About the Project
Fanny Fern in The New York Ledger explores one of the most successful periods in the career of Fanny Fern, who in the mid-nineteenth century became the highest-paid newspaper columnist in the United States, writing for the widest-circulated publication of its day. Today Fern is known mainly for her semi-autobiographical novel Ruth Hall, a tremendous success upon its publication in 1855, and a book which propelled its author to relative fame. However, it was Fern's periodical writing for which she became best known in her own time, writing a weekly column for The New York Ledger beginning in January, 1856, and continuing to publish an installment every week until her death in 1872.
This project makes available full-text transcriptions of Fern's columns, as well as digital images of complete issues of The New York Ledger. We also provide contextual information about both Fern and the Ledger, and the general cultural context out of which both emerged.
We have begun digitizing Fern's columns from the beginning of her tenure with the Ledger. The decision to focus on this specific time period was influenced by several factors. Firstly, although Fern wrote for other papers earlier in her career, the Ledger was the paper for which Fern wrote the longest, with which she gained the most recognition, and with which she would become inextricably linked during her lifetime. Secondly, we felt that it was important to start as close to the beginning of Fern's tenure with the Ledger as possible, in order to see the emergence and development of Fern's periodical persona within the pages of the paper. However, while Fern's weekly column first appeared in January of 1856, the project was unable to gain access to microfilm from the first month of publication. As a result, we were forced to begin with the issue from February 2, 1856. Three columns from 1856 are not included (June 7, July 19, and November 29), as the microfilm for those issues, from which the digital images and transcriptions were derived, was missing. We hope to include these missing issues in the future, and plan to continue digitizing new columns as time and resources allow.
For a more detailed discussion of the need for a digital archive of Fern's periodical writing, as well as an exploration of what can be gained by considering Fern's writings in their original periodical context, see Kevin McMullen's essay, "Turning Over Fresh Leaves: A Reconsideration of Fanny Fern's Periodical Writing," in the Winter 2018 issue of Legacy: A Journal of American Women Writers.
Fanny Fern in The New York Ledger is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International license, and we are happy to share the project's transcription files for re-use. The source XML for individual newspaper columns can be downloaded using a link at the bottom of each page. For bulk access to all of the project's TEI files, email the project editor using the site's "Contact" page.