The time lag in news reporting, 1776…
Communication throughout the colonies in the 18th century was a slow process, particularly in winter. It took postriders a week to journey from New York to Boston, at least two days from Philadelphia to New York, and two weeks or more to the Southern states.
A good example of the slowness of mail delivery is revealed by an analysis of the printing of the Declaration of Independence in the various colonial newspapers. The first printing was in the Pennsylvania Evening Post of July 6. Three days later it appeared in Baltimore, and four days later in New York.
The list below gives some indication of the time lag distances required, but it should be remembered that the printing often had to await the proper day of the newspaper’s publications as many were just weekly while others were bi-weekly or tri-weekly, although a few of the papers published “extraordinary” issues.
DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE NEWSPAPER PRINTINGS
July 6 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Evening Post
July 8 Philadelphia, Dunlap’s Pennsylvania Packet
July 9 Philadelphia, Pennsylvanischer Staatsbote
July 9 Baltimore, Dunlap’s Maryland Gazette
July 10 Baltimore, Maryland Journal
July 10 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Gazette
July 10 New York, Constitutional Gazette
July 11 New York Packet
July 11 New York Journal
July 11 Annap0lis, Maryland Gazette
July 12 New London, Connecticut Gazette
July 13 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Ledger
July 13 Providence Gazette
July 15 New York Gazette
July 15 Hartford, Connecticut Courant
July 15 Norwich Packet
July 16 Exeter, New Hampshire Gazette, Extraordinary
July 16 Salem, American Gazette
July 17 Worcester, Massachusetts Spy
July 17 New Haven, Connecticut Journal
July 18 Boston, Continental Journal
July 18 Boston, New England Chronicle
July 18 Newport Mercury, Extraordinary
July 19 Newburyport, Essex Journal
July 19 Williamsburg, Virginia Gazette by Purdie (extract; in full July 26)
July 20 Williamsburg, Virginia Gazette by Dixon & Hunter
July 20 Portsmouth, Freeman’s Journal
July 22 Watertown, Boston Gazette
Aug. 2 Charleston, South Carolina & American General Gazette
Aug. 17 London, The London Chronicle
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