The Mississippi newspaper shown here came to Houghton Library from the 1957 bequest of Lee Max Friedman (1871-1957), a prominent scholar of Jewish-American history. Established July 9th, 1868 and offering weekly coverage of the presidential election, The Corinth Caucasian is neither listed in American Newspapers 1821-1936, nor in a 1942 union list of Mississippi newspapers compiled by the Mississippi Historical Records Survey, nor in the Union List of Serials in Libraries of the United States and Canada, nor in the online catalogs of any library whose holdings are reported to WorldCat. Only recently brought to light and cataloged at Houghton, this premiere issue is perhaps the only one extant. Under the editorship of Confederate army veteran Thomas Jefferson Key (1831-1909), The Corinth Caucasian advanced the interests of racist, landowning whites, backing Democratic candidates and assailing the Reconstruction policies of northern “radicals,” especially Republican candidate for president Ulysses S. Grant.
The tactics used to undermine the Grant candidacy are precisely what roused Friedman’s interest. On the back page a short editorial titled “Grant and the Jews” precedes a transcript of a speech given by the late Senator Lazarus W. Powell of Kentucky, excoriating Grant over his infamous General Order No. 11 (1862) which expelled Jews from the Department of Kentucky. Brazenly outflanking Grant on the issue of racial tolerance, the ardently racist editor of the Caucasian takes the side of Senator Powell in condemning Grant’s anti-Semitism. While it is reasonable to read Key’s moral outrage as genuine, his partisan invective rather suggests a political motivation.
Without references in the bibliographic literature, it is unknown whether any further issues of The Corinth Caucasian were published. Certainly both Thomas J. Key and co-publisher S.G. Barr remained active newsmen for decades to come. Of S.G. Barr little is known, aside from his role as publisher of a succession of Corinth newspapers. Key however led a life both interesting and well documented. Born in Tennessee, Key began his career as a newspaperman in Tuscumbia, Alabama at the age of fifteen. Vehemently pro-slavery and Democratic in politics, Key moved to the Kansas Territory where the 1856 publication of his Kansas Constitutionalist incited violent confrontations with Free-Staters. Relocating to Helena, Arkansas, Key served in the state legislature, voting for secession in 1860 and later enlisted in the Confederate army. When he found the diary of a Union soldier near Atlanta in 1864 Key filled in the remaining blank pages with his own daily entries. This unique volume containing the wartime diary of both a Confederate and Union soldier was edited and published in 1938 by the University of North Carolina Press under the title Two Soldiers.
After the war Key settled in Corinth, Mississippi and published the agricultural journal Model Farmer concurrent with The Corinth Caucasian. Whereas the Caucasian seems to have ceased publication by the end of 1868, Southern Agriculturist, as the agricultural journal was renamed, endured for decades under Key’s editorship. Published in Nashville after several changes of home office, Southern Agriculturist became one of the largest American journals of its kind, merging with Farmer and Range in 1949 and only ceasing publication in 1963.
The Corinth Caucasian. Vol. 1, no. 1. July 9, 1868. Corinth, Miss.: Key & Barr. AB85.A100.868c4
Thanks to Bibliographic Assistant Noah Sheola for contributing this post.