Overview of Wallpaper Editions
By R. J. Brown
Approximately 35 years ago I received my introduction to wallpaper edition newspapers when I was reading a chapter in a history text book about the American Civil War. The passage stated something like "due to shortages created by blockades, some newspaper offices ran out of paper so they printed some editions on wallpaper which Confederate plantation owners gladly permitted the editor to rip paper off their walls to use to print his newspaper." My first reaction to this statement was "What a noble way to help the cause." I actually believed this for about five years.
It was about 1969, when I subscribed to the Newspaper Collectors Gazette, when I learned that while some editions of newspapers WERE actually printed on wallpaper during the Civil War, the paper WAS NOT ripped off the walls. Instead, new rolls were used. Actually, I hadn't given the latter part of this statement any thought -- Have you ever tried to peel wallpaper off a wall? I dare say, to find a piece large enough to print a newspaper on would be next to impossible! This goes to show that even high school text books can be inaccurate.
Scarcity of the paper normally used for newspapers
forced the editors to use other kinds of paper if they wanted to publish an
edition. The South was almost entirely dependent on the North for its paper
supply. Of the 555 paper making factories in the
As you look over a list of known Civil War wallpaper
editions, it becomes evident that almost all of them were published in
Newspaper editors in the South during the Civil War had
to become very resourceful if they wished to print another edition. Other
substitutes besides wallpaper were used at times. The Opelousas Courier
I had no idea just how many wallpaper editions were ever printed but over the years since, in newspaper dealer catalogs, I had seen a few different wallpaper editions listed for sale but hadn't actually purchased any. On a couple of occasions however, Collectible Newspapers has ran an article on the most famous wallpaper edition reprint -- The Vicksburg Daily Citizen.
The circumstances leading up to the printing of the July
4 Daily Citizen wallpaper edition are actually quite fascinating. In
the pre-war days of 1860, the Citizen was a four-page newspaper of
full dimensions. Even on
The price of our paper at the office is twenty-five cents. Newsboys who charge fifty cents on the streets are not authorized by us to sell at that price; and those who object to extortion should call at the office and get their papers at first cost. We cannot control the trade nor the prices of newsboys and can only sell our papers to them at the same prices that we get from those who call at the office.
When the Federal troops entered the city, they found the
two-day old edition still set up for publication and they reissued it with
some changes in copy. The issue of
How right they were! Since the July 2/4, 1863 edition of the Vicksburg Daily Citizen is the most widely reprinted wallpaper edition, it, of course is the most famous. Because of this, an original edition of this date and title is highly sought after with the value reflecting the demand -- $2500 to $3000. Other Civil War era wallpaper editions, while constantly rising in value, can be bought for around $400 each -- when they become offered. Wallpaper editions during the Civil War were always small town newspapers which, of course, means a smaller press run than a larger city. This helps account for their scarcity.
Post Civil War wallpaper edtions
can be bought for anywhere from $200 to $500 each. While wallpaper issues
from all eras were usually limited to a single sheet, at least two wallpaper
editions of the Opelousas Courier were two-page, hybrids. That is,
page one is dated
Wallpaper editions were not limited to the Civil War
era. The earliest wallpaper editions were issues of the German language Nev Braunfelser Zeitung published in
The 1880's and 1890's also spawned several wallpaper editions. Fortunately, for history's sake, the editors saw fit to explain in a note in the editions why he was using wallpaper. The reasons varied from a blizzard to a quarantine cutting off their supply of regular paper.
In 1881 there was a severe blizzard in the
As a double-rarity, The Salem Register noted above is the only known wallpaper edition of any era that printed the news on both the pattern side as well as the blank side.
The American Antiquarian Society notes wallpaper editions from as recent as 1935 and 1947.
Although it does not qualify as a newspaper in the strict sense, The Newspaper Collectors Gazette, a predecessor of Collectible Newspapers, published one of its 1977 issues on wallpaper.
Original website: (http://www.historybuff.com/library/refwallover.html)