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Yet the more important point may be that the defenders of cultural legitimacy were crying foul at the spectacle of a diﬀerent, exuberant, popular print culture. The target of their repeated attacks was the ephemeral material: the newspaper, the magazine, the picture book. ’’ 64 Edgar Allan Poe also expressed his contempt for the new media. When he resigned from his editorship of Graham’s, he declared, ‘‘My reason for resigning was disgust at the namby-pamby character of the magazines . . ’’ 65 Both Melville and Poe hoped to share the beneﬁts of marketable literature and sometimes courted its readers, but they nonetheless deprecated the popular literature of their day and despised the unsophisticated segment of the reading public.
By lending their voice to the dissemination of the daily news, the Little Sheets of News young messengers hoped for a better life. In turn, the print form itself was perceived as simply a commodity. To be sure, the newspaper became an aﬀordable commodity. In sharp contrast to the sixpence commercial papers, the new dailies were available to the common man for just a penny. They were believed to contribute to the enlightenment of society. Unlike the papers of the s—the Advertiser, the Commercial, or the Mercantile—the penny papers of the s and s were the Star, the Sun, the Herald, or the Tribune.
Popular culture was neither classless nor gender-blind: as ‘‘popular,’’ it was set apart, deﬁned through its difference, as one level in a hierarchy of culture. The history of popular forms of print and the reading practices they fostered should therefore include not only a cultural category but also the historicity of a categorizing process. The study of popular culture warrants a recognition of cultural dissent and potential strife. ’’ 46 The Elusive Reading Revolution Since the s historians of antebellum America have questioned the ‘‘egalitarian myth’’ of Jacksonian democracy.