In 2010, a woman brought a copy of the July 2/4, 1863, edition of the Vicksburg Daily Citizen for an appraisal on the popular PBS series, Antiques Roadshow, at the time touring in Biloxi, Mississippi. An especially famous newspaper, this particular issue announced the fall of the city to Union troops on Independence Day, but it would become best known as the most renowned of the Confederate “wallpaper newspapers.” Midway through the war, when newsprint began to run low around the South, many small town publishers substituted the only paper available. Likewise, when surrounded by Federal forces and cut off from supplies of paper, the publisher of the Daily Citizen also had to settle for wallpaper to print six editions of his newspaper in the last days of the siege.
So what was it worth? Well, not much. Appraiser Wesley Cowen easily determined it was a fake—one of many replicas made in the decades after the war as souvenirs or curiosities.
So, would you know the difference? The LSU Libraries Special Collections has a genuine copy of this deservedly famous newspaper, as well as several not-so-genuine imitations. Take a look at these two and see if you can spot the fake.
Can’t tell? The second one is the impostor. We can tell by comparing both papers against ten facts known about the original as described in a circular from the Library of Congress. Let’s look at just a few.
Column 1, Line 2: “J.M. Swords,……Proprietor” includes a comma (or imperfect dot) and six periods.
Column 4, Paragraph 3, Line 7: The first word is misspelled “Secossion.”
Column 4, Last article before Note: The final word is printed with the quotation mark misplaced, ‘dead’ instead of dead.”
Column 4, Note, Line 1: A comma follows the word “changes” rather than a period.
Although seldom printed to deceive collectors, reproductions of famous newspapers are everywhere. If you think you might have one, consult the Library of Congress’ information circulars on authenticating old newspapers and caveat emptor!
For more about Confederate wallpaper printing, see “Beautiful Necessity: Wallpaper and Confederate Imprints” by Jessica Lacher-Feldman in the Civil War Book Review.