New York native Philo White (1796-1883) launched the North-Carolina Standard, a paper aligned with the Democratic Party, in Raleigh, North Carolina, in November 1834. In 1836, White sold the paper to Thomas Loring. Despite Loring’s efforts to counterbalance the influence of the Whig Party throughout the state, Democrats blamed Loring for their party’s waning influence. Loring’s impending retirement in 1843 prompted Democrats to seek out young William W. Holden (1818-1892) in an effort to persuade him to take the reins of the faltering Standard. A onetime Whig, Holden had become disillusioned with the party in the 1840s. Holden marketed the Standard to like-minded former Whigs and waged a scathing campaign against Whig party members in its columns.
Under Holden’s careful stewardship, the once struggling Standard became the most influential Democratic paper in the North Carolina. Subscriptions nearly doubled during Holden’s first two years as editor. Holden made several improvements to the paper, including installing a steam-powered press, one of the first in the state, which he nicknamed “Little Giant” in honor of Stephen A. Douglas, an Illinois senator. Holden emphatically supported states’ rights and the growing secession movement. However, with the threat of real disunion looming by 1860, he began working to prevent North Carolina from breaking with the Union. His editorials reflect his evolving political ideology.
Although Holden had reluctantly thrown his support behind secession, by the summer of 1863, he publicly called for peace talks in the Standard’s columns. Holden’s editorials spoke plainly of Federal gains across the South and the inadequacies of the Confederate government. The Confederate command blamed Holden and the Standard for dissent and desertion. Soldiers broke into and ransacked in the paper’s offices in September 1863. Only the intervention of Governor Zebulon Vance convinced the soldiers to return to camp and leave the equipment undamaged.
The Civil War had forced many smaller papers in North Carolina to suspend or cease operations altogether due to paper shortages or enlistment by the printers and editors. The Standard was an exception, although the newspaper did voluntarily cease publication in 1864to protest President Jefferson Davis’ suspension of habeas corpus and the government’s attempts to arrest Holden for dissent. Again, Governor Vance intervened on behalf of Holden, and the Standard resumed publication shortly thereafter.
After the war, Holden shifted his allegiance to the Republican Party. In June 1865, Holden accepted an appointment as provisional governor and handed control of the Standard to his son Joseph W. Holden (1844-1875) and Joseph S. Cannon (1823-1882). Upon his inauguration as governor in July 1868, the senior Holden sold the paper for $15,000 to a group of investors led by Nathaniel Paige. A New York native who had previously worked for the New-York Daily Tribune and the New Orleans Republican, Paige ran the Standard until October 1868. His name was removed from the masthead after publication of an unsigned column on September 19 in which readers were encouraged to elect the Republican Presidential ticket by appealing to Southern women: “Don’t hesitate to throw your arms around their necks now and then, when their husbands are not around, and give them a good ——–. They all like it, and the Yankeer (sic) you are the better it takes.” The October 7 issue of the Standard announced new management under John B. Neathery and noted that “one man and one man only” was responsible for the scandalous column.
In August 1869 Neathery sold his share of the Standard to his business partner Milton Smith Littlefield (1830-1899), a former general in the Union Army. Upon arriving in North Carolina in 1867, Littlefield, later dubbed “the Prince of Carpetbaggers,” joined with several others in the purchase of depreciated prewar state bonds. Using his connections with the state’s Reconstruction authorities, including Holden, Littlefield and his partners were able to get the bonds recognized as legitimate, and the state legislature levied taxes to pay the interest on them.
Littlefield left editorial supervision of the Standard to Horace L. Pike (1843-1875), a native of Augusta, Maine, and another veteran of the Union army, who had moved to Raleigh to help supervise the state’s postwar reconstruction. By March 1870, Littlefield’s financial schemes had begun to unravel, and he sold the Standard to William Alexander Smith (1828-1888), a Republican politician and president of the North Carolina Railroad. Joseph W. Holden, who meanwhile had won a seat in the North Carolina legislature and who, through his father’s influence, had been elected Speaker of the House, return to the Standard as editor.
Smith struggled to make ends meet. The September 21, 1870 edition of the Weekly Standard announced that the newspaper would suspend publication because of “business complications in no wise (sic) connected with the present proprietorship and editorial management of the Standard.” The newspaper resumed publication on October 7, with Smith’s name removed from the masthead and a note to readers that “when the necessary arrangements are perfected the publishers will be announced.” However, the Standard ceased publication altogether in December 1870.
During its lifetime, the paper went through a number of editions and title changes. These include the Weekly North Carolina Standard (1850-58), the Semi-Weekly North-Carolina Standard (1852-53), the Semi-Weekly Standard (1853-65), and the Weekly Standard (1858-65). After the war, it was called the Daily North-Carolina Standard (1865-68), the Weekly North-Carolina Standard (1866-69), the North Carolina Standard (daily, 1868-69), the Tri-Weekly Standard (1866-68), the North Carolina Standard (weekly, 1866-69), and, finally, the Daily Standard (1869-1870) and the Weekly Standard (1869-1870).