Wednesday, February 16, 2011

1891-92 subscription to the Religious Herald

I found this -- where else? -- tucked inside an old book. Mrs. M.E. Quarles (if I'm reading the cursive script correctly) paid $2 to subscribe to the Religious Herald for the 12-month period from September 1891 to September 1892.

The Religious Herald is still very much around and still a pretty good bargain. Individuals may subscribe for $18 per year, and the subscription cost is as low as $11 per year if everyone from a church subscribes, according to its website.

That means the Religious Herald has kept its subscription cost extremely low, relative to inflation, in the past 110+ years. Because, according to this online inflation calculator1, a product that cost $2 in 1891 would cost $47.15 in 2009.

The Religious Herald is now a publication of the Baptist General Association of Virginia, a faith community of about 1,400 congregations in Virginia and other states.

Here is some of the publication's early history, quoted from its website:

The immediate forerunner of the Herald was a monthly publication called the Evangelical Inquirer, produced by editor Henry Keeling in 1827, primarily for a Virginia Baptist readership. The 32-page, pamphlet-sized magazine covered many topics but produced only 12 issues before ceasing operation. Keeling wanted to move to a weekly newspaper format which would be printed on a large "blanket sheet." The first issues of the Religious Herald rolled off the press on Jan. 11, 1828, in downtown Richmond, somewhere on Main Street between 11th and 12th streets.

Eli Ball became editor in 1831. Two years later, William Sands, who was then the publisher/proprietor, assumed editorship when Ball resigned because of the press of duties with other Baptist entities. Sands served the new paper for 37 years during times of turbulent religious controversies and doctrinal disputes.

During the American Civil War, the paper struggled but managed to maintain publishing, although it was reduced from four pages to two in 1864. On April 3, 1865, the retreating Confederate army set fire to Richmond's business district and the Herald's offices were destroyed. What little that was left of the paper was sold to Jeremiah B. Jeter and Alfred Dickinson in October 1865.

Jeter served as editor until his death in 1880, when Dickinson assumed leadership of the paper until 1906.

In line with that, Alfred Dickinson is listed as "President" on this $2 receipt from 1891.

The J.T. Ellyson who is listed as secretary and treasurer on the receipt is almost certainly James Taylor Ellyson, who was also serving as the mayor of Richmond, Virginia, while performing his duties for the Religious Herald. Ellyson went on to serve as the Lieutenant Governor of Virginia from 1906 to 1918.

1. The calculator adjusts any given amount of money for inflation, according to the Consumer Price Index.

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