Light For All: The Baltimore Sun at 180

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Light for All: The credo embodied the democratic ethos of The Baltimore Sun, the city’s first “penny paper.”

The Sun was for laborers, for merchants and everyone in between. It would provide knowledge and useful information – and amusement, too.

That was the gist of the note from editors of The Sun in the inaugural issue, May 17, 1837, addressed “TO THE PUBLIC.” Certainly, the city already had newspapers. But they were too expensive for everyday people to afford.

The Sun editors, led by founder Arunah S. Abell, heralded the virtues of “The Penny Press,” which had already succeeded in enlightening the masses in England, New York and Philadelphia. It would now do so in Baltimore.

“Our object will be the common good, without regard to that of sects, factions, or parties; and for this object we shall labor without fear or partiality. The publication of this paper will be continued for one year at least…”

How about 180?

The motto “Light For All” didn’t actually appear on the masthead until May 18, 1840.

In that issue, the editors reflected on The Sun’s “enviable position” among the ranks of the country’s newspapers. In just three years it had become the third most widely-circulated paper in the nation, and the largest of any south of the Mason-Dixon line.

In short, the penny paper bet paid off.