About 15 years after Memphis, Tennessee, was founded, Henry Van Pelt printed the first issue of a weekly newspaper, the Memphis Appeal, in 1841. His printing office was his home, a ramshackle wood cottage on the banks of the Wolf River. Van Pelt printed the Appeal on single sheets, an unimpressive newspaper serving the muddy Mississippi River town. Beginning in 1847, it became known as the Memphis Daily Appeal. The paper grew with Memphis and passed into new ownership, becoming a Confederate paper with the onset of the Civil War. Editor Benjamin Dill and his wife, America "Carolina," and printer John R. McClanahan became part of American newspaper lore when they refused to be censored or silenced during the Union occupation of Memphis. In June 1862, Dill and McClanahan moved their paper 100 miles south, to Grenada, Mississippi.
With the Appeal's offices vacant, a special order was issued for J.K. Davisson of the 24th Indiana Volunteers to take possession of the offices and publish a Union paper for the city. The first issue of the Memphis Union Appeal was printed on July 2, 1862. After a few weeks, Samuel Sawyer took over as publisher and changed the title to the Daily Union Appeal. The last extant issue dates from August 30, 1862, and it is not known how long (or if) the paper survived after this date. The "original" Confederate Memphis Daily Appeal, however, proved to be resilient in the face of adversity.
Soon dubbed the "Moving Appeal," the Memphis Daily Appeal moved by wagon and flatcar, in its attempt to stay ahead of the Union army. It was published in Jackson and Meridian, Mississippi; Atlanta, Georgia; and Montgomery, Alabama. Union troops finally captured the newspaper in Columbus, Georgia, in April 1865, after nearly three years of pursuit. The troops wrecked the type and equipment and silenced the "Voice of the Confederacy," as its admirers called it. The paper's main printing press, however, avoided capture, remaining hidden in Macon, Georgia. Six months later, the Civil War ended and the Appeal's staff returned to Memphis to begin the paper anew.
In 1868, John M. Keating and Matthew Gallaway became co-editors of the Appeal and owners in 1879. Gallaway sold his interest in 1887, and Keating became editor-in-chief until leaving at the behest of the paper's owners in 1889, when he became editor of the competing Memphis Daily Commercial, started by the city's Democratic leaders that same year. The Memphis Appeal, in 1890, merged with the Memphis Avalanche which had re-opened in 1866 as the Daily Memphis Avalanche, to become the Appeal-Avalanche. In a competition drawn along political lines, the Daily Commercial had a circulation of about 12,500, compared with the Memphis Appeal-Avalanche's circulation of about 17,750.
The depression of 1893 financially crippled the Appeal-Avalanche, which was sold to the Memphis Commercial in 1894. The papers merged as the Memphis Commercial Appeal, with the newly named paper first appearing July 1, 1894. Two years later, Charles J.P. Mooney became managing editor, and eventually became a major force in Memphis politics and publishing. Mooney left the newspaper for New York in 1902, but returned to Memphis and the Commercial Appeal in 1908 as managing editor. The highly partisan paper -- Democratic -- was in rancorous rivalry with the Memphis News-Scimitar. Mooney's return meant a long battle with Edward H. Crump, who was building his political machine in Memphis. Initially backing Crump for mayor, Mooney opposed Crump's re-election in 1911. Crump kept winning -- and running Memphis -- in spite of the Commercial Appeal's opposition. Though failing to deter Crump's political machine, Mooney and the Commercial Appeal did not shrink from reform, turning attention to a resurgent Ku Klux Klan in the early 1920s. The paper was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1923. In the first decades of the 20th century, the newspaper championed better public schools, improved levees, public health measures, and women's suffrage.
Issues of the Memphis Daily Appeal from Jan 1, 1857 to Jan 27, 1886, and hundreds of other historical newspapers from around the country, can be read for free at the Library of Congress’ website, https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov.