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The recorder. [volume] : (Richmond, Va.) 1802-1803
Place of publication:
Richmond, Va.
Geographic coverage:
  • Richmond, Virginia  |  View more titles from this: City State
Printed by Henry Pace and James T. Callender
Dates of publication:
  • Ceased in 1803.
  • Vol. 2, no. 70 (Nov. 3, 1802)-
Semiweekly 1803
  • English
  • Richmond (Va.)--Newspapers.
  • Virginia--Richmond.--fast--(OCoLC)fst01205345
  • Also available online.
  • Archived issues are available in digital format from the Library of Congress Chronicling America online collection.
  • Available on microfilm from West Virginia Univ. Library Photoduplication Section.
  • Printer: Henry Pace, <1803>.
sn 84024679
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The recorder. [volume] November 3, 1802 , Image 1


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The Recorder, or, Lady’s and Gentleman’s Miscellany and The Recorder

In 1801, Virginia's capital city, Richmond, had at least four competing newspapers that served a population of less than 6,000. Although Richmond had more than doubled in size from 1790 to 1800, it was small compared to its northern counterparts Boston, Philadelphia, and New York. With printing competition as it was in the southern city, Henry Pace, editor of the weekly Federalist newspaper the Recorder; or, Lady's and Gentleman's Miscellany, struggled to keep his publication afloat.

In December 1801, Pace wrote newspaperman James Thomson Callender asking for help with his failing Recorder. Though Callender was not a Federalist, he was flattered by Pace's offer and, more to the point, he desperately needed the work. While the editorial job offered Callender the promising prospect of a wage, it also gave him a powerful outlet for venting grievances towards both Federalists and Republicans he felt had wronged him. They joined forces in February 1802, "Pace formally went into partnership with Callender; Pace supplied the financing from his print shop, Callender supplied the editorial expertise."

Though the Recorder had been known as a Federalist newspaper upon his arrival, Callender hoped to create a politically independent paper, "not under the auspices of a Federalist organ." Callender's bold introductory declaration in the March 6, 1802 issue of the Recorder read: "[We] have no personal obligations to either party [but] are willing, if necessary, to contend occasionally for political principles." The new Recorder would not "prostrate itself to the fanaticks of either party." Callender's denouncement of both parties was not surprising considering events leading up to his arrival at the Recorder. While living in Philadelphia, he had written such defamatory newspaper stories about prominent Federalists Alexander Hamilton and John Adams that in May 1800 he was prosecuted under the newly created Sedition Act and imprisoned. As editor of the Recorder, Callender was primed to unleash his journalistic vitriol at Jefferson for not making him Richmond's postmaster. Callender also targeted his former friends and employers Meriwether and Skelton Jones, brothers and editors of the pro-Jefferson Richmond The Examiner. Callender's aim at Jefferson was matched by the Jones brothers' spirited defense of the president and a malicious war of words unfolded in the pages of the competing papers.

On Sept. 1, 1802, as the verbal attacks between the Recorder and the Examiner escalated, Callender printed a story under the caption "The President Again," revealing a scandal of seismic proportions. Callendar accused Jefferson of, "keep[ing] a concubine, one of his own slaves. Her name is SALLY." The "Sally" Callender referred to was Sally Hemmings, enslaved by Jefferson and the half-sister of his late wife, with whom he lived and had children.

On Nov. 3, 1802, the newspaper shortened its title to become, simply, The Recorder. From the time of the publication of the first Hemmings article until the end of that year, Callender relentlessly attacked Jefferson's character with scandalizing stories.

The Recorder, which turned from a weekly to a semiweekly in March 1803, had become a success, but squabbles between Pace and Callender over compensation and physical attacks against Callender took their toll on the talented scandalmonger. After wandering the streets of Richmond in a drunken stupor on the morning of July 17, 1803, Callender was later discovered dead in a shallow pool of the James River. There was only a brief mention of Callender's death in the Recorder on page three of the July 20, 1803 issue, as the relationship between Pace and Callender had soured in the months leading up to his death.

Without Callender's editorial flair, the Recorder suffered. While the final date of the paper is unknown, the latest extant issue is August 24, 1803, so it likely folded shortly after his death. There's no doubt that under Callender's direction the Recorder was sensational, but it fulfilled the important task of the press of impartially exposing the hypocrisy of America's founders and Virginia's elite.

Provided by: Library of Virginia; Richmond, VA