On August 26, 1835, a fledgling newspaper called the Sun brought to New York the first accounts of remarkable lunar discoveries. A series of six articles reported the existence of life on the moonincluding unicorns, beavers that walked on their hind legs, and four-foot-tall flying man-bats. In a matter of weeks it was the most broadly circulated newspaper story of the era, and the Sun, a working-class upstart, became the most widely read paper in the world.
An exhilarating narrative history of a divided city on the cusp of greatness, and tale of a crew of writers, editors, and charlatans who stumbled on a new kind of journalism, The Sun and the Moon tells the surprisingly true story of the penny papers that made America a nation of newspaper readers.
|Edition description:||First Trade Paper Edition|
|Product dimensions:||5.76(w) x 9.02(h) x 0.96(d)|
|Age Range:||13 - 18 Years|
About the Author
Matthew Goodman‘s nonfiction writing has appeared in The Forward, The American Scholar, Harvard Review, Brill's Content, and The Utne Reader. He is the author of Jewish Food: The World at Table. He lives in New York City with his wife and children.
Table of Contents
Prologue: The Man on the Moon 1
Part 1 The Sun
1 Benjamin Day's Whistling Boy 17
2 The News of the City 33
3 Bearer of the Falcon Crest 49
4 The Atrocious Impositions of Matthias 65
5 "The Evil Spirit of the Times" 83
6 The Prince of Ivy Island 97
7 Strange Attractions 115
Part 2 The Moon
8 Celestial Discoveries 131
9 A Passage to the Moon 147
10 "If This Account Is True, It Is Most Enormously Wonderful" 165
11 The Picturesque Beauty of the Moon 185
12 "The Astronomical Hoax Explained" 199
13 Moonshine 217
14 Monck Mason's Flying Machine 233
15 "Joice Heth Is Not Dead" 251
16 The Best Self-Hoaxed Man in New York 265
Epilogue That Tyranny Shall Be No Longer 283
Selected Bibliography 327
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The subject of this book is a fake newspaper story published in New York City in the 1830s, in which it was claimed that a famous astronomer had discovered life on the moon, including such improbable creatures as bipedal beavers and humanoid bats. Not unreasonably, I went into it expecting an amusing story about bizarre science fictional imaginings and public gullibility. What I got, though, was something much more than that. Goodman doesn't just tell the story of the newspaper hoax; he delves deeply into everything in the world of 1830s New York that remotely touches on it. The result is a rambling account of the history of journalism, the politics and social concerns of pre-Civil War New York, the lives of various prominent and colorful men (including familiar names like P.T. Barnum and Edgar Allan Poe), the religious and scientific attitudes of the time, and much more. It actually takes the author 130 pages to do more than mention the hoax story in passing, but I didn't mind at all, because everything he was talking about was fascinating. I came away from the book feeling a bit like I'd just taken a trip in a time machine to walk the streets of the city myself.
In 1834, a penny paper called the Sun managed to eke out a new model for news that appealed to the working man (and, based on advertising, women) by providing news of interest to a wide range of people at a reasonable price. Prior to this, newspapers mainly catered to merchants and business, and often included shipping manifests and sailing schedules, news of prices and markets abroad, etc. The Sun, though, included a more "blue collar" style - police and court reporting was more lurid than shipping, for instance - and was able to draw a new segment of the population to build a circulation of around 2500 papers per day, competitive with other, more expensive sheets.Now, the newspaper business at the time was pretty cutthroat. Editors didn't mind broadly copying from competitors and other magazines and journals, libel was pretty commonplace, basically anything goes to sell papers. And in 1835, the Sun published a series of stories from an Edinborough astronomy journal summarizing new discoveries of life on the Moon by one of the leading astronomers of the day. These were some pretty amazing discoveries, to include a civilization of intelligent man-bats and an entire ecosystem of animals and plants.Needless to say, circulation went through the roof, and the Sun almost overnight became the most widely read paper in the world, dwarfing circulation at competing papers by a factor of ten or more.Trouble is, the story was completely made up. Although the publisher and editor didn't admit the fraud until decades later (and in very oblique fashion), the story was debunked in the ensuing months. Funny thing though, circulation didn't drop. The Sun continued to be one of the most widely read papers, influencing journalistic style and the newspaper business model in most American cities for decades to come.Matthew Goodman's The Sun and The Moon tells the story of the Sun's hoax, its aftermath, and connection to some pretty well known names like P. T. Barnum and Edgar A. Poe. It's a pretty good look into the newspaper wars in mid-19th century New York, a subject I clearly need to return to. My one criticism - the reading the text sometimes felt like taking a dog for a walk in a park. At a moment's notice, Goodman takes us off down a rabbit trail that eventually connects back up with main story. It was a bit distracting at times and occasionally jarring. Generally, this was a good book, though!
There is much to like about this book. Unfortunately, that cannot make up for its fundamental flaw ¿ the book cannot really decide what it wants to be. Well researched, well told, but well shy of a focus.Goodman often paints a good picture. In particular, the book¿s opening descriptions of New York do an excellent job of letting the reader know how it felt to be a part of that city. And other descriptions in the book are similarly skilled.However, one minute the book is a description of the newspaper business, the next it is a description of hoaxes and their role in 19th Century New York, the next it is a biography (of a number of people ¿ even the biographies jump all over with in-depth backgrounds of newspaperman Richard Adams Locke [author of the moon hoax], P.T. Barnum, and Edgar Allan Poe), the next it is discussion of slavery, the next is¿well, I lost count of the many ways this book strayed from it¿s many points. As one huge example of the wormholes it often dived into ¿ an entire chapter is devoted to details of Poe (including sections quoting his writing) that do not seem relevant to the entire narrative.Maybe there is an overriding theme here. Maybe the author would contend he is trying to meld the zeitgeist with the people who made it what it was. Maybe he is trying to show how hoaxing, the growth of newspapers, and the seminally influential men of the time work together. Maybe I¿m just grasping at straws to explain why this book contains all it does.There are parts of this book well worth reading. Much about the moon hoax itself is good, the history of the development of the penny papers is good, and, as I¿ve already indicated, the pictures painted by the author¿s words are often excellent. Are these bits of gold worth the wanderings the reader is put through to get to any of these jewels? I¿m not convinced it is.
Sorry I wasn't on last night. No power. And not gonna be on tonight either. (1) It's half hour till midnight. (2) I'm pissed off. Bbt maybe. If my stepmom doesn't explode something since it's her bday. Grr...
She sat quietly
Read Lightbreeze's post in result 2m then Sunstar's in result 1!
Wonderful. Awesome. Engaging.