Spirit of the Times

Last updated
Spirit of the Times, January 17, 1877 141 Spirit Of The Times Judge Fullerton.jpg
Spirit of the Times, January 17, 1877

The Spirit of the Times: A Chronicle of the Turf, Agriculture, Field Sports, Literature and the Stage was an American weekly newspaper published in New York City. The paper aimed for an upper-class readership made up largely of sportsmen. The Spirit also included humorous material, much of it based on experience of settlers near the southwestern frontier. [1] Theatre news was a third important component. The Spirit had an average circulation of about 22,000, [2] with a peak of about 40,000 subscribers. [3]

United States federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

A weekly newspaper is a general-news publication that is published once or twice a week.

New York City Largest city in the United States

The City of New York, usually called either New York City (NYC) or simply New York (NY), is the most populous city in both the United States and the state of New York. With an estimated 2017 population of 8,622,698 distributed over a land area of about 302.6 square miles (784 km2), New York is also the most densely populated major city in the United States. Located at the southern tip of the state of New York, the city is the center of the New York metropolitan area, the largest metropolitan area in the world by urban landmass and one of the world's most populous megacities, with an estimated 20,320,876 people in its 2017 Metropolitan Statistical Area and 23,876,155 residents in its Combined Statistical Area. A global power city, New York City has been described as the cultural, financial, and media capital of the world, and exerts a significant impact upon commerce, entertainment, research, technology, education, politics, tourism, art, fashion, and sports. The city's fast pace has inspired the term New York minute. Home to the headquarters of the United Nations, New York is an important center for international diplomacy.


Life of the paper

William T. Porter Wm. T. Porter, editor of the Spirit of the Times.jpg
William T. Porter

William T. Porter and his brothers started the Spirit of the Times in 1831. They sought an upper-class readership, stating in one issue that the Spirit was "designed to promote the views and interests of but an infinitesimal division of those classes of society composing the great mass . . . . " [4] They modeled the paper on Bell's Life in London , a high-class English journal. Subscriptions rose from $2 to $5 in 1836, followed in 1839 by another rise to $10. [5] Editorial policies forbade any discussion of politics in the paper so as to avoid alienating any potential readers. Nevertheless, some writers managed to have material printed that showed favoritism, typically toward the Whigs. [6] The biggest breach of the 'no politics' rule came in 1842, after the publication of Dickens's inflammatory American Notes . A wave of anti-British, anti-imperialist articles followed. [7]

William T. Porter 19th-century American journalist and newspaper editor

William Trotter Porter was an American journalist and newspaper editor who founded an early American newspaper devoted to sports. After working at a number of small newspapers, Porter moved to New York City in the 1830s. After employment at a newspaper in the city, he founded the Spirit of the Times, a newspaper modeled on a London paper called Bell's Life in London. The Spirit, which went through a number of names and incarnations over the years, was devoted to sports and other recreational pursuits. One of Porter's main interests involved horse racing, and he was involved in attempts to create the first stud book in the United States, which did not bear fruit. He was also instrumental in the development of American literature, as the Spirit published a number of short stories by American tall tale writers, and Porter edited two collections of short stories by American writers. After publishing the Spirit through the 1830s, he sold it to another printer but continued as the editor into the 1850s. He left the original Spirit in 1855 and in 1856 was hired as editor for another sporting newspaper, Porter's Spirit of the Times, published by George Wilkes. Porter died in 1858.

The upper class in modern societies is the social class composed of people who hold the highest social status, usually are the wealthiest members of society, and wield the greatest political power. According to this view, the upper class is generally distinguished by immense wealth which is passed on from generation to generation. Prior to the 20th century, the emphasis was on aristocracy, which emphasized generations of inherited noble status, not just recent wealth.

Bell's Life in London, and Sporting Chronicle was an English weekly sporting paper published as a pink broadsheet between 1822 and 1886.

By 1839, the Spirit was the most popular sporting journal in the United States. [8] This allowed the Porters to buy their main rival, the American Turf Register and Sporting Magazine . By 1856, all of the Porter brothers were dead except William. The paper split at some point, one branch called the Spirit of the Times, the other Porter's Spirit of the Times. Porter died in 1858, and circulation of the two papers suffered. After the papers remerged in 1861, George Wilkes bought the enterprise and tried to keep it profitable. In 1878, William B. Curtis became the new editor and helped propagate the journal's elitism by refusing to cover sporting events that were not sanctioned by amateur organizations, which had rigid admission requirements. [8]

A newspaper's circulation is the number of copies it distributes on an average day. Circulation is one of the principal factors used to set advertising rates. Circulation is not always the same as copies sold, often called paid circulation, since some newspapers are distributed without cost to the reader. Readership figures are usually higher than circulation figures because of the assumption that a typical copy of the newspaper is read by more than one person.

George Wilkes 19th-century American journalist and writer

George Wilkes was an American journalist and newspaper editor. A native of New York, Wilkes became a journalist and after losing a libel case was imprisoned in New York City's jail; his imprisonment led him to write a pamphlet on the jail's conditions in 1844. The next year, Wilkes and a friend started publishing National Police Gazette, a newspaper dealing with crime reporting and other sensationalistic topics. In 1856 Wilkes bought a sporting newspaper called Spirit of the Times, which he had previously worked for. After selling the Gazette, Wilkes continued to publish and edit the Spirit until his death in 1885. Wilkes also wrote a couple of books on non-sporting topics as well as introducing pari-mutuel betting into the United States.

Elitism is the belief or attitude that individuals who form an elite—a select group of people with a certain ancestry, intrinsic quality, high intellect, wealth, special skills, or experience—are more likely to be constructive to society as a whole, and therefore deserve influence or authority greater than that of others.

Sports writing

By the 1850s, the Spirit covered angling, baseball, cricket, foot racing, fox hunting, horse racing, rowing, and yachting; [9] boxing followed later in the decade. Porter printed all sorts of statistics, presaging the American sports obsession with such trivia. [9] The paper helped to standardize horse racing by publishing horse weights, suggested betting practices, and offering efficient track management techniques. [8]

Angling method of fishing

Angling is a method of fishing by means of an "angle". The hook is usually attached to a fishing line and the line is often attached to a fishing rod. Modern fishing rods are usually fitted with a fishing reel that functions as a mechanism for storing, retrieving and paying out the line. Tenkara fishing and cane pole fishing are two techniques that do not use a reel. The hook itself can be dressed with bait, but sometimes a lure, with hooks attached to it, is used in place of a hook and bait. A bite indicator such as a float, and a weight or sinker are sometimes used.

Baseball Sport

Baseball is a bat-and-ball game played between two opposing teams who take turns batting and fielding. The game proceeds when a player on the fielding team, called the pitcher, throws a ball which a player on the batting team tries to hit with a bat. The objectives of the offensive team are to hit the ball into the field of play, and to run the bases—having its runners advance counter-clockwise around four bases to score what are called "runs". The objective of the defensive team is to prevent batters from becoming runners, and to prevent runners' advance around the bases. A run is scored when a runner legally advances around the bases in order and touches home plate. The team that scores the most runs by the end of the game is the winner.

Cricket Team sport played with bats and balls

Cricket is a bat-and-ball game played between two teams of eleven players on a field at the centre of which is a 20-metre (22-yard) pitch with a wicket at each end, each comprising two bails balanced on three stumps. The batting side scores runs by striking the ball bowled at the wicket with the bat, while the bowling and fielding side tries to prevent this and dismiss each player. Means of dismissal include being bowled, when the ball hits the stumps and dislodges the bails, and by the fielding side catching the ball after it is hit by the bat, but before it hits the ground. When ten players have been dismissed, the innings ends and the teams swap roles. The game is adjudicated by two umpires, aided by a third umpire and match referee in international matches. They communicate with two off-field scorers who record the match's statistical information.

Under Wilkes, the Spirit began covering football more extensively than any previous publication. Football coverage in the Spirit quickly outstripped the same in the paper's main rivals, the New York Clipper and the National Police Gazette . [10] The paper covered college games first; in 1882, football got its own section. This coverage expanded again in 1892.

American football Team field sport

American football, referred to as football in the United States and Canada and also known as gridiron, is a team sport played by two teams of eleven players on a rectangular field with goalposts at each end. The offense, which is the team controlling the oval-shaped football, attempts to advance down the field by running with or passing the ball, while the defense, which is the team without control of the ball, aims to stop the offense's advance and aims to take control of the ball for themselves. The offense must advance at least ten yards in four downs, or plays, and otherwise they turn over the football to the defense; if the offense succeeds in advancing ten yards or more, they are given a new set of four downs. Points are primarily scored by advancing the ball into the opposing team's end zone for a touchdown or kicking the ball through the opponent's goalposts for a field goal. The team with the most points at the end of a game wins.

<i>New York Clipper</i> a weekly entertainment newspaper published in New York City from 1853 to 1924

The New York Clipper, also known as The Clipper, was a weekly entertainment newspaper published in New York City from 1853 to 1924. It covered many topics, including circuses, dance, music, the outdoors, sports, and theatre. It had a circulation of about 25,000. The publishers also produced the yearly New York Clipper Annual. In 1924, The Clipper was absorbed into the entertainment journal Variety.

<i>National Police Gazette</i>

The National Police Gazette, commonly referred to as simply the Police Gazette, was an American magazine founded in 1845. Under publisher Richard K. Fox, it became the forerunner of the men's lifestyle magazine, the illustrated sports weekly, the girlie/pin-up magazine, the celebrity gossip column, Guinness World Records-style competitions, and modern tabloid/sensational journalism.

Under Curtis, who was a devotee of speed skating, developments in local and international speed-skating were covered and Curtis compiled lists of skating records. [11]

Speed skating competitive form of ice skating in which the competitors race each other

Speed skating is a competitive form of ice skating in which the competitors race each other in travelling a certain distance on skates. Types of speed skating are long track speed skating, short track speed skating, and marathon speed skating. In the Olympic Games, long-track speed skating is usually referred to as just "speed skating", while short-track speed skating is known as "short track". The ISU, the governing body of both ice sports, refers to long track as "speed skating" and short track as "short track skating".

A prominent contributing writer in the 1870s was cowboy, frontier scout, and stage star Texas Jack Omohundro. Texas Jack's contributions included a lengthy write-up of his experiences as a cow-boy on the Chisholm Trail, hunting buffalo with the Pawnee people, and hunting elk in the Bighorns and Wind River ranges of Wyoming, and deer hunting in Florida.

Theatre writing

The early Spirit covered goings on at all of New York's playhouses. Jacksonian entertainment was stratifying by class, however, and the Spirit quickly relegated most of its coverage to the Park Theatre. [12] Any coverage of the Bowery or Chatham Garden theatres was negative from about 1832 on. Porter wrote in 1840 that the "Bowery, . . . is to be transmogrified into a Circus shortly, the 'Bowery boys' having lost their taste for the illegitimate drama, and they never had any other." [13] He visited the Bowery on a few other occasions, and his reviews on it are full of mockery and derision:

By reasonable computation there were about 300 persons on the stage and wings alone—soldiers in fatigue dresses—officers with side arms—a few jolly tars, and a number of "apple-munching urchins." The scene was indescribably ludicrous. Booth played [Richard III] in his best style, and was really anxious to make a hit, but the confusion incidental to such a crowd on the stage, occasioned constant and most humorous interruptions. It was every thing or any thing, but a tragedy. In the scene with Lady Anne, a scene so much admired for its address, the gallery spectators amused themselves by throwing pennies and silver pieces on the stage, which occasioned an immense scramble among the boys, and they frequently ran between King Richard and Lady Anne, to snatch a stray copper. In the tent scene, so solemn and so impressive, several curious amateurs went up to the table, took up the crown, poised the heavy sword, and examined all the regalia with great care, while Richard was in agony from the terrible dream; and when the scene changed, discovering the ghosts of King Henry, Lady Anne and children, it was difficult to select them from the crowd who thrust their faces and persons among the Royal shadows.

The Battle of Bosworth Field capped the climax—the audience mingled with the soldiers and raced across the stage, to the shouts of the people, the roll of the drums and the bellowing of the trumpets; and when the fight between Richard and Richmond came on, they made a ring round the combattants to see fair play, and kept them at if for nearly a quarter of an hour by "Shrewsberry clock." [14]

Humor writing

William Porter relied on amateur correspondents to cover sporting events across the United States. By the end of the 1830s, these writers had begun to submit fiction as well, including horse-racing fiction, hunting fiction, and tall tales. The paper thus served as an early outlet for many American authors. Among the Spirit's correspondents who would go on to literary careers were George Washington Harris (who used the pseudonyms 'Sugartail' and 'Mr. Free'), Johnson Jones Hooper, Henry Clay Lewis, Alexander McNutt, Thomas Bangs Thorpe, and Jonathan Falconbridge Kelly. Many contributed anonymously, as writing was not always seen as a respectable profession. [15] [16]

As these humor segments grew more popular, Porter sought out new writers. Among the humorists he published were Joseph Glover Baldwin, Augustus Baldwin Longstreet, and William Tappan Thompson. Many of these writers concentrated on Southwestern humor, that is, humor relating to Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee. [17]

Porter edited two anthologies of the Spirit's humorous contributions. The Big Bear of Arkansas (named for a popular sketch) was published in 1845; A Quarter Race in Kentucky (so titled for the same reason) followed in 1847.

The Spirit's success prompted other papers, such as the New Orleans Picayune and the St. Louis Reveille , to begin running humor pieces in the 1840s. [18] Character types such as the frontiersman and the riverboatsman became common fixtures of American fiction and drama. [17]


  1. Grammer 370.
  2. Oriard 289 note 3.
  3. Gorn 67.
  4. Quoted in Gorn 67.
  5. Yates, 31.
  6. Flora and MacKethan 845-6.
  7. Especially Spirit of the Times, 26 November 1842, 3 December 1842, 4 March 1843.
  8. 1 2 3 Sloan 199.
  9. 1 2 Isenberg 92.
  10. Oriard 138.
  11. Tebbutt, C.G (1892). "Chapter VII: Modern Racing". Skating. Longmans, Green and Co. pp. 270–272. OL   7132924M . Retrieved Feb 10, 2013.
  12. Cockrell 28.
  13. 26 September 1840. Spirit of the Times. Quoted in Cockrell 33. Emphasis in the original.
  14. Porter, William T. (1 December 1832). Spirit of the Times. Quoted in Cockrell 31-2.
  15. Flora and MacKethan 845.
  16. Rickels 65.
  17. 1 2 Flora and MacKethan 350.
  18. Flora and MacKethan 931.

Related Research Articles

Minstrel show blackface performance

The minstrel show, or minstrelsy, was an American form of entertainment developed in the early 19th century. Each show consisted of comic skits, variety acts, dancing, and music performances that depicted people specifically of African descent. The shows were performed by white people in make-up or blackface for the purpose of playing the role of black people. There were also some African-American performers and all-black minstrel groups that formed and toured under the direction of white people. Minstrel shows lampooned black people as dim-witted, lazy, buffoonish, superstitious, and happy-go-lucky.

The Pulitzer Prizes for 2004 were announced on April 5, 2004.

Sports journalism is a form of writing that reports on sporting topics and competitions.

The anti-abolitionist riots of 1834 took place in New York City over a series of four nights, beginning on July 7, 1834. Their deeper origins lay in the combination of nativism and abolitionism among Protestants who had controlled the booming city since the American Revolutionary War, and fear and resentment of blacks among the growing underclass of Irish immigrants and their kin. In 1827, the UK repealed legislation controlling and restricting emigration from Ireland, and 20,000 Irish emigrated; by 1835 over 30,000 Irish arrived in New York annually.

<i>The Record</i> (Bergen County) newspaper in North Jersey

The Record is a newspaper in North Jersey, United States. It primarily serves Bergen County, though it also covers Hudson, Essex and Passaic counties as well. It has the second largest circulation of New Jersey's daily newspapers, behind The Star-Ledger.

George Washington Dixon American entertainer

George Washington Dixon was an American singer, stage actor, and newspaper editor. He rose to prominence as a blackface performer after performing "Coal Black Rose", "Zip Coon", and similar songs. He later turned to a career in journalism, during which he earned the enmity of members of the upper class for his frequent allegations against them.

Bowery Theatre former theatre (1822-1929) in Manhattan, New York City, United States, destroyed by fire and rebuilt numerous times

The Bowery Theatre was a playhouse on the Bowery in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, New York City. Although it was founded by rich families to compete with the upscale Park Theatre, the Bowery saw its most successful period under the populist, pro-American management of Thomas Hamblin in the 1830s and 1840s. By the 1850s, the theatre came to cater to immigrant groups such as the Irish, Germans, and Chinese. It burned down four times in 17 years, a fire in 1929 destroying it for good. Although the theatre's name changed several times, it was generally referred to as the "Bowery Theatre".

Thomas S. Hamblin British actor

Thomas Souness Hamblin was an English actor and theatre manager. He first took the stage in England, then immigrated to the United States in 1825. He received critical acclaim there, and eventually entered theatre management. During his tenure at New York City's Bowery Theatre he helped establish working-class theatre as a distinct form. His policies preferred American actors and playwrights to British ones, making him an important influence in the development of early American drama.

Henry F. Harrington was an American newspaper editor. He edited the Boston Herald for part of the 1830s.

The Bowery Amphitheatre was a building in the Bowery neighborhood of New York City. It was located at 37 and 39 Bowery, across the street from the Bowery Theatre. Under a number of different names and managers, the structure served as a circus, menagerie, theatre, a roller rink, and a branch of the Peniel Mission. The site is now part of Confucius Plaza.

<i>Blades of Glory</i> 2007 American comedy film

Blades of Glory is a 2007 American comedy film directed by Josh Gordon and Will Speck, written by John Altschuler, Jeff Cox, Craig Cox, and Dave Krinsky, and starring Will Ferrell and Jon Heder. The movie was based on an original idea by Busy Philipps and she "fleshed out the screenplay." However, Jeff and Craig Cox dropped her name from the script. The movie was produced by MTV Films, Red Hour and Smart Entertainment and released on March 30, 2007, by DreamWorks Pictures.

<i>Badminton Library</i> library in England

The Badminton Library, called in full The Badminton Library of Sports and Pastimes, was a sporting and publishing project conceived and founded by Henry Somerset, 8th Duke of Beaufort (1824–1899). Between 1885 and 1902 it developed into a series of sporting books which aimed to cover comprehensively all major sports and pastimes. The books were published in London by Longmans, Green & Co. and in Boston by Little, Brown & Co.

The Sunday Mercury (1839–1896) was a weekly Sunday newspaper published in New York City that grew to become the highest-circulation weekly newspaper in the United States at its peak. It was known for publishing and popularizing the work of many notable 19th-century writers, including Charles Farrar Browne and Robert Henry Newell, and was the first Eastern paper to publish Mark Twain. It was also the first newspaper to provide regular coverage of baseball, and was popular for the extensive war correspondence from soldiers it published during the Civil War.

New Orleans Review, founded in 1968, is a journal of contemporary literature and culture that publishes "poetry, fiction, nonfiction, art, photography, film and book reviews" by established and emerging writers and artists. New Orleans Review is a publication of the Department of English at Loyola University New Orleans.

<i>New York Dramatic Mirror</i>

The New York Dramatic Mirror (1879–1922) was a prominent theatrical trade newspaper.

The Sporting Globe was a newspaper published in Melbourne from 1922 until 1996. The first issue was published on 22 July 1922, and for the first four weeks it was published only on Saturday evenings; from 16 August 1922 it introduced a Wednesday afternoon edition. The Saturday edition was discontinued in 1979, and the final Wednesday edition was published on 2 September 1996. Printed on pink paper and published by Walter R. May for The Herald and Weekly Times at corner Flinders and Russell streets, Melbourne. Initially the Saturday edition was priced at 2d, and the larger Wednesday edition at 3d. With the introduction of the Wednesday edition it also widened its coverage beyond purely sport, acquiring the subtitle "A Journal of Sport, the Stage and the Screen". However, during 1924 it dropped the subtitle and returned to covering purely sport.