Friday, December 25, 2009

Pittsburgh's Literary Start

Was James Hall's "The Billiard Table" the first short story to be set in addition to being one of the first American short stories

And was James Hall really the inventor of the newspaper editorial section?!
James Hall was born on July 29, 1793, to John and Sarah Hall. John Hall was a wealthy Maryland landowner. His son was exposed to many intellectual discussions that encouraged his free-thinking. At the age of twelve, he was sent to an academy near Philadelphia. Hall's teachers disliked him because he tended to form his own opinions on many subjects. In 1813 Hall joined the military.
Despite his anti-war views, he believed that the British had no right to raid farmhouses in America. Thus, Hall fought in the War of 1812, earning the rank of third lieutenant. Hall then decided to become a professional soldier. When the United States declared war on Algeria, Hall volunteered as a midshipman. However, the military declined his offer. In 1816 Hall was stationed in Pittsburgh. Two years later he resigned from the army. James Ross, a friend of his family and a very distinguished lawyer, taught Hall how to be a lawyer. Ross had been George Washington's lawyer and had also been a United States senator. Later that year, Hall was admitted to the bar and quickly became a successful lawyer in Pittsburgh.
Hall began his writing career by sending copies of the verses he had written about dancing partners to the Port Folio. Hall continued to contribute pieces that he had written to various magazines. In 1820 he moved to Shawneetown, Illinois. Only sixteen days after his arrival in Shawneetown, he was editing the local newspaper, the Illinois Gazette. It was the second Illinois newspaper.
In 1832 Hall's book, Legends of the West, was published by his brother, Harrison. This book contained many of Hall's best works. Eight editions of this book were eventually printed. Hall played an important part in the development of the American short story. In his short stories was a description of the prairies, their first accurate description in American literature. In 1833 Hall packed up once again to move to Cincinnati. Here he directed the Western Monthly Magazine. Hall spent the rest of his life in Cincinnati.
James Hall was undoubtedly one of the greatest frontier writers of his time. His contributions to early newspapers helped to form the basis for modern newspapers in America. He virtually invented the editorial section of the newspaper. Hall was also one of the best short story writers of his time. On top of his literary career, he also had a successful law career. It was nothing short of amazing for him to have two good careers at the same time.�[From Mary Burtschi, A Port Folio for James Hall; Mary Burtschi, James Hall of Lincoln's Frontier World; John Flanagan, James Hall.]


joe said...

...and yes, that's an excerpt from Illinois History: A Magazine for Young People (published since 1946)...a contribution by Adam Trammel of Anna-Jonesboro Community High School (1997)

Anonymous said...

Love the blog. Great stuff.

I recently started my own blog @ It would be much appreciated if everyone could comment on my latest post, how to increase teen usage at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. The idea of the blog is to collect ideas that can be implemented into the community. Creatives that win a challenge will be awarded points!

Thanks again and please try it out,
Justin @

joe said...

Thanks for stopping by Justin.

I checked out Yinzit and like the creative approach to crowdsourcing. I will go contribute my idea for the Library over there...but briefly, I think one approach is to involve the employers of teenagers in some meaningful way (as linkages in the community).

As an example, many teenagers find work in eldercare/disability services in some capacity (dietary aides in assisted living residents, etc). There must be some way to connect elders/others with some time on their hands (library veternans all, I'm sure) alongside teenagers and the library resources?

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