About the Atlanta Historic Newspapers Archive

The city of Atlanta's earliest growth was sparked by its establishment as the southern terminus of the Western and Atlantic Railroad in 1837, and as a result was initially named Terminus. In 1843, the growing city was incorporated under the name Marthasville, in honor of the daughter of Governor Wilson Lumpkin. Two years later the city was renamed Atlanta and held a few hundred people and a burgeoning commercial economy within its city limits. The newspaper industry in the growing young city got off to a shaky start. Reverend Joseph S. Baker established Atlanta's first newspaper, the Luminary, as a weekly four page publication in 1846 and ceased publication within three years. Several other papers circulated over the following year with minimal success, including the Southern Miscellany, which moved to Atlanta from Madison in 1847. After its move, Baker renamed it the Southern Miscellany and Upper Georgia Whig. The paper lasted only two years in Atlanta due to a smallpox outbreak. The Intelligencer began weekly publication in June of 1849 using the Miscellany's old printing equipment, and covered not just local and national news, but also international events utilizing a telegraph station that ran through its building. In the early 1850s, Atlanta Weekly Examiner entered the market and became Atlanta's first daily newspaper in August of 1854, followed a month later by a daily edition of the Intelligencer. These two daily newspapers papers merged in September of 1857.

At the onset of the Civil War, the city's fortunes were mixed. During the first four years of the conflict, Atlanta's population more than doubled and was accompanied by a boom of wartime industry. After the outbreak of the war, several entrepreneurs established newspapers to cover the events of the fighting. One of the more prominent wartime publications was the Gate-City Guardian, which was purchased and renamed the Southern Confederacy in 1861 and continued publication into 1864. Other papers were shutdown during wartime, including Colonel John H. Seals' Georgia Literary and Temperance Crusader. Atlanta's growth was interrupted in November of 1864 when General William T. Sherman and his Union troops, in their March to the Sea, captured Atlanta and burned down substantial portions of the city. The destruction also dealt a blow to the city's newspaper industry as the Intelligencer was the only Atlanta paper to survive the war.

Atlanta's newspaper industry found new life in the post-war period. In 1867, W.L. Scruggs and J.B. Dumble established the Daily Opinion, a paper that supported the Republican Party and radical reconstruction in the South. It ceased publication the following year. The New Era, which began publication in 1865, also evolved into a Republican leaning news organ, and ended its run in 1872. In 1868, the state capital was moved from Milledgeville to Atlanta, which gave the city's newspapers greater prominence in Georgia. Carey Wentworth Styles took advantage of Atlanta's newly acquired status when he purchased the Daily Opinion in 1868 and renamed it the Atlanta Constitution. Styles sold his interest in the paper later that year to partners William A. Hemphill and James H. Anderson. The Constitution was so successful in its first few years of publication, it forced Atlanta's oldest newspaper, the Atlanta Intelligencer, out of business in 1871. The Atlanta Daily Sun began publication the year after the Atlanta Constitution. For a time, the paper was owned and edited by Congressman and former vice president of the Confederacy Alexander Stephens. The paper eventually merged with the Constitution in June of 1873.

Alexander St. Clair-Abrams, in an attempt to compete for influence with the Constitution, established the Daily Herald in 1872. That same year, Henry W. Grady became a partial owner of the paper and after Abrams left the paper in 1873, Grady became the editor. It was in the Daily Herald that Grady began his celebrated crusade for an industrialized "New South." Despite the attention Grady received for his writings, the Herald was acquired and shut down by the Atlanta Constitution in February of 1876. Grady eventually purchased a quarter share of the Constitution in 1880 and over the following decade became the state's most prominent journalist. His tireless promotion of the paper in the 1880s, resulted in the Weekly Constitution having the largest circulation of any newspaper in the South by the end of the decade.

In November of 1874, J.H. and W.B Seals established the Sunny South in Atlanta as a literary magazine. The paper printed stories of prominent southern authors and covered the news of the state. In 1893, the Atlanta Constitution purchased the magazine and published it as supplement to the Sunday editions of the Atlanta Constitution. The Sunny South, during this period, was the first publication in Atlanta to support the cause of suffrage for women. Celebrated writer and journalist Joel Chandler Harris absorbed the Sunny South into his new publication, the Uncle Remus Magazine in 1907. He died the following year, but his paper continued circulation under the direction of his son until 1913.

The Constitution would find more substantial competition in the decades after it was established. In 1883, E. F. Hoge founded the Atlanta Journal as an afternoon publication. The paper quickly became the Constitution's main rival. Future Georgia governor Hoke Smith purchased the paper in 1887. Under his ownership, the paper became a strong proponent of the Democratic Party, and supported Grover Cleveland for president in 1892. The Journal gained national attention when a victorious Cleveland named Smith to his cabinet the following year. In 1906, Fred Loring Seely established the Atlanta Georgian as daily newspaper. He used the publication as a forum to support prohibition and speak out against the convict labor lease system. Famed media tycoon William Randolph Hurst purchased the paper in 1912. Under his ownership, the Georgian became the third largest newspaper in the state behind the Constitution and the Journal. During this period, the paper employed Mildred Seydell, one on the first female newspaper journalists in the state. One of the more unique newspapers of this period was the Atlantian, which began publication in the early twentieth century. The paper was published by the prisoners of the United States Penitentiary in Atlanta, and grew to become of the most respected prison publications in the nation.

Former U. S. congressman, Ohio governor, and presidential candidate James Cox purchased both the Georgian and the Journal in 1939, but closed the Georgian in December of that year. The Journal's success continued under his ownership, eventually passing the Constitution in circulation. Cox purchased the Constitution in 1950, but continued to print each title independently, with the Constitution as a morning paper and the Journal an afternoon paper. The two staffs eventually merged in 1982, but it was not until 2001 that the two papers combined under one title, the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, which is today the largest newspaper in Georgia and one of the largest newspapers in the nation with a daily circulation of over 200,000.

Sources:

Ruth Elaine Feldman, "A Checklist of Atlanta Newspapers, 1846 - 1948" (M.A. thesis, Emory University, 1948).

Louis Turner Griffith and John Erwin Talmadge, Georgia Journalism, 1763-1950 (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1951).

Debra Reddin van Tuyll, "Nineteenth Century Georgia Newspapers," New Georgia Encyclopedia, 2002.


Scope:

The Atlanta Historic Newspapers Archive spans the years 1847-1922 with over 67,000 images, and includes the following titles:

  • Atlanta Daily Examiner, 1857
  • Atlanta Daily Herald, 1873-1876
  • Atlanta Georgian, 1906-1911
  • Atlanta Intelligencer, 1851, 1854-1871
  • Atlantian, 1911-1922
  • Daily/Georgia Weekly Opinion, 1867-1868
  • Gate-City Guardian, 1861
  • Georgia Literary and Temperance Crusader, 1860-1861
  • New Era, 1869-1872
  • Southern Confederacy, 1861-1864
  • Southern Miscellany, and Upper Georgia Whig, 1847
  • Southern World, 1882-1885
  • Sunny South, 1875-1907
  • Weekly Constitution, 1869-1882

Library of Congress Subject Headings

  • Atlanta (Ga.) --Newspapers.
  • Fulton County (Ga.) --Newspapers.

Creation of the Web site: The following UGA Libraries employees contributed to the production of the Atlanta Historic Newspaper web site:

  • Kristyn Blackburn
  • Ashley Doliber
  • Brittany Emge
  • Philip Fitzpatrick
  • Toby Graham
  • Felicia Johnson
  • Bob Kobres
  • Jeannie Ledford
  • Meagan Logsdon
  • Sheila McAlister
  • Victoria McDonald
  • Kelly Nielsen
  • Donnie Summerlin
  • Mary Willoughby
  • Jennifer Wang
  • Constantine Wright

Publisher: The Digital Library of Georgia, University of Georgia Libraries, Athens, GA 30602

Date: 2010

Master image file details: 400 ppi, TIFF 4.0

Credit: The Atlanta Historic Newspaper database is a project of the Digital Library of Georgia as part of Georgia HomePLACE. The project is supported with federal LSTA funds administered by the Institute of Museum and Library Services through the Georgia Public Library Service, a unit of the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia.