Today, Norm Goldman Publisher & Editor of Bookpleasures.com is excited to have as our guest Todd Andrik. Todd is among the leading authorities in the USA on 18th century newspapers and he has built one of the most significant collections of American Revolution era newspapers- containing the earliest printed reports of practically every major event and battle from 1763 to 1783.
With his recent published Reporting the Revolutionary War: Before It Was History, It Was News, readers can experience for the first time the American Revolution as it was reported in the newspapers. As mentioned in the press release to the book, “Social media is often credited with igniting and organizing the Arab Spring revolution in the Middle East, yet this is not the first time that we have seen media as a catalyst for such large-scale change.”
Good day Todd and thanks for participating in our interview
Do you recall how your interest in 18th century newspapers and in particular American Revolution era newspapers originated?
In the summer of 2007, shortly after the birth of our daughter, my family escaped suburbia for a weekend getaway to the cozy Mississippi River town of Galena, Illinois. Among the many quaint confectionaries and antique dealers along Main Street was a fine book and manuscript shop, home to all sorts of knickknacks and collectibles, including rare first editions, autographs, manuscripts, maps and, yes, old newspapers.
As a marketing and public relations professional who routinely works with the media, I was instantly intrigued by a small selection of 19th century newspapers that I noticed in a display rack next to the cash register. It was love at first sight. Soon I was reading an 1865 issue of the New York Times, printed one week after President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. For that brief moment, I was transported back in time, reading initial reports of the reward offered for the capture and arrest of John Wilkes Booth. That moment – reading and holding the first draft of history – triggered an intense enthusiasm for historic newspapers, which soon evolved into a focus on the late 18th century and the American Revolution.
Could you briefly tell our audience about Reporting the Revolutionary War: Before It Was History, It Was News.
I like to tell people that Reporting the Revolutionary War inverts the traditional history book. For more than 200 years, historians have relegated newspaper accounts of the American Revolution to the footnotes of their own analysis and interpretations. This volume flips the typical history book upside down and instead places the spotlight on the newspapers, which were the only mass media of the time. Hundreds of original late 18th century newspapers are reproduced in full-color to help transport readers back in time and experience the Revolution like the colonists did. Sprinkles of modern analysis from three dozen historians – Fleming, Raphael, Chadwick, etc. – help bridge the 18th and 21st centuries.
Why do you believe the book is important at this time? What are your hopes for this book and whom do you believe will benefit from your book and why?
Learning about the American Revolution and our nation’s founding is an important topic at all times. Currently, we’re experiencing a major evolution in mass media with real-time/on-demand traditional news media, the rise of social media and its role in politics and current events, and the debated death of the printed newspaper. This book provides an interesting and timely juxtaposition of new media and old. Remember, printed newspapers are still in their infancy during the American Revolution (the first successful newspaper launched in Boston in 1704). And it’s during the Revolution that we witness the power of the printed word and see newspapers perfect the art of war propaganda.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating the book?
Surprising details and exciting discoveries leap out from almost every newspaper page. After years of working closely with this material, I still open the book and find thrilling tidbits of information that I previously missed. It's like treasure hunting. Historian Robert J. Allison, one of the historian contributors, explains the experience as a chance to encounter things and worlds that no one else knows exist, and to see the world as George Washington and Paul Revere saw it.
Some of my favorite discoveries include:
Raid on Fort William and Mary: I learned just how close the “shot heard round the world” came to happening four months before Lexington and Concord, in New Hampshire.
Benedict Arnold: I discovered just how widespread the news coverage of Benedict Arnold’s treason was, and how it revitalized the American Revolution.
John Paul Jones: I discovered that John Paul Jones’ immortal words – “I have not yet begun to fight” are not what he really said. A 1779 issue of the Edinburgh Advertiser prints what he likely said.
Yorktown Campaign: By reading a 1781 newspaper, I discovered that a celebrity — King George III's son, Prince William Henry — was being entertained in New York by the Commander of British military forces, which was a distraction from important military matters, including the urgency to relieve Cornwallis at Yorktown.
How has the feedback been so far?
Wonderful, thank you. We’re receiving rave reviews from media and readers alike, including historians, teachers and history buffs. They love reading the original media accounts of the Boston Massacre, Lexington and Concord, Saratoga, Yorktown and so on. Barnes & Noble named it one of its Best Books of 2012 and a reviewer recently wrote, “This may be the most revolutionary book to come out in a long, long time. Reading the newspapers, and the historical essays, is to watch history unfold as readers during the Revolutionary War would have read it; without the history being distorted by the mists of 230+ years. It is a great adventure story to rank with the greatest of all time. It is not often that someone has the chance to create something new, and this book is something entirely new. Todd Andrlik and Neil Armstrong have something in common – going where no one else has ever gone before.”
Where can our readers find out more about you and about Reporting the Revolutionary War: Before It Was History, It Was News?
For more information about me, the book and the newspapers, I encourage people to visit beforehistory.com. There they’ll also find videos, teacher lesson plans and high-resolution digital images of several complete newspaper issues printed during the American Revolution. The book itself can be purchased on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other booksellers around the country. Barnes & Noble is currently offering a special limited edition with four authentic front-page reproductions of American Revolution-era newspapers to give readers the ability to interact with the material exactly like the colonists did. Lastly, an enhanced e-book is also available on Nook and iTunes (for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch). The e-book features an interactive timeline and 100+ videos of Q&A with the historian contributors.
Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?
Scholars have long said that without newspapers, there would have been no American Revolution. Newspapers fanned the flames of rebellion, provided critical correspondence during the war, sustained loyalty to the cause and ultimately aided in the outcome. They played a critical role in making America, which quickly becomes evident after reading them. Reporting the Revolutionary War provides unprecedented access to a rare and important cache of newspapers from our nation’s founding.
Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors