The press came into Alabama with the settlers and exercised a strong influence during the formative period of the
State. The little four-page sheets which came out once or twice a week were largely taken up with advertisements and notices. A crude system of classifying advertisements enabled the reader to select readily those in which he was interested. This was accomplished by inserting a small cut indicative of the subject-matter; a picture of a tree, for instance, would indicate that the advertiser had land for sale; a cut of a house would show that buildings were for rent or sale.
That portion of the paper, usually amounting to less than two of the four pages, which was devoted to the news was principally taken up with extracts from the leading papers of the older states. The most of these articles related to political affairs, but foreign news, though much belated, received relatively more attention than it does now. A florid style was typical of the press of that day, and words were used with especial freedom when a political subject claimed the attention of the editor or contributor. In fact, it seems to have been the universal practice to treat a political opponent as a moral or mental delinquent.
The editors of the Alabama papers confined their remarks to one or two columns, where they expressed their opinions upon National politics, or subjects of local interest. Personal affairs were never paraded in print, nor was mention ever made of social activities. This was due, not only to ideas of decorum which differ from ours, but also to the conception that the press was strictly a public institution. Letters from subscribers on political matters were frequently published, and these formed an important element in every discussion.
In 1819, there were six papers in Alabama: the Alabama Republican of Huntsville, the Halcyon (established at St. Stephens in 1814), the Mobile Gazette, the Cahawba Press, the Blakely Sun, and the Tuscaloosa Mirror. By 1823 the number had risen to ten, and the next year it amounted to fifteen. During 1825, there were sixteen or seventeen papers published in the State.
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