Founded as a French trading post in the early 18th century, Baton Rouge was part of the British and later Spanish colony of West Florida from 1763 until 1810, when, as part of the short-lived Republic of West Florida, it was annexed by the United States. In the 19th century, the town developed into the main commercial center on the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Natchez, Mississippi. Surrounded at that time by sugar and cotton plantations, Baton Rouge became the state capital in 1846 through the influence of rural planters desiring a more central location, even though its population was then less than 3,000, many times smaller than the state’s former capital, New Orleans.
Issued in daily and weekly editions, the Comet was one of Baton Rouge’s leading newspapers prior to 1856, when it merged with its competitor, the Baton-Rouge Gazette [LCCN: sn82003383], to form the Daily [LCCN: sn88083120] and Weekly Gazette and Comet [LCCN: sn85038555]. George A. Pike, brother of prominent Baton Rouge landowner and businessman William S. Pike, founded the Daily Comet in 1850. It and its successor the Morning Comet were published Tuesday through Saturday in four pages and consisted primarily of advertisements that serve as a record of Baton Rouge’s commercial life during the antebellum period. The Weekly Comet, issued on Sundays, was ad-free and offered editorial viewpoints on various political, social, and commercial topics, as well as a wide selection of essays, literature, and poetry. By the mid 1850s, Pike was promoting the anti-Catholic, nativist Know Nothing Party. In the growing sectional crisis between North and South, he opposed calls for secession. Other content included news of the Louisiana state legislature and state elections, reports on miscellaneous topics from around the world, and marriage notices and obituaries.