July 4, 1846-Dated Special “Fourth of July, 1846” Edition Newspaper, BROTHER JONATHAN, published by Wilson and Company of New York, Fine. Brother Jonathan was a weekly publication operated by Benjamin Day from 1842 to 1862. It was the First Weekly Illustrated Publication in the United States. This large, highly illustrated broadsheet style newspaper measures 32” x 22.5” and is printed in eight columns, this issue with 35 woodcuts, including: an early panoramic view of Chicago as seen “from the prairie” (the caption lists the population of the city at less than 5,000); the hanging of Major Andre from the gallows; portraits of American presidents up to and including the sitting President, James Polk; and others. Small hole losses at central crossfolds, some edge splits, marginal soiling, but strong and stable overall. A wonderful example of news and issues, this special edition highlighting the American Revolutionary War and Spirit of ‘76.
Benjamin Day founded the first penny newspaper in the United States, The New York Sun, in 1833. He sold the paper to his brother-in-law, Moses Yale Beach, in 1838.
After trying a few other publishing ventures, in 1842 Day formed a partnership with James G. Wilson to publish the weekly Brother Jonathan, focusing on reprinting English fiction (where no royalties were paid to the authors). However, the exact origins of the publication are a bit more complex, as Rufus Wilmot Griswold and Park Benjamin, Sr., who started the Evening Tattler in 1839, started publishing Brother Jonathan in July 1839, and it appears that Day and Wilson soon took over those publications. The January 1, 1842 edition of Brother Jonathan is still listed as Volume 1, No. 1, despite the prior issues.
Brother Jonathan became popular throughout the United States, and reportedly grew to a circulation of between 60-70,000.
The name of the publication was a reference to Brother Jonathan, a common cultural reference (at the time) to a fictional character personifying New England, similar in appearance to Uncle Sam.
Day kept the annual subscription price at $1 throughout the publication's existence, but stopped publishing in 1862 as paper prices rose, returning subscription fees with a note that he “would not publish a paper that could not be circulated for $1 a year.”