The Day Book, Chicago, 1911-1917: A Publication For The 95 Percent

Detail from front page of The Day Book for 3/2/1914

Detail from front page of The Day Book for 3/2/1914

One of the more interesting newspapers in the Library of Congress’s archives is The Day Book. It was published in Chicago between 1911 and 1917. The first paragraph of the Library’s information page about the publication is worth quoting in full:

Conceived by newspaper mogul Edward Willis Scripps as an experiment in advertisement-free newspaper publishing, the Chicago Day Book was published for a working-class readership Monday through Saturday from September 28, 1911 to July 6, 1917. Scripps chose Chicago, with its large working-class population, as the venue for the first of what he hoped would become a chain of ad-free newspapers. Free from commercial influence, the Day Book would report on issues of concern to what Scripps called the “95 percent” of the population. Priced at one cent, like the other Chicago dailies of the period, the Day Book was published in a small tabloid format of nine by six inches, with 32 pages per issue. The small format was one of many strategies Scripps used to hold down publishing costs, along with bulk purchase of newsprint for all of his newspapers and the use of features created by Scripps’s Newspaper Enterprise Association.

I bolded the bit about the “95 percent” for its obvious parallel to rhetoric about the 99% versus the 1% since the advent of the Occupy Movement on September 17, 2011. Occupy’s slogan, “We are the 99%,” has different shades of meaning depending upon who is explaining it, but Scripps was essentially speaking of the same segment of society. As the description of the paper goes on to say, “the Day Book championed the interests of workers, with extensive coverage of working conditions, wages, union organizing, and labor unrest.”

Carl Sandburg, via the National Park Service.

Carl Sandburg, via the National Park Service.

When I began researching the Library of Congress papers (one of 4 different sources I use for my history posts and in some ways my favorite, as more obscure, lesser-known papers–that is, not the New York Times, etc–often have quirkier, more interesting content) I was struck by both the Day Book’s look and its unique voice. The latter made more sense on reading this in the paper’s description: “The Day Book’s most celebrated reporter was Carl Sandburg, who wrote for the paper from early 1913 until its cessation in the summer of 1917. Although for the most part Cochran eschewed the use of bylines in the Day Book, more than 135 articles have been attributed to Sandburg, and this body of work vividly reflects his views on the social and political issues of the day.”

Sandburg has long been one of my favorite poets. Not always for his poems, which sometimes carried a ripe note of sentimentality, but for his broad reach and influence.

As I was writing this post I realized another reason I liked The Day Book: it was a lot like some blogs I’ve read. Plenty of blogs have advertising and can’t function without it. Others, especially those with some kind of cause, are often resolutely against advertisement and subsist on donations from supportive readers. Just as with the Day Book, this model doesn’t always work out, and in the end, the blog folds.

Here is a link to The Day Book for March 2, 1914. If you flip through it as if you were a working man or woman in the Chicago area on that long ago winter’s day, you get a more intimate look at the time and place–in my opinion–than some of the larger, more storied publications could ever provide.

[Chronicling America « Library of Congress]

#carl-sandburg, #chicago, #edward-willis-scripps, #library-of-congress-newspaper-archives, #occupy-movement, #the-day-book