The Gold Leaf: “Clean news and some lengthy essays”

Masthead of Gold Leaf

From time to time, North Carolina Miscellany features short histories of North Carolina newspapers included on Chronicling America, a website produced by the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP). By August 2016, the North Carolina Collection and its partner, the North Carolina Office of Archives and History, will have provided 200,000 pages of historic N.C. newspapers for inclusion on Chronicling America. The Henderson Gold Leaf is among the available titles. This history was written by Ansley Wegner, Research Historian and Administrator of the North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program in Raleigh.

The Gold Leaf, a Democratic weekly newspaper in Henderson, North Carolina, was owned and edited by Thaddeus R. Manning (1856-1915) from 1882 until March of 1911. The paper was four pages with eight columns each. The Gold Leaf‘s masthead included the quote, “Carolina, Carolina, Heaven’s Blessings Attend Her.” Only scattered issues of the early years of the Gold Leaf have survived. The paper ran agricultural and household advice, editorials, local and social news, and many public notices and advertisements. Syndicated articles were reprinted from such newspapers as the Baltimore Sun and the Raleigh Post and Wilmington Messenger in North Carolina. Such articles contained state and national news, as well as farming and medical advice. The content of the Gold Leaf changed little throughout the 29 years of Manning’s tenure. Other papers published in Henderson at this time include the Henderson News and the Hustler.

By the 1900s, the share of local (vs. syndicated) material began to increase, and Manning occasionally wrote local historical pieces for the paper. Historian Samuel Thomas Peace described the Gold Leaf as carrying “clean news and some lengthy essays.” Its pages remained filled with a large amount of agricultural content, including advertisements for fertilizer and farm equipment.

On Thursday, March 30, 1911, the front page of the paper proclaimed, “Thad Manning has sold the Gold Leaf! Ah well! Time has a way of getting in its work, and he has held on for many years.” The article went on to say that Manning “loved his paper and sought to make it vital with his personality” and that “one could see the man in the very pages of the paper.” Upon hearing of Manning’s retirement, the editor of the Durham Daily Sun wrote, “[Manning] has elevated and brightened journalism. He has served his town, county, and State with superb devotion and zeal.”

The Gold Leaf was sold to a company called Gold Leaf Publishing. Within a few weeks, it no longer ran the catchy quote, and the name of the paper was changed to the Henderson Gold Leaf. The new editor and manager was Preston Taylor Way (1869-1920). Way had previously published and edited the Waxhaw Enterprise in Waxhaw and another newspaper in Jonesboro, North Carolina. The Gold Leaf remained largely the same under Way, although there was a stronger political edge to the editorial page.

The Henderson Gold Leaf became a semiweekly publication in 1913, and, during World War I, a daily edition was added. In 1914, the daily paper was renamed the Henderson Daily Dispatch, and the Henderson Gold Leaf returned to a weekly publication. A fire at the Henderson office in 1946 destroyed much of the newspapers’ archival material. The Henderson Daily Dispatch is still published today.

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