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Best of the Web

David Paul Nord, Communities of Journalism: A History of American Newspapers and their Readers (2001)

This is less a comprehensive history than a collection of essays about the newspaper's role in American civic life, with particularly interesting discussions of the relationship between the newspaper and religion and municipal reform.

Gerald Baldasty, The Commercialization of News in the Nineteenth Century (1992)

This short book takes an interesting look at the transformation of American newspapers from political organs to business-run and business-serving enterprises. Not everyone will agree with the severity of Baldasty's conclusions, but the general emphases within his well-documented argument are hard to challenge.

David Henkin, City Reading: Written Words and Public Spaces in Antebellum New York (1998)

Henkin explores New York's penny press within the context of an expanding urban environment filled with print. Newspapers, as well as billboards, street signs, and even paper money, are weaved into an interesting analysis. The book, less than 200 pages, and is well written and enhanced by memorable images.

Timothy Gilfoyle, City of Eros: New York City, Prostitution, and the Commercialization of Sex, 1790-1920 (1994)

Virtually every book on antebellum American culture has a chapter on the penny press. The chapter on the Helen Jewett murder in Gilfoyle's exploration of New York's sex industry ("Sporting Men") provides a representative and interesting introduction to the press and its role.

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