Catalog Archive
Auction 181, Lot 733

Extremely Rare Newspaper Written by Cherokee Orphans

"Cherokee Orphan Asylum Press. Vol. 1. No, 2.",

Subject: Document - Native Indians

Period: 1880 (published)


Color: Black & White

6.1 x 9 inches
15.5 x 22.9 cm
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This is an extremely rare, complete issue of the Cherokee Orphan Asylum Press, and only the second issue ever published. The Cherokee Orphan Asylum was founded in 1871 near Salina, Oklahoma to house native Cherokee children who had become orphaned due to the Civil War and disease. At the time, there were an estimated 236 orphans within the Cherokee Nation, however only a fraction were housed at the Orphan Asylum as many were being cared for by private families through a foster-care system. The first superintendent of the Orphan Asylum, Walter Adair Duncan, ensured that the institution provided both academic instruction as well as agricultural labor to ensure that the orphans would be adoptable and able to assist in important farming chores as typically required in Cherokee families.

In 1880 Duncan acquired a printing press by pre-selling subscriptions to both Cherokee citizens and employees of the Orphan Asylum. The children were taught to set type and use the press, publishing weekly newspapers for the Cherokee community. The paper was first known as the Cherokee Orphan Asylum Press and later as The Children's Playground and Orphan's News, and featured stories, news, and poems written by students. This example is the second-ever issue from 14 October 1880. The Latin phrase from Romans 12:17, "Nulli malum pro malo reddentes" (Repay no one evil for evil), appears at the top of the newspaper. It includes articles on the founding of the Orphan Asylum and the need for a monument to commemorate Sequoyah, the founder of the Cherokee alphabet. There are also several poems, original compositions on "The Press," "Winter," "Autumn," and "Christmas," and two advertisements for Price, a local dry-goods store. See the images for the complete 4-page issue.

The issue was found in a box of artifacts from Harriet (Hattie) Fishel (1853-1941), a native of Hope, Indiana. Hattie was a student and later teacher in the Moravian Seminary for Young Ladies at Hope, and was likely interested in the Cherokee Orphan Asylum Press since it was created by students. It is not known how Hattie acquired the paper. Although the Cherokee Orphan Asylum Press was published (under different names) until at least 1891, only a few examples of the newspaper are known to exist today. The Oklahoma Historical Society, the University of Tulsa, Northeastern State University, and the Cherokee Heritage Center each have 1-2 issues of the newspaper. There are no records of any examples of this newspaper having been available for sale.


Condition: B+

The issue is quite clean and bright for a newspaper, with several extraneous folds, some tiny separations along the folds, and very light, scattered foxing.

Estimate: $1,500 - $2,500

Sold for: $9,000

Closed on 2/10/2021