July 7th, 2014
Blog post by Stewart Plein, Rare Book Librarian.
The nameplate of the Daily Citizen, and the wallpaper on which the WVRHC’s copy was printed.
As we celebrate Independence Day this July 4th, we look back to another 4th of July one hundred and fifty one years ago to events that occurred a mere fourteen days after West Virginia achieved statehood on June 20, 1863. It was on July 4th, 1863, that Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton surrendered to General Grant at Vicksburg, an event considered by many to be an important turning point in the Civil War.
General Grant’s army had slashed its way across Mississippi, winning battles and capturing Jackson, the capital city. After sustaining heavy losses in these skirmishes Pemberton was forced to retreat to Vicksburg. As they retreated, the Confederates burned bridges behind them in an attempt to halt Northern forces. On their way to Vicksburg, tired and hungry, Confederate troops stripped the countryside of anything remotely edible along their way.
In close pursuit, Union forces rebuilt the burnt bridges and the traumatic events of the Siege of Vicksburg were about to begin. Continued fighting and a lack of supplies took its toll on both the Confederate soldiers and citizens. Laying siege to Vicksburg, Grant’s army held Pemberton and his men for forty seven days without hope of reinforcement, munitions and most importantly, food and supplies. One example of these deprivations is reported in the last issue of the Vicksburg Daily Citizen, a hometown newspaper that, faced with paper shortages, resorted to printing its publication on the back of wallpaper. The floral pattern shown above is on one side and the text of the paper was printed on the reverse.
As the siege wore on and food became a scarce commodity, horses, mules, dogs and even cats began to disappear all over the city. After Pemberton surrendered Vicksburg to Grant on July 4th, 1863, printers serving in the Union Army discovered the type for the Daily Citizen still standing after its last printing two days before. They reprinted and published the paper adding a Note, seen here, to the bottom right hand corner.
Note added to the newspaper by Union troops the day they took Vicksburg
Indeed, this final issue, printed on a beautiful sheet of wallpaper, is more than the “curiosity” cited by the Union soldiers. As one of the most famous newspaper issues ever published, it was often edited and reprinted for public consumption as a souvenir. The Library of Congress offers a list of points at their site to distinguish actual editions from later reprints.
Section of the wallpaper on which the wall paper maker’s markings can be seen.
You can see a reprint of the final issue of the Daily Citizen, printed on wallpaper, at the West Virginia and Regional History Center in the Wise Library. Another telling point on this particular reprint not mentioned by the Library of Congress is the initials “A.W.P.M.A.,” which stands for the American Wall Paper Manufacturing Association. This group, active from 1880–1887, monopolized the wall paper industry in an effort to maintain pricing. The pattern number, 142, is seen to the right of these initials on the top left hand corner of the pattern side of the paper. This identifying detail marks this copy as an early reprint. Over 30 different reprints of this one newspaper are known to exist. The popularity of the July 4th, 1863 edition of the Daily Citizen, as evidenced by the many reprints, reminds us of tragic and desperate times during the Civil War and the spirit of determination in adverse circumstances to make the news available.
Historical information from the following websites: Library of Congress, Wikipedia, Historic New England, and Civil War.org
Awtrey, Hugh. “Wall Paper News of the Sixties,” The Regional Review, Vol. III, No. 6. December 1939. Retrieved July 1, 2014.
Brigham, Clarence S. “Wall-paper Newspapers of the Civil War,” Bibliographical Essays, A Tribute to Wilberforce Eames (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1924), 203-209.