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As the editor Benjamin H. 1 It challenged the former conception of a newspaper as a political editorial by introducing tales, ‘‘Police Office’’ items, miscellaneous stories, and ‘‘Help Wanted’’ notices. The Sun eventually claimed to have instituted popular journalism in the United States and to represent the first successful mass-audience journal. 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.

42 The nineteenth-century world of print was different both in volume and in character. Had the ‘‘cheap and light’’ publications of antebellum America been little different from their colonial counterparts, their number alone would not have moved them from the periphery to the center. But because they were far bolder in their outlook as well as numerically more visible, they could not be dismissed as marginal. Whether enthusiastically celebrated or vehemently condemned  The Elusive Reading Revolution at the time, the cheapest and most popular forms of print deserve our attention.

37 But machinery alone could not create the demand. Ronald J. Zboray has revisited the argument of technological determinism and observed discrepancies between the actuality of the reading public—which was located primarily in the Northeast—and the publishers’ fictive construct of a mass readership of novels. The supposedly ‘‘democratic’’ public did not share homogeneous reading practices or equal access to print in the age of economic inequality. Zboray notes that antebellum innovations in printing technology did not bring a considerable drop in the price of books.

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