Abraham Lincoln and the Press

President Abraham Lincoln

This is one of the last photos taken of President Abraham Lincoln. (Alexander Gardner/Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division)

In his lifetime, Abraham Lincoln had such a strong appreciation for the power of the press that he was both a newspaper owner and a frequent newsmaker.

In 1859, the presidential hopeful purchased the Illinois Staats-Anzeiger for $400 to court German-speaking voters in and around his hometown of Springfield, Ill. He hired the paper’s editor, Theodore Canisius, to campaign for him in German communities across the state, then sold the newspaper to Canisius after winning the White House.

Six years later, President Lincoln’s assassination was the biggest news story of its time, eclipsing the Civil War that had recently ended. The New York Herald — the nation’s most widely read newspaper — was one of the first to report that the president had been shot. Over the next 18 hours, the Herald’s staff published an unprecedented seven editions reporting details of the shooting, Lincoln’s death, the hunt for his assassin and the swearing-in of the new president.

On the night Lincoln was mortally wounded at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, newspaper clippings were found in the wallet he carried.

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