A gem from the American Antiquarian Society… The Kentucky Spy…

August 8, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

In celebration of its 20oth anniversary the American Antiquarian Society published a beautiful  exhibition catalog titled “In Pursuit Of A Vision – Two Centuries of Collecting at the American Antiquarian Society”. Featured are a fascinating array of books, documents, maps & other paper ephemera, as well as several very rare & unusual newspapers we felt worthy of sharing with our collectors (with permission from the A.A.S.).

Blog-8-8-2016-AAS-Kentucky-Spy181. “The Kentucky Spy and Porcupine Quill“, Frankfort, Kentucky, January 25, 1849

In recent years AAS has actively collected issues of pre-1877 American manuscript periodicals. These handwritten examples mimic printed periodicals in format and content, containing stories, news, and advertisements. Sometimes they were produced by individuals, serving as the manuscript equivalent of amateur newspapers, and sometimes they were issued by small groups. Others were produced as an activity of a school or lyceum.

AAS has held manuscript periodicals since the nineteenth century; but because these were long shelved alongside printed periodicals, they were easily overlooked. In the 1990s AAS staff began to pull them together into a separate collection, in the process discovering not only how many titles were already at AAS, but also the frequency with which they were produced. As it became apparent that the more specimens AAS had, the more they collectively revealed about early American scribal culture, AAS began to seek them actively. The collection now numbers more than sixty titles.

One of the more unusual is “The Kentucky Spy and Porcupine Quill.” The masthead claims that it is “Devoted to the science of matrimony, union, wedlock and the ladies.” However, the chief story, entitled “Wonderful rumpus in the town of Irvine,” is a fictional account, humorous in tone, of a revolt by 5,000 heavily armed slaves which in the story turns out to be a hoax. The editor and contributor(s) are unnamed.

They put it in print… First appearance of an American flag?

February 13, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Many in our hobby like to pursuit the very first time “they put it in print” and the “it” can be a very wide range of announcements, reports, or images. Certainly first reports of major 18th Blog-2-13-2015-1st-flag-in-newspaperand 19th century battles have been among the favored issues of collectors, and most certainly the first printing of ht Declaration of Independence in a newspaper commands a considerable premium among those who are able to consummate that pursuit.

Two collectors, Michael Zinman and Steve Lomazow, raised an interesting question: what newspaper was the first to include a print of the U.S. flag within its pages? After discovering several newspapers from 1847 and then 1840 with flag engravings, we found in our database the “True American & Commercial Advertiser” from Philadelphia, 1806 which incorporates a U.S. flag (albeit a small engraving: see photo) within the masthead image (see sample). The newspaper actually began in 1798 but that didn’t mean the masthead engraving was there. Typically mastheads change, often several times, through the life cycle of a newspaper.

But a confirmation from Vincent Golden, newspaper librarian at the American Antiquarian Society, which has holdings of this title going back to issue number 1, confirms the engraving with the flag is, indeed, present with that very first issue.

So this sets the earliest appearance of the U.S. flag in a newspaper at July 1, 1798. But I’m not convinced this is the earliest date. Are any of you collectors aware of an earlier appearance? Check your collections and share with the rest of us!

#18 – America’s first newspaper… Check your attics. (*revisited)

April 18, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

The very first newspaper printed in the American colonies was published in Boston in 1690 and titled “Publick Occurrences Both Foreign and Domestick”. It was a little paper with three pages of text. The fourth page was left blank for others to write handwritten pieces of news before being passed on to others. It was published by Benjamin Harris who had experience in publishing another newspaper in London several years prior to his arrival in the colonies, titled “Domestick Intelligence, Or News Both from City & Country”.

His Boston effort focused on local news but it also included gossip and unflattering reports. One account notes it contained: “…affections of a very high nature: As also sundry doubtful and uncertain Reports…”. The mixture of doubtful and uncertain reports, as well as a ban on printing without a license which Harris did not have, caused his first issue to also be his last. Reports note that the royal governor had the printing press destroyed and all known issues of that one date of September 25, 1690 confiscated.

To this day only one genuine issue of the newspaper is known to exist, and unfortunately it’s not in the United States: it is in the Public Records office in London. Some years ago it was loaned to The Newseum in Washington, D.C. (then located across the Potomac in Virginia) for a period of time, but I believe it has been returned to London.

The intriguing part of this story is that “all known issues were confiscated and destroyed”. But exactly when did this happen? Was it done several hours since it was printed, or a few days later? It was intended to be a monthly publication. Certainly the possibility exists that a few issues were not found & confiscated, and with the owners knowing of the search they may have purposely hidden them away.

Could an issue or two still exist in a Boston attic somewhere? Is there a private library where an issue was hidden among the pages of a book in hopes of not being confiscated? Could a renovation project to a Boston area home reveal an issue tucked within its walls over 300 years ago? It is fascinating to think that some examples could be found so long after being published. But to this date none have surfaced.

Speculation runs wild as to the value of an issue should it surface. It’s America’s very first newspaper, and none exist in America. What sort of price could be set on such an issue? What should be the future home of an issue should it be found?

Feel free to comment!

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*The Fall of 2013 marked the 5th anniversary of the History’s Newsstand Blog by Timothy Hughes Rare & Early Newspapers. We are grateful to have the opportunity to contribute to the newspaper collecting community, and appreciate those who have participated through guest posts, comments, and readership. This year (2014) we are revisiting the top 25 posts (measured by activity), with the number 1 post being re-posted during the first week of 2015. Please enjoy. If you would like to contribute a post for consideration of inclusion on the blog, please contact Guy Heilenman at guy@rarenewspapers.com.

The first newspapers in Vermont…

October 4, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Vermont was the first state to join the union outside of the original thirteen colonies, although in a sense they were always a part of the federal union. The territory of present-day Vermont was previously divided among the states of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and New  York.

The first newspaper in Vermont was the “Vermont Gazette, and Green Mountain Post-Boy” done in Westminster, first published on February 12, 1781. Only one of this issue exists and is in the Vermont Historical Society. Its first newspaper began later than all of the other first newspapers of the original 13 states. The weekly newspaper only lasted until 1783, published by Judah Spooner and Timothy Green, the latter of the famous family of printers from New England.

It is notable that Vermont’s first newspaper was printed on the famous “Daye Press”, brought from England by Stephen Daye in 1638 and set up in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The press came into the possession of Harvard College in 1656, and in 1714 it became the property of Timothy Greene, who took it to New London, Conn., later set up in Norwich, Conn. by Alden Spooner, and in 1781 it was moved to Westminster, Vermont.

The second newspaper in Vermont was founded on August 7, 1783 titled the “Vermont Journal & the Universal Advertiser” printed in Windsor by the partnership of Alden Spooner and George Hough. The newspaper continued publishing into the 20th century.

Other 18th century Vermont titles included “Herald of Vermont“, Rutland, 1792; “Rutland Herald“, 1794; “Fair Haven Gazette“, 1795; “Farmer’s Library“, Fair Haven, 1795; “Burlington Mercury“, 1796; and “Federal Galaxy“, Brattleboro, 1797.

West Virginia’s first newspapers…

January 28, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

The history of West Virginia newspapers dates some 70 years before West Virginia became a state. Statehood came late to West Virginia, carved from Virginia in the midst of the Civil War, happening officially on June 20, 1863. But its first newspaper began in 1790 when Nathaniel Willis began his “Potowmac Guardian & Berkeley Advertiser” at Shepherd’s-Town, near Harper’s Ferry.  Less than two years later Willis moved the newspaper to Martinsburg.

The second newspaper was the “Shepherd’s Town, Charles-Town and County Advertiser” begun by Philip Rootes and Charles Blagrove on June 28, 1797. No copies beyond October 11, 1797 have been located. The third newspaper was the “Berkeley Intelligencer” done at Martinsburg on April 3, 1799 by John Alburtis.  Many followed, including what is shown in the image, “The Observer, and Western Advertiser”, Lewisburg, [West] Virgina, 1884.

The first newspapers in Texas…

October 25, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Texas had a fascinating history, with flags of six nations having flown over some portion of the present state: Spain, France, Mexico, Republic of Texas, United States of America, &  Confederates States of America.

It was during the time when the Mexico flag flew over its land that a periodical titled “El Mejicano” was reportedly printed in Nacogdoches in May , 1813, as noted in Oswald’s “History of Printing In The Americas”. One report, from the “Southwestern Historical Quarterly” notes that a newspaper was printed from the same press at about the same time, titled “Gaceta de Texas” with a date of May 25, 1813. Some years later Horatio Bigelow and Eli Harris put out the first issue of the “Texas Republican” on Aug. 14, 1819. When Nacogdoches was captured by the Mexicans two months later the printing office was destroyed.

Milton Slocum, a printer from Massachusetts, established the “Mexican Advocate“, a newspaper in both English and Spanish, in Nacogdoches in September, 1829. Unfortunately no copies have survived.  Outside of Nacogdoches a weekly paper titled the “Texas Gazette” was begun on Sept. 25, 1829 in San Felipe de Austin. This paper then moved to Brazoria in July 1832 and ultimately was sold to the publisher of an existing newspaper titled the “Texas Gazette & Brazoria Commercial” which had begun just two years earlier. The combined enterprise became the “Constitutional Advocate and Brazoria Advertiser“.

Beginning in the 1830’s a multitude of newspapers sprang up in present-day Texas, continuing in the 1840’s and beyond.

Washington’s first newspaper…

June 11, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Interest by historians in Washington’s first newspaper may well be eclipsed by the press upon which it was printed, as it had a fascinating history.

The “Ramage Press” was well traveled. It originated in Boston, was sold to a printer in Hawaii only to never be used as the printer purchased another press before its arrival, then was sold to California where it was transported to Monterey to Sonoma and then back to Monterey where it printed California’s first newspaper, the “Californian”, on Aug. 15, 1846. Both the press and the newspaper moved to Yerba Buena where the newspaper continued printing, moved then to Sacramento City where it printed the first issue of the “Placer Times” in 1849. It then moved to San Francisco, then to Stockton, then to Sonora, eventually becoming the first press on which printing was done in Oregon, and then the same for the state of Washington.

During the 1850’s Washington was part of the Oregon Territory. The old Ramage press made its way to Olympia and on September 11, 1852 the first issue of the “Columbian” was printed, Washington’s very first newspaper. Just six months later in 1853 the Washington Territory was created causing the printers, James Wiley and Thorton McElroy, to change the name of their newspaper to the “Washington Pioneer”. After another name change the paper continued until 1861.

The second newspaper in Washington was the “Puget Sound Courier” which began on May 19, 1855 at Steilacoom but the newspaper lasted for just a year. Steilacoom was the location of Washington’s third newspaper, done by Charles Prosch and titled the “Puget Sound Express”, which began on March 12, 1858.

Virginia’s first newspapers… and much more.

April 23, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

With the focus of today’s post being the first newspapers in Virginia, I discovered that the story as told by the existing “Virginia Gazette”, at www.vagazette.com provides a thorough, interesting and well-written documentation on not just Virginia’s first newspaper but all early printing of news in Virginia. So it is to to them that we give credit for the following:

If there is nothing as fragile as news, the fragility of newspapers themselves runs a close second. Hundreds of newspapers have begun with great ambition, only to merge with others or fold from bankruptcy.

With that knowledge, William Parks might be the most astonished person of all to learn that his “Virginia Gazette” survives intact nearly 270 years after he published the first four-page edition on Aug. 6, 1736.

Newspapers were a long time coming to colonial Virginia. English law precluded any printing by the colonists for years after Jamestown was founded in 1607. The royal governors did not allow any printing until 1690, and even then printers were governed by royal instructions which required a license and the governor’s permission.

One of those governors, Sir William Berkeley, put it bluntly. “I thank God, there are no free schools nor printing, and I hope we shall not have these hundred years; for learning has brought disobedience, and heresy, and sects into the world, and printing has divulged them, and libels against the best government. God keep us from both.”

An enterprising fellow tried anyway.

In 1682, a printer named William Nuthead arrived at Jamestown, then the capital. He set up his press and began to publish the acts of the recently adjourned Assembly. He also printed several other papers about which nothing is known.

Nuthead was called before the governor and the council, where he was ordered to stop the presses “until the signification of his Majesties pleasure shall be known therein.” Within months that “pleasure” was known when a royal order was issued that “no person be permitted to use any press for printing upon any occasion whatsoever.”

With that definitive ruling, Nuthead packed up and returned to his native Maryland. Printing was nonexistent in the colony for nearly 50 years thereafter.

Government policy eventually eased and a more tolerant attitude prevailed. In 1730 William Parks moved from Annapolis to Virginia’s new capital, Williamsburg, to open a branch office. Parks had only three years earlier founded Maryland’s first newspaper, “The Maryland Gazette”.

Parks was an eminent printer. Before arriving in Maryland he operated printing shops in three locations of his native England – Ludlow, Hereford and Reading.

Parks had an effect on Williamsburg. Right from the start his Gazette had the professional touch of a master craftsman. News in the Gazette was taken largely from letters written abroad and recently arrived in the hands of the printer himself or friendly readers. Information was also taken from English papers and other colonial sheets.

There was not much local news in Parks’ Gazette. What little there was appeared primarily in advertisements of recent ship arrivals, shops opening, runaway slaves, deserted spouses, and strayed horses.

By today’s standards The Virginia Gazette of 1736 would look gray and ponderous. There were no headlines, no photographs, no fancy page makeup. But there was news, and for a town that never had a newspaper before it was welcome.

A typical day for William Parks had him working ten hours, perhaps more if he was printing his weekly Gazette on his sheet-fed handpress. It was a laborious process of setting the type by hand, picking letter by letter from a box of matrices.

Once the type was set it was locked into place in a metal form. The type was inked and paper was laid across. The form was rolled into the press, where the pressman “pulled” an impression by yanking with both arms the big handle of the press. This pressure forced the press to screw down on the paper and imprint the type on the paper sheet. Around 200 sheets an hour were printed this way, then hung to let the ink dry.

Hours were dictated largely by daylight, although some type was composed by candlelight. This led to errors and an occasional mishap in which trays of painstakingly set type were “pied” or spilled.

Colonial printers were hampered by a scarcity of type that slowed the printing of books because only a few pages could be set at a time before the letters were reused.

Weather frustrated many a printer, Parks included. Winter cold slowed the mails on which the Gazette was so dependent for news. When no dispatches arrived, Parks would offer that as an excuse for printing a shorter sheet. Spring and fall were the busy time during which the General Court convened in Williamsburg. Summer and winter were comparatively dull, and this is reflected in the Gazettes of the period.

Censorship also posed problems, and from three sectors: the English government, local authorities, and an offended public.

The last major problem faced by colonial printers was a shortage of paper. This was handmade stuff, consisting of ground-up rags. It was tough and durable but varied in quality. In 1743 at the urging of Benjamin Franklin, Parks set about building his own paper mill in Williamsburg. Over the next four years Franklin sold Parks 11,382 pounds of rags. Appeals were often printed asking readers to save their old clothes for paper-making purposes. Old shirts, caps, dresses, handkerchiefs and gowns were brought and subsequently returned to the reader in a different form.
In early 1750 Parks sailed for England on a business trip. During the voyage he was seized with a fatal attack of pleurisy and was buried at journey’s end in Gosport, England.

The stature of William Parks in journalism history can be measured in part by the number of “firsts” to his credit:

  • First newspaper in Maryland.
  • First public printer in Virginia.
  • First newspaper in Virginia.
  • First publications of literary works in Virginia.
  • First paper mill south of Pennsylvania.
  • First postmaster of Virginia.

Following the death of William Parks in 1750, his associate in business, William Hunter, bought the printing shop and with it the Gazette. Hunter went on to distinguish himself in the tradition of William Parks.

He served jointly with Benjamin Franklin as deputy postmaster general for all the colonies. He also printed in 1754 the first published writings of George Washington, “The Journal of Major George Washington,” who at the time was 22 years old.

If there ever was a heyday for newspapers in Virginia and Williamsburg, it was during the Revolution. Albeit partisan, The Virginia Gazette and other colonial newspapers reported well the news of the growing unrest between the Crown and the colonies.

Fully 10 years before the Declaration of Independence, there appeared carefully worded accounts. The repeal of the Stamp Act in March 1776 brought great rejoicing to the colonies and was covered locally in The Virginia Gazette on June 20, 1776.

“On Friday last, a good deal of Company being in Town at the Oyer and Terminer Court, our Gratitude and Thankfulness upon the joyful Occasion of the Repeal of the Stamp Act and the universal Pleasure and Satisfaction it gives that all Differences between the Mother Country and her Colonies are so happily terminated, was manifested here by general illuminations…”

Hunter died in 1761 and was succeeded by another brother-in-law, Joseph Royle. Hunter’s will stipulated that Royle manage the business for himself and Hunter’s infant son, William Hunter Jr.

At the urging of Thomas Jefferson and others, William Rind moved from Annapolis in 1766 to set up a rival Virginia Gazette. Jefferson recalled years later that “…we had but one press, and that having the whole business of the government, and no competitor for public favor, nothing disagreeable to the governor could be got into it. We procured Rind to come from Maryland to publish a free paper.”

Rind was elected public printer by the House of Burgesses, giving him an economic foothold in the form of printing documents and laws. As it turned out, the Assembly three years later spread the wealth to both Gazettes when it ordered them to print a large volume of the Acts of Assembly then in force.

Alexander Purdie succeeded Joseph Royle as publisher of the original Virginia Gazette. In 1767, Purdie took into the business John Dixon, who by marriage was related to Royle’s widow. Purdie, dissatisfied with the partnership, withdrew to set up his own Virginia Gazette. The first issue appeared Feb. 3, 1775.

If the reader is confused, imagine how confused Williamsburg readers were 200 years ago. By early 1775 there were three separate Virginia Gazettes, all operating in town and all under the same name.

There was Dixon’s Gazette (the original), Rind’s Gazette and Purdie’s Gazette (the newest). They all carried pretty much the same news in largely the same format, four to eight pages weekly. The easiest way to tell them apart was by their mottos. The original Gazette was known to be “Containing the freshest Advices, Foreign an Domestick.” Rind’s Gazette promised it was “Open to all Parties but Influenced by None.” Purdie’s declared “Always for Liberty and the Publick Good.”

Nor were these three the only Virginia Gazettes. By 1809 a total of 24 papers in the state had used the term Virginia Gazette in their flags. The reason is simple. “Gazette” in Britain specified “official record” and lent real authority to any periodical with that name. In the colonies, the Assemblies ordered their resolutions and proclamations printed “in the Gazette” or “in The Virginia Gazette” for public attention and consumption.

But it was not specified which Gazette was to get the business, leaving it up for grabs in Williamsburg among three papers. A printer calling his paper, say, The Williamsburg Bugle, was automatically eliminating himself from any government income.

Rind’s paper was taken over upon his death in 1773 by his wife, Clementina. She thus became the first woman printer and editor in Virginia, and is credited by at least one historian as one of the 10 pioneer women journalists in America.

By 1775 John Pinkney took over as manager and then in 1776 as owner of Mrs. Rind’s shop and paper, but he moved to North Carolina early in 1777 and died in August that year. This marked the end of the second Virginia Gazette.

The third Gazette operated by Alexander Purdie continued after his death in 1779. His nephew, John Clarckson, and one of his printers, Augustine Davis, ran it until the end of 1780 when it ceased operations because the capital had moved.

Purdie’s Gazette continued to be a sparkling newspaper after it was formed anew in 1775 and Dixon was left with the original Gazette. Perhaps because Dixon’s new partner, William Hunter Jr., was a loyalist, the original Gazette dragged its feet on covering the Revolution. In any event, Purdie continually scooped the other two Gazettes.

On Feb. 2, 1776, Purdie printed excerpts from Tom Paine’s pamphlet, “Common Sense,” the famous statement of arguments for independence. John Pinkney ran it the next day in his Virginia Gazette.

Reporting the Declaration of Independence

Purdie also beat the competition on breaking the Declaration of Independence. He published a brief reference to it by way of the postmaster in Fredericksburg on July 12, just 10 days after Congress resolved that the united colonies were free and independent states. (It wasn’t declared until July 4.)

The following Friday, July 19, Purdie ran key passages from the Declaration, promising to print the entire document next week. Dixon and Hunter followed suit and the two Gazettes ware thought to be the first papers outside Philadelphia to print the Declaration verbatim.

What’s curious is how the two Gazettes played it up – or down. Purdie ran it as lead story on Page 1, which it consumed entirely before concluding atop page 2. There were also reports on the proclamation of the Declaration in Trenton, New York and Williamsburg.

Dixon and Hunter, on the other hand, ran the Declaration on Page 2, reserving Page 1 for lesser accounts about shipping, naval matters and a death. (Pinkney’s Gazette didn’t run it at all – it had folded the previous February.)

No one knew during these troubled times what the outcome of the Revolution would be. But the Gazettes and the other 34 colonial newspapers reported the excesses of the British government and the steps taken by the colonists to guarantee their own freedoms.

More than the political pamphlet and more than the sermons by political clergy, the colonial newspaper contributed the most to the propaganda of the Revolution. The Patriot press inspired the colonies to rebel against tyranny, and it worked.

First newspapers in Tennessee…

February 27, 2012 by · 2 Comments 

Tennessee–or at least a portion of it–had an interesting history. The Northeastern part originally belonged to North Carolina, and a plan was afoot to cede it to the national government. A serious of conventions at Jonesborough resulted in the adoption in 1784 of a constitution under the name of the state of Franklin. Ultimately statehood plans ended in 1788.

The first printing in Tennessee happened in Rogersville by George Roulstone, who on November 5, 1791 he printed the first issue of the Knoxville “Gazette“, because he intended to move the press to Knoxville when it was expected that town would be the permanent capital of the territory. This ultimately happened in 1792. He printed his first issue there on May 4, 1793 where it continued until 1797.

After a year in absence, Roulstone resumed the newspaper under the title of the “Register” with a subtitle of: “The Genius of Liberty“. After another year of lapse the “Gazette” was revived which in 1799 was consolidated with the “Impartial Observer“. A string of other newspapers begin in the early years of the  19th century.

Hawaii’s first “regular” newspaper…

May 30, 2011 by · 2 Comments 

In a previous post we discussed the first newspaper in Hawaii was essentially a student newspaper, titled “Ka Lama Hawaii” (The Hawaiian Luminary), done by Protestant missionaries at their school at Lahainaluna on the island of Maui. But it was just a few months later when the second newspaper in Hawaii–and considered the first “regular” newspaper on the islands–was published. “Ke Kumu Hawaii” began publication on Nov. 12, 1834 (some references cite an October beginning which cannot be verified).

We were fortunate to bring into our inventory the volume one, number two issue of this title, dated Nov. 26, 1834. Very similar in size to “Ka Lama Hawaii” it contains 8 pages, 6 of which are in the Hawaiian language. Rather than a student, or school newspaper, this was a regular newspaper for the general public.

We provide photos of this very rare newspaper for our friends to enjoy.