Rebecca Rosen reports at the Atlantic on a century-long error on the front page of the New York Times. The issue number for the February 6, 1898 edition was 14,499; the next day, the issue number was 15,000. Nobody noticed until 1999.

At the beginning of 2000, the newspaper announced that Aaron Donovan had discovered the error: “Through the newspaper’s archives, he learned that in its first 500 weeks, The Times published no Sunday issue. Then, for 2,296 weeks from April 1861 to April 1905, the Sunday issue was treated as an extension of the Saturday paper, bearing its number. In the early days, the paper skipped publication on a few holidays. No issues were published for 88 days during a strike in 1978. (During five earlier labor disputes, unpublished issues were assigned numbers, sometimes because catch-up editions were later produced for the archives.)Finally, by scanning books of historic front pages and reels of microfilm, Mr. Donovan zeroed in on the date of the 500-issue gap.”

Even after it spotted the error, the error persisted. On March 15, 1995, the Times celebrated its 50,000 issue, when it had in fact published only 49,500.

More on: Miscellaneous

Articles by Peter J. Leithart

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