The South-Western was founded in 1852 in Shreveport, Louisiana, an important cotton-shipping center near the state’s border with Texas and Arkansas. Its original purpose was to support the election of Whig Party presidential candidate Winfield Scott. Lewis Dillard (1794-1864), formerly of the New Orleans Native American [LCCN: sn90065070], was its first publisher and editor. Following Scott’s defeat, Dillard criticized the incoming administration of President Franklin Pierce. The same scene played out in 1856, when Dillard endorsed former Whig president Millard Fillmore (now running on the Know-Nothing or American Party ticket) and then embarked on a campaign of attacking the election’s winner, Democrat James Buchanan.
Published under an emblem of the American flag bearing the motto “Our Country and Our Party,” the South-Western strongly opposed Southern secession. In the election of 1860, it followed the majority of Shreveport’s voters in supporting Constitutional Union Party candidate John Bell, who sought to avoid disunion over the issue of slavery. Shortly after Louisiana seceded from the Union in January 1861, Dillard reluctantly removed the paper’s flag and motto.
Pre-Civil War editorials focused on discrediting the administrations of Presidents Pierce and Buchanan. Other topics of discussion included the Free Soil and Know-Nothing movements. Fiction, poetry, and advertisements for local business and schools were typically printed on the first page. News of steamboats, the basis of Shreveport’s economy in the mid-19th century, is abundant. After 1861, the South-Western devoted most of its reporting to the Civil War and its effects on daily life in Shreveport. Although the city served as the capital of Confederate Louisiana from 1863 to 1865 and briefly as the last capital of the Confederacy following the fall of Richmond in April 1865, few copies of the paper survive from this period.
At the end of the Civil War, the South-Western restored the American flag at the top of its second page and adopted a new motto, “The Union and Constitution.” Beginning in 1868, a daily edition, the Daily South-Western [LCCN: sn86090506], was published alongside the weekly edition, which in 1870 was renamed the Weekly South-Western [LCCN: sn87090568].