8,500 issues later, newspaper begins 165th year
by: William Cone

Publishing a newspaper every week can seem a bit mundane until you look at the historical record: Since 1844, more than 8,500 issues of the Pittsburgh Catholic have been published.

When put in that kind of context, it’s easy to appreciate the work that has been done and continues to be done every week to produce “Your Catholic Community Newspaper.”

This issue of the Pittsburgh Catholic marks the beginning of its 165th year. Bishop Michael O’Connor, the first bishop of Pittsburgh, had no way of knowing that his newspaper would last this long — through a Civil War, two World Wars and countless other battles, religious and secular, near and far.

With support from our loyal readers and much-appreciated advertisers, the Pittsburgh Catholic has endured and thrived. Providing news and information for and about Catholics is a formula that continues to serve the church’s needs.

The newspaper’s Web site (www.pittsburghcatholic.org) serves as a portal to valuable new content every week and, thanks to the Gumberg Library at Duquesne University, Internet users can access pages from our earliest issues (1844 through 1854).

As we have provided for years, browsers on the Web also can access our archive of stories from 2000 to the present. Just go to our home page and look for “Search The Archives” on the left. Type in a keyword to do a search. We don’t archive all stories, and our Web site is updated by staff members on Mondays. The printed version of the Pittsburgh Catholic is still our bread and butter. It’s how we measure our success week in and week out.

In 2007, we put a lot of effort into redesigning the editorial content, giving our pages an exciting and new look.

You may notice a new twist on Page 1 this week. The nameplate was moved a bit to the left to accommodate the relocation of our mailing label, a move that was required by the Postal Service.

Speaking of the paper’s name, much thought went into what it would be called 165 years ago.

The name “Pittsburgh Catholic” was suggested by Herman Berg of Butler, according to Vince Gagetta, who wrote a history of the paper for its 150th anniversary in 1994.

Even though attaching the word “Catholic” would likely attract ridicule during those days of rampant religious bigotry, Bishop Michael O’Connor thought it conveyed the militant character he wanted the paper to have.

From April 6, 1844, to March 10, 1855, the newspaper was called the “Pittsburg” Catholic, following the practice of removing the “h” from the city’s name. Interestingly, when the city officially spelled the name without the “h” (from 1890 to 1911) the paper continued to use the traditional spelling with the “h.”

While the bishop wanted to supervise the editorial operations of the paper and appointed an advisory board of priests, he preferred to have laymen own and operate the enterprise. P.F. Boylan was listed as the first printer and publisher.

The capital to start the newspaper came from 78 founding subscribers who paid $5 each for a prepaid three-year subscription. After a subscription drive, some 600 people had paid $2 to take the paper for a year, even before the first issue was printed.

Back then as now, our aim is to reach the most readers with information that will enlighten, instruct and inspire. That effort may take us into new directions, but the core of our mission is still the way Bishop O’Connor intended it in 1844:

“This paper will be devoted particularly to an exposition and defense of Catholic principles, but will contain also a varied selection of articles on miscellaneous subjects and foreign news. All domestic party politics shall be carefully avoided.”

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