, was edited by Elihu J. Sutherland, scholar, genealogist, member of the National Genealogical Society, WW I soldier, teacher, lawyer, and noted local historian. Several historical works by Sutherland on Dickenson County can be found at the Library of Virginia, including Dickenson County in War Time, Pioneer Recollections of Southwest Virginia, Folk Games from Frying Pan Creek in Dickenson County, In Lonesome Cove; Poems from TVA-Land and Meet Virginia’s Baby.

Volume one, number one of The Virginian, distributed in March 1908 (also measuring Virginianseven inches by five inches) included three poems and “Editorial Scribblings” about the Southern Amateur Journalists’ Association. Volume one, number two of the Virginian did not appear until August 1908, but E.J. Sutherland offered an enthusiastic and apologetic “Editorial Scribbling” concerning the delay: “Good Morning!” he wrote, “Here the Virginian comes again after a long silence, bright and hopeful and enthusiastic as ever. Although apparently negligent and uninterested, I assure all amateurs that I am as deeply interested and desirous of the success of amateurdom as anyone.”

While the Library has only seven issues between the two publications, each offers interesting lessons on the long history of and enduring devotion to the amateur press. Come to the Library and take a look at them for yourself!

p.s. The Project’s own Silver Persinger published the amateur newspaper The Crow back in 2003. Check it out for uniquely in-depth coverage of Richmond’s political happenings at the time.

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