"Our city shall spring from her ashes." A brief history of the Columbia Phoenix.


Craig Keeney, Published Materials Cataloger at the South Caroliniana Library here at USC and one of our Principal Investigators of the SCDNP, has composed several fascinating essays about each of the South Carolina newspapers digitized in Chronicling America.

These essays or “scope notes” may be accessed by a link titled More about this Newspaper, for each newspaper in Chronicling America.

The following is an essay Mr. Keeney wrote on the history of The Columbia Phoenix…

The Columbia Phoenix (1865-78) arose out of the charred remains of Columbia, the capital city of South Carolina, in the aftermath of the Civil War to record its losses and bear witness to its gradual recovery. A triweekly newspaper, the Phoenix first appeared on Tuesday, March 21, 1865, mere weeks after fires had razed a third of the city. It struck a defiant tone, declaring, “Our city shall spring, from her ashes, and our Phoenix, we hope and trust, shall announce the glorious rising! God save the state!” For over ten years, it reflected on the hardships (crop failures, the scarcity of goods and money) and hopes (the return of businesses and railroads, voting rights for African Americans) of the residents of Columbia and neighboring communities in the Midlands region of South Carolina.

Proprietor Julian A. Selby boasted considerable experience in the newspaper business, having formerly owned the Tri-Weekly South Carolinian [LCCN: sn85042531] (also called Tri-weekly Carolinian and South Carolinian). In establishing the Columbia Phoenix, however, he literally started from scratch. In the weeks immediately following the city’s destruction, Selby scoured the state for paper, a press, and printing supplies. He and his assistants fashioned for themselves the things they could not find. He also secured the services of renowned Southern literary critic, novelist, and poet William Gilmore Simms as editor. Living conditions in the capital city were so desperate that, early on, the staff offered to accept food staples such as bacon, eggs, rice, and potatoes as payment in lieu of cash subscriptions. The first ten issues contained a detailed history of the burning of Columbia, which was separately published as Sack and Destruction of the City of Columbia, S.C., in October 1865 (itself edited and republished as A City Laid Waste in 2005). Simms departed after six months, but not before Federal troops had arrested him for criticizing their presence in Columbia. Selby edited and published the Phoenix for much of its existence, ceding editorial control only in its twilight years to Henry S. Farley, publisher of the Columbia-based triweekly paper, the Straight-out Democrat [LCCN: sn92065612].

The Columbia Phoenix changed names several times in the course of its existence. In April 1865, the newspaper split into the Columbia Phoenix, a daily, and the Columbia Tri-weekly Phoenix [LCCN: sn84027005], which was published every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. The daily paper changed its name to Columbia Daily Phoenix in May 1865 and then became the Daily Phoenix in July. In 1866, Selby launched the Columbia Weekly Gleaner, a Home Companion, which appeared every Wednesday. In 1875, the owners of a competing newspaper, the Columbia Daily Register [LCCN: sn83025800], bought the Daily Phoenix. The Tri-weekly Phoenix likely ceased that same year. Only scattered issues exist for the years 1876-78, so it is unclear precisely when and why the Daily Phoenix [LCCN: sn92065700] ceased. The last recorded issue appeared on November 3, 1878.

To browse these newspapers, you may click on the links below.

Columbia Phoenix (Triweekly)

Columbia Phoenix (Daily)

Columbia Daily Phoenix

Daily Phoenix

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Have you checked out the Topics in Chronicling America page yet?

The Library of Congress Newspaper and Current Periodicals Reading Room has compiled a wide range of topics related to 19th and 20th century American History, from newspaper articles that can be found in Chronicling America: American Historic Newspapers. Currently, there are more than 50 topics, ranging from articles on the Baseball World Series (1903-1910) to Ellis Island (1890-1907) and  eclectic topics such as the apparent Ping Pong Craze at the turn of the 20th century.

For instance, take a look at the topic on Butch Cassidy, aka Robert LeRoy Parker, the  infamous outlaw of the West. Important Dates related to Butch Cassidy are provided, as well as Suggested Search Strategies that will help searchers retrieve optimal results. Suggested Search terms, such as Wild Bunch, outlaw, bandit, and robbery are provided, and they offer recommendations on narrowing the Search Date between 1889 and 1910, when results for Butch Cassidy will be most relevant. And finally a sampling of articles about Butch Cassidy have been gathered for easy browsing on this topic.

Here is the current list of topics on the Topics in Chronicling America page. You can find Topics in Chronicling America by going to the Chronicling America homepage, http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/. Look for the Topics in Chronicling America link under the Working with Chronicling America heading at the bottom of the page.

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Madame Sosnowski, noteworthy citizen of Columbia, South Carolina

While reading the Columbia Phoenix online in Chronicling America, I ran across a brief article printed on March 28, 1865. The editors of the Phoenix wished to make quite clear that a highly regarded citizen of Columbia had NOT followed the Federal Army as they withdrew their occupation of the city the previous February, as was incorrectly printed in the recent issue of the Augusta Constitutionalist. Intrigued by her name, I began a fruitful search of a noteworthy woman and her history.

click on image to visit Chronicling America

Madame Sophie Sosnowski (nee Wentz) was born in Baden, Germany in 1809 and was the daughter of a “prominent court physician,” Dr. Christian Wentz. In 1833, she emigrated from Europe to America with her Lithuanian husband, Captain Joseph Stanislaus Sosnowski, who served with distinction in the Russian Army, but was compelled to flee the country after participating in the failed Polish Revolution of 1830 against Russia.

The Sosnowskis lived in Erie, Pennsylvania, and after her husband’s death in 1845, Madame Sosnowski moved her family to the various cities of Troy, New York; Macon, Georgia; Charleston, South Carolina; Columbia, South Carolina; and lastly Athens, Georgia. She penned her own eye-witness account of the Burning of Columbia, called “A Thrilling, Faithful & Graphic Description of a Monstrous Crime” which was published in 1924 in the Georgia Historical Quarterly titled the “Burning of Columbia.”

Madame Sosnowski ran a highly respected school for girls in Columbia during the 1850s and 1860s, called the Brahamville Institute, located two miles north of the city. Madame Sosnowski, her daughters, and Captain Thaddeus Strawinski, an ex-officer of the 1830 Polish Army, taught Music, German, and French to young ladies.

click on image to visit Chronicling America

Remarkably, there are several collections of family photographs, ephemera, and correspondence related to Madame Sosnowski at the South Caroliniana Library, the South Carolina Historical Society, and the University of Georgia. It appears that many descendants and relatives of Madame Sosnowski live in South Carolina and Georgia today.

Sosnowski family letters and scrapbook, 1809-1949.

South Caroliniana Library Manuscripts Division

Two volumes (photostatic copies) consisting of volume one, 1809-1949 (memoir, biography and family history) and second volume of correspondence, 1853-1876, related to the career of Madame Sophia Sosnowski and her related Polish-American family lines in South Carolina and Georgia. Persons represented in these two volumes include members of the Sosnowski family of Polish and German descent who settled in South Carolina during the mid-19th century. German-born Sophia Wentz Sosnowski (1809-1899) and her husband Joseph Stanislaus Sosnowski (1800 or 1806-1845), a captain in the Polish army, came to New York via France shortly after their marriage in 1833. Following her husband’s death, Madame Sosnowski moved the family to Columbia, S.C., and opened the South Carolina Female Collegiate Institute at Barhamville. Madame Sosnowski became renowned as a teacher of languages, literature, and vocal music. After the Civil War much of the family resettled in Athens, Ga., where Madame Sosnowski taught at the Lucy Cobb Institute and later operated her own school, known as the Home School. Sophia Augusta Sosnowski married Colonel Frank E. Schaller (1835-1881), who had been stationed in Columbia, S.C., during the Civil War. The new Schaller family also settled in Georgia and maintained close ties with the Sosnowski family. Dr. Julius Christian Sosnowski (1840-1876) married Susan Grace Townsend and resided with her family at Bleak Hall on Edisto Island, S.C.

Papers of the Sosnowski and Schaller Families, 1828-1948.

South Caroliniana Library Manuscripts Division

Chiefly Civil War and family correspondence and business papers including information on professional lives of Sophie Sosnowski and Frank Schaller; including manuscript, 1865, Madame Sophie Sosnowski, recording eye-witness account of W.T. Sherman’s burning of Columbia, S.C.; diary, 1861-1862, kept by Frank Schaller re family and military activities; 2 letters, 27 July 1861 and 28 June 1877, Mississippi and Georgia, re roster of the 22nd Mississippi Infantry, commanded by Col. F[rank] Schaller.

Photographs of Langley-Seabrook-Sosnowski families [picture] : 1869-1960.

South Caroliniana Library Manuscripts Division

Photographs of Madame Sophie Maria Wentz at various ages; Frank Schaller and daughter Ida; Julius C. Sosnowski, M.D. in WWI uniform and later by Holland Studio, Charleston; photographs of miniature of Dorothea Odenheinz Wentz (Mrs. Christian Wentz) and silhouette of great-aunt of Madame Wentz.

Other sources include  the Madame Sophie Sosnowski collection, 1869-1917 at the University of Georgia, Hargrett Manuscripts Library and an informative article about her called “A Polish Family in the South” reprinted from Polish-American Studies (1946) on the Polish-American Historical Association website.

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Sack and Destruction of Columbia

Read William Gilmore Simm’s vivid account of the sack and destruction of Columbia by General Sherman’s army.

Readers will find the commentary on saving the South Caroliniana Library and other buildings on the Horseshoe of particular interest.

To read the whole series on the Sack and Destruction of Columbia in Chronicling America…

Columbia Phoenix March 21, 1865

Columbia Phoenix March 23, 1865

Columbia Phoenix March 25, 1865

Interesting, also, is a small mention of Sherman’s capture of Columbia in the Daily National Republican, a Washington, D.C. paper, March 2, 1865.

By Telegraph, The Destruction of Columbia Confirmed

…and an account in the White Cloud Kansas Chief, February 23, 1865

Glorious from South Carolina!

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Upcoming Presentation on The National Digital Newspaper Program

“The National Digital Newspaper Program”
Presentation by Deborah Thomas, Library of Congress

Thursday, September 23, 2010, 4:00 p.m.
Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library (Enter through the Thomas Cooper Library)
University of South Carolina
1322 Greene St.
Columbia, S.C.

University Libraries invites you to a special presentation by Deborah Thomas, Program Coordinator for the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP) at the Library of Congress. The NDNP, a partnership between the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Library of Congress (LC), is responsible for Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers (chroniclingamerica.loc.gov), a freely searchable database of U.S. newspapers published between 1860 and 1922. Ms. Thomas will speak about the goals of this important program and its impact on preserving our nation’s cultural memory.

In 2009, the University Libraries’ Digital Collections department was awarded a $350,000 grant from NEH to establish the South Carolina Digital Newspaper Program (http://sc.edu/library/digital/newspaper/index.html). The goal of the project is to scan, enhance, and deliver an estimated 100,000 pages from select South Carolina newspapers to the Library of Congress by 2011. The first digitized newspaper, the Columbia Phoenix (1865-78), will be available on the Chronicling America Web site in September, 2010.  Eighteen newspapers were selected for this grant cycle, including the Reconstruction-era African American papers the Free Press and Georgetown Planet.

The event is free and open to the public.  A Q&A session on the South Carolina Digital Newspaper Program will follow Thomas’ presentation.

Directions and parking information: http://www.sc.edu/library/tcllocate.html

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Columbia Phoenix in Chronicling America

The following newspaper titles are now available in Chronicling America!  Feel free to be like Kristin Amsden and Virginia Pierce (pictured below) and browse the issues, search for particular topics, and share with all of your friends and colleagues.

Columbia phoenix. (Columbia, S.C.) 1865-1865

Columbia phoenix. (Columbia, S.C.) 1865-1865

The Columbia daily phoenix. (Columbia, S.C.) 1865-1865

Tri-weekly phoenix. (Columbia, S.C.) 1865-1875

The daily phoenix. (Columbia, S.C.) 1865-1878

Kristin Amsden

Virginia Pierce

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July 2010 Progress

SCDNP completed an important milestone in the program.

SCDNP staff submitted Batch A to the Library of Congress for inclusion in Chronicling America.   If accepted by LC, the batch will be ingested and made publicly available in September.  The batch contains newspaper titles for the Columbia Phoenix and its subsequent titles. More information will be provided once the material is available in Chronicling America.

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June 2010 Progress

June brought several developments for the SCDNP program.

We sent two batches to the vendor.

Batch E has approximately 9892 images and covers three newspaper titles, including: Anderson intelligencer, Anderson daily intelligencer, and Intelligencer.

Batch F has approximately 9890 images and covers two newspaper titles, including: The watchman and southron [Sumter, S.C.] and Charleston Daily News.

The vendor also returned Batch A for verification.  Once sent to the Library of Congress, we anticipate seeing newspapers from Batch A in Chronicling America by the end of the year.

Here is a preview of what is to come for Batch A:

The image is from page one of the January 23, 1868 issue of The Daily Phoenix [Columbia, S.C.].  Select the image to see a larger view.

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April 2010 Progress

SCDNP sent two batches to the vendor.

Batch C has approximately 9889 images and covers three newspaper titles, including: The daily phoenix, The tri-weekly phoenix, and Anderson intelligencer.

Batch D has approximately 9966 images and covers three newspaper titles, including: The Charleston daily news, The Sumter watchman, and The watchman and southron.

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March 2010 Progress

SCDNP sent two batches to the vendor.

Batch A has approximately 9973 images and covers five different newspaper titles, including: Columbia phoenix (2 different versions), Columbia daily phoenix, The daily phoenix, and Tri-weekly phoenix.

Batch B has approximately 9713 images and covers one newspaper title: The Charleston daily news.

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SCDNP in the News

Over the past months, SCDNP has gained attention from newspapers around the state.  See the following links for coverage of the program:

1. “USC at Leading Edge of Newspaper, Film Digitization,” The Free-Times (Columbia, S.C.)

2. “Project will put history before vast audience,” The Times and Democrat (Orangeburg, S.C.)

3. “Read all about it,” The Post and Courier (Charleston, S.C.)

4. “Old issues of 21 S.C. papers going online,” The Sumter Item (Sumter, S.C.)

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