Established in 1834 as a successor to several papers dating back as early as 1800, the Gazette began as a voice of the Whig Party but eventually turned to a Democratic view. For the time, that was hardly an unusual political evolution for a Virginia paper. What did, however, make the paper somewhat unique in nineteenth-century Virginia was its forceful and effective support of industrialization throughout the South. Situated across the Potomac from the Washington Navy Yard, Alexandria was a growing riverfront community that could boast of considerable industry for its size—including brickworks; shoe, furniture, and machinery factories; breweries; ship chandleries and boat yards; and rail lines for both the Baltimore & Ohio and Chesapeake & Ohio Railroads. By 1900, the city had a population of 6,430 and was increasingly affected by—and prospered from—the growth of the federal government and its payroll. Its perspective, then, was unlike most Virginia papers.
Too, the Gazette by 1900 was the dominant daily newspaper and an influential voice in the community. Since 1865, at least 23 papers had begun publication in Alexandria but then disappeared. In the 1890s alone, six shut down. By 1900, then, the Gazette’s competition was reduced primarily to the Alexandria Times, but even that paper would barely survive the decade. Particularly noteworthy is how fertile the Alexandria region had been for the African-American press. But the Clipper had ceased business in 1894, and its successor the Leader and Clipper ended in 1898; the
Home News, established in 1902, and the Industrial Advocate, opened circa 1900, disappeared within several years as well. The point, though, is that the papers reflected a perceived need within a substantial enough minority community that any major paper—whatever its politics, whatever its bias—would be compelled to take its existence into account in reporting on local government and the economy.
Thus, at the beginning of the twentieth century, the Alexandria Gazette could legitimately comment on its considerable significance to the growing northern Virginia community and region. “The files of the paper,” the editor wrote, “are the official and unabridged history of Alexandria, and while numbers of other papers have appeared and disappeared during all the years of its existence, it has weathered all the storms of time. . . .”