True American


True American


"Devoted to Universal Liberty; gradual Emancipation in Kentucky; Literature; Agriculture; the Elevation of Labor, Morally and Politically; Commercial Intelligence, &c. &c."

Printed in Lexington and Cincinnati (though it always carried the Lexington dateline) from June 3, 1845 - September 21, 1846, the True American was published by William L. Neale with Cassius M. Clay as editor. But, make no mistake, Clay was leading the way.

As a young Law student at Yale, Clay had heard William Lloyd Garrison, founder of The American Anti-Slavery Society, speak several times. Garrison inspired him to do something about the "evils" of slavery, which eventually lead to his editorial pursuits with the True American. It put him in a precarious position as his parents were large slave owning people in Madison County, Kentucky. And, even though the issue had been proposed many times, the majority of the state had rejected abolition because they could never come to terms with compensation for the slave owners or colonization of the slaves.

Lexington, Kentucky, where the True American took root, hosted one of the South's largest slave trade markets, and Clay's abolitionist efforts drew the ire of many in the area, including his family. According to Herndon J. Evans in The Newspaper Press In Kentucky, "Number 3, North Mill Street, was the site of the office, where Lexington was treated to its first newspaper plant armed with two brass cannons, iron barred windows, and an arsenal of Mexican lances and pikes. A trapdoor in the roof provided an escape route in case the editor and his helper found they could not hold the fort in an attack. In the basement, Clay had rigged up an "infernal machine" with a powder keg that he could set off from the outside to blow up the building and whoever was in it should the attackers succeed in taking over the plant."

Clay was first burned out of his downtown printing office, and the paperĀ  suspended Aug. 17-Sept. 23, 1845, when enemies removed the press to Cincinnati, Ohio. However, Clay refused to be deterred and printed the paper from his Cincinnati location Sept. 30, 1845-Oct. 21, 1846 when Clay finally folded the True American. The Examiner, spearheaded by one of Clay's assistant editors, John Champion Vaughan, took up the the True American abolitionist mantel in 1847 in Louisville.


William L. Neale





Photo of standing Cassius M. Clay (displayed above) available in Kentucky Digital Library.
Brief biography of Clay available in Encyclopedia Britannica.
Letters of Cassius M. Clay - Slavery: the evil--the remedy - available from the Internet Archive.
Photo of seated Cassius M. Clay (displayed above) available from the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division
Cassius M. Clay gravesite via Find a Grave.


Kentucky, Fayette, Lexington
Ohio, Hamilton, Cincinnati


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Editor: Cassius M. Clay; preceding title True American and western monitor LCCN: sn82014151 Digitized from UK Libraries holdings with additional source documents graciously provided by Wisconsin Historical Society and the Lexington Public Library. This is the most complete run of the True American.


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“True American,” KDNP Feature Library, accessed April 15, 2024,

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