The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 79, July 1975 - April, 1976

Religious Newspapers in Antebellum Texas
WESLEY NORTON*
T HE PERIODICAL PRESS IS THE BODY, LIFE, AND SPIRIT OF THE NINE-
teenth century," wrote a Baptist minister in Texas in 1856. His
outlook, shared by most public spirited Americans of the day, arose from
a series of dramatic improvements in publishing technology which reached
a climax with Richard Hoe's high speed, cylinder press in 1846. The imag-
inations of those interested in progress were fired as never before by the
ability to dispense information and opinion quickly and cheaply to a
public made increasingly literate through popular education. The news-
paper was an instrument equally available to those who would gain from
sensationalism, to those who sought power through party politics, and to
the high-minded reformers of private morals and public institutions. A
small but dedicated minority such as the abolitionists, who understood this
power, could and did vastly extend their influence by exploiting the pub-
lishing revolution.
No group of men believed more strongly in their power to influence
others or in their need to do so than the clergy of the many denominations
in the United States. They could not, therefore, ignore the newspaper press
which was "like a thousand preachers, flying in almost as many directions,
by means of horses, mail stages, steam boats, rail road cars, ships, etc., etc.,
offering life and salvation to the sons of men in almost every clime." Editor
George W. Baines in Texas was only adjusting his projection to a lesser
area when he urged his readers to support The Texas Baptist because "by
a Baptist paper, ably edited, . . . neatly printed, and widely circulated, you
may, week after week, preach to twice as many thousands as you can to
hundreds in any other way."2
*Mr. Norton is professor of history at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas.
'The Texas Baptist (Anderson), September 27, 1856 (quotation); Frank Luther Mott,
American Journalism: A History of Newspapers in the United States Through 260
Years: 1690o to 1950 (New York, 1950), 314-316; Carl Bode, The Anatomy of Ameri-
can Popular Culture (Los Angeles, 1959), 250-252; Leonard L. Richards, "Gentlemen
of Property and Standing": Anti-abolition Mobs in Jacksonian America (New York,
1970), 72-73.
2Religious Telescope (Circleville, Ohio), November 27, 1839 (first quotation); The
Texas Baptist (Anderson), October 24, 1855 (second quotation).

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 79, July 1975 - April, 1976. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101203/. Accessed September 18, 2014.