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RICHARDSON, DAVID

RICHARDSON, DAVID (ca. 1815–1871). David Richardson, newspaper entrepreneur and publisher of the Texas Almanac, was born in England between 1815 and 1820. He lived in England until about 1848, when he migrated to the United States. By 1850 he resided in Galveston and worked for the Galveston News, which was owned and edited by Willard Richardson (no relation). In 1852 David Richardson became coeditor of the News, and he soon became Willard Richardson's partner in the ownership of the newspaper, although the latter retained the majority interest. The News was the state's most influential newspaper in the 1850s, with a large circulation both in and beyond Galveston. David Richardson's promotional skills played a key role in its success. He traveled extensively seeking to boost circulation and advertising income. In 1855 an Austin newspaper editor, John S. Ford, called Richardson "the most indefatigable and successful traveling newspaper agent in the state. A paper he could not engineer into general circulation would not be worth reading."

In 1856 David Richardson conceived the idea of publishing the Texas Almanac, an annual compendium of information about Texas designed to attract immigrants as well as to inform residents. The two Richardsons inaugurated the Texas Almanac with the 1857 edition, which sold 10,000 copies the first year. The first five editions, 1857–61, probably sold 75,000 to 100,000 copies. David Richardson traveled widely during those years as agent for both the Almanac and the News. During the winter of 1859–60 alone he covered some 4,000 miles, primarily in Texas, and he also spent several months each year in the North. Due to the threat of federal attack following the outbreak of the Civil War, the Galveston News moved to Houston in December 1861, only to fall victim several weeks later to a fire that destroyed its printing plant. These adversities helped convince Willard Richardson that publication of the Almanac should be suspended for the duration of the conflict; but David Richardson decided to continue publication of the Almanac in Austin, where he moved in June 1862. The first project of his new office was the Texas Almanac Extra, an occasional one-page bulletin featuring reports of the war. By October 1862 Richardson, a fervent Confederate, had turned the Extra into a tri-weekly newspaper served by a pony express. Three nights a week his riders rode 100 miles to Austin from the nearest railhead at Brenham, carrying the latest issues of the Telegraph and Texas Register and the Galveston News, whose reports of the war were then printed in the next morning's Extra. The Texas Almanac Extra instantly became Austin's major source of war news. Its only competitor was the Austin Texas State Gazette, whose publisher, Col. John Marshall, had been killed in battle in June 1862. In October Richardson purchased an interest in the weekly and unofficially took editorial control. Thereafter the columns of the Gazette were filled largely with material reprinted from the Extra. Richardson became sole proprietor and official editor of the Texas State Gazette in June 1863, at which time he renamed his Texas Almanac Extra the Tri-Weekly State Gazette.

In January 1863 he issued the first of three wartime editions of the Texas Almanac to be published in Austin. Whereas the almanacs for 1860 and 1861 had averaged 325 pages, the wartime editions, including the 1862 Almanac published in Houston, averaged fifty-five pages in length. Costs were high, advertisers few, paper difficult to procure, and reliable information on many subjects hard to come by. The same problems plagued Richardson's tri-weekly. With Texas far removed from the major fighting and virtually cut off from most of the Confederacy by mid-1863, rumors and half-truths increasingly passed for news and undermined the credibility of his newspaper. Soaring costs forced him to drop his pony express in September 1863. In March 1864 he discontinued his tri-weekly. For the rest of the war his weekly Texas State Gazette was Austin's only newspaper.

No sooner had the war ended than Richardson, who had grown "sick and tired" of the Gazette, arranged to sell it to John Holland and moved to New Braunfels. But Holland backed out of the deal in November 1865. Richardson reluctantly resumed management of the Gazette until April 1866, when he sold it to Joseph Walker. Following a reconciliation with Willard Richardson, with whom he had quarreled bitterly in late 1862 over ownership of the Austin Almanac office, he agreed in May 1866 to serve once again as an agent for the Galveston News. After representing the newspaper on a trip north, he paid a lengthy visit to his homeland and then settled in New York City as northern agent for the Texas Almanac, the Galveston News, and other Texas business interests. Although he resided primarily in New York City until his death in 1871, he also established Richardson's Correspondence and Immigration Agency in Elysian Fields, Texas, in connection with which he published Texas, As Seen in 1870, a guide for prospective settlers. Richardson married his first wife, Eliza, about 1839. By the time they settled in Galveston they had four daughters and two sons. He married his second wife, Jennie, during the 1850s. His oldest son, David, Jr., became a successful traveling agent in Texas for the Galveston News and the New Orleans Picayune.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Sam Hanna Acheson, 35,000 Days in Texas: A History of the Dallas "News" and Its Forbears (New York: Macmillan, 1938). Larry Jay Gage, Editors and Editorial Policies of the Texas State Gazette, 1849–1879 (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1959). David C. Humphrey, "A `Muddy and Conflicting' View: The Civil War as Seen from Austin, Texas," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 94 (January 1991).

David C. Humphrey

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

David C. Humphrey, "RICHARDSON, DAVID," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fri06), accessed November 24, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.