First newspapers in Massachusetts…

May 31, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

It would be of no surprise that Massachusetts has the longest history of newspaper publishing anywhere in the colonies. The very first printing press in the colonies was set up there, and by 1690 a newspaper was published in Boston, “Public Occurrences Both Foreign and Domestick”, but lasting but a single issue. In November of 2008 I did a post specifically on this title so I won’t dwell on this effort other than to say that it lasted but a single issue before being suppressed.

It was not for another fourteen years that Bartholomew Green, of the very famous Green family of printers, had the honor of printing the first newspaper to be permanently established in the colonies, the Boston “News-Letter“. Green published it for the owner, John Campbell, for 18 years and when  Campbell retired Green & his successors continued the publication until the evacuation of Boston 1776, at which point the newspaper ceased.

The third newspaper in Massachusetts, also in Boston, was the famed “Boston Gazette“, printed for owner William Brooker by James Franklin, elder brother to Benjamin. This newspaper started on Dec. 21, 1719 and when sold James Franklin decided to begin a newspaper of his own. The “New-England Courant” began Aug. 7,1721 and it was on this project that Benjamin Franklin gained his apprenticeship as a printer. He would then move to Philadelphia, buy the Pennsylvania Gazette, and the rest is, well, history.

So it was that the first three newspapers in the American colonies were all published in Boston, although it was a close call. The first newspaper outside of Boston, the “American Weekly Mercury“, began in Philadelphia on Dec. 22, 1719, just one day after the “Boston Gazette“.

Some more prices, then and now…

October 6, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

Some months ago I reflected upon the value of newspapers we have sold years ago compared to more current values for the same title and event. Having published catalogs since 1977 it is interesting to pull out some of the early editions and see what we sold newspapers for many years ago.

Although we are careful to never recommend early or historic newspapers as investments, many have done well over the years. Not surprisingly, those which are most historic and less common have appreciated the best, while others—particularly titles which tend to come available from time to time—have appreciated but not at an exceptional pace. A few examples:

Within our catalogs created in 1980, twenty-nine years ago, are several entries which we still are able to keep in inventory such as “Harper’s Weekly” of July 22, 1876 with coverage of the Custer massacre. We sold it then for $32, and offer it today for $112. Using an inflation calculator the $32 would have inflated to $82.57 today. Also in “Harper’s Weekly” we sold Oct. 4, 1862 with a printing of the Emancipation Proclamation for $52 ($134.28 in today’s dollars), while today we sell it for $125. The same title for March 22, 1862 on the Monitor vs. the Merrimack sold then for $38 ($98.05 in today’s dollars) and for $113 today.

New_York_Tribune_Fall_of_RichmondAlthough “Harper’s Weekly” remains a very desirable title and has most certainly become more scarce as the years have gone by, I would not consider it a rare title. Consequently some prices have exceeded inflation while some have not.

But somewhat less common titles, and more significant events, have had more interesting price changes. In 1980 we sold the “New York Tribune” of April 4, 1865 which reported the fall of Richmond and had a huge eagle engraving on the front page, for $48 ($123.85 in today’s dollars). Not long ago we sold the same issue for $477. And in 1980 we sold the “Gazette of the United States” of March 2, 1791 on the creation of the Bank of the United States, for $19 ($49.03 in today’s dollars) and a more recent sale was for $775.

Of courses naivete (or perhaps stupidity) was the reason for many low prices years ago. Back in the “early years”  I simply didn’t have the experience of knowing how desirable some events would be for collectors. If I bought an item for $20 and sold it for $30 I was happy.

Pricing has become much more sophisticated the last ten years or so, but I’m sure we still offer some interesting gems of history at relatively low prices which will take on much greater desirability as the years progress. Part of the fun of the hobby is seeking them out.

Collectible themes… additional thoughts…

September 28, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

There is an endless variety of ways to collect early newspapers.

  • The vast array of newspaper dates, titles, sizes and content would seem almost formidable should one decide to collect newspapers without a theme or focus. Even a small percentage of every newspaper title published would not only be a formidable task to assemble but would be too cumbersome to organize and store.Guy_Heilenman
  • But collecting by theme offers a fascinating challenge to cut through the forest of available titles to add only those issues to a collection which fit the scope of a special interest. And the areas of interest can be endless.
  • Whatever one’s interest might be a newspaper collection can be assembled as an interesting complement. You like old radios? Collect newspapers reporting the development of the radio and its antecedents from the telegraph to satellite radio. Or collect newspapers with advertisements of the radios in your collection. You like military history? Collect newspapers reporting major battles of each of America’s conflicts from the French & Indian War to the Gulf War. Politics? Collect issues covering the elections, or inaugurations of each president from George Washington to the present. Or collect at least one of each of the annual state-of-the-union addresses beginning with Washington (yes, he started the tradition which continues today). Or perhaps presidential deaths, or significant policy pronouncements.
  • The Wild West, 20th century gangsters, sports heroes, the weird & bizarre, major tragedies, scientific developments are just a few themes. More specific topics can result in a very focused collection themed on just the Civil War or World War II or Western exploration or 19th century baseball to name a few.
  • Less event-focused collections can also result in an intriguing variety of issues, such as one newspaper from every decade from the 1650’s to the present showing the progression & evolution of newspaper publishing from its infancy to the internet.  Huge headlines of any event can provide for a very dramatic & displayable collection, or erroneous reports (Dewy Defeats Truman” is the most famous, but there are many more), printing errors (wrong dates, upside-down type, misspelled headlines, etc.) can result in an interesting collection.
  • Given the tens of thousands of titles and the 400 year span of newspaper publishing the themes of collecting are virtually endless. Explore and widen your interest by adding newspapers to your collection. A fascinating world of collectibles awaits you.

Note:  If you are still having trouble deciding on a theme upon which to begin centering your collection, consider the History’s Newsstand Store’s or the Rare & Early Newspapers’ list of categories as potential starting points.  Many collectors began their collections by amassing a low-end (low priced) issue from each decade from the mid-1700’s through the mid-20th century.  A basic issue from each U.S. President’s term of office is also a popular theme.
The list of collecting strategies is endless.  Feel free to contribute ideas of your own.

Hobby trivia: most used newspaper titles…

June 29, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

common_18th_centruy_titlesBy far the most common of early titles were “Gazette” and then “Advertiser“. Between 1704 and 1820 “Gazette” was used either by itself or as part of a newspaper title 488 times. This was closely followed by “Advertiser” with 440 times, showing the deference which publishers paid to their advertisers who made up the greater part of a newspaper’s profit.

These two titles were followed by “Herald” with 115 times, “Journal” 114, “Intelligencer” 104, “Register” 86, “Republican” 77, “Chronicle” 75, “Patriot” 57, “Centinel” or “Sentinel” 56, and “Courier” 45.

Titles frequently used, but in lesser number, were “Eagle“, “Mercury“, “Messenger“, “Monitor“, “Museum“, “Observer“, “Post“, “Recorder“, “Repository“, “Star” and “Times“.

It is curious that “Times” was rarely used before 1820, and there is no mention whatever of “Tribune” or “Transcript“, all somewhat common within newspaper titles today.

(The above is excerpted from the book “Journals and Journeymen” by Clarence Brigham)

Resources… The Library of Congress…

May 26, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

loc_banner1The Library of Congress has a wonderful collection of original newspapers along with an extensive digitized database of American titles.  An informative website is maintained in an effort to provide useful information related to rare and historic newspapers.  They describe themselves as:loc_chronicling-america

“The Serial & Government Publications Division maintains one of the most extensive newspaper collections in the world. It is exceptionally strong in US newspapers, with 9,000 titles covering the past three centuries. With over 25,000 non-US titles, it is the largest collection of overseas newspapers in the world. Beyond its newspaper holdings, the Division also has extensive collections of current periodicals (70,000 titles) comic books (6,000 titles) and government publications (1 million items).”

Some of the features to be found at their Newspaper Division’s website are webcasts, a searchable data base, full text versions of many newspapers and periodicals, and a link to their ongoing project “Chronicling America”.   Although we at Rare Newspapers maintain an extensive list of common reprints (thanks to Rick Brown at  the Library of Congress also has an abbreviated list of common reprints with descriptions as to how one can determine whether their issue is authentic…  or not.

Thanks L.O.C. for your ongoing efforts on behalf of historic newspapers.

Wishful thinking…

April 18, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

obit_john_gayreThe “Epitaph” shown in the photo is taken from the Columbian Centinel, Extra newspaper from Boston, Nov. 26, 1806. The graphic devises add a bit of charm to the simple–perhaps hopeful–thought:

“I John Gayre, am ready to swear,
That thought I lie here, I’m yet up there.”

Rare & early newspapers never cease to provide a bit of comic relief to the harsh edge of life.  Enjoy!

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