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Extra resources for Carnival on the Page: Popular Print Media in Antebellum America

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54 During periods of economic hardship, however, cultural exchanges were not available to everyone. Book readers could probably afford to share the culture of newspaper readers, but not vice versa. In addition, as whole categories of texts were increasingly gendered, crossing the gap between genders became more difficult. Newspapers remained the fief of men, while fashion magazines became the domain of women. 55 Because of possible processes of either distinction or reappropriation, literary genres are not easily identified with social classes.

It unequivocally presented reading as an enlightening activity, gender blind and performed privately, even in a public space. Such was the appearance, or at least the paper’s own rhetoric. Yet a closer look at the Herald in its formative years reveals a different appraisal, one that sets the democratic readership at a crossroads between ‘‘dreadful pleasures,’’ urban space, and consumer culture. During the second quarter of the nineteenth century the daily newspaper became the epitome of both a carnivalesque ritual and a market fair, when boundaries were crossed and the private made public.

To be sure, it was soon imitated by other penny papers, and, most notably, the New York Herald emerged as a challenging competitor. ’’ 2 The small four-page paper sold at a penny a day, or  a year, and offered both local news and mercantile information, hoping to enlarge its audience to the best men of the country. Its aggressive editor, the Scottish immigrant James Gordon Bennett, emerged as the main leader in the antebellum revolution of newspaper publishing. 3 The penny papers, also described as cash press, abandoned the subscription rates of  a year that were characteristic of the earlier commercial papers.

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