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Periodical: The Banner of Light
IAPSOP Curator: Marc Demarest
Dates:
Genre and Format: Weekly newspaper
Associated Editors and Contributors:
Bibliographical and Historical Information: From Pat Deveney's database:

Banner of Light, The. A Weekly Journal of Romance Literature and General Intelligence / An Exponent of the Spiritual Philosophy of the Nineteenth/Twentieth Century.

1857-1907 Weekly, and then monthly in last issue (1907) Boston, MA, except for a very short period in New York in 1859. Publisher: Isaac Rich and Luther Colby, then by L. Colby & Co.. Editor: Luther Colby (1857-1894); John W. Day (1894-1897); Harrison D. Barrett (1897-1904); J.J.Morse (1904-1905), Irving F. Symonds (1905-1907), assisted at various times by Epes Sargent, Hudson Tuttle, S.B. Brittan, W.J. Colville, et al..

Succeeds: The Life; Agitator, 1860; The Spiritual Telegraph,1860; The Spiritualist (Macon), 1861 Vol. 1/1, April 11, 1857-vol. 100, January 1907. $2.00 (and then $3.00) a year. The longest lasting and most important American spiritualist journal. It had its quirks, like its inability to condemn any medium, no matter how fraudulent, and its unwillingness to take a position against the "free love"/radical side of spiritualism, but its pages are an indispensable tool for understanding the growth, development and decline of the spiritualist movement. Everyone of any importance in spiritualism at one time or another worked for or contributed to the journal. It always claimed to be the most widely circulated spiritualist journal, with subscription numbers in the range of 15,000-30,000, but the claims were enormously inflated and masked the journal's precarious position as it lurched from one financial crisis to another. By the early 1890s it had been surpassed in all but the reverence of spiritualists by the Progressive Thinker of Chicago.

The journal succeeded an earlier venture called The Life, a local newsletter started by William Berry in 1856 or 1857 to publicize the séances being given by Mrs. Jennie H. Conant, and the first issue of the new journal appeared in April 1857. For a journal that would become synonymous with spiritualism, it was decidedly hesitant about emphasizing the movement in its early issues, and the publishers' original intention seems to have been to put out a literary magazine of general information, supplemented by occasional references to spiritualism and by what was then called "The Messenger," a page devoted to Mrs. Conant's spirit communications, which appeared, without fanfare, from the first number. The Banner originally was decidedly secular and worldly. It announced itself as

    "FORTY COLUMNS OF ATTRACTIVE READING, comprising Capital Original Stories; Off-hand Sketches of Life; Historical Pictures; thrilling Adventures; Home Circle; Ladies' and Childrens' Department; Agricultural Facts, Mechanical Inventions, Art, Science, Wit, Wisdom, the Beauties of Poetry, and a General Summary of Political and Social News."

Only in the third issue, perhaps heartened by the response to Mrs. Conant, did the publishers announce that the interest aroused by the journal's offerings on spiritualism "has induced us to render this feature yet more prominent and attractive." Starting with the following issue, the journal promised a "Department of Spiritualism" and "two entire pages" devoted to the movement. Thereafter, the Banner became what it was perhaps intended to be from the beginning: "An Exponent of the Spiritual Philosophy of the Nineteenth Century." Throughout the almost 50 years of its existence, the Banner appeared weekly in the same eight-page newspaper format, regularly filling 40 columns of almost 150 lines each (almost 150 million words in all) with the Sunday sermons of Henry Ward Beecher (as had The Spiritual Telegraph and Fireside Preacher before it) and other prominent ministers; original essays on topics of spiritualism and reform; extensive book reviews; notices of lectures and debates; a column of "Movements of Lecturers," tracking the whereabouts of all of the mediums and lecturers of the era; regional "Departments" to track the development of spiritualism outside the Northeast; innumerable letters from leading American spiritualists debating the controversial ideas of the day; and finally, "original novelettes of reformatory tendencies," with titles like Rosalie, or, The History of a Haunted House," "Nora, The Seeress," "Bertha Lee, or, Marriage," "Seacliff, or, Love's Struggle," "Consella Wayne, or, Will and Destiny," etc., etc. Often several novels were run concurrently. In every issue the Banner also featured the famous "The Messenger" or, as it became, "The Message Page" of short communications "from the departed to their friends in earth-life." For the first 18 years of the journal's existence these were received through the instrumentality of Fanny Conant, the medium employed by the Banner for its thrice-weekly free seances in the journal's spirit room, and then by Jennie S. Rudd for three years, followed by Mary Theresa Longley, who filled the office for 14 years, and others. So successful was the feature that various other journals took it up, with Longely at different times acting as "message medium" for The Light of Truth and The Voice of Angels. To confirm the authenticity of the messages, the Banner also printed letters from readers who recognized the communicating spirit; no accounting was ever made of the spirit messages that failed to attract confirmation from readers. The last issue as a newspaper-formatted weekly was vol. 99, no. 26, on August 18, 1906, which carried the ominous announcement that volume 100 would see the journal as a monthly and pleaded for subscriptions: "Are you with us?" The public was not. Vol. 100, no. one, did appear, in January 1907, as a 54-page, monthly, but even in its new format it could attract neither contributors nor subscribers, and no more were forthcoming. Colby, who edited the journal for almost 40 years, began his career as publisher of the New York Recorder (1845-1855) a Baptist paper in New York. Both Colby and William Berry, one of the original investors in the journal, were among the "clandestine publishers" in Boston who took advantage of the excess capacity of modern printing presses to publish to publish a string of "books and newspapers considered racy by contemporary standards." Elizabeth Haven Hawley, "American Publishers of Indecent Books, 1840-1890" (Doctoral Dissertation, Georgia Institute of Technology, 2005), 322-328. NYPL microfilm; University of Texas, Austin; NYS Library; Boston Athenaeum; Boston Public Library; and many other locations in OCLC.

Issues: Volume 1 Number 1 11 April 1857
Volume 1 Number 2 18 April 1857
Volume 1 Number 3 25 April 1857
Volume 1 Number 4 30 April 1857
Volume 1 Number 5 7 May 1857
Volume 1 Number 6 14 May 1857
Volume 1 Number 7 21 May 1857
Volume 1 Number 8 28 May 1857
Volume 1 Number 9 4 June 1857
Volume 1 Number 10 11 June 1857
Volume 1 Number 11 18 June 1857
Volume 1 Number 12 25 June 1857
Volume 1 Number 13 2 July 1857
Volume 1 Number 14 9 July 1857
Volume 1 Number 15 16 July 1857
Volume 1 Number 16 23 July 1857
Volume 1 Number 17 30 July 1857
Volume 1 Number 18 6 August 1857
Volume 1 Number 19 13 August 1857
Volume 1 Number 20 20 August 1857
Volume 1 Number 21 27 August 1857
Volume 1 Number 22 3 September 1857
Volume 1 Number 23 10 September 1857
Volume 1 Number 24 17 September 1857
Volume 1 Number 25 18 September 1857
Volume 1 Number 26 1 October 1857
Volume 2 Number 1 3 October 1857
Volume 2 Number 2 10 October 1857
Volume 2 Number 3 17 October 1857
Volume 2 Number 4 24 October 1857
Volume 2 Number 5 31 October 1857
Volume 2 Number 6 7 November 1857
Volume 2 Number 7 14 November 1857
Volume 2 Number 8 21 November 1857
Volume 2 Number 9 28 November 1857
Volume 2 Number 10 5 December 1857
Volume 2 Number 11 12 December 1857
Volume 2 Number 12 19 December 1857
Volume 2 Number 13 26 December 1857
Volume 2 Number 14 2 January 1858
Volume 2 Number 15 9 January 1858
Volume 2 Number 16 16 January 1858
Volume 2 Number 17 23 January 1858
Volume 2 Number 18 30 January 1858
Volume 2 Number 19 6 February 1858
Volume 2 Number 20 13 February 1858
Volume 2 Number 21 20 February 1858
Volume 2 Number 22 27 February 1858
Volume 2 Number 23 6 March 1858
Volume 2 Number 24 13 March 1858
Volume 2 Number 25 20 March 1858
Volume 2 Number 26 27 March 1858
Volume 3 Number 1 3 April 1858
Volume 3 Number 2 10 April 1858
Volume 3 Number 3 17 April 1858
Volume 3 Number 4 24 April 1858 (missing)
Volume 3 Number 5 1 May 1858
Volume 3 Number 6 8 May 1858
Volume 3 Number 7 15 May 1858
Volume 3 Number 8 22 May 1858
Volume 3 Number 9 29 May 1858
Volume 3 Number 10 5 June 1858
Volume 3 Number 11 12 June 1858
Volume 3 Number 12 19 June 1858
Volume 3 Number 13 26 June 1858
Volume 3 Number 14 3 July 1858
Volume 3 Number 15 10 July 1858
Volume 3 Number 16 17 July 1858
Volume 3 Number 17 24 July 1858
Volume 3 Number 18 31 July 1858
Volume 3 Number 19 7 August 1858
Volume 3 Number 20 14 August 1858
Volume 3 Number 21 21 August 1858
Volume 3 Number 22 28 August 1858
Volume 3 Number 23 4 September 1858
Volume 3 Number 24 11 September 1858
Volume 3 Number 25 18 September 1858
Volume 3 Number 26 25 September 1858
Volume 4 Number 1 2 October 1858
Volume 4 Number 2 9 October 1858
Volume 4 Number 3 16 October 1858
Volume 4 Number 4 23 October 1858
Volume 4 Number 5 30 October 1858
Volume 4 Number 6 6 November 1858
Volume 4 Number 7 13 November 1858
Volume 4 Number 8 20 November 1858
Volume 4 Number 9 27 November 1858
Volume 4 Number 10 4 December 1858
Volume 4 Number 11 11 December 1858
Volume 4 Number 12 18 December 1858
Volume 4 Number 13 25 December 1858
Volume 4 Number 14 1 January 1859
Volume 4 Number 15 8 January 1859
Volume 4 Number 16 15 January 1859
Volume 4 Number 17 22 January 1859
Volume 4 Number 18 29 January 1859
Volume 4 Number 19 5 February 1859
Volume 4 Number 20 12 February 1859
Volume 4 Number 21 19 February 1859
Volume 4 Number 22 26 February 1859
Volume 4 Number 23 5 March 1859
Volume 4 Number 24 12 March 1859
Volume 4 Number 25 19 March 1859
Volume 4 Number 26 26 March 1859
Volume 5 Number 1 2 April 1859
Volume 5 Number 2 9 April 1859
Volume 5 Number 3 16 April 1859
Volume 5 Number 4 23 April 1859
Volume 5 Number 5 30 April 1859
Volume 5 Number 6 7 May 1859
Volume 5 Number 7 14 May 1859
Volume 5 Number 8 21 May 1859
Volume 5 Number 9 28 May 1859
Volume 5 Number 10 4 June 1859
Volume 5 Number 11 11 June 1859
Volume 5 Number 12 18 June 1859
Volume 5 Number 13 25 June 1859
Volume 5 Number 14 2 July 1859
Volume 5 Number 15 9 July 1859
Volume 5 Number 16 16 July 1859
Volume 5 Number 17 23 July 1859
Volume 5 Number 18 30 July 1859
Volume 5 Number 19 6 August 1859
Volume 5 Number 20 13 August 1859
Volume 5 Number 21 20 August 1859
Volume 5 Number 22 27 August 1859
Volume 5 Number 23 3 September 1859
Volume 5 Number 24 10 September 1859
Volume 5 Number 25 17 September 1859
Volume 5 Number 26 24 September 1859
Volume 6 Number 1 1 October 1859
Volume 6 Number 2 8 October 1859
Volume 6 Number 3 15 October 1859
Volume 6 Number 4 22 October 1859
Volume 6 Number 5 29 October 1859
Volume 6 Number 6 5 November 1859
Volume 6 Number 7 12 November 1859
Volume 6 Number 8 19 November 1859
Volume 6 Number 9 26 November 1859
Volume 6 Number 10 3 December 1859
Volume 6 Number 11 10 December 1859
Volume 6 Number 12 17 December 1859
Volume 6 Number 13 24 December 1859
Volume 6 Number 14 31 December 1859
Volume 6 Number 15 7 January 1860
Volume 6 Number 16 14 January 1860
Volume 6 Number 17 21 January 1860
Volume 6 Number 18 28 January 1860
Volume 6 Number 19 4 February 1860
Volume 6 Number 20 11 February 1860
Volume 6 Number 21 18 February 1860
Volume 6 Number 22 25 February 1860
Volume 6 Number 23 23 3 March 1860
Volume 6 Number 24 24 10 March 1860
Volume 6 Number 25 25 17 March 1860
Volume 6 Number 26 24 March 1860
Volume 7 Number 1 31 March 1860
Volume 7 Number 2 7 April 1860
Volume 7 Number 3 14 April 1860
Volume 7 Number 4 21 April 1860
Volume 7 Number 5 28 April 1860
Volume 7 Number 6 5 May 1860
Volume 7 Number 7 12 May 1860
Volume 7 Number 8 19 May 1860
Volume 7 Number 9 26 May 1860
Volume 7 Number 10 2 June 1860
Volume 7 Number 11 9 June 1860
Volume 7 Number 12 16 June 1860
Volume 7 Number 13 23 June 1860
Volume 7 Number 14 30 June 1860
Volume 7 Number 14 7 July 1860
Volume 7 Number 16 14 July 1860
Volume 7 Number 17 21 July 1860
Volume 7 Number 18 28 July 1860
Volume 7 Number 19 4 August 1860
Volume 7 Number 20 11 August 1860
Volume 7 Number 21 18 August 1860
Volume 7 Number 22 25 August 1860
Volume 7 Number 23 1 September 1860
Volume 7 Number 24 8 September 1860
Volume 7 Number 25 15 September 1860
Volume 7 Number 26 22 September 1860
Volume 8 Number 1 29 September 1860
Volume 8 Number 2 6 October 1860
Volume 8 Number 3 13 October 1860
Volume 8 Number 4 20 October 1860
Volume 8 Number 5 27 October 1860
Volume 8 Number 6 3 November 1860
Volume 8 Number 7 10 November 1860
Volume 8 Number 8 17 November 1860
Volume 8 Number 9 24 November 1860
Volume 8 Number 10 1 December 1860
Volume 8 Number 11 8 December 1860
Volume 8 Number 12 15 December 1860
Volume 8 Number 13 22 December 1860
Volume 8 Number 14 29 December 1860
Volume 8 Number 15 5 January 1861
Volume 8 Number 16 12 January 1861
Volume 8 Number 17 19 January 1861
Volume 8 Number 18 26 January 1861
Volume 8 Number 19 2 February 1861
Volume 8 Number 20 9 February 1861
Volume 8 Number 21 16 February 1861
Volume 8 Number 22 23 February 1861
Volume 8 Number 23 2 March 1861
Volume 8 Number 24 9 March 1861
Volume 8 Number 25 16 March 1861
Volume 8 Number 26 23 March 1861
Volume 9 Number 1 30 March 1861
Volume 9 Number 2 6 April 1861
Volume 9 Number 3 13 April 1861
Volume 9 Number 4 20 April 1861
Volume 9 Number 5 27 April 1861
Volume 9 Number 6 4 May 1861
Volume 9 Number 7 11 May 1861
Volume 9 Number 8 18 May 1861
Volume 9 Number 9 25 May 1861
Volume 9 Number 10 1 June 1861
Volume 9 Number 11 8 June 1861
Volume 9 Number 12 15 June 1861
Volume 9 Number 13 22 June 1861
Volume 9 Number 14 29 June 1861
Volume 9 Number 15 6 July 1861
Volume 9 Number 16 13 July 1861
Volume 9 Number 17 20 July 1861
Volume 9 Number 18 27 July 1861
Volume 9 Number 19 3 August 1861
Volume 9 Number 20 10 August 1861
Volume 9 Number 21 17 August 1861
Volume 9 Number 22 24 August 1861
Volume 9 Number 23 31 August 1861
Volume 9 Number 24 7 September 1861
Volume 9 Number 25 14 September 1861
Volume 9 Number 26 21 September 1861
Volume 10 Number 1 28 September 1861
Volume 10 Number 2 5 October 1861
Volume 10 Number 3 12 October 1861
Volume 10 Number 4 19 October 1861
Volume 10 Number 5 26 October 1861
Volume 10 Number 6 2 November 1861
Volume 10 Number 7 9 November 1861
Volume 10 Number 8 16 November 1861
Volume 10 Number 9 23 November 1861
Volume 10 Number 10 30 November 1861
Volume 10 Number 11 7 December 1861
Volume 10 Number 12 14 December 1861
Volume 10 Number 13 21 December 1861
Volume 10 Number 14 28 December 1861
Volume 10 Number 15 4 January 1862
Volume 10 Number 16 11 January 1862
Volume 10 Number 17 18 January 1862
Volume 10 Number 18 25 January 1862
Volume 10 Number 19 1 February 1862
Volume 10 Number 20 8 February 1862
Volume 10 Number 21 15 February 1862
Volume 10 Number 22 22 February 1862
Volume 10 Number 23 1 March 1862
Volume 10 Number 24 8 March 1862
Volume 10 Number 25 15 March 1862
Volume 10 Number 26 22 March 1862
Volume 11 Number 1 29 March 1862
Volume 11 Number 2 5 April 1862
Volume 11 Number 3 12 April 1862
Volume 11 Number 4 19 April 1862
Volume 11 Number 5 26 April 1862
Volume 11 Number 6 3 May 1862
Volume 11 Number 7 10 May 1862
Volume 11 Number 8 17 May 1862
Volume 11 Number 9 24 May 1862
Volume 11 Number 10 31 May 1862
Volume 11 Number 11 7 June 1862
Volume 11 Number 12 14 June 1862
Volume 11 Number 13 21 June 1862
Volume 11 Number 14 28 June 1862
Volume 11 Number 15 5 July 1862
Volume 11 Number 16 12 July 1862
Volume 11 Number 17 19 July 1862
Volume 11 Number 18 26 July 1862
Volume 11 Number 19 2 August 1862
Volume 11 Number 20 9 August 1862
Volume 11 Number 21 17 August 1862
Volume 11 Number 22 23 August 1862
Volume 11 Number 23 30 August 1862
Volume 11 Number 24 6 September 1862
Volume 11 Number 25 13 September 1862
Volume 11 Number 26 20 September 1862
Volume 12 Number 1 27 September 1862
Volume 12 Number 2 4 October 1862
Volume 12 Number 3 11 October 1862
Volume 12 Number 4 18 October 1862
Volume 12 Number 5 25 October 1862
Volume 12 Number 6 1 November 1862
Volume 12 Number 7 8 November 1862
Volume 12 Number 8 15 November 1862
Volume 12 Number 9 22 November 1862
Volume 12 Number 10 29 November 1862
Volume 12 Number 11 6 December 1862
Volume 12 Number 12 13 November 1862
Volume 12 Number 13 20 November 1862
Volume 12 Number 14 27 November 1862
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