What kind of newspaper was this?
March 25, 2010 7:13 PM   Subscribe

I was doing some poking around in the NY Times online archive, and found a brief article about a 'libidinous hebdomadal' known as The Town (later The Sporting Times) from 1865. The NY police were quite keen to confiscate this newspaper, apparently, which originated in Boston. Anyone heard of it or have any idea what kinda content it would contain? I'm guessing it's sort of dirty.

Unfortunately, it's pretty much impossible to search like 'The Town' and Boston and not hit millions of unrelated results. Here's the two relevant articles:

SEIZURE OF THE TOWN. -- Everybody has wondered why the police authorities so long tolerated the sale throughout the city of a libidinous hebdomadal known as The Town. It appears, first, that the police required time to ascertain precisely where the sheat was printed, and, secondly, no citizen took it upon himself to prefer a complaint upon which they could proceed, without fear of being tripped by shrewd and well-paid counsel. Thus matters stood with this beastly publication, until last week, when several citizens of high respectability appeared before Superintendent KENNEDY, and made formal complaint setting forth the fact that this print had made its way into families, and was corrupting our youth of both sexes. The Superintendent having, meanwhile, learned whence the paper came, assured the gentlemen that measures should be taken to suppress The Town, and, accordingly, yesterday morning, when the packages which come to and through this city from Boston were due. Detective Officers MCDOUGAL and GILMORE entered the New-Haven Railroad Station at Twenty-seventh-street, and seized the entire edition of more than ten thousand copies, in packages, which were addressed thus: THOMAS W. TIMPSON, No. 29 Ann-street, New-York City. Paid -- F. -- (150.) JOHN BARRY, No. 162 Nassau-street New-York City. Paid -- F. -- (50.) JOHN FLANNIGAN, No. 23 Ann-street New-York City. C.O.D. -- $149 50 -- (125.) SAMUEL N. BANACKER, No. 23 Ann-street, New-York City. F.-- Paid. (75.) SAMUEL YATES, No. 109 Nassau-street New-York City. C.O.D. -- $100.75 -- (75.) J.M. LEEMAN, Philadelphia. C.O.D. -- ($121 02 -- (13.) JOHN O. PARKER, No. 379 F-street, Washington, D.C. C.O.D. -- $19 50 -- (17.) The figures in parentheses are supposed to indicate the weight of the packages, and not the number of papers contained therein. It has been ascertained that The Town is printed in Boston, and that the imprint is changed for as many copies as are required in New-York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and other cities. If the constabulary police of Boston tolerate the sheet there, they may as well inform the publishers that they cannot hope again to get it into or through New-York; for our metropolitan police have resolved that it shall not be circulated here or taken through the city. The thing probably costs the publishers three cents a copy, and is sold at wholesale for $7 50 a hundred; retail price, ten cents a copy. It is said to have a circulation of about 20,000 copies.

SEIZURE OF LIBIDINOUS LITERATURE. -- Yesterday morning Detective Officers GILMOR and MCDOUGALL, having been informed that the Town, a Bostonian hebdomadal, which was recently confiscated by our police, had been revived under the title of the Sporting Times, and having learned on what trains and boats the edition for this city might be expected, paid their respects to KINSLEY's and HARNDEN's expresses, and the morning boat from Fall River, and seized five large packages, containing about eight thousand copies of the sheet, addressed to B.W. DUDLEY, of Nos. 21 and 23 Ann-street; THOMAS SISSON, of New-York City, to be called for; JOHN BARRY, of No. 162 Nassau-street; and SAMUEL YATES, of No. 100 Nassau-street. These were taken to Police Headquarters, there to be destroyed. It is reasonable to presume that after paying for the engraving of two or three more captions to his sheet, and losing several more consignments to this city, the enterprising Boston publisher may keep his obscene literature at home.
posted by tremspeed to Society & Culture (5 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
A search turns this up: "Sporting Journalism in Nineteenth Century America." I don't have JSTOR access but someone who does could pull the article for you.

On Circus History, we find
STETSON, JOHN. (1836-April 8, 1896) Born in Charlestown, MA. Became an athlete and champion runner. A match with Lynn Buck and another with John Grinnell were considered major events. Also gave exhibitions in the circus ring. After retiring from competition, founded the spicy sporting sheet, Boston Life, the contents of which caused a great deal of consternation among the staid Bostonians. [M. B. Leavitt: “Stetson was rough and ready, but gifted with rare business acumen, which was always profitable to himself. It was a fad among newspaper men of his day to invent blunders of speech and credit them to him, a pastime which he bore without resentment. In business he was inclined to be strict, sometimes irascible, yet manifest a keen sense of humor.... He could draw a contract as shrewdly as a skilled lawyer.”] Later became publisher of the Sporting Times, a Boston publication, 1867-72, and revived with a shortened format, 1884-86. Managed numerous theatrical enterprises, including Salvini, Lilly Langtry, James O’Neill, The Mikado, Princess Ida, minstrel and variety companies, etc. Owned at various times the Boston Show Printing Company, the Police News, several cafés, gambling houses, and pawn shops. Was the long-time successful manager of the Howard Athenaeum, proprietor of the Globe Theatre, Boston, and the Fifth Avenue, New York. Married Katie Stokes, 1887, considered by Gil Robinson to be the most beautiful female rider in America. Died of pneumonia in his Boston residence as one of the wealthiest theatre managers in the country.
This other article in JSTOR mentions it, but not in the free sample page.

I think there's a lot out there based on a few minutes' targeted searching - but I think you'll do better to look at sources on the Sporting Times, which had a longer print run and more infamy. Hopefully, sources that give detail on the Sporting Times will also shed some light on "The Town"'s era.

Interesting - the nineteenth century was full of nasty stuff. Have fun learning about it.
posted by Miko at 7:44 PM on March 25, 2010

"Sporting Journalism in Nineteenth Century America."

Doesn't seem to mention it, it talks about another unrelated Sporting Times as near as I can tell with a quick scan. I checked the other article Miko mentions and there's a quick blurb that says
"Perhaps the medium itself brought the prosecution and conviction, for "Naked Truth about an American Family" appeared in a questionable London tabloid- The Sporting Times. Established in 1865, this weekly ("The 'Pink 'Un' ") claimed to have the "largest circulation of any sporting weekly in the world." For three pence the reader of The Sporting Times issue of 11 August 1923 received a lot of jokes, some teasing advertisements for Paris burlesque shows, horse-racing information a column on whether bare legs are ugly, and a review of Sherwood Anderson's Many Marriages."
The hubub that that article refers to all took place in 1923 which seems a fair bit after the blurb you cite. Will keep looking.
posted by jessamyn at 8:02 PM on March 25, 2010

The American Antiquarian Society (scroll to the bottom) says:
At times pornographic, the sporting papers were generally filled with scandal, gossip, police reports, theater news, and crude jests and anecdotes. Somewhat analogous to the supermarket tabloids of today, the sporting press dealt in sensationalism, both in word and image. Given their scurrilous contents, many of them were frequently on the wrong side of the law.
There are a couple of illustrations from The Sporting Times on Common-Place.
posted by tellurian at 8:28 PM on March 25, 2010

I show another seizure of it in Buffalo New York 3/27/1865 [cite] There was also a daily paper in Boston called the Sporting Times that had a circulation of 35,000 in 1872. It's also the title of a magazine called a "great weekly" in an August 1878 issue of Harpers [I get the feeling this is the London Sporting Times, aka The Pink 'un]
posted by jessamyn at 8:28 PM on March 25, 2010

Awesome. I realize this was quite a needle in a haystack. I was just curious what type of publication this might have been. Makes plenty of sense now.

Thanks for all the replies!
posted by tremspeed at 8:56 PM on March 25, 2010

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