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Newspaper Norfolk Day Book (Norfolk and Portsmouth Va.) 1868-1881 Day book

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About Norfolk Day Book (Norfolk and Portsmouth Va.) 1868-1881

Norfolk, located on the southeastern corner of Virginia where the Elizabeth River and the Chesapeake Bay meet, was a bustling hub of maritime activity when the Day Book circulated its first copy in October 1857. Initially edited by John R. Hathaway and published by Thomas O. Wise, the six column, four-page daily carried local news and advertisements, editorials, upcoming events, railroad schedules, as well as market, naval, and maritime shipping news. A subscription to the paper cost a penny per day, one dollar for three months, two dollars for six months, or four dollars a year. By 1860, Hathaway claimed his paper had, “Circulation in Norfolk, Portsmouth, and all surrounding country greater than all the papers of both cities combined.”

During the Civil War, the Day Book provided coverage of war related events, including the historic naval battle between the Monitor and the Merrimac, the first recorded conflict between ironclad ships. On May 12, 1862, months after the initial skirmish, the Day Book continued to provide hour-by-hour analysis of the Merrimac’s movement: “2:45 o’clock,–The Rebel monster Merrimac has just passed out from behind Sewell’s Point and is moving down towards the Federal fleet. Her black hull can be seen moving slowly against the shore, in front of the Craney Island batteries.”

Around that time, on May 10, 1862, Norfolk surrendered to the Union Army. The same May 12 issue of the Day Book that reported on the Merrimac’s movements also detailed the fall of Norfolk into Federal hands. “During Friday night last,” the Day Book explained, “the Federals landed at Ocean View, about seventeen miles from Norfolk, and on the following day advanced upon Norfolk. The evacuation of the two cities by Confederates had been commenced several days previous.”

While other newspapers started during the war and continued after the war, the Day Book served as Norfolk’s only pre-war paper to survive the war, though publication halted from mid-1862 until July 1865. In 1864, Union General Benjamin Butler took over the Day Book‘s presses to print the New Regime, described as the “official journal of the department” and committed to the Federal cause. New Regime lasted until July 1865, when Hathaway’s Day Book resumed.

As the Day Book continued publication, other daily newspapers emerged in Norfolk immediately after the war, including the Norfolk Virginian and the Norfolk Post. The Day Book was “so badly damaged,” by the war, according to Lenoir Chambers’ Salt Water & Printer’s Ink: Norfolk and Its Newspapers, 1865-1965, “complete recovery … proved impossible. The break between prewar and postwar is not the less definite and historic because the Day Book dragged on until January, 1881.”

After the war, Norfolk was at times lawless and chaotic, as evidenced by the Norfolk Riot of 1866. In the days leading up to the riot, the Day Book reported “weeks marred by constant turmoil.” When the riot, sparked by post-war resentment and deep racial tensions, finally erupted in mid-April, Hathaway’s Day Book made its position clear. “Civil rights to the negro means martial law to the white man,” Hathaway wrote on April 17, 1866, “brought about solely by the ignorance and intemperance of the negro, when urged on by depraved white men who use him as a tool for their evil designs.”

In May 1866, James Barron Hope and Holt Wilson became the Day Book‘s editors while Hathaway stepped away from editorial duties and served as publisher. In 1868, the paper’s title changed slightly to the Norfolk Day Book, and in 1869, Hathaway regained the roles of both editor and proprietor until James F. Milligan became editor in 1877. The Norfolk Virginian, however, with a talented and energized staff, emerged as the dominant daily newspaper of Norfolk after the war. The arrival of another daily, the Norfolk Landmark, in 1873, eventually led to the Day Book‘s end in January 1881. After shutting down the Day Book, Hathaway continued to reside in Norfolk until his death in December 1894.

Provided By: Library of Virginia; Richmond, VA

About this Newspaper


  • Norfolk Day Book (Norfolk and Portsmouth Va.) 1868-1881

Other Title

  • Day book

Dates of Publication

  • 1868-1881

Created / Published

  • Norfolk and Portsmouth Va. : J.R. Hathaway


  • -  Norfolk (Va.)--Newspapers
  • -  Portsmouth (Va.)--Newspapers
  • -  Virginia--Norfolk
  • -  Virginia--Portsmouth
  • -  United States--Virginia--Norfolk
  • -  United States--Virginia--Portsmouth


  • Newspapers


  • -  Daily (except Sun.)
  • -  Began in 1868; ceased in 1881? Cf. Chambers, Lenoir. Salt water & printer's ink.
  • -  Published in Norfolk and Portsmouth, .
  • -  Also available online.
  • -  Archived issues are available in digital format from the Library of Congress Chronicling America online collection.
  • -  Description based on: Vol. 16, no. 28 (Feb. 1, 1868).
  • -  Latest issue consulted: Vol. 46, no. 137 (Dec. 13, 1880).


  • volumes ; 55 cm

Call Number/Physical Location

  • Newspaper

Library of Congress Control Number

  • sn85025691

OCLC Number

  • 11864848

ISSN Number

  • 2836-6840

Preceding Titles

Additional Metadata Formats


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Cite This Item

Citations are generated automatically from bibliographic data as a convenience, and may not be complete or accurate.

Chicago citation style:

Norfolk Day Book Norfolk and Portsmouth Va. -1881. (Norfolk, VA), Jan. 1 1868.

APA citation style:

(1868, January 1) Norfolk Day Book Norfolk and Portsmouth Va. -1881. Retrieved from the Library of Congress,

MLA citation style:

Norfolk Day Book Norfolk and Portsmouth Va. -1881. (Norfolk, VA) 1 Jan. 1868. Retrieved from the Library of Congress,