Today in History

Today in History: September 21

New Mexico's Colonial Past

Santa Fe
Bird's Eye View of the City of Santa Fé, N.M., 1882,
Drawn by Henry Wellge,
Beck & Pauli, lithographers, 1882.
Panoramic Maps

On September 21, 1595, Don Juan de Oñate's petition and contract for the conquest of New Mexico was presented to Luís de Velasco, the viceroy of Nueva Vizcaya.  Already a wealthy and prominent man, he sought to turn the Indians' wealth into his own and had requested the assignment after hearing rumors about golden cities in the vicinity. Oñate was granted the commission and set about recruiting men for his expedition.

Acoma Pueblo
Pueblo of Aconia [Acoma],
New Mexico, 1899.
Touring Turn-of-the-Century America: Photographs from the Detroit Publishing Company, 1880-1920

After many delays, Oñate finally began the expedition in 1598 with approximately 200 men, accompanied by their families and servants. The expedition crossed the Rio Grande at El Paso and split up into smaller groups to search for treasure. Some of his men wanted to return to Spain, but Oñate squashed potential deserters by executing several who had attempted to leave. He used brutal force against the Ácoma Indians, who had rebelled and killed several of Oñate’s men.  Retribution and the severity of Oñate’s actions after reconquering the pueblo terrified other pueblos and the Spanish priests complained that the Indians distrusted the Spanish—making their conversion difficult.

In 1601, Oñate set out to find the legendary golden city of Quivera. After years of failure, he returned to find much of his colony deserted. Although his colonization methods were horrific, Oñate is credited with establishing a colony in New Mexico and exploring the geography of the region.

In 1607, Oñate resigned as governor. He was tried and sentenced in 1614 for his cruel actions and ineptitude in ruling the colony. Oñate was fined, banished from New Mexico in perpetuity, and exiled for four years from Mexico City and its vicinity; he also lost his titles as governor and captain general of New Mexico. He appealed his convictions several times after his banishment from Mexico City had elapsed. Evidence of a pardon, likely granted between 1622 and 1624, is inconclusive.  

"Tened Piedad, Dios Mío"
(Have Pity, My God)
Luis Montoya and Ricardo Archuleta, unaccompanied vocals,
recorded in Cerro New Mexico, August 9, 1940.
Hispano Music & Culture from the Northern Rio Grande: The Juan B. Rael Collection

Real Audio Format

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By encouraging further European settlement, efforts led to the founding of Santa Fe in 1610—America's oldest capital city. Congress established the Territory of New Mexico in 1848 at the conclusion of the Mexican War. On January 6, 1912, New Mexico became the forty-seventh state.

Learn more about New Mexico in American Memory:

The First Newspaper

Don't You Want a Paper, Dearie?
Read It Through and Through
Tales of War and Tales of Money
Things That People Do

"Don't You Want a Paper, Dearie?"
Words, Paul West,
Music, Jerome Kern,
Historic American Sheet Music, 1850-1920

The nation's first daily newspaper, the Pennsylvania Packet and Daily Advertiser, began publication on September 21, 1784. The New England Courant, the first independent American newspaper was published by Benjamin Franklin's older brother in 1721. At the beginning of the Revolutionary War, 37 independent newspapers kept the colonists informed. The press contributed to the war effort by publishing broadsides, relaying information, chronicling the war, and sustaining community life.

The Press As Revolutionary Force

This edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette was printed by David Hall and Benjamin Franklin without date, number, masthead, or imprint at Philadelphia. The week before, the publishers announced suspension of the Gazette in opposition to Stamp Act provisions requiring newspapers be printed on imported, stamped paper. A week latter this sheet appeared. Lacking the characteristic appearance of a newspaper, the November 7, 1765 edition satisfied subscribers while protecting the firm from legal repercussions.

No Stamped Paper To Be Had
No Stamped Paper To Be Had
Pennsylvania Gazette, November 7, 1765.
An American Time Capsule: Three Centuries of Broadsides and Other Printed Ephemera

During the 1780s and 1790s, citizens increasingly turned to the press to monitor political changes of the early national period. In response, several city newspapers began daily publication. Ratification of the United States Constitution, for example, was keenly debated in the press. Passage of the First Amendment guaranteed freedom of the press and ensured newspapers would remain an important medium of political debate.

"'Papers, evening papers'
was the urchin's
pleading cry."

"The Urchin's Sad Appeal,"
words by F.M. Statia,
music by John S. May,
Historic American Sheet Music, 1850-1920

Until well into the nineteenth century, most Americans continued to get their news from country weeklies. As a boy Edward A. Barney, editor of the Canaan Reporter, recalled "having a few dailies to peddle around, but there was nothing like a general circulation for them. What news people got in the country they read once a week from their local papers…World events didn't interest them much; anyway they were contented to bide the coming of the weekly to learn about them." The Spanish-American War created the first real market for daily newspapers among residents of small town New Hampshire. "There was outside news the country folk couldn't wait a week for," he explained.

Learn more about the role of the press in American society and culture:

Delivering newspapers
Delivering Newspapers,
American Mutoscope and Biograph Company, 1903.
The Life of a City: Early Films of New York, 1898-1906