Newt Gingrich

1954 explores the history and origin of
well-known people, products and phrases.

Would-be U.S. President Newt Gingrich shut down the federal government almost single-handedly back in 1995, when he was the relatively new Speaker of the House and pushing his tea-partyish Contract With America.

I worked for the federal government at the time and the shutdown gave me almost a month of unplanned leave (paid leave, as it turned out) to write a book which I’m pretty sure Newt would not have liked. It was about reigning in the excesses of global capitalism.

But I digress.

What, you may wonder, was the very First Mention of Mr. Gingrich? The earliest record in which his name appears in the press?

Turns out, a precocious lil’ fellow named Newton Gingrich was featured in the August 15, 1954 issue of the Syracuse Post Standard at the ripe young age of eleven.

Syracuse New York isn’t anywhere near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania where the the story was datelined, and where Newt grew up. But the zoo tale got widespread coverage back in the day — you might say Newt went viral — with reprints in the Progress-Index (Petersburg, VA), the Sentinel (Fitchburg, MA), the Post-Register (Idaho Falls, ID) and about a dozen other papers that I happened to notice. It was not only his First Mention, but his very first lobbying gig.

Gingrich keeps a low profile after that, at least as far as newspaper mentions go. He resurfaces again in 1974, when he runs for Congress, describing himself as a “moderate conservative”…

Newt Gingrich during his first Congressional run in 1974

…and the world hasn’t been the same since.


Our FirstMention research is carried out in many sources, including historical newspaper archives, online family history records, state archives, and old books.