I’ve previously written about how the Madeleine Smith trial was reported in Australia, so I thought I’d have a fairly superficial look at how it was reported in America.
Remember that in 1857 there was no transatlantic telegraph cable – the cable was not complete until August 1858, although construction had begun in 1857.
Most New York papers have reports of the outcome of the trial in the first few days of August, which is about right – three weeks for a mail steamer to carry the news from Liverpool to New York. Reports of the initial arraignment are a few days earlier, late July which again fits with the 3 week schedule, given that the trial started on June 30.
To research this, I’ve been using the Library of Congress Chronicling America website. While it lacks external tools such as querypic it’s reasonably comprehensive in its coverage, and searching over a fairly tight timeframe suggests that the trial was reasonably widely reported in the east coast newspapers and sensational enough to get a column or two to itself in the overseas news, but not quite the impact that it did in Australia or New Zealand.
Interestingly, there’s also a report in the Polynesian from Hawaii dated 26 September 1857 which had been copied from one of the San Francisco papers (and annoyingly not one that’s digitised, so I can’t check the date and origin of the report), but confirming that the news reports in both Australia and New Zealand had come via the steamer route via India and Sri Lanka and not via America …