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161 years later, New York Times prints correction of Solomon Northup misspelling

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Corrections and retractions are pretty commonplace in the world of written journalism, but a correction issued by the New York Times on Tuesday, though timely in one way, is a bit late to the party in that it apologizes for a 161-year-old mistake.

Way back on Jan. 20, 1853, the paper ran a piece, which you can see here, chronicling the life of Solomon Northup and his ordeal of being a free man sold into slavery. If that name sounds familiar, it's because Northup's story and book were turned into the film 12 Years a Slave, which took home the Academy Award for Best Picture on Sunday night.

Though The Times called it “a more complete and authentic record than has yet appeared,” the article committed one big journalism no-no by misspelling Northup's name. What's more, the article actually misspells Northup two different ways. The headline, for instance, spells it "Northrup," while the first paragraph uses "Northrop." Both spellings appear more than once in the body.

The paper credits an eagle-eyed Twitter user who noticed the errors while looking through the archives on Monday.

Though printing a correction over a century after the fact is unusual, The Times' correction isn't the first in recent memory. In November, The Patriot-News in Mechanicsburg, Penn. issued a formal retraction for an editorial printed in 1863 that deemed Lincoln's Gettysburg Address as "silly remarks." The paper printed just one paragraph about the speech, hoping that the words of the Address would be "no more repeated or thought of."

"In the editorial about President Abraham Lincoln’s speech delivered Nov. 19, 1863, in Gettysburg, the Patriot & Union failed to recognize its momentous importance, timeless eloquence, and lasting significance. The Patriot-News regrets the error," the official retraction reads.


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