The Yellow Kid on the Paper Stage
Introduction Origins of the Kid Class Warfare on the Urban Stage Race and Ethnicity Selling the Kid The Death of the Kid
"Putting Yellow Journalism in Its Place."
"Joseph Pulitzer."
"Yellow Journal Cook-Book."
"Shade of Isabella."
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Viva Cuba Libre: Yellow Journalism and the Death of the Kid

Distaste Over Yellow Journalism Grows

PulitzerComic historian Bill Blackbeard speculates that the Kid may have been the victim of patriotic hatred for the color yellow—one of Spain's national colors.1 One report in the Washington Post suggests dislike for Spain's colors was "common patriotic feeling: "tars"—soldiers—trampled on yellow and red bunting spread over the gangway of the battleship Texas in April 1898.2 One New York Times report also suggests that Spain considered yellow fever in Cuba as a "weapon against invading Americans"—another reason to dislike yellow.3 What is clear is that yellow journals' reputations were sinking in the "white" press fast. In its August 17, 1898 issue, Puck reported on U.S. General Shafter's action in expellin New York Journal and New York World journalists for their actions there: "That these unworthy members of an honorable craft greatly aggravated the unhealthful conditions in and around the city there can be no doubt," the author wrote.4 A January 1898 Washington Post report describes an article by Dr. Stanley Warren, "The Newspaper as a Predisposing Cause to Crime," which urged people to call on lawmakers to prohibit "this class of news." "Even now the cleaner sheets are beginning to see where this so-called yellow journalism is leading, and are crying stop,' Warren wrote.5 A February Post report "Urges the Public to Be Calm" in the face of "fake reports" by the yellow press: "Thus far the question of war with Spain has been made alarmingly sensational only by the few yellow-kid newspapers of the country, which are ready to sacrifice the truth and inflame popular prejudices to open wider markets for the reading of journals which each day must contradict what they published before."6 Reacting to yellow journal coverage of the sinking of the U.S.S. Maine (that they jumped to the conclusion that it wasn't an accident), a February 18 letter to the editor of the New York Times suggests censoring such journals7 and a Feb. 26 1898 one-liner in the Post bemoans, "There is nothing quite so lame as the cheap imitation of yellow journalism."8 White papers reported on public distaste for yellow journalism as well: Packard College students asked the public not to buy yellow journals9; a group of suburban school teachers decided that Cuba should be included in the curriculum to "offset the influence of yellow journalism, and thus teach true patriotism"10; and the New York State Art Teachers Association passed a resolution endorsing a paper describing the evils of yellow journalism and the good done by "clean" newspaper work.11 One New York Times reader wrote to the editor:

"Can nothing be done to lessen the evils of the new or yellow journalism of Greater New York? . . . Our quiet Sabbath is outraged by the cry of 'Extra,' the contents of which have no basis in fact. . . Next to National dishonor there can be nothing more harmful to the community in general than our present yellow journals. They are a stench in the nostrils of our National life. . . . We (thousands of us) would gladly wear for a period of thirty days some distinguishing badge, ribbon or button as a silent protest against new journalism . . .'12

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1 Blackbeard, Bill. Introduction. R. F. Outcault's The Yellow Kid: A Centennial Celebration of the Kid Who Started the Comics. Northampton, MA: Kitchen Sink Press, 1995. 110-112.

2 "Tread on the Spanish Colors." Washington Post. 18 April 1898: 2.

3 "Yellow Fever Spain' s Alley." New York Times. 16 April 1898: 1.

4 "Cleansing Santiago." Puck. 17 Aug. 1898.

5 "Incentive to Crime/Dr. Stanley Warren Arraigns the Newspapers." Washington Post. 24 Jan. 1898: 10.

6 "Spirit of American Press/Representative Newspapers Deprecare Jingoism and Urge the Public to Be Calm." Washington Post. 25 Feb. 1898. The Washington Post: 4.

7 "Evils of 'Yellow' Journalism." New York Times. 21 Feb. 1898: 5.

8 Washington Post. 26 Feb. 1898: 6.

9 "Yellow Journals and Yellow Readers." New York Times. 18 March 1898: 6.

10 "Cuba in the Public Schools/Suburban Teachers Think That Pupils Should Be Instructed on the Subject." New York Times. 20 Mar 1898: 2.

11 "Art Teachers Meeting Ends/A Paper on the Evils of 'Yellow Journalism' Indorse." New York Times. 27 March 1898: 8.

12 "Yellow Journalism Nuisances." New York Times. 23 March 1898: 6.