'Newspaper Reader' – Lancaster, Pennsylvania - Atlas Obscura
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'Newspaper Reader'

This iconic Lancaster everyman has been reading the same story since 1980. 

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Lancaster is well-known for its rich history in the already-storied state of Pennsylvania, but one thing not often acknowledged is the city’s long relationship with newspaper publishing.

Lancaster’s first newspaper was published in 1752. The Lancaster Gazette catered to both English and German readers, and was soon followed by the Lancaster Journal in 1794. The Journal was a Federalist paper, and in response, the Lancaster Intelligencer & Weekly Advertiser was born, which supported the politics of Jeffersonian Republicans. For years, the two papers bred dozens of similar publications in the city, all of which covered issues from different political perspectives, a commonality in colonial America. 

After the Civil War, one publication, the Lancaster Intelligencer & Journal, was dropped into the lap of public educator and staunch Democrat Andrew Jackson Steinman. Though he wasn’t exactly thrilled at the prospect of running a newspaper, Steinman saw promise in expanding the company and helping spread Democratic ideals around central Pennsylvania. Partnering with his nephew Charles Steinman Foltz, Steinman took the paper from a measly daily circulation of 500 to become Lancaster’s most popular newspaper.

By 1915, Foltz and Steinman were publishing two papers: the Intelligencer & Journal  (a morning publication) and the News Journal (an afternoon paper). Before long the duo swallowed up a local competitor, resulting in three publications a day from the company. This tradition would run from 1928 to 2009, at which point one of the papers was dissolved, and the other two were combined into a standard daily publication. Though Steinman died in 1917, the newspaper legacy remained strong in both the family and in Lancaster, as Steinman Enterprises currently publishes the paper.

Steinman left a mark on Lancaster, too. In 1927, the papers moved to a building on West King Street (which still stands). A small park opened in the early 1990s as a memorial to James Hale Steinman and John Frederick Steinman, influential and gregarious Lancaster business leaders and descendants of Andrew Jackson Steinman.

Which brings us to the famous Newspaper Reader. Seated casually on a bench outside Steinman Park, this curious bookworm has been poring over his paper since 1980, when sculptor J. Seward Johnson was commissioned to make a piece of public art for the city. Johnson is noted for the immaculate detailing of his statue’s textures, and Newspaper Reader is no exception. Not only is the man’s clothing beautifully stippled, but the papers beside him are ultra-realistic recreations of Steinman newspapers from both the 1969 Moon Landing and 1979 Three Mile Island Accident (hey, he’s a slow reader!). In the man’s hand can be found the first issue of Steinman’s Sunday News, published on September 16, 1923.

It’s obvious that the reader is in no rush to finish his paper, and as long as he’s enjoying himself amongst the hustle and bustle of West King Street, it’s fine with the city, who have adopted him as a sort of local celebrity. As long as Lancaster’s newspaper heritage is alive and well, so to will the love for the world’s slowest reader!

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