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Original or Reprint? A Guide to Noteworthy Newspaper Issues

Ulster County Gazette

January 4, 1800

"Death of President Washington." Ulster County Gazette, January 4, 1800. Kingston, NY: Samuel S. Freer & Son. Serial & Government Publications Division, Library of Congress.

The Ulster County Gazette was established May 5, 1798, at Kingston, New York, by Samuel Freer & Son. It was a weekly supporting the Federalist Party. Publication continued until 1803, when the title was changed to the Ulster Gazette and the publisher was Samuel S. Freer, the "Son" of the earlier partnership. President George Washington died on December 14, 1799. Residents of Ulster County, New York were provided a detailed account of his death and the many events eulogizing America’s fallen leader in this January 4, 1800 edition.

Reproductions of the issue for January 4, 1800, are well-known to librarians and antiquarian bookdealers through the great number of reprints that are scattered over every part of the country. There are more than seventy such reproductions, often differing from each other in only minor details. Almost every private owner of one of these believes that they have an original copy. At the same time, only a few original copies of other numbers of this paper are in existence. Reproduction of the January 4, 1800 issue began during the first half of the nineteenth century, perhaps as early as 1825. These early reprints were made in smaller numbers, and, regarding the paper and type used, represent a somewhat more careful imitation of a newspaper printed in 1800 than do those of later years.

The Centennial Exposition of 1876 in Philadelphia saw the beginning of the wholesale output of the reprints. At least one printing firm had a regular contract for supplying them, and they were sold on the Exposition grounds as historical souvenirs by the armful. In 1877, a centennial celebration at Kingston, New York, offered a similar opportunity. Since then, various enterprising individuals have continued to flood the market with cheap and poor reproductions. Most of the reprints from 1876 to date are in clear, modern type and are on machine-made paper, calendered, thin, and brittle. The commercial value of the reprints is very small.

Librarians watched for an original for many years, but it was not until November 1930 that the first was found. This is now in the collections of the Library of Congress. Another original is now in the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts. These two are the only known originals.

Owners of copies should apply the following tests:

  1. Originals should be printed on the "laid" paper used in 1800, which was hand-made from rags, soft, pliable, and rough in texture.
  2. Besides the slender parallel chain lines which appear throughout, 1 1/16 to 1 3/16 inches apart, this paper should have as a watermark a double fleur-de-lis measuring 3 1/8 by 1 15/16 inches.
  3. Title in italic capitals should measure 6 15/16 inches in length.
  4. The abbreviations "Vol." and "Num." in the date line should be printed in capitals and small capitals.
  5. Print should show the blurred edges of hand-inked, hand-press work.
  6. Second column on page 1 should measure 2 7/16 inches in width between rules.
  7. The old-style "s" should appear frequently as in the words "Published" and "Ulster" in the heading and in the words "President," "House," "Representatives," and many more in the text.
  8. The last line of page 1, column 1, should read "liberal execution of the treaty of amity,".
  9. One full-length slug should appear on page 1, column 2; two full-length and five short slugs on page 2; and two full-length slugs on page 3.
  10. Mourning rules should be used between columns and across top and bottom and along outer edge of pages 2 and 3.
  11. The "Last Notice" on page 3, column 2, concerns "the estate of Johannis Jansen" and should be signed by "Johannis I. Janson, Executor."

Source: Information Circular 1 (Revised 1958).

Library Holdings

There are two known originals in existence, one is held by the Library of Congress (online catalog record) and the other by the American Antiquarian Society. The Library of Congress also has a reprint.