Newspaper presidents

Have been reading the extravagantly titled Lincoln's Wrath: Fierce Mobs, Brilliant Scoundrels and a President's Mission to Destroy the Press. (I think the editors at Sourcebooks who crafted this handle need some time off.)

The book is a wealth of information on Northern newspapers and the war, some of the material from secondary sources, some from primary. I did not know, for instance, that Lincoln had financed the startup of the Illinois Staats-Anzeiger in 1859, nor that he picked its editor. The political dimension of government printing contracts, I had forgotten, and the number of editors Lincoln appointed to diplomatic posts I never knew. For a man with as slender a political career previous to the presidency as Lincoln experienced, Lincoln knew patronage like nobody's business.

Something I found useful appears in Wrath but was originally formulated in The North Reports the Civil War. It's a description of Washington's daily news cycle:
The Baltimore dailies were sold by hundreds of newsboys every morning by six o'clock; these included the American, Sun, and Clipper. The major Washington newspaper, the National Intelligencer and Chronicle, were peddled an hour later at seven. The Philadelphia train arrived at eleven, bringing The Press and the Inquirer. At three in the afternoon, the Washington afternoon papers were on the streets, followed every thirty minutes by later editions, if warranted. The arrival of the New York train at five in the evening brought the day's Herald, Tribune, and New York Times..."
Lincoln himself read three papers in the morning, the Daily Morning Chronicle, the National Republican, and the Evening Star. I'd like to read them myself to find out "why these" and to map their editorials against major Lincoln decisions on a timeline.

In addition to reading these papers whole, Lincoln's secretaries, Nicolay and Hay, operated a clipping service for the president, perusing and snipping from a dozen papers each morning.

Thanks to Michael Burlingame, we know that John Hay, in fact, wrote many pro-Administration editorials for various newspapers under pseudonyms. His enthusiasm for anonymous editorializing seems to have dried up after he lost his place in 1864.

The authors of Wrath call Lincoln "the newspaper president." With that there can be little argument. They've done as much as pop historians can reasonably do: excite interest in a subject. The next level of really useful work will be to determine what "newspaper president" means.

(Stained glass image from Boston University's Marsh Chapel.)