The People's party paper. (Atlanta, Ga.) 1891-1898
Place of Publication:
- Atlanta, Fulton county
Dates of publication:
- Began in 1891; ceased in 1898.
- Atlanta (Ga.)--Newspapers.
- Fulton County (Ga.)--Newspapers.
- Georgia--Fulton County.--fast--(OCoLC)fst01211153
- "Populist." Cf. Ayer, 1937.
- Available on microfilm from the Library of Congress, Photoduplication Service, the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, and the University of Georgia Libraries.
- Description based on: Vol. 1, no. 9 (Nov. 26, 1891).
- Editor: T.E. Watson.
- Latest issue consulted: Vol. 6, no. 16 (Jan. 1, 1897).
- Official organ of: People's Party. State of Georgia.
The People's party paper. April 28, 1892
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 principally as a medium for Thomas Watson’s editorials, reached a nationwide audience and achieved circulation rates exceeding 25,000. Much like Watson’s first newspaper, the People’s Party Paper, the Jeffersonian should be considered an extension of Watson and his political ambitions. This second paper, however, featured a marked shift in content by regularly displaying nativist, white supremacist, and anti-Catholic material. Watson became a national figure in the 1890s as a fiery representative for the People’s Party (Populist Party) in Georgia, and his influence in the state meant candidates for governor needed Watson’s approval.
As publisher of the Jeffersonian, Watson became an outspoken proponent of disenfranchising African Americans; in fact, support for disenfranchisement was one of several items contingent upon his endorsement for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Hoke Smith. Contrary to his title as Populist, he came to support the county unit system, which gave less-populous counties a disproportionate share of representation. When the nearly defunct Populist Party nominated Watson for a largely symbolic presidential run in 1908, he asserted that he was ‘the only candidate in this race who makes a stand for Southern rights and white supremacy.’
Between April 1907 to November 1910, Watson published the Jeffersonian from his offices in Atlanta. After an unsuccessful campaign for state Senate in November 1910, 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 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. By 1912, every issue of the Jeffersonian featured material voicing opposition to the ‘Roman Catholic Hierarchy,’ which Watson referred to as the ‘deadliest menace to American liberties and civilization,’ and his anti-Catholic editorials continued until the paper’s cessation. During the presidential campaigns that year, Watson aggressively editorialized against Woodrow Wilson, calling him ‘another Bill Taft,’ and eventually announced his support for Theodore Roosevelt’s Progressive Party.
By September 1915, Watson’s paper reached a circulation peak of 87,000 due partially to his months-long anti-Semitic 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 content, 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 again published a weekly newspaper.