The Flash Press: Sporting Male Weeklies in 1840s New York by Patricia Cline Cohen

By Patricia Cline Cohen

Obscene, libidinous, loathsome, lascivious. these have been just a few of the methods critics defined the nineteenth-century weeklies that coated and publicized ny City’s broad sexual underworld. guides just like the Flash and the Whip—distinguished by way of an enthralling brew of lowbrow humor and titillating gossip approximately prostitutes, theater denizens, and wearing events—were no longer the kind often sure in leather-based for destiny reference, and regardless of their acceptance with an enthusiastic readership, they fast receded into virtually entire obscurity. lately, even though, huge collections of those papers have resurfaced, and within the Flash Press 3 well known students offer a landmark research in their value in addition to a big variety in their ribald articles and illustrations.   together with brief stories of city lifestyles, editorials on prostitution, and moralizing rants opposed to homosexuality, those choices epitomize a unique type of city journalism. right here, as well as offering a radical evaluation of this colourful reportage, its editors, and its viewers, the authors learn nineteenth-century principles of sexuality and freedom that combined Tom Paine’s republicanism with components of the Marquis de Sade’s sexual ideology. additionally they hint the evolution of censorship and obscenity legislation, exhibiting how a string of criminal battles eventually resulted in the dying of the flash papers: editors have been hauled into courtroom, sentenced to penal complex for legal obscenity and libel, and finally driven into chapter 11. yet no longer ahead of they without end replaced the talk over public sexuality and freedom of expression in America’s most crucial urban. (20080505)

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42 Dixon sought greater fame beyond his comic singing career. He had a gift of gab, showcased in many out-of-doors performances to crowds of hundreds. Several times in courts of law he chose to play his own lawyer—and succeeded. His writing talent was less notable, yet still he had turned his considerable energy to the enterprise of newspaper editing and publishing, first in Stonington, Connecticut, and then Lowell, Massachusetts, and finally in Boston in 1836 where he first met Snel- BEGI N N I NGS [ 39 ] ling.

Dixon quickly found himself in court and then in jail for libel. He implausibly insisted his paper was really a moral beacon, helpfully repeating scandalous gossip about the minister so that the man learned of the rumors and could take corrective action. 44 The court had none of it: Dixon’s bail in each case was set at $9,000, amounts far exceeding typical bail sums of the day. Amazingly, Adeline Miller stepped forward and pledged security for this enormous sum, but a month later she too had second thoughts about her one-time champion and withdrew her financial support.

Gazette. The Town was a large-format, four-page paper featuring woodcuts of comely young serving women, profiles of wellknown courtesans, and articles puffing pubs and saloons. New York’s Whip regularly pirated woodcuts and text from the Town without credit. When the London editor of the Town was indicted for “corrupting public morals,” his incensed response was exactly what the flash editors in New York would soon say: “Was there ever such impudent hypocrisy! ” In 1840 the Town started to run a “Questions and Answers” column, precursor to the New York “wants” columns, but different in that not just questions but answers were supplied.

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