Many years ago I acquired a Civil War newspaper printed on wallpaper. I always wondered about it. Was it real, a “fantasy” item that never really existed in that era, or a reprint? Someone had taken the time to frame it with glass on front and back so that the news columns and and the wallpaper would be visible. In my possession it ended up hanging on a stairway wall….to the basement. Safe, but neglected.
Recently I retrieved the newspaper from its place of honor. I don’t recall what motivated me to do so, but once I had it, I figured I’d see if I could find out anything more about it.
Apparently newspapers on “wallpaper” were real, however uncommon, as the South was nearing defeat. Paper or money to buy paper was running out for southern publishers. My copy, the July 2, 1863, Vicksburg Daily Citizen was the last before before the fall of the city. The story is that Union forces found the type still standing and replaced some of the last column with their own message on July 4 and finished printing the edition on wallpaper that the publisher had been using. This, of course, is a rare edition.
In the years “BG” – before Google, research was more difficult, so my “wallpaper” received little attention. But now. Well, it wasn’t long until I found the Citizen issue on the Library of Congress site. It also wasn’t long until the information provided made it clear that mine was not the original. It was estimated that there were 30 various reprints of this “last” Vicksburg newspaper.
I will be revisiting the Library of Congress research in a little more detail. It strikes me a bit odd that Union soldiers would just happen to be skilled in hand-set typography and would have the time to replace type and print “their” edition. With some luck the Library of Congress will have the information that proves the “real first edition” and, in fact, that the first edition was actually printed at the time of the fall of Vicksburg.
For now, my wallpaper reprint will return to its logical home, on the wall.