The Acquisitions Table: The North Star (Rochester, NY), June 5, 1851.

Curators look far and wide trying to find materials for their institution’s collection.  Despite this, sometimes the most amazing items show up locally.  AAS photographer, Nathan Fiske, brought to my attention a local estate auction that had two newspapers in it.  As it turned out, both were newspapers published by Frederick Douglass.  The first one was this issue of the North Star and the other was the Frederick Douglass’ Paper.  We were outbid on the North Star and didn’t bid on the second.  Two weeks later, the auction house contacted us and said the winning bidder had not paid for the item.  We were able to get it for our last bid.

What makes this particular issue remarkable is that no other institution has a copy of this date.  Until recently, the latest issue known was Apr. 17, 1851 and no one knew when the paper ended and Frederick Douglass changed the title.  Further digging uncovered that the University of Rochester had acquired an issue dated June 19, 1851 (vol. 4, no. 26).  Combined with the fact that the earliest issue known of Frederick Douglass’ Paper was June 26, 1851 (vol. 4, no. 27), we could determine when the title change occurred.  Our issue of June 5 was not edited by Douglass but by his assistant.  At that time Douglass was on the road giving talks and trying to drum up financial support for the North Star.  He eventually merged the paper with another newspaper, the Liberty Party Paper from Syracuse.  With the combined subscribers and a change of the name to Frederick Douglass’ Paper it continued publication until 1860.

Published by

Vincent Golden

Curator of Newspapers and Periodicals, American Antiquarian Society

One thought on “The Acquisitions Table: The North Star (Rochester, NY), June 5, 1851.”

  1. The Frederick Douglass Papers, series three, correspondence vol. 1, 1842-1852 (Yale University Press, 2009), includes multiple citations to issues of The North Star after April 17, 1851. There were issues of the North Star printed on April 24, 1851, May 8, 1851, and June 12, 1851.

    As to the notion that “no one knew when the paper ended and Frederick Douglass changed the title,” Douglass discussed the merging of the North Star and the Liberty Party Paper with its owner and his patron Gerrit Smith, and the unveiling of his eponymous newspaper in several letters during the spring of 1851, published in the above volume.

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