Friday, November 12, 2010

A Recounting of The Lost Cause, 1898-1904

By Stewart Cruickshank

In June of 1898 The Lost Cause began circulation from its offices at 328-338 W. Green Street in Louisville, Kentucky. The magazine was printed by the Courier-Journal Job Printing Company. Editor Ben La Bree, an entrepreneur, offered a year’s subscription for 75 cents and single copies for 10 cents.

The original masthead featured the Confederate Battle Flag with a broken staff imposed upon a black moon with 13 stars and the motto “Defeated but not dishonored”. A headliner regarding the War with Spain promised “This Journal will also contain a description of the battles and events of this war, fully illustrated with large Battle scenes, portraits, etc.” However, by the September issue the Spanish-American War had ended and this subject was no longer a feature.

The mission statement of The Lost Cause promised “An Illustrated Journal of History, devoted to the collection and preservation of the record of the late ‘Confederacy’ and to the recording of Humorous Anecdotes, Reminiscences, Deeds of Heroism, Terrible Hardships endured, Battles on Sea and Land and the noble Deeds Accomplished by the faithful and loyal Southern Women.”

A fire at the printing plant resulted in no issue being published in December of 1898. Publication resumed in January 1899. The June, 1899 issue was the last one to be edited by Ben La Bree. Due to a change in ownership no issue was circulated in July 1899.

The Lost Cause resumed publication in August. The new owners were the Albert Sidney Johnston Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Mrs. (General) Basil Duke was editor and Miss Florence Barlow the UDC chapter recording assistant secretary was the associate editor and manager.

This business venture of the Kentucky UDC placed it in direct competition with a rival publication produced by a former Confederate Army Sergeant Major, S. A. Cunningham, The Confederate Veteran. He was a veteran publisher who had learned some valuable lessons in the 1870’s competing for newspaper subscribers, and would be a strong competitor for the UDC to contend with.

A small ad in the August, 1899 issue revealed that over 1,500 subscriptions had expired with the August issue. “True Friends” were invited to re-subscribe to “Confederate History”.

The masthead was also changed to the one replicated in the previous issues of the modern-day version of The Lost Cause that we have been enjoying. The amended mission statement of the publication promised “A Confederate War Record”. “The Lost Cause is a monthly Illustrated Journal of History, devoted to the collection and preservation of the records of the Confederate States, Humorous Anecdotes Reminiscences, Deeds of Heroism, also devoted to the work and interest of the ‘Daughters of the Confederacy’”.

The Confederate Veteran, Cunningham’s publication, had by now become the largest distributor on the subject of the War Between the States. Cunningham was also the General Agent for the Jefferson Davis Monument Fund. The June 1899 issue of The Lost Cause featured “spicy reading” rebutting an editorial published in Cunningham’s magazine which had attacked the Financial Director of the Confederate Memorial Association, John C. Underwood. This feuding and debating was continued through the September 1899 issue.

The Lost Cause embraced marketing concepts in an effort to attract female subscribers. For example, a 100-piece Princess China Set was offered free to anyone who sent in 25 yearly subscriptions. Another ad revealed that “Every dollar made by The Lost Cause goes to help Confederate Veterans, their families, widows, and orphans. This fact ought to be sufficient to enlist the interest of every veteran, son and daughter.”

The April 1900 issue announced a price increase to one dollar yearly. A single issue remained ten cents. The yearly subscription included, for a limited time, an 8” x 12” silk Confederate Flag. A subscription agent sending six (later five) yearly subscribers received a silver Kentucky souvenir spoon.

The November 1901 issue announced that “The Lost Cause is owned, controlled and edited by women—Daughters of the Confederacy—who are as loyal to the Southern Cause and the Confederate Veterans as any soldier who bore arms. No ‘Yankee’, as has been maliciously reported (apparently a reference to Cunningham) has any connection whatever with this journal. The Veterans can trust their interest into our hands with the assurance that it will be well guarded with the same devotion and loyalty which characterized the women in the ‘60s.”

The continuing sparing between the Nashville Tennessee published Confederate Veteran and the Louisville Kentucky published Lost Cause is also apparent in the following statements: The Lost Cause has the advantage over other similar publications in having access to historical matter and over 20 thousand cuts illustrative of Confederate history that no other publishing house possesses. This collection represents the work of one man for 30 years and an expenditure of over $100,000.00”

The April 1902 issue also stated that “The Lost Cause is the only journal published in the United States that is purely Confederate. No matter how Southern an article may be unless it relates in some way or has some bearing upon the Confederacy or its organizations we reject it. There are other Southern Journals but The Lost Cause is the only purely Confederate Journal.” The ladies of the UDC were apparently quite unafraid to mix things up with Cunningham.

However, the financial obligations had to take their priority. In a small ad that issue it was stated that an agent sending in four subscriptions would receive one year free. However, “credit would not be welcomed”. Later that year $50.00 cash was offered to anyone providing 100 subscriptions.

The July, 1902 issue was not printed. No reason was given. Publication resumed in August 1902. Beginning in October of that year an ongoing series which listed by state the “Regiments and Battalions of Infantry, Cavalry, Artillery and Engineers (including Indians) and their Field Officers in the Confederate States Army 1861-1865” was undertaken. This outstanding series was not completed though, as the final chapters of this tale will reveal.

The April, 1903 issue was not printed. Again no reason was given. Publication resumed in May. The September issue revealed that Mrs. Duke had gone abroad and would no longer be associated with the journal. Miss Barlow was now the Editor and Proprietor. She often traveled to various UDC and UCV camps speaking about Southern chivalry and the mission of The Lost Cause. A small ad stated that “those indebted to The Lost Cause for past years subscriptions will please remit. We can not keep up the good work we are doing without collecting what is due us.”

In January, 1904 the bargain rate of fifty cents for one year was offered. The March issue was delayed due to a printer’s strike at the publishing house. The Lost Cause ceased publication with the April, 1904 issue. Miss Barlow announced that ownership would be transferred to Mrs. J. T. McCutchen of Jackson, Tennessee. With that announcement a chapter in Kentucky publishing of Confederate history came to an end.

Today The Lost Cause has returned as the “Journal of the Kentucky Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans”. Your subscription and advertising support to The Lost Cause will continue the mission of honoring and remembering Kentucky Confederate history started years ago by Ben La Bree, Mrs. Duke and Miss Barlow.

Originally published in the Spring, 2005 The Lost Cause

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