The Daily Crescent, established in May 1848, took its title from New Orleans’s nickname, the Crescent City. Founders Alexander H. Hayes and J. E. “Sam” McClure had formerly worked for the New Orleans Daily Delta [LCCN: sn82015774], one of the South’s leading journals.
The Crescent is best remembered today for its association with co-editors Walt Whitman and William Walker. Whitman, not yet known as a poet, lost his position at the Brooklyn Daily Eagle and Kings County Democrat [LCCN: sn83031149] on account of his opposition to the expansion of slavery. He then moved to New Orleans, which despite its notoriety as a slave market, appealed to Whitman. Hayes and McClure may have hired him to build connections with the Northeastern journalistic establishment. In addition to compiling news from other papers, Whitman wrote original articles and poetry, including “The Mississippi at Midnight” (May 6, 1848) and a series of New Orleans impressions, “Sketches of the Sidewalks and Levees.” Whitman resigned from the Crescent just a few weeks after the paper began publication for reasons that are unclear, though possibly related to his antislavery views or a disagreement over money.
Another famous writer for the Crescent was William Walker. Born in Tennessee and educated as a medical doctor in the United States and Europe, Walker was a nephew of John Norvell, co-founder of the Pennsylvania Inquirer [LCCN: sn86079113], which later became the Philadelphia Inquirer [LCCN: sn86081050]. During his time at the Crescent, Walker wrote relatively liberal editorials, opposing the expansion of slavery and supporting women’s rights. He also commented on the Revolutions of 1848 in Europe. Walker left the Crescent after a short time and went to San Francisco with the Gold Rush to work as a journalist. There, his views on slavery and American territorial expansion changed dramatically. In the mid 1850s, backed for a time by business tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt, Walker led several filibustering expeditions to Mexico and Central America in an attempt to establish an independent, slaveholding empire. Walker was executed for his actions by the Honduran government in 1860.
Published daily in four pages, the Crescent carried local, national, and international news of a miscellaneous nature. It claimed to be independent of political parties, but its editors were outspoken in their personal views. Though the Crescent would eventually become strongly proslavery, in the 1840s its discussions of slavery were moderate. Commentary on the recent Mexican-American War was printed, along with regular news from Mexico, Cuba, and other parts of Latin America, with which New Orleans carried on a busy trade in the 19th century. Other content included reports on New Orleans’s entertainment scene, from the opera and theater to horse races and social clubs; advertisements for local businesses and institutions; shipping news; financial reports; and fiction, poetry, and general-interest essays.
Published concurrently with the Weekly Crescent [LCCN: sn86079008], the Daily Crescent was acquired in 1850 by John Wesley Crockett, a son of Davy Crockett, and reorganized in 1851 as the New Orleans Daily Crescent [LCCN: sn82015753].