Brother Jonathan (newspaper)

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Brother Jonathan
Brother Jonathan letterhead.jpg
Type Weekly literary newspaper
Founded 1839?
Ceased publication 1862
Headquarters Manhattan
OCLC number 9439488

Brother Jonathan was a weekly publication operated by Benjamin Day from 1842 to 1862, and was the first weekly illustrated publication in the United States.[1][2]


Benjamin Day founded the first penny newspaper in the United States, The New York Sun, in 1833.[3] He sold the paper to his brother-in-law, Moses Yale Beach, in 1838.[4]

After trying a few other publishing ventures, in 1842 Day formed a partnership with James G. Wilson to publish the weekly Brother Jonathan, focusing on reprinting English fiction (where no royalties were paid to the authors). However, the exact origins of the publication are a bit more complex, as Rufus Wilmot Griswold and Park Benjamin, Sr., who started the Evening Tattler in 1839, started publishing Brother Jonathan in July 1839, and it appears that Day and Wilson soon took over those publications. [5][6][7] The January 1, 1842 edition of Brother Jonathan is still listed as Volume 1, No. 1, despite the prior issues.

Brother Jonathan became popular throughout the United States, and reportedly grew to a circulation of between 60-70,000.[4]

The name of the publication was a reference to Brother Jonathan, a common cultural reference (at the time) to a fictional character personifying New England, similar in appearance to Uncle Sam.

Day kept the annual subscription price at $1 throughout the publication's existence, but stopped publishing in 1862 as paper prices rose, returning subscription fees with a note that he "would not publish a paper that could not be circulated for $1 a year."[4]


  1. ^ (26 August 1914). About "Brother Jonathan", The Christian Science Monitor
  2. ^ O'Brien, Frank. The Story of the Sun (Part 3), Munsey's Magazine (July 1917), pp. 294-95
  3. ^ Fellow, Anthony R. American Media History, p.86-88 (2nd ed. 2010) (ISBN 0495567752)
  4. ^ a b c (22 December 1889). A Pioneer In Journalism, The New York Times, Retrieved November 23, 2010
  5. ^ Mott, Frank Luther. A History of American Magazines, 1741-1850 (1930) (ISBN 978-0674395503)
  6. ^ (26 October 1839). The Tattler and Brother Jonathan, New York Mirror, Retrieved December 22, 2010
  7. ^ Kopley, Richard. Edgar Allan Poe and the Dupin mysteries, p.107 (2008) (ISBN 978-0230604704) (reciting parts of the convoluted history, notes that H. Hastings Weld was also an early editor)

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