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The Baltimore News-American was a Baltimore, Maryland, U.S. broadsheet newspaper with a continuous lineage (in various forms) of more than two hundred years of Baltimore newspapers. For much of the middle 20th Century, it had the largest circulation in the city. Its final edition was published on May 27, 1986.
"The News American" was formed by a final merger of two papers, the "Baltimore News-Post" and "The Baltimore American", in 1964 after a long 191-year history and weaning process. However, these papers themselves had a long history that preceded them, in particular the "Baltimore American" which could trace its lineage unbroken to at least 1796, and traditionally claimed even earlier back to 1773. Other precursor papers "The News" and "Baltimore Post" were founded in 1873 and 1922, respectively, but established an excellent track record and broke new ground both in graphics, technology, journalistic style plus their quality of writing and reporting in their shorter lives.
For most of the last two-thirds of the 19th Century, the buildings of the two main newspapers of the city faced each other across South Street along East Baltimore Street with "The Sun"'s "Iron Building" of revolutionary cast-iron front design reflecting the earliest "skyscraper" construction technique of 1851. Built opposite later in 1873, was "The News" office/printing establishment with its mansard roof and corner clock tower. Long time owner/editor Charles H. Grasty who bought the "Evening News" in 1892, directed the newspaper's coverage of the gritty late 19th Century burgeoning city with using advanced presses and techniques of graphics, line drawings and larger headlines in the short days before the advent of printed page photographs. Competing with "the other paper" across the street, bulletin boards, chalk boards across the second floor front of the building and hawking "newsies" (newspaper delivery boys) with latest news, telegraphed election results made the intersection the hottest place to be in the Victorian downtown central district.
All this perished in smoke with the "Great Baltimore Fire" in February 1904, which burned out both buildings to a shell. Publication had to be temporarily shifted to other neighboring cities such as Washington. Charles and Baltimore Streets at the geographic center of the city became the site of a new marble beaux-arts classical-style publishing offices for "The Sunpapers" for the next forty-five years, and nicknamed the corner "Sun Square". The "Baltimore American" had a towering office skyscraper "American Building" quickly rebuilt on the same site with a distinctive elaborate green ground floor with gold lettering of the newspaper's logo and masthead and the dates 1773 and 1904 over the doorways. An additional printing plant several blocks south was located on East Pratt between South and Commerce Streets facing "The Basin" and its wharves (today's sleek "Inner Harbor"), was also built after the 1904 Great Fire which devastated most of downtown Baltimore.
An additional office building a block north facing East Lombard Street was built later in 1924 and supplemented with a more modern printing plant between the two buildings along the South Street side in 1965 after the final merger of the "News-Post" and "American". The South Street complex was torn down several years after the paper's closing in 1986, and remained a parking lot and constant property of controversy for Inner Harbor area redevelopment. With the construction of a massive "Commerce Place" tower (initially named, later became headquarters and renamed for long-time famous local investment/financial/banking firm, Alex. Brown & Sons following take-over by Germany's Deutsche Bank) on the block between South and Commerce Streets in 1991, the intersection and battleground of Baltimore and South Streets (and intersecting North Street [later Guilford Avenue]) today are now relatively unknown for the "Newspaper Wars" that ebbed and flowed there through most of the 1800s.
Also one of the casualties of "The Great Fire" was the "Baltimore Morning Herald" which had been founded in February 1900 and combined with the "Baltimore Evening Herald" on August 31, 1904, six months after sustaining the damage from having its headquarters building at the northwestern corner of St. Paul and East Fayette Streets consumed by the blaze although the new massive City Circuit Courthouse (now the Clarence Mitchell, Jr. Courthouse) just to the east across the street, recently completed four years earlier, was unharmed. New editor and only employed for four years so far since graduating from Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, young Henry Louis Mencken was thrown out of his office and arrangements had to be made to print the paper in another city and ship them back into Baltimore.
Several years later, in June 1906, "The Herald" was bought out by competitors Grasty and his "News" joined with Gen. Felix Agnus, owner/publisher of the venerable The Baltimore American and the staff, assets and resources divided between the two older papers which were now the largest in the city. Mencken described his early reporting years in the second volume of his autobiographical trilogy "Newspaper Days" published in 1941.
The "Baltimore American", direct claimed descendent of the original "Maryland Journal and Baltimore Advertiser" was founded in 1773 and had a long-time editor/publisher with C.C. Fulton during the middle 19th Century. After the American Civil War, Gen. Felix Agnus, returned from the war and settled in Baltimore and became manager of the "American" and eventually married the daughter of Mr. Fulton. Within a decade, he became the editor and publisher following the death of Fulton. Agnus, who was born in Paris and having earlier served in the Imperial French Army of Napoleon III, was a major with the 165th New York Regiment and late in the War breveted a brigadier general in March 1865 and continued using the title after retiring. He became very active in a variety of civic, social and political affairs of the city, including heading up the Centre Market Commission which was responsible for rebuilding the Market Place following the devastation caused by the Great Baltimore Fire of February 1904. He was also very proud that his new skyscraper for the "American" was the first to be completed in early 1905 in the "burnt district". He died in October 1925 at age 86, several years after selling the paper to a very controversial and often hated man in America.
William Randolph Hearst's Hearst Company newspaper empire acquired the morning "American" from Agnus and the afternoon "News" from Grasty in 1923 from another newspaper mogul Frank A. Munsey (who also owned the "New York Herald", "New York Sun", "New York Telegraph" and "Washington Times"). Known as the "Dealer in Dailies" and the "Undertaker of Journalism", Munsey purchased "The News" in 1908, just two years after the paper had been forced out from its burned-out headquarters across from "The Sun" into a new skyscraper and publishing tower at the southeast corner of North Calvert Street and East Fayette Street (across from the Battle Monument Square, which had survived untouched on the northern edge of the "Burnt District"). As the first non-resident owner of The American in its already long history, but not satisfied with this new property of "The News" headquarters, Munsey promptly tore it down just a few years later and rebuilt it in 1911 in larger and grander style as the then briefly tallest building in Baltimore, designed by the famed architectural firms of Baldwin & Pennington of Baltimore and McKim, Mead and White of New York City and named it 'The Munsey Building" with large ground-floor windows so passers-by could see the massive printing presses churning out the day's papers.
Mumsey also became the owner of a new large local bank known as "The Munsey Trust Company" founded 1913, later reorganized in 1915 into "The Equitable Trust Company" with Munsey as chairman of the board which became one of the city and state's largest financial empires into the 1990s. But by 1924, when The News moved to new offices and printing presses at East Pratt and Commerce Streets facing the waterfront's wharves, the building was again renovated into the bank's headquarters for the next seventy years until another transformation after a series of bank mergers and out-of-town ownership take-overs in the early 2000s made it into apartments and condos. The Scripps-Howard "Baltimore Post", a late-comer to the local newspaper scene, founded 1922 was later acquired and merged with "The News" by the Hearst Company in 1936 to create the "Baltimore News-Post" under the Hearst banner along with the old ancient "The Baltimore American" which was published now just on Sundays.
In 1964, the "News-Post" and "American" became published as the "The News American" with a newly designed masthead logo and vignette (sketch) and was now the largest circulation daily in Baltimore, especially prominent in the working class and blue collar districts until the early 1970s. A series of format changes and staff re-alignments alienated many readers under a new editing regime in 1977, along with new problems delivering an afternoon paper through the after-work day traffic congestion ("drive time") to the outer suburbs and changing evening leisure habits of the middle classes not allowing much time for paper reading, so circulation slowly declined, after being the largest in the metro area. After the paper's last edition was published on May 27, 1986 with the headline: "So Long, Baltimore", its demise left "The Baltimore Sun" (founded 1837, which had just coincidentally been sold several weeks earlier by the longtime family publishers A.S. Abell Company to the national syndicate and newspaper chain "Times-Mirror" Company of the "Los Angeles Times") as the sole broad-circulation daily in Baltimore, but wasn't announced publically until after the surprise folding of its main competitor.
The stunning news of the multimillion-dollar sale was just announced several days after equally stunning closure of "News American". with leaving "The Sun" published in the morning and "The Evening Sun" (founded 1910) coming out in the afternoon as the only papers left. Separate staffs and content were maintained until the early 1990s when the editions became similar until September 15, 1995, when the evening paper was finally dis-continued with a sad banner "Good Night, Hon" and many of its features and staff combined with the morning paper which eventually was renamed and publicized as "The Baltimore Sun" by 2005.
In 2000, "Times-Mirror" Company merged with the Tribune Company of the "Chicago Tribune" to form a larger syndicate including "The Baltimore Sun" which later entered into bankruptcy in 2009 for four years after being acquired by billionaire investor Sam Zell.
- 1773: "Maryland Journal" and the "Baltimore Advertiser"
- 1796–1798: "Eagle of Freedom; or, the "Baltimore Town and Fell’s Point Gazette"
- 1798–1799: "Baltimore Intelligencer"
- 1799–1802: "American and Daily Advertiser" (also published as the "American and Baltimore Daily Advertiser" and the "American and Mercantile Daily Advertiser")
- 1802–1853: "American and Commercial Daily Advertiser"
- 1854–1856: "American and Commercial Advertiser" (also "Baltimore Weekly American")
- 1857–1861: "Baltimore American", and "Commercial Advertiser"
- 1861–1869: "American and Commercial Advertiser"
- 1870–1883: "Baltimore American and Commercial Advertiser"
- 1883–1964: "Baltimore American"
- 1873–1875: "Evening News"
- 1876–1892: "Baltimore Daily News"
- 1892–1934: "Baltimore News"
- 1922–1929: "Baltimore Daily Post"
- 1929–1934: "Baltimore Post"
- 1934–1936: "Baltimore News and the Baltimore Post" (formed by merger of News and Post)
- 1936–1964: "Baltimore News-Post"
"The News American"
- 1964–1986: "The News American" (formed by merger of "Baltimore News-Post" [published Monday though Saturday] and "Baltimore American" [then published only on Sundays]).
Now the newly revamped "News American" is published seven days a week with the usually thick special Sunday edition of many sections. Masthead is redesigned with new vignette with old Phoenix Shot Tower in center and city skyline buildings behind, surmounted by the traditional Hearst stylized eagle. For the first time, paper is referred to without city name on masthead. New printing presses plant structure constructed in center of block between East Pratt and East Lombard Streets, joining previous structures facing opposite directions with loading docks on east side facing Commerce Street and large brick wall facing on South Street side on the west where huge anodized aluminum name plate is attached, visible from both streets and passing traffic next to new entrance lobby (with exhibits and display boards with history of newspapers) . Entrances on Pratt and Lombard are closed. Paper uses postal new address on South Street.
- John L. Carey, was editor of the "Baltimore American" in 1845. He published a number of books and pamphlets on the question of slavery prior to the American Civil War.
- Baltimore News Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. U.S. Library of Congress
- Whalen, Terence, p.132, Edgar Allan Poe and the Masses: The Political Economy of Literature Retrieved July 2012
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Baltimore News American Photograph Collection, University of Maryland Libraries, College Park, Maryland.