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Chapter 5 (part 4)

Page history last edited by PBworks 18 years, 1 month ago

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The funeral sequence has been a physical journey through a geographical mosaic-long train rides, a variety of people divided by race,class,region,age,religion and political persuasion are united now by grief into one PEOPLE.

When a president dies,the initial news,stiking like a thunder,interrupt any activity and create a hole in the time.Everything stops because the leader is deceased.


At first,newspapers took the voice of the individuals-if the people was sad and disappointed,so were the newspapers.


As time went by,appeard two enemies of the newspaper which gained time in the news broadcasting:the radio and the television.


Newspapers,over time,started to depict the sadness of the president deceased by introducing wreaths and floral arrangements.


When a president dies,people suffer and their future and stability are fragile.Newspapers presented people in the verbal descriptions as crowds or as individuals occasionally,given voices but not names,but,over time,reporters put themselves in the place of the public,either by writing about the reaction of the press corps.



























When lilacs last

The funeral sequence following the President's death is always a journey through a national landscape. Usually it has been a physical journey through a geographical mosaic. In Kennedy's case there was no long train ride; still, the mosaic was represented as a kind of metaphorical journey. Lining the route are the people, and the funeral journey always calls for descriptions and depictions of the variety of people that, although increasingly divided by race, class, region, age, religion, and political persuasion, are united now by grief into one People.


In a sense, the reporting of a President's death was for a century an extended gloss on Walt Whitman's “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd,” written on the occasion of Lincoln's death. Here he depicts the breaking of the news:


Now while I sat in the day and look'd forth,

In the close of the day with its light and the fields of spring, and the farmers preparing their crops,

In the large unconscious scenery of my land with its lakes and forests,

In the heavenly aerial beauty, (after the perturb'd winds and the storms,)

Under the arching heavens of the afternoon swift passing, and the voices of children and women,

The many-moving sea-tides, and I saw the ships how they sail'd, And the summer approaching with richness, and the fields all busy with labor,

And the infinite separate houses, how they all went on, each with its meals and minutia of daily usages,

And the streets how their throbbings throbb'd, and the cities pent - lo, then and there,

Falling upon them all and among them all, enveloping me with the rest,

Appear'd the cloud, appear'd the long black trail, And I knew death, its thought, and the sacred knowledge of death.


Whitman begins and ends with the observer. In between, he builds a vast and varied landscape, a large and disparate social world, and a booming, throbbing economy - a naked nation with millions of stories now all interrupted by a cloud of death.


The same ingredients played in all the verbal descriptions of the presidential deaths. First, the initial news, striking like a thunderbolt, interrupts daily activity and hails everyone into the same story. With Garfield's and McKinley's deaths, newspapers were the prime media of diffusion. It was the custom for daily newspapers to maintain streetside bulletin boards where they could post the latest news. In the case of breaking news, street-vendors hawked issue after updated issue as extra editions. The following example places the newspaper itself at center stage when describing news of McKinley's death:


[news of the shooting] was duplicated on the bulletin board of the New York Times, and a few moments later on the boards of every journal on Newspaper Row. The casual passer-by glanced at it, stopped, rubbed his or her eyes, and read again. After that, like the shifting grains of sand in an eddying stream, the crowd gathered along Park Row . . . , and many hundreds hurried off to tell it to their fellows . . . .


A little later and the great down-town buildings began to empty their hordes of workers for the day, and then City Hall Square became a great sea of upturned faces, shifting and eddying in s struggle to get nearer the bulletin boards . . . (“How the News Was Received in New York,” September 7, 1901, p. 2).


Here the faces are all the same, although the anonymous reporter does note women in the crowds. They flow like water - a sea of faces, an eddying stream. But they are faces - not until the Kennedy death did we find the crowds described as ants.


Newspapers at first positioned themselves as one with the people. Just as the people mourned and wore black, so too did newspapers. With Garfield the only visual evidence of grief was the turned column rules. These appeared only once in the Daily News (Figure 5.6) and twice in the Times, when he died and when he was buried. The Times also composed one portion of text, the order of the funeral procession, in the shape of an urn. All these were particular or local expressions, as when an individual decided to wear a black arm band or a company draped its store front in black.



McKinley's death saw a change in the turned rules. They appeared only on the first day in the Times and not at all in the Daily News, replaced by other signs of mourning. At the Times, the heavy rules shifted to the page edges, becoming a thick border with rounded corners that ran for six consecutive days. The Daily News turned to decoration, showing the deceased surrounded by an elaborately drawn frame carrying representations of several objects: black ribbons for grief, laurels that might symbolize either divine selection or victory, and federal eagles in a particularly warlike rendition, perhaps evoking the Spanish-American War (Figure 5.7).



These signs slowly disappeared through the following presidential deaths. The Daily News used turned rules only on the day of Harding's death, and none of the decorative symbols appeared after McKinley. The Times likewise used turned rules throughout the edition announcing Harding's death. Since the time of Roosevelt, the heavy borders appeared, if at all, only surrounding the deceased's portrait. Instead, advertisers picked up the custom after Roosevelt died, some of them enclosing their space in the Times in heavy mourning rules. A few included an “In Memoriam” message, but many announced that the store would close on the official day designated by presidential proclamation. The custom also persisted into the Kennedy era, although not universally. Many advertisements running next to coverage of Roosevelt's death announced their cheery spring fashions and offers. The Kennedy coverage ran with similar advertising geared to the holidays. This sort of juxtaposition had always existed, but in the emerging social map of the modern newspaper, it provided a jarring reminder of the older form of news, with its unrelated elements jostling for space.


Over time, descriptions of the initial spread of the news changed with the media of diffusion. News of Harding's death was the first heard by radio, and news of the Kennedy assassination via television. With each new medium, the spontaneous crowds of the era of contagious diffusion diminished further. In 1963 people learned of the assassination in a variety of private and semiprivate settings: in their homes and cars, in their offices and schoolrooms. This still left many non-spontaneous occasions for the people to assemble as spectators before the great national drama of mourning. Initially such gatherings were depicted as decentralized, the rites of mourning occurring all over. With Garfield's assassination, major newspapers carried reports from every city in the nation. Over time that changed into a national audience watching events in Washington and perhaps in one or two secondary locations, and the grief of leading men replaced public expressions of mourning.


After Garfield's and McKinley's deaths, cities literally draped themselves in black, making a visible display of mourning. The black banners on buildings were foregrounded in verbal descriptions, through the technique of walking description. Here is how the Daily News, described Canton, Ohio, on the eve of McKinley's burial:


In Tuscarawas Street, from one end to the other, business houses are hung heavy with crape and at intervals huge arches, draped and festooned in mourning colors, span the route of the procession . . . .


One of the arches is in from of the Canton high school . . . . The school is draped and in every window is a black-boarded portrait of the late president. In this thoroughfare, too, are two large churches, one of which was regularly attended by Maj. McKinley. . . . At each corner of the edifice and above the big cathedral are broad draperies deftly looped, each bearing a large white rosette (Staff Correspondent, “Mourn in Home City,” September 18, 1901, p. 1).


In walking description, a visible field is set in motion by the observer, who wanders around gathering impressions. This manner of reporting had a coherent and compelling visual impact. Engravings from photography do not really accomplish the same thing. Photographs of draped buildings, especially in a black and white halftone reproduction, have little immediacy. Sketches can do better, by both highlighting the significant (and not necessarily simultaneous) details and posing figures in didactic positions - marveling at the billowing crepe, for instance, in the engraving that accompanied the foregoing excerpt (“From a sketch made by a staff artist for The Daily News,” p. 2), or striking exaggerated postures with cartoon-like facial expressions as in “All Chicago Mourns” (Daily News, September 14, 1901, p. 2).


Over time, the mourning came to be depicted photographically, and symbols of mourning such as wreaths and floral arrangements became frequent subjects. For Harding's death, the Daily News showed a floral arrangement along with a shot of a draped doorway (August 4, 1923, p. 3). Two days later a wreath being sent by the city of Chicago got its own portrait, flanked by inset mug shots of the mayor and commissioner who would convey it to Washington (Figure 5.8). A Daily News picture during observances for Roosevelt showed flower arrangements piled around the casket (April 14, 1945, p. 8), just as during the Harding rituals.



These representations of grief eventually disappeared. No draped façades or doorways appeared prominently in photographs after FDR's death, which marked the last notable appearance of floral arrangements. In the Kennedy coverage, neither of these signs of mourning played a significant role. They appeared instead only as minor details in the background. Photos, although in some ways better than words for depicting grief, make poor substitutes for many of the other standard visual images in reporting. Photos cannot do walking description, for example. What photographs lacks is a moving locus of subjectivity.


The occasion for walking description became less compelling over time, as newsworthy mourning was redefined. In the early deaths it was decentralized, and the reaction of the people was the news. The local character of even national events gave impetus to walking description. News slowly abandoned the local definition of political life in favor of larger domains. Gradually, mourning became defined by the official statements of prominent men, clustered at first in the nation's capital - then often in the capitals of the world.


Increasingly, grief when an American chief executive died in office became internationalized. The deaths of Garfield and McKinley, especially, but also of Harding, inspired local stories and story angles with the pictorial coverage limited almost entirely to places such as Buffalo and Canton. The rise of American international power made the event a worldwide story, but the availability of photographs may also have held sway. Plenty of international responses appeared in the earlier textual coverage, but these moved into the pictures only after Roosevelt died. The Times showed three shots in a representative cluster: Churchill in London, several gendarmes in Paris, and a some “Filipino residents” gathered around a newspaper front page showing the news (April 14, 1945, p. 3).


The mourners who merit detailed pictures have always been important people, dignitaries usually shown in full-length images (long shots) upon their arrival or during their march in procession but sometimes shown in closer images from the waist up, with more facial detail (medium shots). Such imagery began in Daily News sketch art after McKinley died. Senators and cabinet members dominated the early pictures, but more international dignitaries appeared in pictures with each successive death in office.


The role grew for the military as intermediary in the public grief. An honor guard first appeared surrounding the catafalque in Daily News sketches of McKinley's rites (Figure 5.9). The Times did the same thing photographically in coverage of Harding. The presence of the military became a dominant theme in pictures of Roosevelt. An honor guard and the pallbearers from military ranks figure among the multiplying signs of the president's role as commander-in-chief. The most notable, a riderless horse, first appeared in news coverage when Roosevelt died during wartime. This symbol (dating from the era of Ghangis Kahn, the newspapers said) commemorated the loss of a leader in battle. The horse (at one time killed and buried, according to news accounts, to accompany the fallen leader into the afterlife) was led riderless after the bier. Its stirrups carried the boots, turned backward, of the dead man, and his saber pierced the saddle. The symbolism made sense to reporters during World War II, and perhaps the mood of garrisoned cold war encouraged similar military imagery during the Kennedy coverage.



The way they deciphered this arcane historical knowledge also highlights the growing tendency of reporters to act as interpreters. The reliance on the military as the intermediary for public grieving arose as other aspects of the content shifted away from the individual and toward institutions, groups, officials of every sort, and expert sources. These groupings in themselves provide a sort of interpretation, in the case of presidential deaths suggesting a nation fortified against not only grief but also the danger grief represents to the continuity of the state.


Pictures helped forward the move toward symbolic groupings. The public itself appeared in crowds almost exclusively at first. The Daily News showed them in Buffalo as McKinley's body was removed to Washington: the masses, the streetscape, the military officiating (September 17, 1901, p. 4). Crowds appeared in Washington at the rotunda and procession, and finally at the cemetery (Figure 5.10). The Times picked up this approach later, as it covered Harding, showing crowds in Ohio and Washington (August 11, 1923, p. 2), as well as along the train route (August 12, pp. 3-4), a scene that also appeared in the Daily News. With the death of Roosevelt, the Times began to show a representative mix of crowds. In one cluster of four shots, crowds stood for geographies, gathered at Warm Springs, Georgia, and Hyde Park, New York. Crowds in local coverage likewise represented places. In New York City, where Uptown and Downtown, East Side and West, differ in the social geography, the Times selected various groups in sundry locations, such as a memorial service Seventh Avenue. The Daily News showed some of the same wire service crowd scenes, along with the usual throngs at the Capitol and along Constitutional Avenue in Washington. Such shots continued without much change in the Kennedy coverage.



The images of citizens mourning document the process. Although most mourning was accomplished through medium and long shots of dignitaries (setting aside for now the special case of the widow), medium and close shots of ordinary people emerged slowly over the period, beginning with coverage of Roosevelt. Newspapers sought to illustrate how the masses felt the death personally, and so besides showing mourning acts en masse, they began choosing emblematic examples of the personal loss. In the Daily News these examples took on two forms. The first pictured a group of college students, with each individual fully identified in the caption and with each face clearly visible (April 13, 1945, p. 9). This form of representation, emphasizing the personal identity and grief of ordinary citizens, occurred only with the death of Roosevelt. A second form hid the identity of the emblematic individuals. In the next day's coverage, after showing the crowds around the Capitol, the Daily News ran a medium shot of several women from the crowd (Figure 5.11). Of the two clearly visible, one covers her face with her hand, and the other wears an engulfing hat. The caption did not identify either beyond the phrase “women weep openly” and a reference to the crowd. This kind of generalizing of personal grief became the norm for pictures of ordinary mourners.


The Times did not pick up the practice until Kennedy's death. On the first day of coverage, it showed in close up “a woman” mourning, her hand over her face, with no accompanying identification (November 24, 1963, p. 5). On the second day it showed a Harvard student, weeping into his hands, on the steps before a crowd leaving the campus memorial service (p. 11). In subsequent coverage, the Times showed medium shots of commuters, of black children, of nuns, and of Catholic boys - all with emblematic expressions and gestures of grieving, but none identified beyond the group affiliation. The Daily News took the form even further, running a stack of seven pictures on the first day, all uncaptioned - mostly women with their hands over their faces or comforting one another (p. 5). The full column of images formed a chimney of grief bearing the headline, “And his people wept . . .” In early coverage, the text described men weeping openly and copiously. As grief moved from the text into pictures of the public, usually only women, children, and students appeared in the act of breaking down in tears.


The same process also occurred in verbal descriptions of the people. Besides being described as crowds, they now became described also as individuals occasionally, given voices but not names. In general they remained a category:


At a crowded bar-lunch room at State and Kinzie Streets, laborers from a nearby construction project gasped as the announcement of the death came over a radio.


A husky Negro workman knocked a glass of whiskey from the bar, said “for God's sake,” and rushed out the door.


Women at a table burst into tears. All was silent except for the radio announcer's voice. (Special to the New York Times, “People Across U.S. Voice Grief and Revulsion,” November 23, 1963, p. 11)


More and more, of course, reporters put themselves in the place of the public, either by writing of the reaction of the press corps (as in Tom Wicker's “Kennedy and Reporters,” Times, November 24, 1963, p. 12) or by writing of their personal responses (see Figure 5.5).

the circle unbroken



The oath as a moment of action could not be photographed until the advent of portable cameras in the 1920s and 1930s. That sort of candid shot did not appear in coverage of any of the presidential deaths until Roosevelt. Newspapers could have shown the oath in sketch art but did not. This interesting omission suggests that the oath did not become an icon until recently.


Until FDR's death, then, the oath of office had been described verbally and was a pre-eminent occasion for dramaturgy. When McKinley died, Teddy Roosevelt, his vice-president and a famous outdoorsman, was hunting in the Adirondacks. Messengers tracked him down and hustled him to Buffalo, the city where McKinley had been shot and where, after six days of counterproductive medical attention, he had died. There, in a private home, Roosevelt took the oath:


It was in the subdued light that filtered through cathedral windows in the great front parlor of Ansley Wilcox's home at 641 Delaware avenue that President Roosevelt bowed his head and said: “I swear.”


There was a hush as deep as the silence of death when the ceremony was concluded and the new president, cool and calm as a statue, kissed the bible and taking up a gold-mounted pen signed the formal oath of office. (From a staff correspondent of The Daily News, “Roosevelt Takes Oath,” September 14, 1901, p. 1.)


Here the reporter (under a generic byline) performed like a novelist, although refraining from attributing states of mind to the various witnesses (named exhaustively in a fairly typical catalog). The emphasis was on a combination of solemnity and confidence. The deep silence indicated the gravity of the occasion, and the coolness of the new president reassured all that the crisis was over as soon as it began. (Teddy Roosevelt, famous for his energy, was a good subject for reporters. Not so the previous successor, Chester Arthur, described as almost “womanish” in his grief at Garfield's death.)


The Coolidge succession was similarly dramatic and more fully illustrated. Harding's unexpected death found Coolidge visiting his family in New England, where his father, a notary public, administered the oath himself. The homeliness of the event rooted the stable succession in the molecular American family. The Times used two retrospective pictures to frame the oath as an event: one of Harding on his way to the Inauguration, and the other with his wife as they returned from the oath-taking and entered the Executive Mansion (August 3, 1923, pp. 2-3). The Times on August 4 (p. 2) and the Chicago Daily News on August 6 (p. 5) illustrated Coolidge's oath-taking by running a picture of the new president with his father outside the Vermont farmhouse, posing after the event.


When FDR died, a picture ran in both papers showing Truman taking the oath (Daily News, April 12, 1945; Times, April 13, p. 3). The wide shot set the canonical form, with the First Lady, the Chief Justice, and all the witnessing leaders assembled. The Times the same day ran a file photo of FDR's oath-taking, again with the First Lady, leaders, and Chief Justice, before a prominently positioned flag (Figure 5.12). The pictures had a posed, iconic quality, like a historical frieze.



Kennedy's oath followed the Truman model almost exactly, except that the First Lady stood not immediately next to her husband but instead at the far left, framing the picture on one side. The image ran on the first day of coverage in the Times (November 23, 1963, p. 15), but the more pressing event, Johnson's oath of office, ran on the front page. Unlike Kennedy's formal event, this one occurred aboard the airplane in Dallas. Shot in close quarters, the picture shows only Johnson flanked by his wife and several faces of witnessing leaders on one side. Jackie Kennedy prominently on his right, closest to the camera. The picture, from the A.P., appeared in both newspapers.


This image marks the completion of a shift from posed icons of a ritual event to the active dramatic moments preferred by photojournalism. In another sense, the use of oath imagery also followed a transformation of the act, from a private or hidden, unseen ceremony (in the pictorial dimension), into a public ritual seen at close range (the LBJ picture is a medium shot). The repetition of images from wire services reinforced the moment as a shared public memory.

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