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Virginia Argus. [volume] : (Richmond, Va.) 1796-1816
Place of publication:
Richmond, Va.
Geographic coverage:
  • Richmond, Virginia  |  View more titles from this: City State
S. Pleasants, Jr.
Dates of publication:
  • Vol. 4, no. 62 (Nov. 19, 1796)-v.23, no. 3174 (Mar. 29, 1815) ; v. 1, no. 2 [1] (Apr. 1, 1815) -v. 2, no. 61 (Oct. 19, 1816).
  • 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 University Microfilms International; Microphoto Division of Bell & Howell; the Library of Virginia; and the Library of Congress, Photoduplication Service.
  • Issues for Nov. 19,1796-<May 11, 1802> called also whole no. 373-<937>.
  • Prospectus for American Standard (Richmond, Va.)--printed in Virginia Argus issue for July 29, 1811.
  • Publisher varies: Samuel M. Pleasants, Nov. 2, 1814-Feb. 1, 1815 ; Philip Du Val & Co., Feb. 15, 1815-Mar. 25, 1815 ; John Burke, Mar. 29, 1815-Jan. 31, 1816 ; John Burke & L.H. Girardin, Feb. 3, 1816.
  • Supplements accompany some issues.
  • Whole numbering continues while issue numbering ceases, <v. 9, no. 97 = whole no. 926 (Apr. 2, 1802)>.
sn 84024710
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Virginia Argus. [volume] February 14, 1797 , Image 1


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Virginia Argus

Richmond journeyman printer Samuel Pleasants, Jr., established the Virginia Argus with his mentor and sponsor Augustine Davis on April 15, 1793. The paper's original title was the Virginia Gazette, and Richmond and Manchester Advertiser. But Pleasants' and Davis's partnership was short lived, with the two men on opposing sides of the widening partisan division between Thomas Jefferson's Democratic Republicans and Alexander Hamilton's Federalists. Pleasants became the sole publisher on October 16, 1794, when Davis departed to print a more conservative paper in support of Jefferson. With the issue of March 2, 1795, Pleasants began publishing the Gazette under the name "Samuel Pleasants, Junior," to differentiate himself from a like-named Richmond merchant. Pleasants changed the title on April 30, 1795, without change of volume numbering, to The Richmond and Manchester Advertiser, with the "Argus" symbol appearing in the masthead. The intriguing symbol—an abstract face covered in eyes—was inspired by the myth of the Argus Panoptes, a many-eyed giant and guardian figure in ancient Greek mythology.

In 1795, Pleasants married Deborah W. Lownes, the daughter of prominent Richmond planter James Lownes, with whom Pleasants had seven children between 1796 and 1806. Pleasants changed the newspaper title again on November 22, 1796, without change of volume numbering, to Virginia Argus. Over the ensuing two decades, Pleasants expanded the Argus's audience and grew his business, earning a federal license from Secretary of State James Madison in 1802 to publish the laws enacted by Congress at each meeting of that body. Thus, Pleasants' paper became an official outlet of congressional news for Richmond. In the summer of 1797, Pleasants altered the title to The Virginia Argus, but he again dropped the "The" with the October 24, 1804 issue. Beginning with the issue of February 5, 1811, Pleasants removed "Junior" from his publisher name.

Pleasants died of illness on October 4, 1814, just days after his forty-fourth birthday. But thanks to his resourceful widow, Deborah W. Pleasants, and their young son, Samuel Madison, his paper outlived him; beginning with the issue of November 2, 1814, the paper was "published by Samuel M. Pleasants for the benefit of himself and other representatives of Samuel Pleasants, deceased." Since the junior Samuel Pleasants was only fourteen at the time, it was Deborah who ran her late husband's businesses behind the scenes. Deborah had petitioned the Virginia General Assembly to allow her to retain her husband's public position in her own right until January 1, 1815, after which she reported that the work would be "done by persons in her employment" as it had been under her husband.

On February 15, 1815, the publishers became Philip DuVal & Co., Deborah having stated in the paper of February 1 that she was to form a partnership with DuVal. In March 1815, Deborah sold the paper to John Burke, the Virginia Argus's foreman, and wealthy Henrico County planter Philip DuVal, who adopted a new volume numbering with the issue of March 29, 1815. In February 1816, Burke went into partnership with Louis H. Girardin and began printing the Argus under the name of John Burke & L. H. Girardin. The company soon experienced financial ruin due to the incompetent leadership of John Burke, who proved to be a man "with major schemes and minor capital." Unable to repay his investors, Burke discontinued the Argus with the issue of October 16, 1816, and fled Richmond shortly afterward, leaving Deborah Pleasants to pursue recompense in court.

Provided by: Library of Virginia; Richmond, VA