The Jeffersonian. (Atlanta, Ga.) 1907-1917
Place of Publication:
- Atlanta, Fulton county
- Thomson, McDuffie county
Dates of publication:
- Vol. 2, no. 45 (Dec. 5, 1907)-v. 14, no. 54 (Aug. 30, 1917).
- Atlanta (Ga.)--Newspapers.
- "Democratic and Anti-Clerical." Ayer, 1917.
- Also on microfilm: Athens, Ga. : University of Georgia Libraries, and: Library of Congress, Photoduplication Service.
- Published in Atlanta, Ga. 1907-Nov. 1910; in Thomson, Ga., 1910-Aug. 30, 1917.
The Jeffersonian. December 5, 1907
In October 1906, Thomas E. Watson and his son, John Durham Watson, published the inaugural issue of the Weekly Jeffersonian in Augusta, Georgia. The 16-page paper, which served more as a medium for Thomas Watson’s editorials than news, reached a nationwide audience and achieved circulation rates exceeding 25,000. Much like Watson’s first newspaper, the People’s Party Paper, the Jeffersonian can be considered an extension of Watson himself and his political ambitions. The publication’s rapid growth, in part, is credited to Watson’s access to the Atlanta Journal mailing lists, which he acquired by endorsing Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Hoke Smith. Watson became a national figure in the 1890s as a fiery representative for the People’s Party (Populist Party) in Georgia, and his significant influence in the state meant any candidates for governor needed Watson’s approval. From 1906 to 1916, Watson never supported the same candidate for governor in back-to-back elections, but his official endorsement proved necessary to win the executive office.
Watson presented Jeffersonian readers with dramatic shifts on his policy stances, particularly those related to enfranchisement. Since the cessation of the People’s Party Paper in 1898, Watson became an outspoken proponent of disenfranchising African Americans. Contrary to his title as Populist, he also transitioned to support for the county unit system, which gave less-populous counties a disproportionate share of representation. When Watson was nominated by the nearly-defunct Populist Party for a largely symbolic presidential run in 1908, one of Watson’s main tenets was that of white supremacy.
From April 1907 to November 1910, Watson published the Jeffersonian from his offices in the Austell Building in Atlanta. After an unsuccessful campaign for state Senate against former ally Hoke Smith in November 1910, however, Watson moved the publishing operation to his plantation home, Hickory Hill, in Thomson, Georgia. He purchased new machinery with a $100,000 investment and launched the Jeffersonian Publishing Company with a lavish party. Mrs. Alice Louise Lytle, Watson’s Atlanta office assistant, joined the company as managing editor. Along with these changes, the Jeffersonian gradually began to feature more bold-faced type, red-inked headlines, and sensational attacks on political figures. Most notably, Watson ramped up such extreme anti-Catholic rhetoric that he faced charges for sending obscene literature through the mail. In 1912, Watson aggressively editorialized against Woodrow Wilson, calling him “another Bill Taft,” and eventually announced his support for Theodore Roosevelt’s Progressive Party after Wilson won the Democratic nomination.
By September 1915, Watson’s paper reached a circulation peak of 87,000 because of his months-long crusade against Leo Frank. He later praised Frank’s lynching, believing Frank’s commutation to be an injustice. Despite the Jeffersonian’s popularity, the newspaper’s demise began with Watson’s anti-war rhetoric. He ceaselessly criticized American involvement in World War I, and eventually prepared a legal case against conscription. After months of publishing anti-war material, the postmaster general formally complained to the United States Senate about Watson’s paper in August 1917. The Post Office Department subsequently banned the Jeffersonian, and Watson never published a weekly newspaper again.