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James L. Marable's response to my question, "Was Brother Jonathan a periodical?

Being allergic to unanswered questions, I quested across the Web to scratch this itch. I found several things of interest, and I found that the question is just barely answerable with a Web search.

 
The University of Virginia has an online copy of Henry Nash Smith's Virgin Land: The American West As Symbol and Myth which, in Chapter VII (discussing Kit Carson and his rise to fame through the medium of the dime novel), mentions the weekly "story papers" that appeared in the 1830's and 1840's, including Brother Jonathan, published in New York.
 
http://www.people.virginia.edu/~tsawyer/HNS/chapter8.html
Virgin Land: The American West As Symbol and Myth, by Henry Nash Smith
VIII. The Mountain Man as Western Hero: Kit Carson:
 
"The subliterary story of adventure deliberately contrived
for a mass audience, called "steam literature" because it
was printed on the newly introduced rotary steam presses,
was developed by editors of the weekly story papers
established in imitation of the penny daily newspaper in the
late 1830's and early 1840's. The earliest of these weeklies
were the Boston Notion and New World, and Brother Jonathan
of New York."
 
Slightly less authoritative on this point, there is also an article on the dime novel phenomenon at http://www-sul.stanford.edu/depts/dp/pennies/cover.html which states that the success of the story papers provided an impetus for the introduction of novel-length stories selling for a dime. The instance cited is "Brother Jonathan Weekly, first published in 1839."  These magazines were part of an explosion in the availability of reading material made possible when "the introduction of the steam rotary press resulted in affordable and abundant reading material that could be distributed by a growing network of railways."
 
I could not find when the weekly stopped publication (to assure that it was still around at the time of the 1858 postal records you have abstracted), but I did find that the Cornell University Library has two issues in a folder called  "Miscellaneous American Newspapers (NY)" with dates of 16 Jul 1853 and 12 Dec 1857.  The later date is close to proof that the magazine was still being published in 1858. (I also found a collectables database which includes a broadside with engravings of the Presidential candidates of 1856 based on Brady daguerreotypes  "apparently issued as a supplement or premium to Brother Johnathan, and New York weekly.")
 
Now comes the interesting part (one question leading to another and another, as they tend to do).  Why was the magazine called "Brother Jonathan?"  Who knows?  However, I now have a theory and a few bits of evidence to support it.
 
The Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (1898) by E. Cobham Brewer includes an article on "Brother Jonathan" citing Bartlett's Dictionary of Americanisms. It seems that in the 19th century one would say something like "Let's consult brother Jonathan" when a difficult situation arose for which no solution was readily apparent. The saying was traced to the Revolutionary War when Gen. Washington was short of ammunition and his officers could offer no practical solution to the problem.  Washington then said "We must consult Brother Jonathan," referring to His Excellency Jonathan Trumbull, governor of Connecticut.  Trumbull's help was sought and the ammunition shortage was resolved.  Hence, when faced with a difficulty beyond your own means, "consult brother Jonathan."  Bartlett's says that "brother Jonathan grew to be the John Bull of the United States."
 
So, in 1832, John B. Jervis, chief engineer for the Mohawk and Hudson Railroad, applied (and contributed to) that emerging spirit to the problem that railroad engines, developed in England, didn't go fast enough for American distances (nor well enough for American terrain). He made the initial innovation contributing to the development of the American-type locomotive: replacing the fixed front axle with its two large wheels with a lighter articulated truck with two axles and four small wheels.  The result was a new world speed record when the lighter engine, built for Jervis by the West Point Foundry, achieved a top speed of 60 miles per hour.  The independent front truck also hugged the track and could guide the new locomotive around tighter curves.  Jervis may have been thinking of George Washington and Gov. Trumbull and the popular phrase when he named his first American-type engine the "Brother Jonathan."  Perhaps he intended characterize the role he imagined for the new locomotive in solving the otherwise thorny transporation problems of America's westward expansion.  In 1987, the United States Postal Service issued a "Brother Jonathan" commemerative stamp, and that is why one can find out about chief engineer Jervis on the World Wide Web. See, http://www.unicover.com/EA1CATRN.HTM.
 
When Brother Jonathan Weekly began publishing in 1839, spurred by the new steam rotary press and "a growing network of railways" (made possible by the development of the Brother Jonathan locomotive), the name may have represented the American spirit that the new medium ("steam literature," the original pulp fiction) fully intended both to romanticize and exploit.
 
The only other evidence that I could find (in my quick searching this morning) that the name "Brother Jonathan" became an icon in the Amercian culture of the 19th century comes from a little later: on the eve of the Civil War.  Just 17 days before the secession of Virginia and, therefore, 18 days before the southern attack on Fort Sumner,  Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894) wrote "Brother Jonathan's Lament for Sister Caroline." In the poem, Brother Jonathan represents the United States (the Union) and Sister Caroline (Carolina, hint, hint) represents the seceding states. Jonathan laments "Oh, Caroline, Caroline, child of the sun, / There are battles with Fate that can never be won!"
 
So, there you have it: more than you ever wanted to know in answer to your simple question "Was this a periodical?"
 
Yes, it was.