A selfless and tireless researcher connected with the Presidential Library and Museum has made a discovery that provides fresh hope that some day, some how …
On May 30, 1859, Abraham Lincoln signed a contract with a German immigrant named Theodor Canisius. (The eponymous college in Buffalo, New York, was his later, unrelated project.) Lincoln had bought a set of German type and the printing presses that would allow a newspaper to be published in Springfield, with Canisius as editor. It was called the Illinois Staats-Anzeiger — roughly, the Illinois State Advertiser.
As Lincoln wrote in the contract, which has been on view in the Treasures Gallery of the Presidential Museum for the last several months, “said paper, in political sentiment, not to depart from the Philadelphia and Illinois Republican platforms.” The goal was to appeal to German immigrants, “until after the Presidential election of 1860.”
Lincoln’s ownership of the paper – profits going to Canisius, for his efforts – was secret. Unfortunately, its contents have remained secret, too, since not a single copy of it exists today to the knowledge of anyone in the Lincoln field. But Lincoln sent a copy in early July 1859 to another German, and later released Canisius from the terms of the agreement because evidently he had held up his end of the bargain. So we know that roughly 15 months’ worth of weekly papers did exist.
Now, that selfless researcher reports this to me: “A number of members of the 1861 Illinois General Assembly subscribed to the Staats-Anzeiger at state expense, as legislators were allowed. On February 23, 1861, the state auditor issued warrant #9297 (for $312) to Theodore Canisius for 312 copies of Staats-Anzeiger for members of the state Senate; #9309 (for $92) to Theodore Canisius for 240 copies of the Staats-Anzeiger for the House.”
The date and those figures may mean that 1860 subscriptions were now being paid; or perhaps that 1861 subscriptions taken out. Whether or not the paper continued past the November 1860 election that saw Lincoln win a large number (though not, it is thought, a majority) of German-American votes, we do know that at least 500 copies a week were sent to elected officials, most likely for distribution to voters in their districts.
PLEASE! Bitte schoen! If anyone has an old German newspaper sitting in the attic, notify the Presidential Library immediately! The type will confound most people, which is one reason that we suppose no copies have come to light since. The script is called Fraktur, in which some of the letters do not resemble the standard Latin alphabet used in modern English or German. But the word ‘Illinois’ on the masthead should be fairly apparent.
Thank you very much! Danke schoen! And thank you especially, Mr. J.