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When times weren’t imprinted on Sunday

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Today, the New York Times Sunday print edition is a big bundle of news and reporting, with enough news and entertainment to get you through the day. But it wasn’t always like that. In fact, for the first 10 years of publication, The Times did not print a Sunday edition at all. “The New-York Daily Times is published every morning, (Sunday except) ”, Reads the opening words of the first issue, September 18, 1851.

One of the greatest stories imaginable would change that.

Many of the Sunday papers printed in the United States in the early 19th century were weekly editions. A daily Sunday newspaper filled with news was not customary, and a big obstacle was the Christian Sabbath. Many worshipers wanted nothing in competition with the clergy, and new entrants often met with public backlash.

In New York, defenders of Sunday morality have insulted themselves against anything that smacks of commerce. Vending machines, drinking establishments and especially trains – big, noisy and carrying mail – were frequent subjects of anger. Newspapers distract the devoted. The Observer, The Sunday Courier and The Citizen of the World are three examples of early New York newspapers that attempted, and failed, to overcome religious custom in New York, according to Alfred’s The Daily Newspaper in America. McClung Lee.

But in 1851, The Times was founded in a changing city. Sunday distribution was increasing, a trend since inexpensive dailies began to appear in American cities in the 1830s. The New York Herald had published a regular Sunday edition since 1841. According to Mr. Lee, James Gordon Bennett Sr ., who founded The Herald, had learned from the Boston Sabbath lines in the 1820s that “the American reader most avidly consumes what he blatantly hates.”

More generally, Sunday mores were softening. For a growing number of working-class immigrants, Sunday was the only day off and spent socializing at festive public gatherings.

The Times supported the New York Sabbath Committee, a body of civic leaders and clergy formed in 1857 to save Sunday morality and “stop certain forms of Sabbath desecration.” The fact that its main readership is upper-class Anglo-Saxon society probably played a role. The alarm over the disappearance of religious mores appeared frequently in the front pages of The Times, which published letters with complaints about the clamor of German commerce and beer houses operating on Sundays. He also reported on the bustle of boats using the Erie Canal on Sunday.

Since the first meeting of the Sabbath Committee on April 1, 1857, its activities have been covered closely by The Times. One of the committee’s first steps was to write to the chiefs of the great railroads, “through which traffic, travel and moral influences perpetually flow”, about their Sunday visits in the city. Shortly thereafter (even before alcohol), the committee attacked the newspaper vendors who were selling newspapers. The Times reported that after a committee call to Sunday editors failed to silence the distributor, a police order cracked down on him.

“The result of this action revealed the true power possessed by the Sunday press, for its course was doomed and the matter settled that the Sabbath was a day that the strong arm of the law could keep sacred,” one reads in one. Times article from a committee meeting in 1859.

If The Times, which was still edited by co-founder Henry J. Raymond, were ambiguous as other Sunday editions appeared in New York City, it wouldn’t take longer.

When the South Carolina militia bombed the US military at Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, the country and the newspapers changed. And the Sabbath taboo, which had already weakened, was essentially broken.

On April 18, when Fort Sumter fell and war was apparent, The Times had to explain to readers who found the newspaper delivered late and information was exhausted that “we can only apologize for our recent increase in the traffic was much faster. what we were prepared for.

Two days later, subscribers were to expect a special Sunday edition the next day.

Cultural wars would not completely dissipate during the Civil War. The New York Sabbath Committee regretted that the Battle of Bull Run took place on a Sunday and feared that a generation of young soldiers would forget godliness. But the news was urgent – the United States was breaking down – and on the second Sunday after Fort Sumter, the Times committed to a Sunday edition “during the excitement of war.” He even announced that “special trains will run on the Hudson River and New Haven Railroads on Sunday morning, to accommodate newspapers along the line.”

Once readers got used to the Sunday editions, there was no turning back.

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