Picayune?

Why would a paper name itself The Times-Picayune ??

Picayune : adj.

  1. Of little value or importance; paltry. See synonyms at trivial.
  2. Petty; mean

Seems kind of a bad name for a newspaper. Anyone got the straight dope on the history here?

One link first.

Seems the Times-Picayune got its name in 1914 due to a merger of, you guess it, the Times and The Daily Picayune. The latter had been founded in 1837, named after a small coin that equalled the price of the paper.

Here’s another link dealing with the word picayune as a weird word, which talks mostly about the newspaper.

There is also a town, Picayune, Mississippi.

Then there was the infamous Picayune Cigarette.
I’m the Guy"
[sup]

[/sup]
Home Run cigarettes were said to be strong, but I never saw one. However, on occasion I would encounter Picayune Cigarettes and smoked a few just for the experience. One puff was the equivalent to a whole pack of Camels (non-filter, of course.)

Since I live (just outside) New Orleans, perhaps I can provide a bit of perspective. While I understand the definition of Picayune, around here it now has a more positive connotation. It isn’t as good as a Lagniappe (something extra to sweeten the deal), a Picayune is a small item, usually information, that is interesting or useful. Sometimes useless, but still interesting. Perhaps the name of the newspaper has had that effect. When anyone talks about the newspaper, they refer to the Picayune, or if they want to be formal, the T-P. If I asked for a copy of the Times-Picayune, I would get a copy of the tourist magazine with the newspaper. :slight_smile:

Here is a history page for the Times-Picayune . It says that the original price of The Daily Picayune was based on a Spanish coin valued at six and a quarter cents. This half-real coin was called the picayune, and at the time was used in the Southern U.S.

I carried a pack of them with me in the Army so that when a moocher came to bum a cigarette I could wean them of mooching from me. I never saw a person light one without gasping for breath after the first puff. Including me.

And you get Lagniappe weekly with the Picayune. :wink:

Hunter S. Thompson mentions Home Run cigarettes in Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail. I found a store that sold them, bought a few packs back in the 70’s. Very strong, even though I smoked Camel non-filters back in those days.

Now I’m thinking about the Frostbite Falls Picayune Intelligence.

So, sort of like an intermediate stage between dollars and bitcoins. :smiley:

BTW, how did picayune coins commonly circulate? The Spanish dollar circulated in the US until the mid 19th century, valued at par, so a Spanish real was 12.5 cents. At that time, they DID make half cents, so change could be made from “Spanish bits” (at least in theory - look up the history of the silver 20 cent piece.) Did somebody on one side of a small purchase commonly get shorted when a 6.25 cent coin was involved? Particularly if it was the price of a newspaper. What happened when I wanted to buy a paper and had a dime?

If you’re talking about 1800-1872(when they demonetized the Spanish coins), the price of a newspaper was either one cent or two cents(in the case of the NY Times). Most people had one cent coins at that point. Even the new(1864-) two cent coin.

But, yes, you probably got shorted that 1/4 cent if you paid with a half reale.

Or the Bloom Picayune. I mean, what other paper has kids and penguins in Editorial?

Which brings up another question. If the price of a major city newspaper in other parts of the country was one or two cents, how did the Picayune get away with charging 6.25 cents in 1837? I was thinking specifically about some citizen of New Orleans buying that paper. And, yeah, “You just got shortchanged on small purchases if you used the things.” is about the answer I’d expect.

For the first half of the 19th century, newspapers were targeted at the well-to-do. Six cents was a standard price. Newspapers carried little advertising and were printed in small press runs, so they couldn’t achieve economies of scale. Many, if not most, were started to give expression to political viewpoints. They didn’t print much news as we understand it today. People lived so close together that they got most of their news via gossip. Specialized papers existed for business, but these weren’t general interest.

As cities got larger, fewer people knew what was going on in other neighborhoods. The start of the telegraph meant that news from other cities could be immediately transmitted. Larger populations meant more potential readers. Living standards were getting higher so more people had more disposable income. In the 1830s several people tried to start mass circulation (by the standards of the day) papers in larger cities. They learned the hard way that people had to be trained to want to buy newspapers daily, they wanted the cheapest possible price, and they wanted the most sensational news. James Gordon Bennett of the New York Herald Tribune is given the credit as the first one to make it all work, and he had the advantage that faster presses came onto the market that made the printing of hundreds of thousands of copies a reality. By the 1850s daily penny papers came to dominate most of the big cities, but smaller towns couldn’t make this work and so papers there were either not daily or more expensive or both. The Wikipedia article on the penny press has a pretty good summary.

So a 6 1/4 cent newspaper in New Orleans in 1837 was exactly what someone should expect, even if things were changing rapidly.

I prefer the Chattanooga News-Free Press.

Makes sense. Thank you.