The European Library aggregated 70 titles and 124,760 issues of historical newspapers from the National Library of Austria (ONB) . We asked Martin Schaller from the ONB to highlight one newspaper article that is now available at the Europeana Newspaper Browser. Martin chose an article about the triumphal arrival of a northpole expedition team in Vienna .
Due to the history of the Austrian National Library, the newspaper pages made accessible (1800 – 1875) do not only cover events relevant to today’s Austria but to the Habsburg Empire as a whole. Therefore, we want to take a closer look at an article that covered an event of high importance for the whole realm. In summer 1872 an expedition team under the leadership of Julius Payer and Karl Weyprecht left for the Arctic. During their expedition an archipelago was discovered and named after Emperor Francis Joseph: Franz Josef Land. After spending two winters there, because the ship was ice-locked, they managed to leave the archipelago and return home safely. The following article covers their triumphant arrival in Vienna on 25 September 1874. Exact dates of expedition; expedition leaders and crew members.
What does the title say?
The North Pole explorers in Vienna (original title: ‘Die Nordpolfahrer in Wien’)
What newspaper is this article from?
This article was published in the ‘Neue Freie Presse’, a Vienna based daily that first appeard in 1864. Its founding was the result of internal disputes within the editorial staff of the newspaper ‘Die Presse’. The latter soon became less and less important and its publishing was finally discontinued in 1896. The political orientation at the time can be described as liberal. The newspaper is still published today, though, slightly confusing, under the title ‘Die Presse’ and is amongst the most important newspapers in Austria.
What day is this article from?
The issue containing the article was published 26 September 1874 and covered an event that occurred on 25 September 1874. The topic of the article concerns the explorer’s return to Vienna which was a fairly local event. However the article’s structure reveals the difficulties in dealing with the delays of travelling news: The last paragraph concerns a brief account of the homebound journey by the newspaper’s special correspondent, who accompanied them. Since the actual arrival at Vienna was reported without any delay, his narration of the section between Hamburg and Vienna was placed at the end of the article although it covered an earlier time span.
On what page was the article printed?
The account is very detailed stretching over page five and six. It covered such particulars as the menu of a diner given in honour of the expedition’s success or which gifts were sent from whom. The precedent pages cover domestic and foreign politics. In fact the article is situated between ‘kleine Chronik’ (‘minor chronicle’ – a section covering uncommon news from around the world or comments on articles published in other newspapers) and local news.
Did the article report the event as we know it from history books?
In general yes, though the article’s richness in detail throws an interesting light on the expedition’s return. The event itself is a fairly known chapter of Austrian-Hungarian history but the exuberance, the sheer joy, simply the manner in which the returning men were welcomed shows how important the expedition must have been for contemporaries. Therefore, the mood and atmosphere carried by this article as well as the incorporated details can enrich the history we know from textbooks. In a way it enables us to see the event through the ‘contemporary’s eyes’.
Does the article prevail any political view of the time?
From a political point of view the article is phrased in a rather neutral tone. It is designed to emphasize the heroism of the returnees and also to display the countrywide enthusiasm, maybe even ecstasy, the expedition’s success sparked. Hence the crew member’s occurrences were described as manly and weather-beaten, while the spectators are displayed as almost constantly exulting.
Do you want to say something else about this article or newspaper?
There are a few passages that reveal an interesting tension. On the one hand such expeditions were explicit national endeavors but on the other hand its aims served purely scientific, therefore non-national, ends.
Within the article the following episode is reported: The geographic society of Paris sent representatives to attend the expedition’s arrival in Vienna and to congratulate for their success. After a meeting between Julius Payer, one leader of the expedition, and the society’s representatives he is quoted as being very touched that the French are that much interested in German research.