The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 96, July 1992 - April, 1993 Page: 244
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Southwestern Hzstorical Quarterly
professionals dealt with hardships: the lack of running water, sewers,
and garbage collection service often created an unpleasant aroma in
the Austin air.3 Even so, Austinites enjoyed more of the benefits of
civilization in the 185os than in the early 184os.
Due to the growth spurt, Cushney had the subscribers necessary to
sustain his weekly newspaper. In his prospectus for the Gazette, Cush-
ney stated that it would be "thoroughly democratic" and committed to
electing Democratic party candidates.4 Furthermore, the editors of the
Gazette often included poetry in the paper's columns. Although not ev-
ery issue contained a poem, the verse appeared about once a month
during the years 1840-1861.
With these poems historians can learn more about the thoughts and
feelings of ordinary people who left no written records. Historians can
see newspaper poetry as a mirror which reflects the sentiments of men
and women not found in the archives. However, did ordinary people
read these poems? I cannot definitively answer this question, but the
large amount of poetry suggests that many people appreciated it. Al-
though an editor's perceptions do not always match the public taste, he
would probably publish the poems most likely to appeal to his readers;
thus, the poems provide a possible clue to popular attitudes and ideals
on a variety of topics.5
I examined all 152 titled poems in the Gazette, from its first issue on
August 25, 1849, to its last antebellum issue on April 6, 1861. While
reading the poetry, I asked two questions: what do these poems say,
and what insight can they provide into the values, beliefs, and concerns
of Austin's white community in the 185os? I address four major sub-
jects: gender ideals, grief and relief, humor, and politics. Only 127 of
the 152 poems fit under these headings, and I decided not to consider
the other 25. I will not say much about the authors since I could not
identify most of them; however, I will comment on the significance of
the author's gender where possible.6
3Humphrey, Austin- An Illustrated History, 43.
4Larry Jay Gage, "The Editors and Editorial Policies of the Texas State Gazette, 1849-1879"
(Master's thesis, University of Texas at Austin, 1959), 5.
5The authors of the poems did not have to be ordinary Austinites in order for their verses
to reflect the attitudes of the city's residents. The names of these authors are mostly lost to
history, as only 48 of the 152 poems were signed. We cannot know for sure what kind of people
wrote poetry for the Gazette, or to what extent they felt that their work reflected mainstream
concerns in Austin. I suggest, however, that the editorial selection of these poems indicates that
they reflected to some extent the feelings of Austinites during the 1850s. With this in mind,
even poetry that had originally appeared in another paper could still reflect the attitudes of
the Gazette's readership. Twenty-three of the 152 poems were definitely reprinted; 44 were
local (assuming that "for the Texas State Gazette" means local); and 85 had an unspecified
61 have tried to provide some insight on the significance of the author's gender m the section
on "gender ideals" and "grief and relief." Of the 152 poems, 104 had no name attached; of the
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 96, July 1992 - April, 1993, periodical, 1993; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101215/m1/288/: accessed April 26, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.